J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is a fan-edit of the Hobbit trilogy by Dustin Lee of Maple Films. The edit removes the side plots and unnecessary additional scenes not present in the novel, consolidating the trilogy into one 4-hour film, and color-corrects the originally over-saturated picture to be more aesthetically pleasing and more consistent with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
One of my favorite aspects of this edit is the return of focus to Bilbo’s story. Despite being called The Hobbit, the theatrical films added a magnitude of baggage that sorely detracted from Bilbo’s arc. This edit, by removing the unnecessary plot-lines of Tauriel, Legolas, Gandalf, and the Necromancer, refocuses the story on the hobbit, and structures a vastly superior narrative.
The color-correction and digital alterations of the film are magnificent. One of my largest gripes with the theatrical trilogy, particularly the third installment, was the unpleasant visuals. Contrarily to The Lord of the Rings, which features spectacular cinematography and practical landscapes, the Hobbit trilogy is over-saturated, overwhelming, and relies far too heavily on CGI. Dustin Lee’s color-correction, on the other hand, presents a significantly more pleasing image.
Despite it’s improvements over the theatrical films, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is unable to save the trilogy from The Battle of the Five Armies‘ glut of crippling weaknesses. The portions of the film retrieved from An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug hold up well enough, but no amount of re-editing could fix the atrocity of The Battle of the Five Armies. The heavy reliance on poorly executed CGI, the sub-par choreography, and hyper-stimulating frames produce an overall unpleasant finale.
However, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit does remove the cartoon-like, gravity-defying action bits present in the trilogy, making the action scenes far more bearable than they were in the theatrical movies. Maintaining the flaws of the Peter Jackson films, this edit consequentially maintains the strengths of his trilogy including Martin Freeman’s performance as Bilbo, Sir Ian McKellen’s performance as Gandalf the Grey, and Howard Shore’s incredible score. However, because this edit releases most of the inferior baggage from the story, these stronger elements shine all the more.
However, I think there was a little too much cut from the film; the original movies feature more character development for both Bilbo and Thorin that was sadly removed from this edit.
The important thing to note is that this fan-edit is definitely superior to the theatrical trilogy. I doubt the story would completely hold up to one who hasn’t seen the original films, so I would recommend watching this after having seen the theatrical movies. If you’re one who has seen the trilogy, however, and is considering a re-watch, I would recommend J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, as I find it to present the superior narrative. That being said, it’s unable to salvage the finale, which remains a convoluted mess of CGI and visual noise.