Thursday, February 11, 2021

"The Hobbit: The Cardinal Cut": quick review

I watched a YouTube video by a guy who had taken the three Hobbit films by Peter Jackson and had cut them down into one single film running about three hours and forty-eight minutes.  This sort of thing happens all the time; it's called a "fan edit," and it's done by people who love a particular movie or set of movies, but who feel that certain logic and pacing issues can be solved through better editing.  Curious, I decided to watch the fan edit—or "Cardinal Cut," as the guy calls it—of the Hobbit films.

Verdict:  not bad, but far from perfect.  If you click the above link and listen to the guy's criticisms of the Hobbit trilogy, you'll hear about which scenes ended up being cut.  Long story short:  just about everything not in Tolkien's The Hobbit has been trimmed away, so this means no more Galadriel, no Saruman, no Radagast the Brown, no Dol Guldur subplot, no Tauriel (and therefore no Tauriel-Kili lovey-dovey scenes), no extended battle-of-the-five-armies sequences (in the novel, Bilbo is knocked out and misses most of the action), no thunderous storm giants, almost no Legolas, almost no Azog, zero Bolg (Azog's very handsome son), and no cartoonish barrel-riding adventures.

The trimming-away of all this fat generally works; the overall story remains coherent, but the edits also cause certain continuity problems, e.g., then Thorin is borne away by the Eagles, he's barely conscious and still carrying his "oaken shield," which falls away from his limp grip as an Eagle bears him skyward.  We no longer know why he was holding the shield.  Bilbo's silent escape from Erebor with the Arkenstone, and his sudden plunge into battle, has been slashed to ribbons and is now choppy and confusing.

I almost wish I hadn't seen the uncut trilogy; I think my viewing experience of the Cardinal Cut would have been quite different.  As things stand, anyone who's seen Jackson's Hobbit trilogy will instinctively know when and where the cuts are happening, and that awareness may translate into an exaggerated feeling of choppiness.  I tried to be as fair as possible in judging the fan edit, but I admit I had trouble being completely fair.  Overall, as I said, I think the Cardinal Cut presents a coherent story, but there are parts where the cuts are sudden and jagged, with continuity errors that jolt the viewer.  I almost wish Peter Jackson and the Weta Workshop team would intervene and smooth out the Cardinal Cut's rough edges, thereby producing a single four-hour film that's a unified, flowing movie experience.

Is the Cardinal Cut worth your time?  I think it is, actually, and I think the man who made the fan edit is right to think that, in the midst of the Hobbit trilogy's ponderous bloat, there's a good film hiding inside.

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