Finally! A re-edit of a disappointing blockbuster with familiar and beloved characters for whom the masses wished more. No, I’m not talking about the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League. I’m talking about the “Tolkien Edit” of The Hobbit Trilogy.
This Tolkien Edit is a fan edit of the 7 hour and 54 minute trilogy that compresses it into 4 hours and 21 minutes. And it is glorious… at least, compared to the trilogy. It is called the “Tolkien Edit” because it aims to create a version of these movies that are as close to the source book as possible. And it really does a great job with what it is given. (Spoilers for The Hobbit trilogy)
I remember watching An Unexpected Journey for the first time back in 2012. The Lord of the Rings trilogy are my favorite films of all time (which I surprisingly haven’t discussed too much on this blog) and I love The Hobbit as a book, so I had high hopes for the film adaptation. But I came out of it with very mixed feelings. I loved Martin Freeman as Bilbo, was delighted by the return of Gandalf and Gollum, and thought the whole sequence at Bag End was exceptional. But it was all the extra stuff that kind of got to me.
When I got home, I opened the appendices of my copy of The Return of the King and found that there were even some events in there that they had changed up for the movie. For the first time we were getting an orc with a name and a personal vendetta against one of the main characters. Really? That’s what they were going with? It was pretty frustrating. But still, I had some hope for the series as a whole.
Then The Desolation of Smaug had more unnecessary orcs, Legolas, a love triangle involving two elves (one made up by the filmmakers) and a dwarf that looked like a short elf with a beard, a Gandalf side quest, and a giant gold dwarf that the dwarves use to fight the dragon…
The Battle of the Five Armies had an unnecessarily long title, an unnecessarily long battle, Legolas jumping up falling rocks like Super Mario, a Gríma Wormtongue wannabe, dwarves riding war rams, and the freaking Eye of Sauron.
I also seem to remember a wizard riding a sleigh pulled by rabbits at one point… Forgive me if I’m getting some details wrong or if I’m not remembering everything. I promised myself I would never watch these movies again because they were just that bad and disappointing.
But that was before I heard about the Tolkien Edit. I stumbled across it one day because of a YouTube comment and decided to look it up for myself. When I found the four-plus hour movie, I thought, “Oh, I’ll have to give this a shot sometime.” But before I knew it, I was watching Bilbo and Gollum deep in a game of riddles. And I was immensely enjoying myself!
The focus was shifted from Thorin, the dwarves, and their hatred for a certain orc to the titular Hobbit. Bilbo actually seemed like the main character! He was getting roughly the same amount of screen time as he originally did, but it took up a higher percentage of the movie. Martin Freeman’s charming and basically perfect performance has always been my favorite part of these movies, and it was allowed to be brought to the forefront.
Before I knew it, I was at the end of what used to be An Unexpected Journey and I was hoping that the skirmish among the trees would be cut out. And to my surprised delight, it was! I was right along to The Desolation of Smaug, which is the one I hated the most.
I was again pleasantly surprised to see that Legolas’ role was reduced basically to a cameo and Tauriel was gone from the film, save for a few shots of her back here and there. But this section brought some facets of the movie that were just out of the editor’s control. There are inconsistencies here and there, very minor plot threads that are not finished (which I’m not complaining about, since I literally didn’t care at all about those threads), and some action where there shouldn’t be. Overall, though, I was still so happy with the end result.
As I made it in to the last third of the movie, I was nervous about what I was going to see. The Battle of the Five Armies was just a huge mess to me with ridiculous action. This is probably the weakest section of The Tolkien Edit, but it is still very watchable. My biggest problem is that the deaths of Fili and Kili are off-screen and not mentioned at all. But other than that, it is fun and enjoyable.
And that is what stood out to me the most about this. The action and battle scenes were so poorly done in the trilogy.
They seemed fake and made with too much CGI. But getting rid of the subplots with the orcs made the whole movie feel like it had a weight taken off its shoulders. It seemed almost like a live action cartoon, as if it was made for kids, but had themes that could be understood and enjoyed by adults. This is exactly the spirit that the book captures!
Watching this movie showed me what was possible and what could have been with The Hobbit. It felt the way it should have. It was fun, delightful, and lighthearted, just as the book is. Now here I am, lamenting the fact that I’ll never actually get to see a good film version of this story. The Tolkien Edit is glorious, but because of its nature, some parts are not cohesive and others are still just silly.
But in the future, when I’m craving The Hobbit, like I do every once in a while, I can go and watch this. And I can love it because it is as close to the real thing as I am ever going to get.
So don’t just take my word for it. I purposely left out a lot of what made this great. Go watch and be amazed for yourself! You can watch the Tolkien Edit here!