When Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson announced plans to separate The Hobbit into three films, the Middle Earth fan base was divided into two types of fans: those who would like nothing more than to spend another nine hours in Jackson’s Tolkien-themed New Zealand, and those who would spend the next few years grieving as they witness their beloved childhood book torn to pieces, frame by 48ps frame.
Now, considering that Bilbo’s cinematic journey has met its end, the first set of Tolkienites have their wish. And, thanks to a rigorous weekend of editing from a user called tolkieneditor, it seems the second set have theirs in the form of a four hour adaption of said cinematic journey.
So, how does that work, and why should it? Well, according to the WordPress visionary, most of the film’s subplots were cut (notably the ‘Pale Orc’ and Dol Guldur segments), fight scenes were tightened up and filler scenes were removed in order to “re-center the story on Bilbo, and to have the narrative move at a much brisker pace”.
For the most part, it meets both of its intents quite successfully. Deviating from the source material and the deliberately slow pace were, arguably, the biggest problems of The Hobbit films (hardly a surprise when you deliberately lengthen a three hundred page kid’s book); yet tolkieneditor seems to have streamlined them so much that you can hardly notice the absent scenes.
That’s most apparent when you look at the plot points of the book which, save for Jackson’s artistic direction, are almost exactly the same as those in the film. Some scenes that true The Hobbit enthusiasts may not recognise have been kept in, particularly those with Bilbo and the battle of the five armies, but these seek mainly to flesh out the book’s characters and plot from the original films.
However, whilst tolkieneditor’s impressive efforts takes The Hobbit out of the frying pan, he somewhat puts his editing skills into the fire in the process. For every clever re-ordering of scenes to better fit the book’s plot, there’s a stain left from Jackson’s original trilogy which undermines the savvy editor’s efforts.
Take the later scenes in Laketown before the Dwarves set off for Erebor. In order to fulfill his mission statement, no doubt, the Orc raid has been cut out and, coincidently, so has the “she-elf” Tauriel. Sadly, as natural as this segment feels, a palm was delivered to the face when Tauriel was seen riding on a boat with those she rescued no less than two times during these scenes.
Couple that with various other issues, particularly the presence of Tauriel and other characters cut in the credits, a glittering Smaug who wasn’t covered in gold in this version, and a persistently mediocre quality of cut for the The Battle of the Five Armies cut of the film, and you have a film riddled with issues that no amount of editing can neatly tidy up
What you also have, for the most part, is a wonderfully selfless attempt to re-create a classic for those who felt they didn’t receive it in the first place. Over time, as jarred and imperfect this gesture is, it’s no doubt a gesture that fans of both Jackson and Tolkien grow to love as its quality improves.