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Theodore Cruz
Theodore Cruz

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The company journeys into the Misty Mountains, where they find themselves amid a colossal battle between Stone Giants. They take refuge in a cave and are captured by Goblins, who take them to their leader, the Great Goblin. Bilbo becomes separated from the Dwarves and falls into a crevice where he encounters Gollum, who unknowingly drops a golden ring. Pocketing the ring, Bilbo finds himself confronted by Gollum. They play a riddle game, wagering that Bilbo will be shown the way out if he wins or eaten by Gollum if he loses. Bilbo wins via trickery, and Gollum notices his ring is lost and that Bilbo has it. Chased by the furious Gollum, Bilbo discovers that the ring grants him invisibility, but when he has a chance to kill Gollum, Bilbo spares his life out of pity and escapes.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I'm unfamiliar with the plot, but I'm pleasantly surprised by the suspense and excitement generated by harrowing situations resolved by previously unknown powers of sorcery and heroism. It's not entirely unexpected to me, but with its lighter tone and advancements in digital film techniques, there should be enough of a novelty factor to delight. It's a rollercoaster ride at times, with good pacing, tonal ups and downs, and constant activity. At the very least, it feels like a welcome return to a fondly remembered place in our cinematic memory.

More backstory battle footage spikes things up again as the long journey begins in earnest. An initial glimpse of what the little guys are up against comes in the form of three giant trolls, who make off with a couple of ponies to eat and indulge in a Cockney-flavored Three Stooges routine as they prepare to roast the dwarves for a snack. There also is a glimpse of the dreaded Necromancer, who looks not unlike the video sensation Slender Man.

There's an unexpected scene where Elvenking Thranduil of the Wood-elves pays 'homage' to King Thrór, though with only the slightest tilt of his head. It's a little difficult to know how to interpret this, as there's nothing comparable in the book. Is he acknowledging Thrór as overlord here, or entering some kind of formal alliance, or merely acknowledging Thrór as a powerful ruler? The fact that the Dwarves seem to expect his help against the Dragon, and see his failure to act as a betrayal, does seem to suggest that there was at least some kind of alliance in place between Thrór and Thranduil.

As we shift back into the past, a caption appears that says '60 years earlier...'. We saw Bilbo writing his tale in III 3001 (the year of his famous 111th Birthday Party) while the unexpected arrival of the Dwarves at Bag End was in the year III 2941: a difference of exactly sixty years. Bilbo was fifty years old when Gandalf recruited him, though it's established that Hobbits tended to age a little more slowly than Men.

In other words, for most of their journey home, these envoys would have to follow exactly the same eastward route as Thorin and his Dwarves. It seems to follow that there must be another band of Dwarves on the road throughout the film, presumably somewhere behind Thorin and Company, also heading in the direction of the Lonely Mountain, but planning to go straight past it and home to the Iron Hills.

The next day the Company sets out, and Bilbo catches up with them. At first he refuses a pony, saying that he's done his fair share of walking holidays, and 'even got as far as Frogmorton once'. Frogmorton was about twenty miles from Bag End; the trip to the Lonely Mountain (taking detours into account) will involve a total journey of about a thousand miles.

As the Dwarves rest from their journey so far, we take time to catch up on some more of their people's history. The story of the battle that follows is in fact barely mentioned in book of The Hobbit, getting no more than a couple of passing mentions. The more detailed account we see on the screen comes from a much denser version of the story in the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings, though it has been altered and simplified a little from that version.

The Company leave the Troll-hole and continue their journey (based on where they find themselves at the end of this sequence, they've actually covered about fifty miles from the Trolls). Now they come across other travellers in the Wild, some friendly and some decidedly less so. This sequence doesn't correspond with anything in the original book.

As this sequence comes to an end, the Dwarves have safely slipped away, and the Elves have destroyed the marauding Orcs. That leaves one person unaccounted for: what happened to Radagast? He's right at the entrance to Rivendell, the only friendly house for many miles around, where his fellow Wizards are meeting (and remember he's travelled hundreds of miles just to find Gandalf). That would seem to be the only sensible place for him to go, and yet he just seems to disappear. Perhaps he actually did go to Rivendell, and we just happen never to see him there, or perhaps we're meant to assume that he set out on the long journey back to Rhosgobel.

This next section of the story, covering the Dwarves' journey into the Mountains, their capture by goblins and their escape, reflects chapters 4 and 5 of The Hobbit: Over Hill and Under Hill and Riddles in the Dark.

As the Dwarves start their journey into the Mountains, the book mentions in passing that 'across the valley the stone-giants were out and were hurling rocks at one another for a game' and Thorin worries that his party will be 'picked up by some giant and kicked sky-high for a football' . That's the extent of their concerns about the stone-giants, but things look much worse for the Dwarves in the movie, where they seem to find themselves embroiled in a full-scale war, facing very real danger from the clashing giants.

After the Eagles rescue the Dwarves from Azog and his Orcs, the movie skips forward a few pages: in the book, we learn a little more about the Eagles, and Gandalf persuades them to carry the Dwarves forward a little on their journey. The movie version jumps over that section, and just has the Eagles land the Dwarves directly on the Carrock (that's the name of the rocky pillar they land on, though it's not actually given in the film).

Given the vast success of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, it wasn't surprising that a film series based on The Hobbit was to follow. The Hobbit was writer JRR Tolkien's first major published work about Middle Earth, and is one of the most-loved fantasy books of all time. Although there was huge interest amongst fans of Jackson's films to see that story tackled in a similar way, the journey to the screen was not smooth.

There are good omens in the air for our heroes and Thorin's Theme follows on burnished French horns, ascending proudly but unexpectedly tremoloing string textures slide into the fabric of the music and as we see far off a lonely thrush approaching the far away Erebor over the desolation of the dragon and as the camera transports us to the vast chambers filled with immeasurable treasures Smaug has pillaged, a chilling female chorus intones a fateful line. But as the final shot moves to show us the opening eye of the awakened wyrm, the score ends in the ominous growling notes of Smaug the Golden with the searing Smaug's Breath motif churning grim underneath, giving the score ominous but fitting closure full of anticipation for things to come.

The bookending piece of score that closes the end credits roll (which included tracked music from e.g. The Hidden Valley and Brass Buttons to cover its entire running time) is a beautiful concert piece styled presentation of Bilbo's Theme(s). A tin whistle presents a singing rendition of the first part of Bilbo's melody, The Dreaming of Bag End, which speaks of the hobbit's comfort loving gentle side that yearns only to stay at Bag End and never go on adventures and pines for his distant home on the long journey to the Lonely Mountain. At 0:52 recorder evokes the Tookish-Side, which begins introspectively enough but soon starts to climb in almost a noble fashion, but in a very hobbity way the adventurous streak is still balanced by the earthy wisdom and simple honesty as it longingly rises ever upwards toward humble heroism. This is a perfect encapsulation of Bilbo's character, a theme-and-a-half that is a single unit but with two different parts for different character purposes as Doug Adams describes on his blog when discussing various new musical ideas for Bilbo.

The music opens with an expansive gradually ascending melody for horns, in all probability Shore's own early take on the Company Theme (similar to the one heard in the suite Erebor) that resolutely rises with the support of the rest of the brass section and nimble high string leaps that resemble the Hobbit-Skip Beat. At it's apex the theme transitions to a brief quote of the Misty Mountains Theme, which suggests that at one point there might have been another theme associated with Thorin's company aside from the Misty Mountains song melody and that there was intent of using them in tandem (at least for the first film). This passage was likely meant to score the travelling montage of the dwarves and the hobbit traversing the Misty Mountains on their way East, which was in the finished film underscored by an extended and mighty statement of the Misty Mountains Theme. This section of the track does indeed fit the sequence almost to perfection when timed against the film. Shore's initial idea seems to be more subdued, the music still addressing the journey with an optimistic theme but in a more restrained manner, the scene culminating in the shorter statement of the Misty Mountains Theme as the company is seen travelling along the top of a mountain ridge. Where the film transitions to Thorin's company in the stormy night on the mountainside (scored here by swelling dissonant strings) just prior to the Stone Giant attack, the music moves to a different scene altogether here. 041b061a72


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