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9.8 80 10
FanFix November 06, 2021 10451
(Updated: November 29, 2021)
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When I saw The Hobbit movies in the theater, I couldn't help but think that there was a great version of the story inside Peter Jackson's movies, but just that it had been buried among a terminal amount of Flotsam and Jetsam. I've watched a few of the more well-regarded 3-in-1 edits (Maple Films, Bread & Butter, Dwarfed Edition), but there are points in each with awkward or jarring edits and some continuity errors. Battle of the Five Edits is far and away the best for it's attention to detail, in my opinion.

When Amazon announced their new Lord of the Rings prequel show, it got me thinking that the Hobbit would've been great as a limited-run miniseries, due to the episodic nature of the story. The trolls, the stone giants, Riddles in the Dark, Beorn's house, Mirkwood, etc. - these are all essentially stand-alone scenes that would work as episodes in a TV show and not suffer from needing to cut way too much cool stuff from the book in order to make it a single movie, or else making a single butt-numbing 4+ hour long movie.

It didn't occur to me that one could split Jackson's movies into episodes, but it is a stroke of genius that works incredibly well. I also love how excising most the cartoonish and videogamey action scenes that Jackson added to pad it out to a trilogy has the side effect of making the movies more appropriate for the same age range as the book, seeing as how most of the gratuitous violence was in the various Azog/Orc attack scenes that have been almost completely cut here. I have two kids, who are now about the age I was when I fell in love with the book - I wouldn't be comfortable showing them the theatrical or extended editions, with all their beheadings and squirting gore, but this version scales that back to an acceptable level, while splitting it into episodes makes it digestible for kids in the high single-digit age range, who would never have sat through a single 3.5+ hour movie in one sitting (let alone three).

In my dream version, the Ian Holm/Frodo prologue would've been excised, but I get why it was kept (in abbreviated form), since otherwise the movie starts very jarringly with no real introduction for Bilbo and Gandalf showing up in basically the first shot, as in a few of the other edits I've watched. Which speaks to the great job this edit does of threading that needle between following the book more closely and making the "best possible version of these movies" (as Stromboli Bones states as his thesis for this edit). One could expect that if this was the version of the prologue we got in the theatrical version, it would've felt a lot less egregious and felt less out-of-sync with the rest of the movies. The only other thing I would say is that the climactic battle could stand to be shorter still, with some of the more ridiculous CGI troll antics cut (peg leg trolls, battering ram trolls, etc).

The attention to detail that has been paid to not creating continuity errors or jarring cuts is far and away better than any of the others I have watched. A few nice nods to the further LoTR films have been kept (the shards of Narsil being glimpsed in Rivendell, etc.) while removing the egregious prequel-ish easter-eggs and heavy-handed foreshadowing that Jackson larded it up with.

The episodic structure allows keeping a lot of iconic stuff I love from the book (the songs, the eagles, Beorn, etc.) while not making everything feel either ploddingly overlong or way too rushed and confusing, like a lot of the 3-in-1 edits.

I love that Stromboli actually rented out a local theater to screen it for his friends and then incorporated feedback to fix any continuity errors or editing issues, which speaks to the amount of effort and attention to detail that went into making this the best edit available of these movies. This will be the canonical version for my family from now on!

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