This is a great edit of a not-great trilogy of films, into one watchable movie. LOTR -- the extended editions especially! -- did an amazing, still unmatched, job of treating a fantasy setting properly. It was a rare occasion where a fantasy setting and its narrative was taken seriously, rather than developed into a cheesy barbarian body-builder festival, or a kiddie movie, or a low-budget-crappy-costumes mess, or into an ensemble of the latest Hollywood blockbuster tropes in a pre-modern setting. There are very few exceptions to this pattern: "Hellboy II," Conan the Barbarian" (1982), "Dark Crystal" all stand out. Don't get me wrong: I'm no art-film buff, or culture snob; I am proud to have "Yor the Hunter" on BD, and similar fare, and an extensive collections of schlock and cheese, including fantasy, and love "Labyrinth" and its ilk. But LOTR was something different, a breath of fresh air: incredible scenery and effects and cinematography, an amazing (yes, I know, not 100% fidelity) to the book (including cleaving close to its prose, without F-bombs, American slang and the rest, right-on "ba ba green sheep" rewrites etc.), great casting and music, and lots of detail. Imagine, if you will, a parallel Earth, where we got Tom Cruise as Aragorn, Danny De Vito as Smeagol, Johhny Depp as Elrond, a Danny Elfman soundtrack, lots of product placement, a few extra characters to meet the mood of the times, like a hobbit action-hero, perhaps a scientist/ hacker/ super-wizard, ideally a pretty but disaffected young woman in a tight leather bodice, and loads of slapstick etc. Then we can think what horrors might have been.
Now: "The Hobbit" trilogy. A big step backward for the genre, and not a very good set of films in any sense. It retained the amazing sets and designs of LOTR, but was something far less in every respect. LOTR showed grim,noble dwarf kings and a stoic Gimli; in this one we got badly-dressed dwarfish buffoons and cliches. What is with those ridiculous hair- and beard-styles? Look: Bombur is fat, and his chair broke, oh the hilarity! Thorin, who looks completely out of place -- perhaps the result of an ill-advised studio decision to create a dwarf hottie? -- but he looks more like Jason Momoa's Aquaman than anything dwarfish in this trilogy or LOTR, or pretty much any high fantasy setting, ever. LOTR had awe-inspiring monsters from legend; in this one we got great spiders and a great dragon, sure, but we also got trolls who eat snot, a goblin king with a plummy English accent and wargs. Lots of wargs. Wargs who can now climb trees. LOTR cleaved to the source material; in this one dwarfs are oafs who makes fires on the floors of Rivendell, using elven furniture, and who cannot drink from a mug without wetting their beards and cheeks, plus two dwarfs who are not-very-funny recycled versions of Merry and Pippin; we suddenly have Tom Bomabil as a sort of hairy grimdark Wolverine-analogue, last survivor of a persecuted, enslaved race etc.; oh dear, there is a cringey dwarf/ elf romance as well. LOTR had a sense of urgency and peril and world-spanning, epochal change; in this one we got padding, bloat, and CGI, as the director did his best to push a 150 page book into a 12 hour movie marathon. Scenes from LOTR were recycled as well: brave adventurers fleeing within a goblin mountain; eagles summoned by a moth coming in at the last moment; wargs ridden by orcs attacking on the hills etc. The "Hobbit" keeps dragging on, and on, and on, and on. Oh my goodness, does it drag. The heroic efforts of Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins were not enough, alas, to salvage this Hollywood mess.
So the editors at Maple Films certainly had their work cut out. This edit is, I think, the best possible salvage operation and I must express my amazement at the job done here -- and in the standalone spin-off "Durin's Folk and the Hill of Sorcery" which you MUST see.
The worst of the slapstick is gone, the worst cringe is removed, and the bloat is reduced greatly. The story is tighter, with the removal of lots of padding, byways and cul-de-sacs. The endless, belaboured flagging of what will happen in LOTR is less in evidence. Of course, we can all think of our personal preferences for what should stay or go (maybe the dwarfs wrecking Rivendell, the whole Azog storyline?) but building a watchable film that retains the best parts of a "Hobbit" trilogy that should have been one movie from the start, is an impressive achievement by any standards.
With so much stuff gone, it's a really amazing accomplishment to retain a clear and interesting narrative. Bilbo is now central, as is his struggle within. There is some incredible scenery, camera work, special effects and choreography, which emerges from the murk thanks to smart editing, and to wonderful effect.
There is a lot work and care here, and it shows. We cannot expect any editor/s to work miracles, and even with the best will in the world, the "Hobbit"/s will never be a good film. But it can, as we see here, become something worth a watch, and maybe even two! I cannot honestly give a super-high rating for enjoyment or even narrative, but that is not the fault of the editor/s who could only work with what existed: a deeply flawed product in the worst traditions of the Hollywood blockbuster/ cash-grab.
Well done Maple Films! No one can expect more of anyone than we have here!
Looking for the best edit of The Hobbit Trilogy, I read through the descriptions and change lists of every edit I could find. I have watched and re-watched different versions of The Hobbit over several months and, finally, I found this edit - exactly what I was looking for!
All the slapstick and fluff that could be cut is gone, but not to the point that would create unexplained events as I had seen in other edits.
The efforts made to hide Smaug covered in liquid gold is about the best that will ever be. I watched an edit that tried skipping to him flying towards the town and that didn't flow smoothly.
If I had to nitpick... the first time I watched this edit, I thought my audio/video was out of sync during the new voice-over during the eagle rescue. Plus the great scene with Thorin accepting Bilbo as a useful member of the group after the eagles was cut, but there was no way to keep it with the cuts made to the battle with the orcs. I'd rather have the cuts than that scene, so not a big deal.
Watched this edit last weekend. I got to say this was an amazing edit, great quality. The colour correction was great as I disliked the way the original versions looked. I also thought the restructuring of the movies into a 4 hour cut was well done, the unnecessary sub-plots are removed quickening the pace and I didn't mind the long hour run time as I liked that it was split in two just like the Extended Editions of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Ultimately this was more in tone with The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and more structured like Jrr Tolkien's Novel and all and all I really loved this edit and for me it is definitely the definitive version.
I've long known that there must be a good movie hiding within the mess that is The Hobbit trilogy. The Maple Films edit takes some excellent steps toward pulling that good movie out of the muck. It's an improvement, to be sure. But for me, it ultimately fell short.
In an effort to save time, the Maple Films team ended up cutting out a lot of moments and scenes that I believe were necessary for narrative cohesion. Most notable, the Battle of Azanulbizar, which establishes Thorin's history with Azog. For better or worse, Azog is the major antagonist of the trilogy, and in order to give the final fight some emotional weight the history of the two characters is essential. Without it, he's just a random orc that is, for unknown reasons, an old enemy of Thorin and their conflict falls flat for the viewer.
-In an attempt to achieve visual consistency with The Lord of the Rings, they went overboard with the color grading. The desaturation throughout the film is far too extreme.
-A good effort at fixing Smaug the Golden, but he still appears wet while exiting Erebor. I acknowledge that this is one of the two most difficult challenges that fan editors of The Hobbit face. The other great challenge is...
-...the transition between An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug. This cut leaves a lot to be desired. The voiceover was a creative solution, but in my opinion the flight of the eagles was cut far too short and the whole thing feels off.
-I loved the way this cut handled the deaths of Kili and Fili. I think the cut could have used a bit of polish, but the idea was fantastic.