“There and Back Again,” or… The Hobbit in 3 Hours

This blog is meant to document some of the details that went into editing Peter Jackson’s three Hobbit films down into a single 3-hour movie that, I think, follows Tolkien’s original story as lovingly as possible. I should say that while I don’t think Jackson’s storytelling was as concise and character-driven as it could have been, I consider this cut to be a demonstration that there IS a really fun and beautiful movie buried in the material the filmmakers created. It just needed to be carefully extracted. Thus, a “fan edit.”

I’ve spent many weeks carefully recrafting the work into what I’m calling “There and Back Again: A Hobbit’s Cut” after the title of Bilbo Baggins’ own autobiographical book within the story. This keeps this fan edit distinct from others in a way that I think is respectful to Tolkien’s own intentions.

Download Torrent – 720p .mp4 (Requires torrent client, like uTorrent or Transmission. Beware of malicious banner links posing as download links.)

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Through editing I’ve not only removed material that I felt was superfluous or nonsensical, but also reordered scenes and structure, switched out musical cues, and combined places and characters. I’ve put considerable time into toning down even very small moments that felt out of place, overly slapstick, or gratuitously CGI-oriented.

What I really wanted to do was make a version that is seamless and genuinely watchable, and even entertaining.

With that, I think you’ll find an interesting, albeit imperfect film, that feels more in line with what I think a lot of fans hoped to see when a Hobbit movie was first announced, and even more in line with Jackson’s original Lord of the Rings trilogy. I believe the three hour length feels appropriate for the epic nature of the story and fits nicely with the length of the Rings trilogy, acting once again as something of a prologue.

(Before I go into more detail, I’d like to acknowledge TolkienEditor’s 4 hour cut. It is a very different version in a number of ways, but he/she beat me too the punch, and my hat is off. I would like to note that “There and Back Again” is over an hour shorter and a good deal more weekends of work than TolkienEditor’s cut — as I understand it — but all the same some really great work was done, some with very similar instincts, and I’d almost suggest one might consider that version to be an “Extended Cut” of the one you’ll find here.)

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Here are some more specific notes on what has been changed:

  • Overall, Bilbo has been made front and center the film’s protagonist, and we witness the story almost entirely through his perspective. Martin Freeman’s excellent performance carries us through most of the way, as one would expect. Exceptions to this are a few scenes given to Bard (whose expanded part in Jackson’s material was too critical to remove entirely), and some of the Dwarves’ adventure in the Goblin tunnels.
  • Thorin’s story has been reduced where it doesn’t directly impact Bilbo’s.
  • The beginning of the film begins much the same way the book does, with the line “In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit.” Gone is the extensive and unnecessary history of Dale and the Dwarves, who I feel are introduced much better as they arrive at Bilbo’s home. Instead Bilbo almost immediately takes us back to his first meeting with Gandalf, and we’re off from there.
  • The Dwarves’ dinner in Bag End has been greatly trimmed and aside from a few seconds of a more subtle “That’s What Bilbo Baggins Hates” we are quickly moved into hearing of Gandalf’s quest.
  • The story of Smaug’s attack on Dale and Erabor, as well as the dwarvish peoples’ exile under the leadership of Thorin, has been laid over the song of the Misty Mountains, a dramatic montage that I find far more effective and takes inspiration from the 1977 animated adaptation. You can find a cut of this scene below.
  • Azog is almost entirely gone, his appearances limited to the point where he could essentially be just another Orc warrior. Bolg remains (as in the book) but even then his role is very small.
  • As such, the Orcs don’t attack until after the encounter with the Goblin king.
  • The chase through the Goblin tunnels is greatly compressed. Gandalf arrives, stuns the goblins, stabs the Goblin King, and flees the mountain after a very quick skirmish.
  • Beorn does not chase the Dwarves. After traveling with the Eagles, Gandalf tells them of a place nearby they might stay the night, and we find Bilbo waking the next morning to find his company having a brief breakfast with Beorn. There is then more of an implication that Beorn is protecting them on their journey to Mirkwood.
  • Kili’s romance with Tauriel is gone. She appears briefly, as does Legolas, only in a few brief cameos. It like a good idea to still suggest there are Elvish women, and accurate to suggest that Legolas was at Mirkwood at the time.
  • The barrel chase is gone entirely. The company escapes down the river happy and unscathed, with Legolas watching incredulously from afar. I’ve also removed all the bizarre GoPro footage.
  • Much of the material in Lake Town is gone. The dwarves arrive with Bard’s help, are caught stealing weapons, and are presented to the Master. He greedily welcomes them and sends them on their way.
  • As such, much as I love Stephen Fry, he is given only a few brief appearances. The entirely superfluous character Alfrid (played, I admit, with perfect enthusiasm by Ryan Gage) only appears to act as the Master’s wormy counselor as they welcome the Dwarves.
  • Kili, Fili, Bofur and Oin all go to the Lonely Mountain with the rest of the company. No one remains in Lake Town. There is no Orc attack on the town or sick Dwarf adventures.
  • Thorin and his Dwarves never meet Smaug, as in the book. Only Bilbo ever enters the mountain before the dragon’s attack on Lake Town.
  • Bard kills Smaug on his own, without the help of his son Bain. I actually enjoyed the drama this added to the scene in Jackson’s cut, but still it seemed unnecessary for the story and too much of a distraction. I would have loved to reintroduce the Thrush’s relaying of Bilbo’s message for Bard to look for Smaug’s missing scale (as in the book), and might still do so once I have the time to do some fancier compositing work.
  • Much of Thorin’s descent into madness has been extracted, though he still acts essentially as the primary antagonist. For me, Tolkien’s version of Thorin always worked as a caution against greed in a very relatable way. The constant and overt suggestions that his folly is an almost literal “sickness” seems to take any human element away from his story. I realize Tolkien himself suggested it was “Dragon Sickness,” but I’m not sure that was ever intended to represent a genuine physical illness. Maybe I’m wrong.
  • The Battle of Five armies has been cut down to a climax of under 10 minutes, with significantly less cartoon insanity, and Bilbo’s bash on the head puts a narrative end to it.
  • This is currently an ONGOING project. More changes and improvements, some fairly ambitious, will be made as time permits.

Want to take a look? You’ll need to grab the torrent. I’d love to be able to share this more openly but, sigh.

Download Torrent – 720p .mp4 (Requires torrent client, like uTorrent or Transmission. Beware of malicious banner links posing as download links.)

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A little bit in closing. I’d like to say again that I really do appreciate what Peter Jackson has accomplished. I don’t think any other filmmaker could have ever brought Middle Earth to life so beautifully. When I set out to make this version I did it mostly out of curiosity, as a creative project to flex editorial muscles on, and out of my own love of Tolkien and The Hobbit (my favorite book as a child). I genuinely intend no disrespect to Jackson or his incredible team.

And one last heads up. Due to the unavailability of a Blu Ray version of “The Battle of the Five Armies,” the third act of “There and Back Again” becomes suddenly and dramatically much poorer in image and audio quality. It’s pretty icky when it happens, so I apologize in advance if you make it that far. I intend to fix that once I can buy a higher quality version of that film.

 

 

 

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