August 14, 2016
Watching this edit made me realise just how much of the theatrical Hobbit movies was bloated and unneccessary to the main story. The movies are called The Hobbit - instead we got The Dwarves v Legolas v Gandalf v Azog starring A Hobbit. Bilbo nearly vanished in his own movie under everything else. When he returned to Hobbingen in the end, and the movie so obviously wanted the viewer to feel the "man, have we had an adventure with this guy, right?"-moment, I felt nothing for the little man who indeed traveled a long and bumpy road. Too much else had happened.
That is not to say I hated the movies in general; I enjoyed Part I and II in the cinema for the most part (returning to middle-earth in super-3D was just great), especially Part I, Smough was great and the actors all did a good job, but I was severely disappointed by Part III, which was just such an obvious "Hey-The-Kids-Liked-LotR-Battles-right"-cashgrab.
Anyway, enough of me: I loved this edit of The Hobbit. By cutting practically everything what wasn't in the book, now you have the 4,5h movie The Hobbit - with his hero front and center and never too far from the action. Yet it preserves the central arc of its secondary characters, the dwarves and their quest to reclaim their stolen home, who also profit from not drowning in side-quest and god-awful love stories (seriously, tell me one good reason this was in the movies except to stretch the run-time to fill three movies). Gone are: Legolas (except for a nice little cameo), Tauriel, Gandalfs side-quest (which I thought was cool in itself, but again just distracted from the main arc and the emotional core of the story), Azog-related flashbacks (turns out you don't need an hour of backstory to give an Orc a motivation to hunt good guys. That's just what they do. And without telling the viewer his history in detail, he even gets a bit more mystique and seems more threatening than before) and the more ridiculous and/or stupid parts of action and humor. The editing was seemless all the way, and yes, me and my girlfriend too noticed the gold falling off of Smough when he exits the mountain, but as another reviewer already said, this is a minor thing which will only register with viewers already familiar with the theatrical cut.
All of this combined makes for an adult movie, which still has a lighter tone to it that LotR, in which all the care and work that was obviously put in it by director, actors, costume designers etc. etc. can really shine. I could talk a lot more about this, but other reviewers have already said it all in a more eloquent way than me, so let me just finish with the statement that this is now the definitive version of The Hobbit for me, and I'm already in the process of spreading the word to friends and family, who unanimously loved it, too.