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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