The assembly cut of the film is just about complete. The Rivendell sequence and the Battle of Five Armies, as well as a few smaller bits and pieces, remain to be put together in a form I’m happy with, and there’s plenty of work still to do (including attempting to trim down the running time), but I’ve come much further over the holidays than I expected.
The running time of the assembly cut is 232 minutes, not counting the overture, intermission and end credits: 155 minutes for Act 1 and 77 minutes for Act 2. Act 2 corresponds to the third original film; the transition between the first two films occurs almost exactly 90 minutes into Act 1. This is far from the final running time; I’ve yet to even begin work on the epilogue, for example, and I expect to be able to cut a lot from the Battle of Five Armies, in particular, yet. My stated target running time of under 208 minutes, based on the length of the Extended Fellowship of the Ring, should be achievable, although it should be noted that that figure includes 7 minutes of credits, whereas my credits are pushing 15 minutes (The Battle of the Five Armies’ credits, for comparison, run to 13 minutes), so a fairer target might be said to be 201 minutes without credits; I therefore want to try to lose 31 more minutes, rather than 24.
I may end up having to cut out the sole Tauriel scene I wanted to keep, for reasons of pacing and continuity, which is most unfortunate. I did a fair bit of work on it — I didn’t want to keep it entirely in its original form — and I’m very happy with the scene in itself, but I haven’t been able to make it work in the wider context. If worse comes to worst, the edited version of it will go on the Blu-Ray and DVD as a deleted scene, along with a few other scenes that I like but have to remove for reasons of pacing or running time. (The sequence of the dwarves being smuggled into Esgaroth will probably end up here as well.)
My colour grading experiments to change the “doorstep” scene to match the moon-runes (ie. to change the “last light of Durin’s day” back to the sunlight) have actually been more fruitful than I hoped. I’m now certain I’ll be able to achieve it, and I’m even able to include a couple of shots of the thrush from the end of the first film, to which I’ve been able to match the graded shots. It’s far from finished, but I’m honestly a bit flabbergasted that it’s possible at all. I’ll post some stills here soon.
The biggest news, however, is the addition of “The End of the Beginning” to the grieving scenes. I was far from certain it would work at all; it is, after all, a very different style of piece from Howard Shore’s score, and it was more just an experiment than anything. But holy smokes, does it work! The timing fits almost perfectly with the sequence as presented in the Extended Edition, and the few edits I wanted to make (fixing a continuity error, removing the horn-blower in Dale, etc.) took complete care of that “almost”. When I played back the result, I honestly got a bit choked up. I mean, Martin Freeman knocked it right out of the park to begin with, and the whole sequence was masterfully directed, shot and edited to begin with (apart from the continuity error mentioned, where Ori briefly teleports). But the Floyd just adds another level of resonance to the emotional gut-punch of the sequence.
And if that weren’t enough, it frees me to use the existing score for that scene (including the horn-blower) under the flashback that is to follow it, depicting the portion of the battle Bilbo missed, which I’ll be working on next.