Chapter 4, Revisited
We begin with the introduction of Azog as the “master” to which the Orc raiders were referring. We last saw the pale Orc leader in Balin’s flashback earlier in the film and he was presumed to be dead. Here we see him very much alive and full of vengeance against Thorin Oakenshield – with a metal spike replacing his missing right forearm.
The Orcs gather at a meeting that appears to take place on the summit of Amon Sul, also known as Weathertop, to report their failure to kill Thorin. When we last saw this location, Frodo Baggins was on the receiving end of a Morgul Blade (much like the one found by Radagast at Dol Guldur). Geographically, this would put them to the west of Rivendell along the Great East-West Road of Eriador, a considerable distance behind the Company now headed up the Misty Mountains.
Azog declares a price on Thorin’s head and orders the word to be spread to his Orc bretheren under the Misty Mountains and throughout the land.
Bilbo and the Dwarves are already scaling the Mountains looking for a pass to cross the range and get bogged down in a thunderstorm. Now in my previous examination of Chapter Four, I made no reference to the mountain giants that terrorized them as they climbed. The book itself only makes a passing reference to them and leaves the reader to his imagination as to what they look like. For me, they were merely giants of some sort that lived on the mountainside and hurled rocks at each other.
Peter Jackson, however, envisioned them as – literally – giants made of mountain stone. And when I say “giants” I mean enormous creatures that appear to be part of the mountain until they rise up to take humanoid form. Naturally, this makes the Dwarves’ situation more precarious as they realized that they are climbing along what turns out to be the legs of one of these monsters. Visually, this was a remarkable surprise and added considerable tension to the scene though I have to say that this concept seemed to borrow a little too much from the “Transformers” films.
Once they escape from this peril, the company (which is still without Gandalf) finds shelter in a cave and attempts to get some rest. At this point, Bilbo is having second thoughts about his part in this adventure and decides to pack up his gear and head back to the Shire. As the other Dwarves sleep, Bilbo is stopped by Bofur who tries to reassure him that he is important to the quest and that he is merely feeling homesick. Bilbo’s reply that he indeed does have a home to miss, unlike the Dwarves, sets up a scene that follows later and relates directly to the hobbit’s character arc.
Suddenly, a number of trap doors open and everyone falls through a series of tunnels that lead to Goblin Town. Now, at this point Bilbo becomes separated from the party and even though his story continues in Chapter Five, it is interspersed with the Dwarves’ situation here in the film to effectively stay within the same time frame. I will, however, save this portion for “Riddles In The Dark”.
Goblin Town is a much more elaborate setting than I had expected. Its appearance blends the elements of Moria with the hollowed out caverns beneath Isengard from the LOTR films. The primary method used to transverse the huge chasm under the mountains is a network of footbridges and wooden platforms. There is no singing save for a small portion of the song from the book which it is sung here by the Great Goblin. The goblins do have speech capability. I discussed this aspect in my original post. In the end it was done effectively here.
I want to note that I purposefully refer to the Misty Mountain Orcs as goblins. Generally, they are used interchangeably in Jackson’s vision. One can debate these terms as they relate to the Tolkien legendarium but I see these Orcs as a kind of lesser breed, not as large or powerful as the ones accompanying Azog.
When all seems lost, the Grey Wizard arrives in time to rally the Dwarves to a fighting escape sequence. How he manages to find them is never explained. This scene, involving death-defying stunts as the goblins pursue them is a visual masterpiece that rivals the escape of the Fellowship from the depths of Moria. I had previously written that I could “easily see Peter Jackson turning these eleven pages of text into one and half to two pages of script”. As it turned out, he really took the opportunity to make this the largest action sequence of the first film.
It also gave the audience a chance to see how formidable Dwarves can be in a fight (though we get a taste of this with the Trolls). We see the kind of ferocity that Gimli displayed in the first films – multiplied a dozen times. And the swordplay that Gandalf demonstrates here had only been previously featured in his “White” incarnation at Minas Tirith. As I recall, his fighting in Balin’s tomb was overshadowed by the other members of the Fellowship.
Gandalf and the Dwarves make their way to an opening on the eastern side of the range and happen to pass right by where Bilbo and Gollum are at the conclusion of their scene – which I will cover in a reexamination of Chapter 5.