Review Detail

9.2 7 10
FanFix December 06, 2020 4620
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This review is for both of Wraith's Hobbit edits.

There are moments in Jackson's three Hobbit films that bring tears to my eyes and moments that make me want to gouge them out. If any trilogy needed to be edited, the Hobbit is it. Other fan editors have tried to create a book version. I don't think those work. As much as I adore the Rankin Bass version, a film has different needs than a 1977 cartoon that was structured very differently. That said, Jackson would've done well to adopt the charm of that film and drop the excess.

Wraith goes a long way towards streamlining the films in a way that doesn't harm too much of the narrative, and has a good technical skill to make it appear seamless. The White Council scenes and Dol Goldur--which feature some of the most powerful scenes in all six of Jackson's Middle Earth films--are thankfully kept intact, if sometimes spread out in ways that are interesting. Same with Radagast. Without the silly stick creature and getting high scene, he's a much more believable as one of the Istari instead of being played as yet more comic relief.

The opening is a much better edit than the original in terms of setting up the story, introducing Gandalf and Thorin and the quest.

Freeman epitomizes Bilbo for me; he's not perfect (he's sometimes too modern), but Ian Holm was always too old for the role in LOTR ("You haven't aged a day," gasps Gandalf upon seeing Bilbo again). Minimizing him (and getting Frodo gone) was good.

Some of the early parts of the film go by a little too quickly now for my tastes. So, while I'm glad to get rid of the excess dwarf antics in Bilbo's home, I'm not as happy to lose the Stone Giants (I can't fathom why so many fan editors delete what is such a magical scene that's so well done) or the songs in Goblin Town. So, those parts feel a bit rushed for my taste. That said, I might've trimmed some of Gollum, if only because I don't like the direction Jackson and Serkis took with him in this film. He should've been kept creepier until the moment Bilbo decides not to kill him (and even that's slightly overcooked).

On the other hand, losing Tauriel and the very ill-advised love-triangle was a revelation! For one thing, Evangeline Lily was miscast. Unlike Liv Tyler, Lily feels like an actress playing an Elf. And the overt romantic aspects (meant to appeal to a broader audience) don't work at all. Kili himself doesn't work. Thorin looks close enough to a Human; Kili crosses the line entirely.

Cutting Bard's family was another smart move. Luke Evans as Bard was another miscast. When a character requires his kids to make him likable, there's something wrong. What should've been a noble loner was turned into an unpleasant curmudgeon. Jackson compounded the problem by having a goofy Master and the goofier Alfrid. Had Bill Nighy or Charles Dance been the Master, you'd have had a real sense of danger. Instead, it's cartoonish and there are no stakes. To make up for that, Jackson added a pointless and annoying fight between Legolas and the most ill-conceived orc in film history. By removing all of that (except Bard, who we're stuck with), it makes for a less annoying film, but unfortunately one that leaves Lake Town as an abstraction and mere stepping stone to the Mountain. So, the audience doesn't care as much about Smaug destroying it. But these are structural problems no editor can overcome.

Getting on to third act. I struggled with the original third film. It's so bloated and overlong that what should've been exciting is simply boring. Well, I'm happy to announce that for the first time, the Battle of Five Armies works! The trims create tension and dynamics, both of which were missing. Not sure why the giant worms were left out (as with the Stone Giants, they're a unique creature to the world), but the rest is glorious and much stronger!

Some minor nits to pick. The 2.0 audio isn't great. (I upscaled it to a DTS neural track on my system, but it's still unpleasant). And some of the color grading was muted to such a degree that it looked black & white (see the scene outside of Mirkwood). I'm an audio & videophile, so the occasionally degraded picture and sound quality are things I can't help but notice. For most people, it won't be an issue.

This was such a fascinating edit and I'm grateful to Wraith for creating it!

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