Should the Hobbit (1) be shorter?

I can see why people say it’s too long. There is a heap of stuff that COULD have been cut if the target were a 90 – 120 minute movie. But I knew it was almost three hours when I bought the tickets so… Anway I’m a big fan of Wagner opera and you ain’t seen long till you’ve seen GotterDammerung.

But in the spirit of enquiry I suggest an autopsy to see which parts should have been trimmed. Let’s see; here are the eight main episodes. Perhaps we could trim…

  1. Bilbo kicks off the retrospective in quick-time with the tale of the Lonely Mountain, the Great White Orc, the Dragon Smaug and the Dwarf exodus. It’s the second scene, the formation of the Dwarf expeditionary force in Bilbo’s cottage , that critics have said is slow. I disagree. It’s a bit oafish (belch jokes), it’s true, but you know; they’re Dwarves. Jacksons’s crew did a great job with the thirteen characters — much better than Disney did with seven — and the crowded indoor feast scenes were fun, I thought. The songs were apposite and not not too long. The business with the food and the dishes and the contract of work could have been trimmed, maybe; but it didn’t drag at any point. And all that stuff about the lighting and the high frame rate resolution making it look soap-opery? Rubbish! (But I don’t watch much soap).

  2. Could Jackson have cut the scenes with Radghast the Brown and his forest hospital? They were beautifully dressed — Sylvester McCoy had the best costume — nicely (almost over-) acted and more than somewhat relevant (the visit to Dol-Gudur certainly). The rabbit sleigh and the chase with the Warg wolves was, I would say, an inspired piece of hilarity and nuttiness (“These are Rhosegobel rabbits..”). The Rhadgast-Saurman relationship, emerging at the council table in Rivendell, worked as it did in the Book to indicate the treachery of the precious, pompous Saruman. So I reckon those scenes are well worth keeping.

  3. Jackson could have cut the the Troll-camp-fire episode that exists only to show Bilbo’s ability to substitute invention for might. But the Trolls were great goofy comedy (horrible snot jokes, the right herbs to accompany grilled dwarf); I wouldn’t have cut much from that scene; or from the troll cave where the elvish swords are found that figure so prominently in Bilbo’s and Frodo’s odysseys.

  4. OK, the battle of the Stone Giants is near-enough to CGI-porn, having little to do with the main plot-line and ending with the not-quite-credible survival of a moiety of shoulda-been-squashed dwarves. But it’s in the Book, and it teetered on the rocky-edge of terror and fun. The boulder blasts, and whipsaw cliff-edge swings looked astonishing from my seat. So I reckon its a keeper, too.

  5. Rivendell? I expected this to be the bit that dragged. Seen it all before right? Although not quite so golden or precipitous. Councils of war; Hugo Weaving’s lordly growl (struggling with botox in that brow?); Kate Blanchett of the ethereal gowns, golden tresses, pointy ears and a large-but-cute hooter? All those fey-nordic elven types? But, surprise! It was over almost as soon as it began. Some Significant Glances to sort the goodies from the baddies; Gandalf and Galadriel playing footsie for a moment and then we’re off on the mountain trail with the Dwarves before the even the elves are awake-up. Some more slip-slidey clif-hanging gets the gang ready for a nice kip in a cave when…

  6. Ah! I have it! Here’s where we’ll find three-thousand or so frames we probably didn’t need. Goblins! Goblins, goblins… Thousands of the buggers; swarming through vast subterranean cathedrals of catwalks and twine, sweeping the dwarves toward a great blob of a king with a scrotum for a chin (I was slightly disappointed by Barry Humphries’ neutral, almost cultured voicing after his wonderful job as a White-Pointer in Nemo). The dwarves escape, of course; not one of the goblins proves able to fight or even stand out of the way of a sword. The frenetic slash-and-scatter scenes that ensue along rupturing rope bridges, careening cables and teetering trestles were a bit more than I needed.

  7. But I can see why the film needed the great goblin massacre. That huge rumble-tumble was a perfect offset to the main line of the plot, played out way down below the goblin domain, on the dim rocky margins of an underground lake. Here Bilbo falls in his struggle with a now-half-dead goblin whom the unhappy Gollum recognises as lunch and proceeds to brain with a rock (yum?). But as he grabs the goblin, the bug-eyed one drops his Precious and Bilbo bags it. The classic quiz contest and Bilbo’s discovery of the Ring’s (most trivial) power is a climax of the plot. It’s all really good — especially Gollum’s expressive thinking — and slightly spooky. So I wouldn’t think about cutting any of the Bilbo-Gollum scene.

  8. But my bum is now telling me the movie more than two hours old and it’s ready to take a breather. Ok I’ve reached for the cutting room scissors; holding them ready. Unbelievably, the dwarves escape the goblin relm after being flattened by a falling bridge and crunched by a kingly corpse; but hey, they’re needed for the next episode. So it seems to be time to give Bilbo Bumblefoot some cred with the warrior dwarf, Thorin, who is leading the pack. Bilbo reappears himself (to Gandalf’s pained recognition) just as the Great White Orc and his Baskerville Pack turn up again to chase the whole crew up into the trees. There’s quite a bit of barking and bark biting before the hairy-ones are hanging over yet another mile-deep drop (Hey, this is the THIRD TIME in this episode by my count! Where are those scissors?) Thorin gets monstered in a hand-to-hand with the Monster but Bilbo buys him a few seconds with a mad attack on the Orcish ankle. All looks lost (or dropped off the cliff) when the Eagle cavalry turns up just in the nick (as they do in the Book!).

That’s it. I think The Hobbit is (nearly) short enough.

I’m happy to cut about five minutes (max) from the film, mostly in the escape from the halls of the goblin king and maybe Jackson should have hacked away at one or more of the cliff-clambering bits. But I found the film otherwise quite satisfying. The costumes, colors, music and effects were teriffic and the 48fps was superb. I got used to the clarity immediately… LOVED it!.

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