Let me start by saying that I enjoy many aspects of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. Overall, however, I felt that the story was spoiled by an interminable running time, unengaging plot tangents and constant narrative filibustering. What especially saddened me was how Bilbo (the supposed protagonist of the story) was rendered absent for large portions of the final two films. Back in 2012, I had high hopes of adding The Hobbit to my annual Lord of the Rings marathon, but in its current bloated format, I simply cannot see that happening.
So, over the weekend, I decided to condense all three installments (An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies) into a single 4-hour feature that more closely resembled Tolkien’s original novel. Well, okay, it’s closer to 4.5 hours, but those are some long-ass credits! This new version was achieved through a series of major and minor cuts, detailed below:
- The investigation of Dol Guldor has been completely excised, including the appearances of Radagast, Saruman and Galadriel. This was the most obvious cut, and the easiest to carry out (a testament to its irrelevance to the main narrative). Like the novel, Gandalf abruptly disappears on the borders of Mirkwood, and then reappears at the siege of the Lonely Mountain with tidings of an orc army.
- The Tauriel-Legolas-Kili love triangle has also been removed. Indeed, Tauriel is no longer a character in the film, and Legolas only gets a brief cameo during the Mirkwood arrest. This was the next clear candidate for elimination, given how little plot value and personality these two woodland sprites added to the story. Dwarves are way more fun to hang out with anyway. 😛
- The Pale Orc subplot is vastly trimmed down. Azog is obviously still leading the attack on the Lonely Mountain at the end, but he does not appear in the film until after the company escapes the goblin tunnels (suggesting that the slaying of the Great Goblin is a factor in their vendetta, as it was in the novel).
- Several of the Laketown scenes have been cut, such as Bard’s imprisonment and the superfluous orc raid. However, I’ve still left quite a bit of this story-thread intact, since I felt it succeeded in getting the audience to care about the down-beaten fisherfolk and the struggles of Bard to protect them.
- The prelude with old Bilbo is gone. As with the novel, I find the film works better if the scope starts out small (in a cosy hobbit hole), and then grows organically as Bilbo ventures out into the big, scary world. It is far more elegant to first learn about Smaug from the dwarves’ haunting ballad (rather than a bombastic CGI sequence). The prelude also undermines the real-and-present stakes of the story by framing it as one big flashback.
- Several of the orc skirmishes have been cut. I felt that the Battle of the Five Armies provided more than enough orc mayhem. If you pack in too much before then, they just become monotonous, and it lessons their menace in the audience’s mind. I was tempted to leave in the very first Azog confrontation (since it resembles a chapter from the novel), but decided to cut it for a variety of reasons. Specifically, I found it tonally jarring to jump from the emotional crescendo of Thorin being saved by Bilbo (and the sense of safety the company feels after being rescued by the eagles), straight back into another chase sequence. Plus, I think the film works better if Bilbo is still trying to earn Thorin’s respect the entire journey, as he was in the novel. Not to mention the absurdity of Bilbo suddenly turning into John McClane with a sword!
- Several of the action scenes have been tightened up, such as the barrel-ride, the fight between Smaug and the dwarves (no molten gold in this version), and the Battle of the Five Armies. Though, it should be noted that Bilbo’s key scenes—the encounter with Gollum, the battle against the Mirkwood spiders, and the conversation with Smaug—have not been tampered with, since they proved to be excellent adaptions (in no small part due to Freeman’s performance), and serve to refocus the film on Bilbo’s arc.
- A lot of filler scenes have been cut as well. These are usually harder to spot (and I’ve probably missed a couple), but once they’re gone, you’ll completely forget that they ever existed. For example, the 4-minute scene where Bard buys some fish and the dwarves gather up his pay.
I used 720×576 MP4s for the recut. The resolution is slightly reduced after a few exports, but it’s still comparable to DVD quality. Here are some time-stamped screenshots, if anyone wants a better impression:
My main goals in undertaking this edit were to re-centre the story on Bilbo, and to have the narrative move at a much brisker pace (though not so fast that the audience lost grasp of what was going on). Creating smooth transitions between scenes was of particular importance in this regard. I even reordered a few moments in the film to make it flow better. The toughest parts to edit were the barrel-ride and the fight on Ravenhill (since Legolas and Tauriel kept bursting in with their gymnastics routine). If you have any further questions over what was taken out and what was left in, please post them in the comment’s section.
If you would like to download the movie, then simply add this torrent to your BitTorrent client. This is the final version of the fanedit, and is 6GB. However, if you would prefer a smaller file-size, you can also download the lower-resolution 2GB version, by using this torrent. If you do not have a BitTorent client, I would recommend installing μTorrent.
This was a labour of love, so please share and seed. And feel free to reupload the video and post your own links wherever you want (including the comments section).
“May the hair on your toes never fall out.”
Update (22 Jan): Apologies for the delay, but I have uploaded the 6GB version of the fanedit. This version also has a few alterations, based on people’s requests, including trimming down the chase sequence through the goblin tunnels; colour correcting the transition from the Misty Mountains to Beorn’s house; taking out the Bombur “barrel bounce” (which is apparently the bane of some people’s existence); and tidying up the final fight on Ravenhill. I have no idea how to remove the gold-coating from Smaug, though. I tried a few variations, but none of them work very well. So, this is the final version, for good or ill. 😛
Now, I do want to temper people’s expectations for the 6GB version. Considering the difference in size, the quality isn’t dramatically better. Rather, it is somewhere between a DVD and Blu-ray. The screenshots above are a good indication. That said, the image is sharper, and the colours are a little more vibrant, so it’s probably preferable for people who would like to watch the fanedit on a big-screen TV. Either way, you can click the links above to access it. Thanks!!
Update (23 Jan): Check out this DVD cover that was created by George from the comments section. I am equal parts delighted and amazed. Thanks George! 😀
Update (25 Jan): A big thanks to Vedder for putting together the first set of subtitles for The Tolkien Edit. If anyone else is gracious enough to create subtitles in their native language, please post them to the comments section, and I will add them to the site. Here is the list so far, along with the usernames of those responsible: