April 15, 2015
Like many people, I'm a huge fan of LotR but I found The Hobbit movies a bit of a chore. The third movie, especially, wasn't much more than an exercise in not walking out. I'd re-watched An Unexpected Journey once on Blu Ray, just to check out fancy HD visuals, and the others were bought only for the Appendices. I could see that there was a lot of great stuff scattered throughout the three movies, but it would never be worth a 9/10-hour movie marathon filled with ridiculous action scenes, mind-numbing subplots and Jar Jar-level humour to see them again. This edit is exactly what I needed. The movie discs of my Hobbit Blu Rays can consider themselves retired.
The image and sound editing is of a professional standard. There were, I think, only two instances when dialogue was overshadowed by the music. (I can't remember exactly where, sorry.) Official Hollywood releases have more garbled dialogue than that (e.g. Batman movies), so that's brilliant for such a long movie. There weren't any plot holes formed from the cuts, beyond the sudden appearance of ponies after the goblin caves. No big deal, though, because it's a LotR movie and you have to put up with that even in official releases (that get filled out in Extended Editions).
Very pleased with Legolas's reduced role. He's just a fun cameo now, while still playing a minor role in the battle at the end. Delighted that the Tauriel romance has gone. Now she's just a striking-looking extra. I was happy to lose the council scene as well, and I think it makes the great Christopher Lee's later appearance all the more dramatic. The eagles in the battle are now a total surprise and not foreshadowed (or hinted at existing for people unfamiliar with LotR), but the fact that Radaghast leads them means that it's a great "Hey! Radaghast's here!" moment rather than a "WTF? Eagles?" moment. I don't know if I'm remembering wrong, but I thought in the original cuts Bard knew about Smaug's weak spot. There's no dialogue of it in this. I was expecting that to be a problem, but when Smaug flies over him it now just looks like Bard spots it and shoots it right away. That works well for me. I'm really happy that all of Bard's family has been cut and over the moon to be rid of the Laketown nonsense with the mayor and Alfrid (the single worst thing to happen to the trilogy). I didn't miss Beorn at all. At the end of the day, he gives them some ponies and then shows up for 5 seconds in the battle at the end. Not worth the ten minutes extra run-time. Great stuff getting rid of the Azog pursuits and the false defeat at the mountain door.
Overall, then, I couldn't be happier. Spence has done an astonishing job of rescuing this series. Three separate average-to-poor films have become one great one. The tone is just right. There are just enough scenes to tease for LotR without it getting tiresome (none of the crappy "Hey, Legolas! Go find Aragorn!" nonsense). Enough of the dwarf stuff has gone that it now is more about Bilbo. And the ending worked really well, giving Ian Holm a nice cameo to finish. Awesome stuff all round.