Scarcely a month after the release of The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, someone has recut the nearly eight-hour Hobbit trilogy into a single 4.5-hour film. The maverick behind this edition, known only as “tolkieneditor,” revealed the project (and provided a link for download) in a Wordpress blog post.
While some might guess that the self-made auteur is taking a page from Steven Soderbergh’s playbook, it’s important to remember that Soderbergh mostly tinkers with films that he professes to love. Meanwhile, “tolkieneditor” claims to be fixing an imperfect story marred by “an interminable running time, unengaging plot tangents, and constant narrative filibustering.”
The accompanying statement mentions that some portions of the trilogy were left untouched—such as the “Riddles in the Dark” scene and the introduction of Smaug—as director Peter Jackson satisfied the fan editor with those more intimate, tension-filled moments. However, the hatchet came down on numerous other sequences, for various reasons:
- 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 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.
After these and many other cuts were made, a more streamlined version of the trilogy, christened The Hobbit: The Tolkien Edit, emerged from the Lonely Editing Mountain to set BitTorrent aflame. Below, you can watch a clip from the new cut, showing a shorter version of the barrel sequence that appeared in The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug.
Although tolkieneditor’s efforts will probably be met with praise—many Tolkien fans share the same criticisms of the Hobbit films—it’s hard to imagine the author himself being any more satisfied with the barrel sequence, now that Legolas isn’t skipping through the action. After all, even the shortened sequence still turns what was a moment of gentle awe in the book into a Road Runner-like action scene. Perhaps the true Tolkien Edit wouldn’t even begin with a film directed by Jackson, who has always reveled in the kind of excess that tolkieneditor is admonishing. Still, it’s hard to argue that this version isn’t more fleet and focused.