August 01, 2013
With the greatest will power in the world, I just couldn't bring myself to laud praise upon The Hobbit in the same way which I had for Jackson’s LOTR trilogy. It had nothing to do with how close the film is to the book; much like Menbailee, I feel it’s more important for the film to work as a piece of cinematic storytelling than a pure page by page representation of the book. It was simply that Jackson over-egged the pudding on this one. The decision to make three movies out a book so much shorter than the LOTR was fool hardy enough – to make the first film at 3 hours is just asking for trouble. Inevitably, the film suffers from padding galore and also Jackson’s most annoying trait of going that one step too far in terms of how he constructs and edits a major set-piece. By the time Gandalf and the dwarves are trying to escape the Goblin King and his army, I felt like I was watching a computer game at times.
However, underneath all the excesses, I thought there was a good movie there and thankfully, on the whole, Menbailee has managed to trim away the fat and produce the kind of movie I wanted to see at the cinema. First major plus point is the pointless Frodo cameo hitting the fanediting cutting room floor. This is quickly followed by some invisible trimming of the dwarves meet up with Bilbo. Then Menbailee really begins to get plus points for severely trimming down the sequence where the Dwarves fight the Trolls in an effort to save Bilbo from being their next meal. Granted, the cut is a bit abrupt and some may say heavy handed, but it’s a compromise well worth making, as this is one of the scenes which dragged painfully in the theatrical version.
I didn’t miss the White Council scene at all. My girlfriend disagreed, but I like the idea of The Hobbit standing on its own two feet, rather than throwing in too many attempts to refer and link directly to characters from Jackson’s LOTR trilogy, so this was a plus in my eyes.
Certainly, as the edit progressed, I began to really warm to the film as a whole. At last, I became fully engaged with the characters and the adventure they had embarked upon. Sure, it still lacks that certain something which felt more immediate and fresh when I saw Fellowship of the Ring, but there’s little doubt that this is a massive improvement on the bloated mess which we saw at the cinema last year.
However, there are a couple of issues here. Some may call them minor, others may see them as pretty key; but basically they relate to continuity issues caused by the cuts made. Firstly, the excision of the Warg attack is welcome, but then to leave in a line of dialogue when the company meet up with Elrond at Rivendale, about Gandalf admitting it may be their fault that Elrond was held up with taking care of the fall-out from that very attack, seems to come from left field somewhat. The same kind of problem presents itself when Thorin is still seriously injured even though his fight with the Warg’s is cut. The editor admits that he couldn't find a way around this, and we have to believe that it’s the falling through the different trees that has caused his injuries. In the end I think it works better with no final fight, so again I feel it’s a worthy compromise. However, such issues do prevent this edit from being a true masterpiece.
Ultimately, this is still an impressive piece of fanediting. Flawless, no. But still a must see if you, like me felt The Hobbit you saw at the cinema was an over-long, self indulgent exercise in dragging out a story to fill what will be 3 movies. Recommended.