When I left the theater after seeing the first of the Hobbit "trilogy," I didn't enjoy the movie on the whole, but appreciated elements of it. My end game was always going to be a 3-in-1 edit of the whole trilogy into a proper precursor to the LOTR trilogy. After the second two films, I felt very cynical about the whole endeavor and did not bother to check out any fan work in that department... until now.
Once enough time had passed, and my distaste was not so close at hand, I decided to check out and watch whichever 3-in-1 seems to have been most well received, preferably one that claims to be faithful to the book, and does not try to retain the White Council stuff. I think I made the right decision in picking this one.
I sat down and watched it in one sitting, punctuated with a few pauses. I had an open mind, intentionally not being in a critical mindset, but instead imagining that I had just time travelled from early 2012 and was skipping straight into THIS being my only experience with Peter Jackson's Hobbit project. And, with that mindset in place, I was enthralled. As someone who fusses with perfectionism when editing, I didn't notice many issues at all. There are a few spots where the audio transitions aren't fully seamless, but I was more than willing to go along with these and take them in stride; I doubt they could be made very much better. Only after watching this one did I download a few other Hobbit edits to compare and contrast, and this one appeared more sound (no pun intended) in this regard than the portions of the others I spot-checked.
This cut removes much, and does so with fluidity. A fair bit is retained that I would have liked to see gone, but I understand why they are there. Orcs still attack the company as they flee in barrels, but I understand that it would have been very abrupt to remove completely, and jarring with the music. The editor does, however, tie this sequence into the story later with a reworked scene in which Bolg and Azog meet up and march on the Lonely Mountain. It's a little unfortunate that Kili gets injured and appears to be in pain, but we don't follow up with him again.
For the time being at least, this is my go-to version of the film, and I look forward to having friends and family over to watch it as part one of four in a LOTR quadrilogy.
I do have a few suggestions, however, should the editor decide to revise this work. These are minor, and the edit has great integrity as it is. Nevertheless, being fidgety, I went ahead and did my own little fan edit of this fan edit, with the following changes:
[Redacted; I feel bad for listing such minor things which don't amount to much. The edit doesn't need any tweaking, even if I did a smidge just for myself.]
All of these tweaks are very minor, which is a testament to a very well-done fan edit. I heartily recommend this as "The Hobbit" movie for any audience.
As a life-long Tolkien fan, I can't express how disappointed I was with the original Hobbit trilogy, which made finding this fan-edit one of the highlights of 2015 for me. It's still not perfect, but it allowed me to watch the Hobbit and enjoy the great story that it is without being distracted by the excess or ridiculousness that filled the originals. Not only that, but it was cut and edited so well that I often wasn't even able to tell where it was altered from the original. The extent to which audio and video are seamlessly edited is quite impressive, and I loved the changes he made to the soundtrack so it would be more internally consistent. From now on, this is the definitive version of the Hobbit in my book, and I won't be watching or recommending any others. If you like the Hobbit and want to enjoy it on the big screen, carve out 4 hrs and give this version a go. It might just recapture some of the magic you hoped would make it into the originals!
If you watched the Hobbit movies because you loved Tolkien's book, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit is for you. I did not notice any problems with Audio/Video quality or Audio Editing, but there is one very noticeable visual edit of an unsalvageable scene with Smaug. That scene aside, a first time viewer could watch this film without knowing it was a fan edit. The narrative is straightforward without losing interest, and focuses primarily on the characters we come to care about. Compared to the original films, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit is a more enjoyable and less bloated way to take part in Bilbo's Adventures.
I have to say, I had high hopes for this, I even hyped it up to my friends prior to watching seeing the good reviews and whatnot. And wow did it deliver.
Here's the thing: I watched this with 3 other people, 1 one of whom had seen The Hobbit trilogy once before, the other 2 having not seen the trilogy at all (but they did watch LOTR). For my part, I watched The Hobbit trilogy Extended Edition once like 6 months ago after seeing them in theater, and LOTR, well, I lost count. We watched both the movie and the short film, Durin's Folk and the Hill of Sorcery, which I will rate separately from the main edit. The most important part is still the main movie, after all.
So, this is splendid work. What Maple Films have accomplished is incredible. I can safely say this will replace The Hobbit for me, and I kinda like the original movies, even though they're quite bloated. This is just better pretty much on all fronts, including the short story.
Editing is seamless throughout, especially audio. I LOVE how Maple Films changed some of the soundtrack in the movie to that of The Hobbit (or outright removed some scenes with the wrong LOTR music in it), excellent choice. Much of the info that has been cut out, like Azog's lack of presence early in the movie, the viewer can fill in very, very easily. The focus is on Bilbo, and it's for the better.
Here's what those who watched with me said (remember, 1 who had seen the trilogy before, 2 who hadn't):
- Everything makes sense. They never felt lost, although some events happened rather quickly near the end.
- The pacing is perfect, they weren't bored nor overwhelmed.
- Without dragon sickness they would have hated Thorin to the core, so he makes for an odd but interesting protagonist (or side protagonist, actually)
- They loved Gandalf's sidequest, but understand why it was cut. It's not relevant to Bilbo's story.
There is 1 edit which we found jarring: When the company is going into the tunnels to receive cover from the rain after leaving Rivendell (and fall into the goblin caves), Bilbo slips and falls off the cliff. The edit at this moment is quite jarring and goes from "Bilbo standing on the cliff slipping" to "Bilbo holding by 1 hand off the edge" like instantly. All 4 of us noticed.
The end with the 2 dwarves dying was a bit quick too, but I thought it would be worse. Kudos for pulling it off, seeing how complicated this situation was to begin with. Also, not even 1 of them noticed the dragon flying with gold pouring around him, so I guess this is really not an issue for first-time viewers. And I even told them there would be a visual continuity issue in the movie beforehand, and they still didn't notice. I'd say this is very much non-factor and affects only repeat viewers. After I told them, they said they thought it was dirt or remnants of the wall or something. The brain just fills it in, it would seem.
The actual Battle of the Five Armies is a bit of a mess, but then again, it is as well in the original. Cutting it just serves the story, which is what matters in the end.
Overall, I would highly recommend this edit as a replacement for The Hobbit trilogy. Tells a full, concise and cohesive story, sticks to the main characters very well, and doesn't omit any important character moments.
As for Durin's Folk and the Hill of Sorcery: I feel like either of 2 things could be done with it.
1. Trim down the scenes which are also included in the movie cut, especially the scenes before entering Mirkwood, and the scene before Radagast the Brown meets the company. Some of those scenes are borderline related with the Hill of Sorcery and its subplot anyway.
2. Remove everything not related to Gandalf and Radagast's adventures. That would remove about 30-35 minutes of content. Yes, that includes Thrain in Dol Goldur. For that, a good source of that scene would be the theatrical cut of Desolation of Smaug, where Thrain doesn't appear at all. Durin's Folk and their story is not essential viewing leading into LOTR, so it's not necessary and could be removed. Dol Goldur and the Necromancer, however, are.
Still, Durin's Folk and the Hill of Sorcery is well put together, and definitely worth the watch. A great prelude to Lord of the Rings.
Thank you Maple Films for this great work.
J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit by Maple Films: 9.9/10
Durin's Folk and the Hill of Sorcery: 9/10
I have seen the Theatrical versions of all 3 films, the extended versions of the first 2 (yet to watch my copy of BOTFA:EE), and The Spence Edit that combines all 3 movies into one. Well I have to say, above all of those, THIS is my favourite Hobbit viewing experience! The plot remains focused on Bilbo and the Dwarves throughout and this really emphasises stronger character connections. Special moments between Bilbo and Thorin or Bilbo and Bofur really shine as they're no longer lost among a ton of bloat. This actually made the ending feel way more impactful and I actually teared up a little which is something I have never done watching The Hobbit movies before. Including 1 or 2 extended edition scenes from the 3rd movie really helped with this too. I'm amazed Dustin has managed to cut so much and yet this edit still has so much heart.
There are some really positive edits made in this fanfix:
- Cutting Azog nearly entirely from the first film and he and Bolg completely from the second.
- Cutting Radagast and his woodland creatures entirely.
- Cutting the "Where is Thrain, is he alive?" plotline.
- Reducing Legolas/Tauriel, their subplot really isn't that interesting.
- Cutting out some of the ridiculous action scenes; Bombur's barrel bouncing, the erebor molten gold scene and especially some of Legolas' antics which are ludicrous (the falling stairs one!)
- The dragon sickness is mentioned plenty and it's effect on Thorin becomes very clear but no longer are you slapped in the face with it repeatedly (That awful Thorin hallucination scene)
- The bad VFX shots like in the molten gold scene are gone, he even colour corrected the GoPro shot in the barrel riding scene so that it blends in seamlessly.
There are very few drawbacks to this version but they are:
- The scene with Bilbo sat on the bench where Gandalf is introduced is a little too desaturated, this is fixed in the blu-ray but not in the MP4.
- There is a short intermission half way through the running time where they meet bard. This is fine on the blu-ray version as it is split across 2 discs but the the full length MP4 version also has it which means you may need to fast forward through it if you're watching in one sitting.
- The shot of Smaug flying from Erebor covered in gold is still present - it's been masterfully recoloured to the colour of his flesh by the editor, but it still is dripping from him and stands out like a sore thumb. I'm certain with a bit of creative editing this shot could be fully removed.
- Towards the end two character deaths have been moved to occur at the same time, this is a great idea as it removed Legolas' action scenes with Bolg and aids in keeping the Tauriel/Kili romantic plotline out of the movie. However it's not executed flawlessly. Azog stabs one of the characters and Bolg stabs another, reaction shots are shown but when it cuts back to Azog the character he stabbed has vanished, no body is even visible. This was jarring for me and I had to accept that he'd died without any real impact. It felt quick. I would have included Azog dropping the body, cut the shot of him falling past Kili below, and had either another reaction shot to hide the cut or gone straight to the shot of the body hitting the floor, whatever worked. Aside from this their deaths were well done. Just a bit of jarring editing for me personally.
Overall though the visual and auditory quality is fantastic. The narrative is the best I've seen for The Hobbit and really made me rank it much closer to LOTR. Enjoyment factor through the roof and all in 4 hours. Astounding work from Dustin Lee!