Destroy All Monsters: The 2-Hour Version Of THE HOBBIT
I'm sure someone is fan-editing this even as I type, but since it's a slow week and since no one alive would actually want to watch a two-hour speculative video composed entirely of content we've already seen in eight-plus hours of other movies, here's a rundown you can read in five or ten minutes, in an armchair by a fire, the way J.R.R. Tolkien intended.
Omitting the very first shot of Bilbo striking a match (because this isn't Schindler's List), we open on Bilbo disappearing down the circular tunnel of Bag-End and then continue through the preamble and the Erebor prologue, as they appear in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. (This sequence will now be the site of Peter Jackson's only cameo in the film, which, this being a single-film project, makes sense.)
On "That, my dear Frodo, is where I come in," though, we skip over the present-day Frodo sequence and go straight to younger Bilbo and Gandalf meeting outside Bag-End.
[Character eliminated: Frodo.]
We move into the meeting of the dwarves largely unchanged, though condensed somewhat for brevity. Jackson does not intend to pay off the dwarves' relationships later in the film, so most relationship-building content can be omitted.
We continue the sequence through the long take of the dwarves ransacking Bilbo's pantry to set up for dinner. When Gandalf turns to Dwalin to ask where Thorin is, we overlay the sound of the knock on the door and cut directly to the later shot of Gandalf saying "He is here."
[Song eliminated: "Blunt the Knives."]
Skipping Thorin's introduction at the door, we move directly to the after-dinner sequence where Thorin and Gandalf lay out the adventure. The movie proceeds as released for some time - we keep the "Misty Mountains" song in place because it forms the spine of the entire musical score for this film, and because it's a pretty badass in its own right.
Bilbo wakes up in the house alone and then decides to go running out his door, catching up with the dwarves up on the hill. From his welcome to Thorin's company, however, we dissolve through a montage of the characters wandering through the wild and land on their arrival at the Ettenmoors, skipping the Battle of Moria flashback and Radagast the Brown's introduction - removing him from the picture in all future scenes.
[Character eliminated: Radagast.]
[Plotline eliminated: All Moria-related flashbacks.]
Now over 50 minutes of screen time have been condensed to around 20, and we are well on our way in the adventure. I am torn on whether to keep the troll sequence intact - it works well enough and leads to the discovery of the swords, but is not strictly speaking plot-essential. As a good first adventure for Bilbo and the dwarves, however, it works fine, so let's leave it be for the time being and pick things up after Sting, Glamdring and Orcrist have been found.
As we've eliminated Radagast, we skip over his return to the narrative and the subsequent warg-chase on the open plains, dissolving instead to the company of Thorin arriving at the pass above Rivendell.
From here, we cut directly to the dinner sequence, introducing Elrond; and from here, to a condensed version of the Moon-Rune sequence and straight into the White Council, skipping the introduction of Azog the Defiler at Weathertop. Azog will remain a minor character in this version, but all his non-essential scenes will be cut, as he isn't a "character" in the strictest sense of the term and really, that sort of thing is boring.
By the end of the White Council, the company of Thorin has escaped Rivendell and is making their way over the mountains. We skip Galadriel and Gandalf's heart-to-heart. When the storm in the mountains starts, we immediately cut to the dwarves sheltering in the cave, skipping the Stone Giant fight.
The sequences proceed as released here, with Bilbo attempting to leave before the goblins trap the whole company. Bilbo is separated from the group and the rest of the company is brought before the Goblin King, who sings "Down Down Down in Goblin Town" (from the Unexpected Journey extended cut) because I like that song.
We create a bridge here, however, from the Goblin King's introduction to Gandalf's return and the start of the dwarf vs. goblin melee. Once Gandalf has nuked the goblins and yelled at the dwarves to "FIGHT!!", we change the line to "RUN!!" and cut directly to Bilbo waking up in Gollum's cave.
[Song eliminated: "Bones Will Be Shattered."]
The Gollum scene plays in full and we follow Bilbo and Gollum back up to the exit from the Misty Mountains. Here we see the dwarves run by - the entire Temple of Doom action sequence has been omitted - and Bilbo escapes the cave behind them and joins them in the pine forest for his "I will help you take back your homeland" speech.
We finally reveal Azog the Defiler in the "Out of the frying pan..." sequence that follows. We use the original recorded version of the soundtrack to bridge from Gandalf lighting the pine cones to the eagles swooping down and picking up the dwarves, using the musical uplift to justify the quick escape and omitting the Thorin vs. Azog fight (and Bilbo's subsequent intervention).
From the eagles in flight, we dissolve to the dwarves arriving at Mirkwood, omitting the end of Film 1 and the first half hour of Film 2 entirely. The Beorn scene is wholly removed, and Azog's son, Bolg, is also cut from the film.
Beorn, like Tom Bombadil before him, joins the list of Tolkien characters who are lovely enough on the printed page but have no actual relevance to their film projects.
[Characters eliminated: Beorn, Bolg.]
[Plotlines eliminated: Bree prologue, Queer Lodgings, Azog at Dol Guldur.]
Gandalf leaves the company and the Mirkwood sequence plays as released until the arrival of the Elves, at which point, thank goodness, we eliminate Legolas.
[Character eliminated: Legolas.]
Legolas, once removed, clearly demonstrates how perfunctory he is to this narrative, as the deletion of all his scenes changes the storyline nary a bit. Tauriel is kept in play but will have little use beyond this section, which is something of a shame, as she's one of the few enjoyable additions to the canon and this edit will make her seem like little more than a pissed-off she-elf.
Cutting around Legolas' involvement in the spider-fight (focusing on Tauriel instead), we take the group to Thranduil's palace - and against a montage of the dwarves being locked in their cells, we intercut Thranduil's argument with Thorin, ending with Thorin getting locked up too.
At which point, Bilbo immediately appears and springs them, skipping Thranduil's conversation with Tauriel, Tauriel's conversation with Kili, and moving immediately to the barrel sequence.
[Plotline eliminated: Tauriel/Kili romance.]
The barrel sequence is condensed as well: we cut immediately from the barrels picking up speed underground to the dwarves emerging from the sluice gate and into the river proper, skipping the business at the gate itself and, again, cutting around everything involving Legolas including his involvement in the subsequent battle.
[Plotlines eliminated: Kili's leg wound; Legolas being acrobatic on dwarf heads.]
From the end of the river fight we cut directly to the dwarves meeting Bard, omitting the scene in the High Fells between Gandalf and Radagast. Business between the elves and the orcs is also omitted and business between the dwarves and Bard is condensed, taking us straight into Lake-town where we use the guards' attempt to capture the company (from the Desolation of Smaug extended cut) as a bridge - suggesting that Thorin and friends were captured there, and dragged straight before the Master.
This is now the Master's introduction scene, at nighttime in front of his mansion, skipping all of his earlier sequences, and the scenes at Bard's home entirely.
[Characters eliminated: Bard's family, Alfrid, Stephen Colbert.]
[Plotlines eliminated: How shitty it is to live in Lake-town; what an asshole the Master is; the Dwarvish wind-lance.]
We move through a condensed version of Thorin's departure from Lake-town, omitting the scene where half the dwarves get left behind (there's still a lot of them going up to the mountain, so here's hoping the audience doesn't trouble themselves to count). We will not be returning to Lake-town at all until the dragon attack.
[Plotline eliminated: The dwarves at Bard's house; Orc attack on Lake-town; Tauriel's return.]
Using Gandalf's entry into Dol Guldur as a (literal) bridge, we re-join the company of Thorin at the secret door sequence and proceed from there. Much of the next piece proceeds as released, albeit with all of the Lake-town scenes removed.
Also, once Gandalf has faced Sauron, we use the shot from Film 3 of Sauron disappearing over the mountains into Mordor immediately, to suggest that having been discovered, Sauron kicks Gandalf's ass and abandons his hiding place, moving to the next phase of his master plan right away.
[Characters eliminated: Ghost Ringwraiths.]
[Plotline eliminated: White Council fight at Dol Guldur.]
Once Bilbo has woken Smaug and secured the Arkenstone - which plays as released - and Thorin has joined him in the treasure hoard, we cut directly to Smaug blasting his way out of Erebor in a rage and making for Lake-town. (The shower of gold can stay in the shots, suggesting that the coins stuck to Smaug's belly explode free as he bursts into flight.)
[Plotline eliminated: The dwarves fight the dragon.]
This eliminates the last 20 minutes of Film 2 and pushes us straight into the attack on Lake-town, albeit with Tauriel, Bard's family, and Alfrid removed. Bain still brings the Black Arrow to Bard on the tower, though to save time we could also just kill Smaug with a regular arrow since that's how it worked in the book, and get rid of Bain too.
Either way, keeping Smaug's death and Thorin's slow march back to Erebor, we cut all intervening material and go directly to the dwarves searching for the Arkenstone in the treasure hall, and Bilbo sitting on the gate wondering what to do with it.
[Plotlines eliminated: The survivors of Lake-town reunite; Tauriel and Legolas go to Gundabad.]
Because the film's major villain is already dead and the tension has therefore elapsed, we want to get to the battle as quickly as possible, so most of the first hour of Film 3 is thrown out. We keep Thranduil meeting Bard, then move directly to Gandalf arriving at Dale and conspiring with them, just as Bilbo shows up to give them the Arkenstone.
[Plotlines eliminated: Bard negotiates; Bilbo gets his vest; Legolas talks about his mom; everybody gets super pissy with each other.]
We go directly to the Elven/human army confronting Erebor and the Dwarf army arriving, but skip the rest of the Crazy Thorin scenes as non-essential. Instead, as soon as the battle is joined, Thorin's dwarves explode out of Erebor (skipping the intervening combat in Dale). We pretend the entire Battle of the Five Armies takes place in the valley, and from here, we move directly with Thorin and his crew up to Ravenhill on mountain goats.
[Plotlines eliminated: the battle for Dale; most of the Battle of the Five Armies in fact; Bard saving his family again and again; Alfrid demonstrating six times in a row that he is a craven coward, each less funny than the last.]
Since the battle never moves to Dale we don't bother with Thranduil attempting to leave combat, and since Legolas has been eliminated and Tauriel all but removed we don't do any of their scenes either. There's no need to set up Bilbo telling Gandalf he's going up the mountain, either, since we'll see him arrive there in less than a minute. We just play out the Ravenhill scene largely as released, with one major exception:
Kili's death is briefly intercut into Thorin's final fight with Azog (Bolg and Azog look similar enough that it won't make a difference). The Azog/Thorin fight is also abbreviated (removing Azog's fake death/return), and as both Radagast and Beorn have been removed from this edit, the arrival of the eagles is played solely off the later shots of the shadows of the eagles careening over Thorin's corpse.
[Plotlines eliminated: The entire Legolas/Tauriel/Kili/Bolg fight, which - given that Bolg is a fourth-tier villain without a personality - is otherwise like watching three characters punch a block of concrete for 25 minutes.]
Thorin is killed and Bilbo mourns over him, and then we omit the Aragorn scene and the scene where Gandalf tries to light his pipe for twenty minutes, skipping directly to Thorin's funeral and Bilbo saying goodbye to the dwarves.
Our final scene proper is Bilbo saying goodbye to Gandalf on the borders of the Shire, and claiming to have lost the Ring. From here we cut directly to old Bilbo in his chair, brooding on the Ring that he has certainly not lost.
[Character eliminated: Lobelia Sackville-Baggins.]
And then we fade to the credits - using "I See Fire," from the second film, as our end title song. It's the only song in the trilogy that is both lyrically and thematically interesting, and makes for the best thematic bridge with The Lord of the Rings.
Now, I don't know if this results in a precise two hours, but keeping rough count as I went along I'm confident we could get there with some nips and tweaks. Most of the cuts come from the second and third films, as they have the least sequences of pure, unembellished narrative, and the most needless detours.
Hopefully we also now feel like we are watching a movie called The Hobbit which is about the titular Hobbit, instead of a whole bunch of other people. This seems like a good idea.
Of course, we also end up with a studio making one billion dollars instead of three billion dollars, which I'm sure most involved would argue is a less good idea.
Destroy All Monsters is a weekly column on Hollywood and pop culture. Matt Brown is in Toronto and on twitter.