By Spencer Ellsworth
No, I won't tell you where I got it.
No luck with torrents or file sharing sites, though. A man (or woman)(or Elf, or Dwarf) sometimes has to poke around and find some friends. Prove that you know your Húrin from your Túrin, and someone might share their basement project.
I'm being dramatic; fan edits are already all over the Internet, and not hard to find. The world of 2015 knows, as we know that Tay-Tay's gonna shake it off, that the Hobbit movies are padded out. Radagast and molten gold and Elf/Dwarf romance and lots of extra talking bury one good film in ten long hours.
There are places in these fan edits that show Peter Jackson knows it, too. For instance, a seamless cut takes us from the troll hoard to Thorin and Company's approach to Rivendell. Radagast is not missed and Azog works just fine as a fearsome random Orc.
Frodo vanishes easily from the intro. The barrel sequence is a little bit choppier, but the end smoothly transitions into the dwarves' confrontation with Bard. Even the Smaug sequence, now without the golden statue, is only cursed by a few rough cuts between Bard's family and Bilbo.
This particular fan edit is of the purist stripe; absolutely nothing gets in that isn't in the book. And so I missed Dol Guldur a little, given that Gandalf disappears for no reason, and I missed the expanded role of Tauriel in the unexpected sausage party.
But I did not miss them much, because without the fluff, The Hobbit becomes a movie about Bilbo.
Martin Freeman owns the edit. His fussy little mannerisms, puckering his lips and twiddling his fingers in his pockets, show the good hobbit sense in the madness around him. His big scenes now have a lot more weight—especially the crucial moment where he cannot bring himself to kill Gollum.
One non-canonical scene remains: Gandalf's conversation with Galadriel (minus the previous White Council scenes). As the moral centerpiece of the movie, it's no surprise that it is stronger within this Bilbo-centric edit. "I am afraid, and he gives me courage," Gandalf says. In a world full of fear, either in the 1930s or 2010s, Bilbo's story does the same.
Peter Jackson has always had a penchant for experimentation on film, pioneering linked films, extended editions, even his poorly received 48fps. Going by this edit, and with the impending release of The Battle of Five Armies. I'd say it's time for another experiment, like unto Jay-Z's release of the Black Album vocal tracks that yielded Danger Mouse's excellent Grey Album. Peter, why not pull a Jay-Z? Release raw, unscored footage, accessible to those who have purchased the original film, and let us, in Jiggaman's words, remix the sh*t out of it.
Have some courage.
Spencer Ellsworth has written about comics for Bleeding Cool since 2013, and all over the Internet since 2007. He has also published short fiction in many venues, including the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and maintains a blog and bibliography at spencerellsworth.com and twitters @spencimus