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