The Hobbit: A Fan Edition

Part of the video thumbnail promoting The Cardinal Cut version of The Hobbit.

The Hobbit: The Cardinal Cut, A YouTube video edited by a person named Cardinal West, has boiled down the eight or so hours of The Hobbit down to about half that purely by editing the original down from the NewLine Cinema version, and posted an article about it, and offered a way to download your own MP4 copy for free, on his website. You can get all this info by entering “The Hobbit – The Cardinal Cut” into the YouTube search box.

He requests emphatically that the only people who should be downloading the edited movie are people who already purchased a copy of the trilogy, either digitally or through various video disks. For the record, I have had my blu-ray copy of the extended editions of all three parts for some years, and thus downloaded and viewed the Cardinal version of the movie in full.

Cardinal is The Hobbit without the bullshit. Gone are the distractions that add nothing to the story, such as the love triangle between Tauriel, Legolas, and the dwarf Kili. It didn’t exist in the book, and adds not one iota to the plot. The Battle of the Five Armies (the battle in The Hobbit, not the third part in the movie sequel), which took barely 5 pages in the original book, which has thus been variously nicknamed “Battle of the 5 Pages” or “Battle of the 5 Studios” (Warner, MGM, New Line Cinema, The Weinstein Company (yes, that Weinstein), and the Saul Zaentz Company) took up over 90 minutes in the third part of the trilogy. Natch, most of that was cut out as excessive in the Cardinal cut.

As for Cardinal, what remained was actually a pretty good and entertaining movie, with a story line that was much easier to follow. The parts of the film that needed gravitas were undiluted by distracting side plots that weren’t part of the original book, and it aided the overall quality of the film. I didn’t mind the occasional choppiness of the editing, since it all seemed engineered to draw my attention more to the story.

Chris Hartwell has been a faculty member of the school of Cinema and New Media Arts at Houston Baptist University since 2017.

There are other “fan edits” in existence, each with their own arrangements for downloading. Chris Hartwell did one in 2020, and in the video I saw which discussed his rationale for editing down The Hobbit, he was not clear on how a fan could  obtain a copy of his edited version. Hartwell claims that he was achieving more of a balance between the storyline of the original book and its adaptation to a movie, taking advantage of the power of film to embellish and add other dimensions to what was text. Hartwell appears to be making his money through Patreon crowdfunding. Cardinal is also funded through Patreon.

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