While many editors try to turn the Hobbit trilogy into one or two movies, this edit makes the case that these movies can shine individually. Indeed, by trimming some of the bloat, Kerr has revealed the gem of a film underneath. This version of an Unexpected Journey is a tight adventure with strong performances and clear character arcs. Highly recommended.
Pretty much the best. I admire the effort put in by many to morph the Hobbit films into a single film, or two film structure, but to me it should be a trilogy. It's clear from The Appendices that Jackson and co. made many changes to make the films work as three instead of two and so I prefer watching them as a trilogy, and Kerr's edit is a fantastic way to do that. The theatrical (and extended cut) cut of Unexpected Journey can be a slog, but this edit breathes new life into it. Kerr has managed to keep the structure of the film intact while making it all run so much more smoothly. Maybe my favorite element of the edit is the score replacement. In the Jackson versions, villains' leitmotifs from the Rings trilogy will play over scenes of heroes, but there is none of that here. Shore's original music, actually written for this film, finally plays in the places it belongs. I will briefly mention that the score is mixed a bit too high in some of the opening scenes, but this is really a minor quibble. This will definitely be making its way into my Unexpected Journey blu-ray case. I highly recommend even the most skeptical Hobbit fans to check this version out. Can't wait to check out the next two Arkenstone Edits.
This edit without a doubt saves a bloated and childish film that was full of potential, tranforming it into one that I can truly enjoy. Where the original's poor pacing and seemingly conflicted intentions with regard to tone and audience caused what great stuff there was to get somehow lost in the mix, this version flows and carries you along on a wicked ride. Kerr demonstrates a greater understanding of what was needed in this film, using scenes from the EE which greatly enhance the narrative while drastically trimming plenty that made it into theaters. Radagast is an excellent example. By omitting his introductory scenes, the awkward humor, and Saruman's full verbal laceration of the character, he now seems quirky (although not annoying), and like someone who you can actually believe as a wizard.
Kerr's use of Howard Shore's original soundtrack also hugely enhances the whole experience, providing us with more appropriate accompaniment at almost every turn, and making you wonder how the editors thought reusing so much of the soundtrack from Lord of the Rings in favor of original themes composed for this film would be better. There are four exceptions to this however (all near the end of the film) where the change of music was jarring and/or detracted from my experience. The first is using a different version of the ring theme. The original used the same version as TLOTR which I feel both sounds better and is more thematic in this case. Likewise the eagle theme which he uses for about twenty seconds before changing to a new piece is so associated with those eagles in my mind that using anything other strips the scene of all its beauty. Third, for Thorin's charge on Azog he replaces the Nazgul theme from fellowship (epic, but very out of place) with one which I think he took from Skyrim. This sounded out of place and simply didn't work for me. Better I feel to have kept the Nazgul theme, despite the anti-thematicness. Lastly atop the Carrock when Thorin wakes and the audience is meant to be unsure whether Thorin will rebuke or thank Bilbo Kerr has used a theme which he accented to the scene beautifully and I think was much better, all except for the fact that its tone makes it clear in no uncertain terms that Thorin will not rebuke Bilbo as the scene intends you to fear. Sadly, that seems a deal-breaker for me.
All-in all a Masterpiece of an edit that will leave you exasperated with the original editors and sympathizing greatly with the time pressure everyone involved had placed on them. Personally I would add (and have done so myself) the Old Took's birthday party scene from the EE because it creates a much warmer introduction to the Shire scenes, and better establishes this young Bilbo Gandalf repeatedly recalls in later scenes. As well as Gandalf's concerns about the dwarf rings and mention of Thrain during the White Council - as this leads directly into a plot line from DOS that Kerr was, at the time of this edit, unaware of.
Professionally done. This is a great alternative to the original movie. My issue with the original movie was that sometimes it feels like we jump from a movie to a video game (stone giants, goblin town escape sequence). Radagast also had too many silly moments and his original introduction scene felt like we suddenly jumped to Narnia. All that and more was improved by this edit.
Another major improvement this edit has to offer is the sound editing and some alternative soundtracks (Thorin vs. Azog and eagles rescue scenes, especially) which work incredibly well.
I think, the minor negative I have in this regard is the missing sound piece from the scene when Gandalf breaks the rock to reveal sunlight on the Trolls. I liked that scene, as it originally was, with the Trolls' response to Gandalf.
Overall, it's an awesome work with a lot of heart put into it. This should have been the movie released in theaters.
Well done, Kerr.