If you had
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it
Or just let it slip?
When all else is stripped away, it becomes apparent that this is the core conflict facing the main characters of The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins and Thorin Oakenshield. For Bilbo, the opportunity comes in the form of an adventure that pushes him outside of his comfortable Hobbit life. For Thorin, it's the quest to find the lost Arkenstone and claim his rightful place as King of the Mountain. But, will each of them seize the opportunity presented, or will they succumb to fear and let it slip through their fingers?
As illustrated in the esteemed original Tolkien text:
"His soul's escaping, through this hole that is gaping
This world is mine for the taking
Make me king, as we move toward a New World Order."
Or maybe it was Eminem who wrote that. I could be confused.
In any case...this edit is for fans of the books who are looking to detach from their lives and completely disappear into the world of Middle-Earth for four hours. It's also for those who are wanting a complement to their Lord of the Rings Extended Editions collection in the form of a condensed version of The Hobbit...because as everyone knows, the Hobbit trilogy as it was released in its original form -- sucked.
M4's edit takes all of the things you may have hated about those movies as they exist in your home collection, and crafted a much more streamlined, easy-to-follow narrative that focuses almost solely on the quest of Bilbo, Thorin and the party of Dwarves. AKA - The only characters who really matter in this story.
Any and all goofy humor has been outlawed in this version. Gone are most of the cameos and wink-wink references to Lord of the Rings that some consider to be world-shrinking. But don't worry, he kept a few important nods that I found to be appropriately subtle.
All of the over-the-top antics of the infamous barrel chase sequence have been reduced to almost a blink-and-you'll-miss-it segue. After all, this is supposed to be a serious quest -- with serious consequences! No one should be having fun here! Can't you see that? What's wrong with you people???
Oh, sorry. The dragon-sickness is taking hold. Been watching too many Hobbit edits lately.
(*It's true, I recently reviewed another Hobbit edit and loved that one too for different reasons. None of what I say below is meant to compare it to the other one. Both edits are spectacular and are two completely different animals. They really can't be compared since they are structured differently and made for different types of viewers. I'm not happy about the possibility they could be squaring off against each other for Fanedit of the Month. But, I will strongly urge all Tolkien fans to watch them both!)
Back to M4's edit...
WHAT I LOVED:
-The story is water-tight. It moves and doesn't feel bogged down by anything. Everything is connected. Everything is consistent. Nothing is set up that doesn't come with a payoff later, and no payoff is paid off without first being set up to begin with...did you get that? Ok, moving on.
-Azog the Orc General is present, but minimalized in a way that I felt worked really well. M4 went so far as to digitally replace him during the tree escape sequence with footage of an Orc riding a warg from another scene, which must have taken hours of touchup, blending and audio mixing to get right. This edit also includes Gandalf's warning of an Orc army being "on the move" before they show up at the end battle, which I appreciated.
-There are no weird elf/dwarf love triangles that no one asked for. No Radagast. No long, meandering, dead-end subplots or superfluous side characters. Even old favorites like Galadriel, Saruman, "my wee lad Gimli" and Sauron were not immune to M4's editing software.
-There are some additions to the musical score which were well chosen and nicely integrated. Howard Shore fans will love it.
-It's one of the few Hobbit edits to endeavor to be "book accurate" without sacrificing good pacing and M4 says he even read Tolkien's book AS he was editing to make sure he didn't miss anything!
-I'm told it's one of the only 3-in-1 edits (if not the only) to keep the extended Beorn introduction, the extended Mirkwood scene and cut the Orc river battle. Plus, there's a beautiful transition from the Troll Caves to Rivendell that really stands out.
-The Smaug scene stood out as well. Keeping all of the dragon's iconic dialogue without any cuts to Bard or to the Dwarves, which, from what I understand, is more accurate to how the book plays out and also more interesting.
-Additionally, this edit is technically solid. A/V is a 10. It pays attention to the details, like color-correction and added custom VFX shots used to bridge substantial cuts in the narrative.
Because earlier versions of this edit have been available for some time out in the wild while it was being perfected and waiting for approval, it has already inspired many others in the community. It does deserve credit for innovating certain cuts and groundbreaking VFX shots which had been created specifically for this edit.
For instance, a deepfake of Thorin's face was used to reduce his injuries after a fight scene that was cut. The gold on Smaug was eliminated as the dragon bursts out of Erebor. Shots of arrows were digitally removed from barrels. And Bard's son was completely removed from the climactic arrow-firing scene with Smaug.
When edited in this way though, The Hobbit is a truly epic journey, both for the characters and the viewer. You can follow Bilbo, Gandalf and the Dwarves and feel what it's like to be with them on this massive quest through Middle-Earth, which is what we all wanted when we first thought about the idea of a Hobbit movie. Right?
The first thing I thought about, actually, was that easter egg on the old Lord of the Rings DVDs, where Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller play two comedic movie executives trying to convince Peter Jackson to make a sequel to Lord of the Rings. It was all a joke at the time...but yeah. Then it happened.
Weaknesses were hard to find in this edit. And I tried. But, I think any perceived weakness will come down to a matter of taste and what the viewer personally enjoys in a movie.
-Most of the humor, silliness or lighthearted fun has been removed from this edit. So, if you're a fan of those parts of the movies, you're not going to get it here. Some may think it makes the story feel too dark or oppressive. It's up to the viewer to decide.
-As a casual viewer, I enjoyed some of the Lord of the Rings cameos and references originally included in these movies. They will not be found here. M4 has taken care to reduce as much of that as possible. And for this particular presentation of the story, I think it was the right choice.
-Several instances of singing by Dwarves and the Goblin King have been retained. I was personally not a fan of the singing. I don't think it translates well to film. That being said, I do understand song, poetry & language are all a major part of what makes up the literary tradition of Tolkien and are in keeping with a Book Cut. Though these scenes weren't my cup of tea, I don't feel it detracted from the movie.
-Beorn, that damn bear-shifter-guy is in there again. I'm being told by all Hobbit fans simultaneously to shut tf up, he's an integral part of the story! Can't you see that? Get used to it. He's awesome and he's not going anywhere. LOL! I stand corrected.
-The length. You'd think the length would be a possible weakness. Not everyone wants to sit down to watch a four-hour movie anymore. We've got things to do, places to be.
And sure, this edit is a long one, but despite that fact, it's a thing of beauty. We take the scenic route through Middle-Earth. In all honesty, four hours blows by pretty quick with this edit. Why? Because you're actually invested with the characters this time and engaged with everything they're doing onscreen.
It absolutely fits right alongside the Lord of the Rings Extended Editions or the old roadshow pictures from way back when, complete with an official intermission so you can grab some more popcorn and refill that 64oz cola you've been sucking down for the last hour-and-a-half.
Ultimately, for fans of The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions (or David Lean films), this edit may very well be considered one of the best 3-in-1, longform Hobbit edits ever, depending on the type of experience you're looking for. I'll let the Hobbit experts decide.
From an editing standpoint, I appreciate how daunting a project of this size must have been to take on. The amount of thought M4 has clearly put into it, and the number of years he's spent poring over the details, tweaking it, making the effort to get it just right is admirable. To prove it, there's an audio commentary track included. And it's genuinely fascinating to listen to him talk about the editing process, the challenges he's faced and everything else that was involved. It's a bonus that gives this edit valuable re-watchability.
I think M4 has crafted the focused version of this story that we were all expecting and would have preferred -- exactly this -- one long, Extended Edition-style movie, rather than the big, bloated, over-produced, trilogy of cash-grabs that we got. One has to ask, if this was the version Peter Jackson released in an alternate universe, would The Hobbit be remembered as a masterpiece instead of being universally reviled?
Bottom line is: It's an amazing project made for anyone looking to lose yourself in the magical world of Middle-Earth. Guaranteed to be appreciated by all who see it.
This is going to sit on my shelf and in my Plex server right next to my official Lord of the Rings Extended Editions as my head-canon version of "The Hobbit: The Extended Edition". Except it's not actually extended, it's condensed. "The Hobbit: The Condensed Edition!" No, no, no...
How about just "M4's The Hobbit Book Edit"... All rights reserved. That works.
M4, in all seriousness, thank you for sharing your talent, skill and hard work with the community. This was an enjoyable watch.
Unto you I say... Welcome!
And to sum this whole story up by quoting the immortal text of Tolkien once again (or is it Eminem?):
"Snap back to reality, ope there goes gravity
Ope, there goes Hobbit, he choked
He's so mad, but he won't give up that easy? No
He won't have it, he knows his whole back's to these ropes
It don't matter, he's dope, he knows that, but he's broke
He's so stagnant, he knows, when he goes back to his Hobbit home, that's when it's
Back to the Shire again, yo, this whole rhapsody
Better go capture this moment and hope it don't pass him.
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance, Bilbo
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime..."
You can do anything you set your mind to, man.
What an amazing review man! I appreciate all the kind word, this brought a smile to me, I also appreciate how you made a point that there are many types of Hobbit edits. It should never be a competition, because as long as every edit does something different then that's enough for it to potentially be "the best edit" for any random individual based on what they're looking for.
Oh yeah and some minor things I want to comment on, you said I digitally replaced the Orc which is *true* from a certain point of view, but most of the shot is the same as the original movie so don't give me too much credit haha, I just did some tweaks to the framing, coloring, and the backdrop.
I'll also say you are totally right about how my edit removes a lot of silly gags and comedy bits, but it's important to remember that you only really notice that in the second half of the story when the stakes are raised. Bag End/Troll scene/Rivendell, for example, still have their own funny moments where it felt natural and true to the book's spirit.
I agree that some people may miss those LOTR references (Gimli, one-ring reference in Rivendell, Sauron eye flash, stuff like that), but when it *matters most* such as the Mithril coat, finding the actual ring, or the beautiful book-end scene with old Bilbo, that's where I loved to have the references :)
Also, eminem references is an easy upvote. But again, thanks for the review my man and it was a pleasure working with you to get this approved! Hope to see you maybe make a fan edit one of these days..