I didn’t really question the idea of having a Hobbit trilogy. In fact, I pretty much defended Peter Jackson when he said he was going to split the book into three movies instead of two movies. However, after watching all three, I have to admit there was quite a bit in the third movie that I felt was unnecessary to the storyline. Actually, it dragged the movie so much that it could never really be on par with the level that his Lord of the Rings trilogy had risen to. But that was probably realized after the first movie of The Hobbit.
So, as much as I didn’t care for the book being split into three, I think it could’ve been much better as a duology, even if it’s still based on a single book. I don’t condone this so easily, but simply for the fact that The Hobbit novel just has so many interesting scenes it would be a shame to cut all of it for a single movie, which I’m sure the scene with Beorn would have been included in such a cut, to say the least.
Now a fan with username TolkienEditor has done what Jackson should have, and recut the trilogy into a modest four-hour film. In his post, he explains the editing that he did to get the movies whittled down to four hours, including which scenes he cut or shaved down. There are a bunch, of course, but here are some notable moments from the movies that he edited:
The investigation of Dol Guldor has been completely excised, including the appearances of Radagast, Saruman and Galadriel. This was the most obvious cut, and the easiest to carry out (a testament to its irrelevance to the main narrative). Like the novel, Gandalf abruptly disappears on the borders of Mirkwood, and then reappears at the siege of the Lonely Mountain with tidings of an orc army.
The Tauriel-Legolas-Kili love triangle has also been removed. Indeed, Tauriel is no longer a character in the film, and Legolas only gets a brief cameo during the Mirkwood arrest. This was the next clear candidate for elimination, given how little plot value and personality these two woodland sprites added to the story. Dwarves are way more fun to hang out with anyway.
The prelude with old Bilbo is gone. As with the novel, I find the film works better if the scope starts out small (in a cosy hobbit hole), and then grows organically as Bilbo ventures out into the big, scary world. It is far more elegant to first learn about Smaug from the dwarves’ haunting ballad (rather than a bombastic CGI sequence). The prelude also undermines the real-and-present stakes of the story by framing it as one big flashback.
Several of the action scenes have been tightened up, such as the barrel-ride, the fight between Smaug and the dwarves (no molten gold in this version), and the Battle of the Five Armies. Though, it should be noted that Bilbo’s key scenes—the encounter with Gollum, the battle against the Mirkwood spiders, and the conversation with Smaug—have not been tampered with, since they proved to be excellent adaptions (in no small part due to Freeman’s performance), and serve to refocus the film on Bilbo’s arc.
You can check out the rest of this list, as well as where you can watch (or download via torrent) this edit of the movies, on his site.
Watch the edited version of the Barrel Ride Scene below, which focuses solely on the dwarves and Bilbo fighting against the orcs – notice not an elf in sight.