Tolkien Geek

Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.


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. 


Now with the release of the second film “The Desolation of Smaug” I am covering chapters 7-12.  I begin here with “Queer Lodgings”.


Chapter 5, Revisited

I mentioned in my original post that if there was one scene that Peter Jackson needed to get right in this film, perhaps in the whole series, it would be this one.  Probably the most iconic chapter of the book, “Riddles In The Dark” is the direct link between this volume and the three-book epic of “The Lord of the Rings”.  And Jackson delivered.  If there was one benefit to lengthening these films it’s that we get to see so much of this particular part of the story.

The history and revision of this chapter I have already laid out.  So, I’ll cut to the chase.  As I mentioned in the revisit of Chapter Four, this scene does not play continuously from beginning to end but rather it cuts back and forth a couple of times with the scene of the Dwarves’ capture and escape from Goblin Town.  Cinematically, this makes sense since they both take place over the same time frame.  At the point of departure, Bilbo falls behind the group and is attacked by a lone goblin that he fends off with Sting.  However, in the process both of them plummet off of a wooden bridge and land at the bottom of an open crevice – one that leads to Gollum’s underground lake.

Upon regaining consciousness, Bilbo (while hidden) sees a gleeful Gollum discover the goblin and drag him away.  The goblin, not quite dead, awakens and resists.  Gollum grabs a rock and finishes him off.  In the struggle, we see the Ring fly out of his pocket and land near where Bilbo is hiding.  Once the coast is clear, Bilbo cautiously follows and notices the Ring which he stows in his vest pocket for safe keeping.  This obviously represents a departure from book however it is consistent with the idea that originated in the first trilogy that the Ring “abandoned Gollum” – that it is able to exert a will of its own.  As Gandalf would say “it wants to be found” and it was likely stirred by the growing evil presence in Mirkwood.

 Gollum here is presented as quite menacing since he has no reason to hide his malevolence.  But the Smeagol aspect of his personality is very present and acts as a counterbalance to Gollum.  This duality wasn’t really a part of the Tolkien depiction is this first book.  Whenever Gollum is meant to be scary I noticed that his eyes reflected the light, making them appear as they are described by Tolkien: “like small green lamps”.

As Gollum skins the dead goblin as his island in the middle of the subterranean lake, we sings two “songs” that were featured in the LOTR films.  He starts with the “Cold be heart and hand and bone” verse he spoke in the Dead Marshes and segues into that “Rock and pool is nice and cool” tune that he crooned at the Forbidden Pool (both scenes from “The Two Towers”).  I had hoped we would see this.

He notices Bilbo and travels across on his little boat to investigate.  When he comes upon the hobbit he asks what he is.  Bilbo replies “I am Bilbo Baggins.”  What he does not say (as he does in the book) is “I have lost the dwarves and I have lost the wizard, and I don’t know where I am and I don’t want to know, if only I can get away” (though he does convey that he is lost).  In response to “what is a Bagginses?” he says “I am a hobbit of the Shire.”  While this isn’t part of the dialogue from the book it is important for the film because the words Gollum repeats under torture in Mordor as depicted in “Fellowship” are “shire” and “baggins”.

Bilbo, flummoxed by this strange creature asks “what is your game?”  The Smeagol personality – the more social of the two – immediately perks up at this question and wonders if the hobbit can guess riddles.  So he asks the mountain riddle, which Bilbo guesses correctly.  It appeals most to Smeagol when Bilbo proposes a game of riddles so that by winning he would be shown the way out of the caves.  And, if he loses, Gollum “eats it whole” - to which Bilbo reluctantly agrees.

The game then follows the same as in the book with a few omissions.  Bilbo asks the teeth riddle and after answering Gollum points out the he only has nine (six in the book).  Gollum then asks the wind riddle.  Smeagol, incidentally, exclaims comically that “oh, we knows it!”, to which Gollum admonishes him to “shut up”.  This is followed by Bilbo’s egg question.  Things tense up when Bilbo has trouble guessing the next one.  But when Gollum says “time’s up” he guesses right with “time”.  Gollum is not pleased and demands that he “asks us a question”.  Bilbo, fumbling to think of another riddle, muses “what have I got in my pocket?”

Now of course Gollum protests that this is not fair but Bilbo points out “No, you said to ask you a question and the question is what have I got in my pocket!”  (Note: the riddles from the text that were not asked in the film: sun on the daisies, dark, fish and the one with the man sitting at a table next to a cat).

After demanding three guesses and making four, Gollum is enraged at the prospect of missing his prospective meal.  Now, rather than venturing back to the island to search for the Ring he checks his own pocket to discover it missing.  Frantically searching and splashing in the water he looks at his reflection in the water in the same manner that he does in “Return of the King” and asks “what has it got in its pocketses?!?”  At that moment he realizes exactly what may have become of the Ring.  The look of horror on his face is priceless.

Gollum chases the “thief” Baggins and almost catches him until the hobbit squeezes through a narrow gap in the rocks (and loses his buttons – a nice 3D effect, BTW).  Now it is here that the Ring ends up on Bilbo’s finger.  And it happens in a way that is identical to the first time Frodo wears it while at the “prancing pony”.  Bilbo falls after he squeezes through the rocks and the Ring goes up into the air, landing on Bilbo’s finger.

This circumstance is just as implausible as Frodo’s but nonetheless it provides a nice echo to the LOTR.  I had wondered how wearing the Ring would be portrayed here and Jackson imitates the effect that Frodo experienced though it is toned down a bit.  The coloring has a kind of sepia quality and the edges are blurred.  Things even appear in a slightly “slow motion” manner.

Up ahead, Bilbo sees Gandalf and the Dwarves escaping and Gollum (who cannot see Bilbo) stands in the way.  The moment where Bilbo takes pity on the creature is very well done.  Twice he brings Sting very close to Gollum’s throat and both times he withdraws.  The pathos of Gollum/Smeagol’s expression at having lost his “precious” moves him to spare his life and simply jump over him.  And here Howard Shore reprises some of the theme that played during Gandalf’s voice over at the end of “Fellowship” (“all we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us”).

The ripple effect of Bilbo’s decision will be felt all the way to the cracks of Mount Doom.

I know it's not in keeping with the original text, but we can expect to see Gollum again in this series at least one more time.  The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) lists him as part of the cast for the "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug."  Likely we'll see him emerge from the Misty Mountains in search of his "precious" but where he goes from there (if at all) we will have to wait until next December to find out.

And as Bilbo retreats from the mountains, Gollum utters the iconic “Thief!  Baggins!  We hates it forever!”

Now, we can wrap up this analysis of the first portion of “The Hobbit”: from Book to Script with a reexamination of Chapter 6.


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.


Chapter 3, Revisited

Alright then, this corresponding part of the film has the most new material added to it.  In fact, once the company leaves Rivendell, the story follows the book fairly closely up to the end of Chapter 6.

Here, the main portion of the chapter (the “short rest” at Rivendell) is actually sandwiched between two completely new sequences – the inclusion of Radagast the Brown and a meeting of the White Council.

While riding away from the Trolls’ cave, the subject of Wizards in general comes up when Bilbo asks Gandalf if there are more.  Gandalf explains about Saruman the White, the head of the order, the two Blue Wizards and Radagast the Brown.  There has been some disagreement as to what the names of the Blue Wizards were which I discussed in a previous post on the Istari.  Gandalf, unfortunately, leaves the matter unsettled as he muses that he isn’t able to remember their names.

As to Radagast, Gandalf describes him as a great Wizard – in his own way.  This comes in response to Bilbo’s humorous question “Is he a great Wizard, or is he more like you?”  We then cut to Radagast at his home at Rhosgobel, at the western edge of the forest, Greenwood (also known as Mirkwood) the Great.  He discovers much of the surrounding fauna dead or dying of some evil sickness.  In nursing a hedgehog named Sebastian back to health we see (from the inside) his home being overrun by giant spiders, who eventually disperse.  The presentation of these animals may give us a hint of the ones we will probably see at Beorn’s dwelling.

At the warning of a bird, Radagast heads to the abandoned forturess of Dol Guldur to investigate the evil power that is rumored to inhabit it.  Riding a wooden sleigh pulled by large rabbits, he arrives at the old fortress and is attacked by what looks like the Witch-king (Lord of the Nazgul) in his spirit form.  This is surprising since we’ve only previously been able to see Nazgul in the “wraith world” of the Ring.  

After Radagast repels the attack, he discovers a Morgul-blade much like the one that is used to stab Frodo on Weathertop.  The Wizard flees but not before seeing a dark shape that he takes for an evil sorcerer, or Necromancer.  The part of the Necromancer has been cast so we will probably see more him in the third film, when the White Council drives him out of Dol Guldur.

Shortly after this scene, Radagast comes upon Gandalf and the Dwarves to warn him about what he has discovered.

Now here is a major logistical plot hole.  In order for Radagast to get from Dol Guldur (or even Rhosgobel) to where the company is he would have to either 1) cross the range of the Misty Mountains or 2) travel south going around the end of the range and head back north along the western side.  This last option is a considerable distance and there is no way he could cover it in that amount of time.  The former option is less likely because he would have to be able to go over the mountains with his rabbit-drawn wooden sleigh.  For those in the audience not familiar with the geography of Middle-earth, the point is probably lost on them.  However, the idea the Dol Guldur would be so close to where the spot where we just encountered the Trolls would make it confusing for anyone trying to grasp that geography.

I understand the need for Radagast to share his findings with Gandalf prior to a meeting of the White Council.  But for him to appear on the western side of this massive mountain range makes very little sense.  In the book it was Gandalf who personally visited Dol Guldur and this role is now given to Radagast in the film.  And without this role, Radagast serves little or no purpose.  Originally, I had expected not to see Radagast until after the arrival at the Carrock.  In fact, if you take the first scene at Rhosgobel, put it into the second film and have Radagast share his concerns about Mirkwood to Gandalf just prior to the encounter with Beorn it would make more sense.

The problem is that then you would not have any of this info at the meeting of the White Council that Jackson places at Rivendell.

I may be picking at nits here but the whole sequence seemed odd to me.

At this point, the Orc scouting party arrives to attack the travelers.  Radagast “distracts” the Orcs by drawing them off in pursuit of his wooden sleigh.  However, this proves ineffective and the Orcs switch their attention back to the Dwarves.  So what was the point of having Radagast there anyway?

Gandalf leads everyone down a secret path between two rocks just as a band of Elves arrives and does battle with the warg-riding Orcs.  The path eventually leads to the hidden valley where Rivendell is set.  And in the end, it appears that Gandalf used this opportunity to trick Thorin into going there despite his reluctance to trust the Elves.  I suppose it helps build on the animosity that the Dwarves have with the Elves but I don’t know that this kind of subterfuge was really necessary.

In any case, they arrive at Rivendell to be greeted not by gleeful Elves singing “tra-la-la-lally, down here in the valley…” as in the text but rather by the mounted Elf hunting party that had just clashed with the Orcs.  Elrond appears as less somber and brooding than we saw him in the LOTR since the rising danger in the east is not yet of grave concern.  He is actually warm in his greeting of Gandalf and doesn’t appear to show any resentment toward the Dwarves even after it occurs to him that it was their presence that brought the Orcs so close to his borders.

While hosting a feast for his guests, Elrond (Hugo Weaving) identifies the Elvish swords recovered from the Troll cave.  Balin, sensing Bilbo’s curiosity about his own blade, comments that he need give any concern about its history as it’s “more of a letter-opener” than a sword.  Thorin is very secretive towards Elrond regarding their quest but nonetheless relents at Gandalf’s request that he let him examine their map.  The Elf reveals the mystery of the moon runes which must have been written “on a mid-summer’s eve in a crescent moon” much like the one in the sky at that moment.

Elrond is not pleased at the idea of their journey to Erebor and advises them against it.  It is implied that his disapproval of the quest may become an impediment at this point.  We will later find out that the Dwarves depart Rivendell in secret without Gandalf while the wizard provides a distraction.

I would point that I had previously speculated about whether or not we might see a young Aragorn in Rivendell but his is not the case.  There have been no reports of either Viggo Mortensen or another actor assigned to this role in the later films.  If he crops up it will have been a well kept secret.  According to Tolkien’s timeline in “The Tale of Years”, Aragorn would be a boy of about ten at this time – still going by the name “Estel” which was given to him by Elrond to disguise his true identity.

However, Peter Jackson removes seventeen years of the timeline in his treatment of the LOTR.  These years are the ones that fall between Bilbo’s disappearance in “Fellowship” and Gandalf’s return to Bag End to test his theory of the Ring.  In the Extended Edition of the film “The Two Towers”, Aragorn reveals his age (being a direct descendent of Numenorean kings) to be 87 years old.  So, within Jackson’s altered film timeline, Aragorn would be about 27 in his version of “The Hobbit”.  So the possibility was there, though it looks like it isn’t to be, which is probably a good thing.

Now we move to a meeting of the White Council.  We knew this would take place at some point once the roles of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Saruman (Christopher Lee) were confirmed for the film project.  I had expected that Rivendell was a possibility as a location for this gathering (the others being Lothlorien or Isengard).  Here Gandalf shares the information provided to him by Radagast about the Necromancer and presents the Morgul Blade as evidence.  Saruman is openly skeptical and subtly mocks Radagast’s credibility as a source.  Elrond and Galadriel are not sure but take these ominous portents seriously.

It appears that we are likely to see at least Galadriel again because of an unconfirmed report that we will see an attack on Dol Guldur in the second or third film.  Also, Galadriel tells Gandalf that she will come to him again if he is in need.  As I watched this scene between these two fantastic actors it dawned on me that they never had any screen time together in the LOTR series save for a brief moment at the Grey Havens.  In the text of “The Two Towers”, Gandalf recalls his journey to Lothlorien on the back of Gwaihir the Eagle where he received his new raiment and staff as “the White” from Galadriel but this was never presented on film.

It was also great to see Christopher Lee reprise his role though there was much concern about whether or not he would be up to it being 89 years old at the time of filming.  Without needing to directly interact with any of the other cast (his two moments were standing and sitting away from other actors) it is easy to see how he was filmed against a green screen at Leavesden Studios in Britain and edited into the footage from New Zealand with McKellan, Blanchett and Weaving.

I hope we get the opportunity to see another gathering of these characters before the end.

As the meeting takes place, Bilbo and the Dwarves slip away from the Last Homely House of Elrond and head towards the Misty Mountains.  We are left to presume that Gandalf will catch up with them at some point, which is a difference from the book version.

From here, we go to a reexamination of Chapter 4.


Chapter 2, Revisited

At this point, we get our first bit of additional material (other than the prologue) inserted into the main narrative.  As the company of Gandalf, Bilbo and the Dwarves sets up camp on a ridge, we are given a flashback scene (as recounted by Balin) that fleshes out Thorin’s back story.  In the scene, we cut to a battle taking place before the East Gate of Moria between the Dwarves, led by Thror, and Moria Orcs, commanded by Azog the Defiler.  During the battle, Thror is beheaded by Azog.

Now this event does in fact take place in Tolkien’s legendarium though we only read about it as part of Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings.

However, Peter Jackson chose to make what may turn out to be a controversial change in with his version of what follows.  Here in the film, Thorin’s father Thrain is said to have gone mad from grief at Thror’s death and “disappears” and we receive no other information about his fate.  The act is avenged by Thorin, who cuts off Azog’s right arm at the elbow while using a large hollowed oaken branch to defend himself (hence the name Thorin Oakenshield).  The battle intensifies but the loss on both sides leads to what appears to be a draw and the Dwarves fail to retake Moria from the Orcs.  It is assumed that Azog dies from his wounds.  But Balin states that it was this act of bravery on the part of Thorin that convinced him of his worthiness as the new King Under the Mountain in exile.  In this scene we see a younger version of Balin as well as Dain, though he is not indentified (Dain is the Dwarf with the mohawk seen consoling the younger Balin).

Here is where the tale differs in “The Quest For Erebor”: Azog, previously only referred to in a remark by Gandalf in “The Hobbit”, did behead Thror during an attempt by the Dwarves to enter Khazad-dum in Moria.  However, the battle ended there.  Azog became infamous and an object of hatred by the Dwarves in the following years.  In a subsequent battle, Azog was killed by Dain of the Iron Hills.  Dain also dissuaded Thrain from entering Moria at this time.  Azog’s son, Bolg, then inherited the rule of Moria and was still the Orc leader at the time of the events of “The Hobbit”.

So why the focus on Azog and the down played role of Bolg?  Bolg is a character listed in the film, though I’m not sure exactly which Orc he is on screen.  For some reason, Jackson decided to settle on Azog as Thorin’s great nemesis for the film version.  Perhaps “Azog the Defiler” is a catchier name than Bolg.  Or maybe it was thought to be too complicated.

But, to confuse matters further, Azog is alive in present day (albeit with a fancy new metal spike to replace his missing arm) and becomes the pursuer of the company (presumably) throughout the series, leading to the Battle of the Five Armies.  In the book, we know that Bolg is killed by Beorn in this battle.  We can only speculate how this will be presented in the third film.  Certainly, Azog as presented here is a pretty gruesome character.  I have no problem with this bit of license that Jackson is taking though I’m sure there are many who will.  In any case, an Orc scouting party spies the Dwarves across the ridge and resolves to inform “the Master” (who we do not know yet is actually Azog).

Now to the main event of this chapter – the encounter with the Stone Trolls.  I have previously spent quite a few words talking about Trolls in general and how they might be presented here.  In the book, which was a more kid-friendly story, they were seen as being at least as comical as they were menacing – complete with working-class British dialects.  My first impression was that their manner almost seemed to be based on The Three Stooges.  There was a lot of slapping, smacking and other types of physical comedy between them.  And they spoke with the same manner of speech as their counterparts in the book.

Though the Trolls are definitely slow-witted creatures, they appear somewhat more intelligent – if not outright sentient – than the trolls we saw in The Lord of The Rings.  Though, to be fair, those trolls were never given the opportunity to speak.  So, one could argue that they may actually have been capable of speech.

All in all, the Stone Trolls are shown pretty much as presented in the text though there were a few changes in the scene – notably, their discovery of Bilbo and the way Gandalf intervenes that leads to their turning into stone (Bilbo’s role in this is expanded at Gandalf’s expense).  And the look of them was consistent with the way they were presented in the Extended Edition of “The Fellowship of the Ring”.  As expected, they were done completely in CGI.

The voices of William, Bert and Tom were not provided by Andy Serkis as I had anticipated but rather by the actors who played Gloin, Dori and Bifur (respectively).  And the positions in which they are frozen in stone are consistent with their presentation in the Extended Edition scene of “Fellowship”.

Upon discovery of the Trolls’ cave, we see Gloin make the observation that it would be a shame to leave all of the gold sitting out in the open so he and a couple other Dwarves put a horde of it into a large chest and bury it as a “deposit”.  I have a feeling that we will see Bilbo uncover this on his return to the Shire in “There and Back Again”.  In fact, in his conversation with Frodo early on Bilbo does refer to his wealth as being comprised of “merely a single chest” of gold and jewels.

Thorin discovers the Elvish blades of Gondolin and is at first unwilling to take Orcrist (the “goblin cleaver”) for his own (given the manufacture) but is convinced of its value by Gandalf, who claims Glamdring (the “foe hammer”).  Before he emerges from the cave, the Wizard stumbles upon the small blade that we come to know as Sting.  He gives it to Bilbo who is hesitant to accept it because of his lack of experience with weapons.  It is here that Gandalf tells him, “True courage is knowing not when to take a life, but knowing when to spare one.”  This is not a line from the book but it points directly to the encounter with Gollum and Bilbo’s decision not to kill him.  This is a theme that Jackson highlights in the LOTR films as well.

One final note on the swords: I did not notice at any time in this film that Glamdring glowed blue in the presence of goblins or Orcs.  I don’t know if this was intentional since it did not glow in the Moria scenes in “Fellowship”.  That mistake was pointed out by Phillipa Boyens on the film’s DVD commentary.  I look forward to any insight on this issue that is provided on the DVD commentary for this film.

The next scene introduces Radagast the Brown, a character not in the book.  But as it relates to another added scene at Rivendell, I will save that for a revisit of Chapter Three.


Chapter 1, Revisited

It seems like I’ve been waiting forever to be able to contrast my original thoughts on theproduction of this series to the final product.  I’ve decided to revisit each chapter post and – to the best of my memory – analyze how Peter Jackson and company actually did translate “The Hobbit” from page to script to screen.


And there it was, a black screen fading in to “New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn Mayer present…A Wingnut Films Production…”

No subtitle was included, however, as was the case with the Lord of the Rings films.  The “An Unexpected Journey” title showed up shortly after the “prologue” portion finished, which is how “The Fellowship of the Ring”, “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King” subtitles made their appearances in the previous films.

It was like the last nine years never happened.  Middle-Earth was back, as if we’d never left it.

Now I’ll get right to the heart of the matter.  When first looking at how the story would flesh out over two films I was pretty adamant that there would need to be some judicious editing from the primary text.  I had no doubt that Jackson would film as many scenes as possible but, based on his process for editing the Lord of the Rings films, I expected that anything that didn’t directly move the central story forward would see the cutting room floor.  Based on a total runtime of five to five and half hours for two films, I didn’t see how it would be possible to keep everything.

Then last summer, the decision was made to expand the series to three films.  And that, of course, made all the difference in the world.  Some critics have complained that the “super-sizing” of the story is too apparent and unnecessary.  I say, phooey.

The expected the central story would be “the character arc of Bilbo Baggins – that is, his development from a timid, placid hobbit to a brave, loyal and cunning hero.”  Having seen the first film, it appears that this is definitely the case.  You can see it from Bilbo’s initial reluctance to join the company on its quest.  Gandalf prods him with a reference to Bilbo’s ancestor on the Took side who fought valiantly against orcs and wargs in the Battle of Greenfields in the Shire.  In a fit of “Tookishness”, Bilbo wakes the next morning and pursues the Dwarves who have already left him, contract in hand.

There is a moment of self-doubt for Bilbo along the way due to Thorin expressing his own skepticism that he belongs with the company.  By the end of the film, Bilbo possesses a new conviction to proceed to further dangers and adventures and convinces his new friends that his presence is important.

What I had thought would amount to about twenty to thirty minutes of screen time to cover this chapter turned out to be almost twice that amount.

“An Unexpected Journey” opens, like “Fellowship” with an introduction of past events.  We see a familiar view of the Shire leading finally to Bag End. It is the older Bilbo who is given the task of writing (and reading) the familiar opening sentence of the book: “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.”  The context is Bilbo’s beginning his great book of tales that he will pass down to Frodo.  We see him seated at his desk with quill in hand.

The time and date is about a few hours prior to the commencement of the Long Expected Party that begins “The Fellowship of the Ring”.  In fact, after a few words with Bilbo, Frodo goes off with a book to wait for the arrival of Gandalf and his cart full of fireworks for the celebration.

Though I had suggested Gandalf as an appropriate narrator for this opening, it was necessary for Bilbo to recount the story of the Dwarves’ establishing the Kingdom Under the Mountain at Erebor as part of his book.  We see a younger Thorin and his father and grandfather, Thrain and Thror, building the vast Dwarf realm under the Lonely Mountain and living in harmony with the Men of Dale.  The Arkenstone is introduced, though its importance will not be revealed until the next film.  Smaug attacks, the Dwarves flee Erebor and we see Thorin witness the retreat of Thranduil and the Elves from the destruction.  It is this act of the Wood Elves’ abandonment of the Dwarves in their time of need that leads to the bad blood between the races – particularly for Thorin.

In reality, the enmity between Dwarves and Elves dates back many years focusing on a dispute over an object called the Nauglamir.  This tale is recounted in other Tolkien writings but is much too complicated to make it relevant to this volume, so the simplification is necessary to create the future conflict between Thorin and Thranduil.

We are able to get a better sense of scope for the existence of the Dwarf race in exile and their lack of a settlement outside of the Blue Mountains and the Iron Hills, where Dain and his people dwell.  The “prologue” transitions to the Shire of sixty years earlier where we meet the younger Bilbo (Martin Freeman) seated comfortably outside his front door blowing smoke rings.  And Gandalf arrives.

As I’d hoped , the entire opening conversation between the two characters remained word for word as it was written in the book, from Bilbo’s first “Good Morning” to the Wizard’s introduction of “I am Gandalf…and Gandalf”.  Sir Ian McKellan’s portrayal of the Grey Pilgrim is seamless from his performance in the larger trilogy of a decade ago.

Later that evening, the “Unexpected Party” Begins with the arrival of the Dwarves.  I was generally pleased with their presentation.  While some - like Oin, Ori, Bifor, Bombur and Nori – have yet to be featured as prominent individuals among the group, I expect they will have their own scenes to chew on in the upcoming films.  As noted in my review, there are seven Dwarves (no pun intended) that stood out in my memory (after one viewing).

Dwalin is the first to arrive.  He is by far the largest Dwarf (aside from Thorin) and somewhat resembles a WWE wrestler.  He greets his brother, Balin, with a head butt – very memorable.  Balin seems to be the “wise old man” of the group, the one with all the experience and bears the responsibility of recounting all the past stories of the Dwarves.  I had hoped for a reference that would tie Balin to his later association with Moria and sure enough his signature as witness on Bilbo’s contract reads “Balin, Son of Fundin”.  All that was missing was the “Lord of Moria” title that would appear on his tomb in “Fellowship”.

Fili and Kili are the younger, hunky Dwarves clearly aimed at the female portion of the audience.  But their light-hearted playfulness is almost reminiscent of the two younger hobbits, Merry and Pippin, from the LOTR.  Dori acts as a similar “elder” like Balin and is the first to voice his skepticism of Bilbo’s “burglary” expertise.  Gloin’s appearance makes it clear that he is Gimli’s father.

And Bofur will later come to have a memorable one-on-one moment with Bilbo in the Misty Mountains as the hobbit has resolved to leave the company for its own good and return to the comfortable home he has left behind.

We are introduced to the infamous pantry of Bag End, which the Dwarves effectively empty of all provision over the course of the evening.  The “clean-up” song is included to great comical effect including the tossing of cups, plates and bowls with remarkable agility.

At last, Thorin Oakenshield arrives and the casting of Richard Armitage is a good one.  Thorin appears brooding, formidable and full of a desire for vengeance – not someone to be trifled with.  He is the strength that ties this band together.  While I had expected a treatment of “Over The Misty Mountians Cold” to be moved to later in the story it’s rendition at Bag End serves to prod Bilbo into internally exploring his openness to adventure and the theme created by Howard Shore will reappear as incidental music throughout the rest of the film – much the way the “Fellowship” theme kept cropping up in the LOTR.

While Gandalf introduces the map and key to the party at this point, the story of how he acquired them looks like it will be left to a scene later in the series.  And the conversation between the Wizard and Bilbo where Gandalf tries to convince Bilbo to join them (see above) is an addition to the original text.  By the time Bilbo wakes the next morning and dashes out of his hobbit hole without a pocket handkerchief (which he will lament later) we have reached almost the end of the first hour of the movie.

I can’t say enough good things about Martin Freeman’s casting as young Bilbo.  In an interview with the UK magazine NME, Peter Jackson admits that despite all the rumors there was only ever one choice to play Bilbo and that was Freeman.  The only speed bump was working around his commitments to the British TV series, Sherlock.

With the journey under way, we move on to a revisit of ChapterTwo.