Chapter 6, Revisited
Back when this series was to have been two films, I saw this chapter as more of a transition sequence to connect the finding of the Ring to the introduction of Beorn. After recalibrating to three films, Peter Jackson makes this the climax of film one.
We also get a major shift in Bilbo’s character development. Recall that he was ready to leave the company as the Dwarves slept on the goblins’ “doorstep” and Bofur tried to convince him to stay. Here Bilbo was feeling like a fish out of water and upon catching up with everyone after escaping Gollum he is met with a fresh dose of doubt from his companions as they discuss rather pointedly whether or not he should have come along. While hidden, Bilbo resolves to not only press on but to make his case to Thorin and the rest.
Revealing himself to the Dwarves, Bilbo acknowledges their doubts about him and remarks that he doesn’t blame them for their concerns. Admitting that he himself does have a cozy home to return to he reminds them that they don’t have a home because it was taken from them. And, in a line that’s not in the book, he says “I will help you take it back, if I can.”
It is this moment when the Dwarves find a new respect and appreciation for Bilbo. In the book, this rise in their esteem for the hobbit comes from his recounting his experience with Gollum (without mentioning the Ring, of course). In the film, Bilbo makes no mention of anything that happened to him after they were separated. Though, Gandalf seems to notice when Bilbo slips the Ring back into his vest pocket after stepping out from behind a tree. I’m sure at some point the wizard will say something to his hobbit friend about the secret he is keeping. We do not yet know what it is that he suspects.
Thorin accepts Bilbo begrudgingly at this point but we can see that he has yet to fully accept him as an equal in the party. Jackson contrives a circumstance to change this by the end of this film.
At this point, with the sun setting behind the mountains, the Orc-riders led by Azog finally catch up to them. Again, how they so easily crossed the Misty Mountains is not explained. Even if they were to quickly cross the main pass to the North they still had quite a ways to go to get to where the Dwarves were. In any case, the Warg-mounted Orcs pursue the company up a cluster of pine trees which Jackson decided to place on the edge of a precipice to increase the sense of danger.
Here the Wargs leap up at the trees, tearing down branches and coming awfully close to their prey. Eventually the trees tumble down on to each other as the Dwarves gingerly leap to each successive tree until they are all atop one that is now hanging over the precipice. They fight off the Wargs with flaming pine cones just like in the book but, fortunately, the Orcs refrain from singing the “little birds” song that Tolkien wrote for this event.
When Thorin recognizes Azog and realizes that he is alive, he is driven to go fight him. But he is outmatched by the mounted Orc and is incapacitated, helplessly awaiting an axe being wielded by one of Azog’s Orc-soldiers. Bilbo, in fit of courage, saves Thorin by tackling the Orc. Most of the other Dwarves (who are not dangling for their lives on the tree) spring forward to battle.
I had originally speculated that Radagast might be the source for sending the Eagles to the rescue as I had not anticipated his introduction to the story until the company had reached the eastern side of the Misty Mountains. In a nod to the scene in “Fellowhip” where Gandalf (atop Orthanc) used a moth to summon Gwaihir to retrieve him, the wizard indeed uses the same method for sending word to the Eagles that he and the Dwarves were in dire need. Even the music and vocals that accompanied that first scene from the earlier film were present here.
And, right on cue, the Eagles arrive to snatch them all from the flaming jaws of death – much to Azog’s dismay.
The care with which one of the Eagles lifted an unconscious Thorin in his talons was reminiscent of the way they picked up Frodo and Sam on Mount Doom in “Return of the King”.
Once they all arrive at the Carrock, Gandalf is able to revive Thorin. At first, the Dwarf appears to admonish Bilbo for his recklessness but then he embraces him, telling the hobbit that he had been wrong about him. This moment demonstrates a genuine bonding between the two. Given Thorin’s ultimate fate after the Battle of the Five Armies, Jackson is setting us up for an emotional scene between them in the final film.
As Bilbo, Gandalf and the Dwarves look across the horizon to see the Lonely Mountain, the hobbit remarks that he thinks “the worst is behind us.” From there we follow a thrush in flight over Mirkwood, arriving on a shelf on Erebor. As the bird knocks a snail against the rock, the scene moves to the inside of the mountain panning along the vast piles of gold. Awoken by the thrush’s knocking, Smaug the dragon stirs in his sleep. And as the gold falls away from the dragon’s closed eye - it opens.
Fade to black.
The final paragraph of this chapter states “So ended the adventures of the Misty Mountains.” And so ends the first installment of “The Hobbit” film series.
In hindsight it is easy to see this point as a natural end to the story’s first act (out of three). The second act focuses on the fulfillment of the quest and the destruction of the Dwarves’ primary nemesis. It will be presented in the second film “The Desolation of Smaug” which I anticipate will cover chapters 7-14, beginning with “Queer Lodgings”.