For fans of fantasy there probably is no greater book than the Lord of the Rings. While other authors (Jordan and Martin for example) have since expanded on these words and worlds (Wheel of Time, Game of Thrones, Way of Kings etc…) and taken the realms in different directions, the granddaddy for all of them in one shape or form was Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings.
This epic tome included elfs, orcs, goblins, wizards, dwarves and trolls. It had huge battles, tragic love stories & a battle for life and death for a whole world.
Prior to the Lord of the Rings however, another book came out … this smaller tome told the story of the Ring itself and how it was rediscovered by a small hobbit. The tale of Bilbo Baggins was an easy introduction to the world of fantasy and while the battles were just as epic, there was humor and laughter and it was definitely a more light-hearted and easier read.
While there are some detractors for the works of Peter Jackson – I will state up front that I am not one of them. I think he has done an outstanding job translating the books into film and while I do agree that the Hobbit could have probably been done in 2 movies vs. the 3 he has stretched it to, I might change my tune when I go and see the film later this week. I know that he has said this film (The Battle of the Five Armies) is the last time we will visit Middle Earth, but I hope that he might reconsider that and perhaps work on the Silmarillion also … while this might be more of an esoteric piece, the success of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit films should persuade him and the studios that there is an interested audience. However, lets leave that discussion for the comments or another day shall we?!
In preparation for film 3 I thought a recap and review of films 1 & 2 might be in order for anyone (living under a rock) that might not have seen them. This won’t be as in depth an analysis as I intend to provide for the 3rd film, but should serve as a quick reminder of the most important elements of the film version of the story as there are differences to the book.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Just prior to the events of the film version of Lord of the Rings, Bilbo Baggins is preparing his autobiography and detailing his adventures as a youth of 50 years (note: hobbits and dwarves have extremely long lifespans & elves are basically immortal in Tolkiens worlds). Tricked by Gandalf the Grey into hosting a party for Thorin and his company of dwarves, Bilbo Baggins finds that he actually has a hankering for a wandering life and agrees to join the dwarves in a quest to enter the Lonely Mountain. While he is quite fearful of the risks on his journey Bilbo finds that he fits in well with the dwarves as their “burglar” and he learns from them the reason for their quest and Thorin’s hatred of the elves.
It seems that long ago the dwarves had settled in the Lonely Mountain and were ruled by Thrór (Thorin’s grandfather) … here the dwarves were extremely successful and were quite rich and powerful. However they didn’t treat the others in the land well, but in their power they thought nothing could challenge them. Unfortunately learning of their wealth the dragon Smaug was attracted to the Lonely Mountain and he attacked and drove the dwarves out of their mountain home and takes all of their jewels and gold for himself. Thrór’s grandson Thorin sees King Thranduil and his Wood-elves on a nearby hillside, and is dismayed when they take their leave rather than aid his people, resulting in Thorin’s everlasting hatred of Elves. Thorin’s quest now was to return and somehow defeat Smaug and return the Lonely Mountain to his people who had been wandering the lands without a home ever since.
Bilbo joins Balin, Dwalin, Fíli, Kíli, Dori, Nori, Ori, Óin, Glóin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur & Thorin in the quest along with Gandalf but soon after they set off they are captured by three trolls. Thorin continues to dismiss Bilbo and thinks that he doesn’t really need him, but when they are fighting the trolls, Bilbo manages to stall them until dawn and when Gandalf reappears they manage to expose the trolls to sunlight which turns them to stone. Inside the trolls cave they find some treasure including some magic swords and Gandalf gives Bilbo one of them – an elven shortsword which he names Sting. (This is probably the first time that we see Thorin’s disdain for Bilbo, but we also Bilbo’s bravery … its definitely not the last!)
Gandalf, the dwarves and Bilbo then meet up with Radagast the Brown (a brother wizard to Gandalf and one that is more interested in the goings on of the wildlife in the land vs the people that occupy it) who tells them that he had an encounter with the Necromancer at Dol Guldur. Gandalf immediately starts to suspect that an ancient evil has started to awaken and with Radagast’s help he leads the company to Rivendell – the ancient home of the Elves. While Thorin continues to harbor a deep mistrust of the elves for their past inaction, Lord Elrond discloses a hidden indication of a secret door on the company’s map of the Lonely Mountain, which will be visible only on Durin’s Day. Escaping from Rivendell without Gandalf, the dwarves & Bilbo continue on their quest to reach the Lonely Mountain.
Once the company makes their way to the Misty Mountains, they are confronted by a colossal battle between some stone giants … finding refuge in a cave, they are captured by the goblins and this is where Bilbo meets and defeats Gollum in a riddle game. Gollum has lost his ring and when Bilbo asks his final riddle – what have I got in my pocket – Gollum suspects that Bilbo has it and attacks him. Bilbo accidentally slips the ring on his finger discovering that it makes him invisible. Managing to escape from Gollum, Bilbo searches out the dwarves who are being threatened by the Great Goblin (the king of the Goblins). With Gandalfs help the dwarves manage to escape the Great Goblins clutches killing him along the way. Bilbo rejoins the party just before they are confronted by Azog – the Orc war-chief that had beheaded Thorins grandfather before Thorin in turn chopped off his hand in an epic battle outside Moria. Bilbo manages to rescue Thorin who had been knocked unconscious in the battle before the party is rescued by eagles and taken further along in their journey to the Lonely Mountain. The movie ends with a view of the Lonely Mountain in the distance and great eye opening up as the sleeping Smaug is awakened by a knocking sound.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
For those of you not in the loop, Smaug is played by the awesome Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) and of course Bilbo is Watson from the same show. This casting is excellent and quite well done!
Continuing from the point we left of in the previous film, the party is continuing their quest to reach the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo discovers that a bear is also tracking them in addition to the Orcs and they discover that this is Beorn – a shape-changer that sometimes takes the form of a giant bear. Gandalf goes of on his own side quest to investigate the tombs of the Nazgûl while the rest of the company continue after Beorn escorts the company to the borders of the Mirkwood.
Upon entering the forest they lose their way and are ensnared by giant spiders … Bilbo using his ring, manages to hide from the spiders and sets about freeing the dwarves. Once the wood elves arrive they kill the rest of the spiders and free the rest of the dwarves, but then they in turn capture the dwarves and bring the party to Thranduil. Bilbo using this ring again manages to escape capture and again helps the dwarves to escape using some empty wine barrels. While hurtling down the river they are again confronted by the Orcs and one of the dwarves – Kili – is wounded in the ensuing battle. Fortunately the elves end up helping the dwarves to escape during the course of this battle and they end up in Lake-town. (Note – while I understand the inclusion of Legolas in this story as a bridge between the movies, his appearance is somewhat jarring as he was not an expected character.)
In Lake-town, the descendants are not fans of the dwarves as Smaug had caused much damage to that town too when he attacked and destroyed the dwarves in Lonely Mountain. Bard however – the last scion of Dale, the previous ruler of Dale has a magic black arrow that is capable of killing Smaug and while no one believes in him, he is determined to aid the dwarves in their journey.
After the dwarves leave Lake-town they are finally able to reach the Lonely Mountain, but search in vain for an entrance – once again it is Bilbo to the rescue as he is able to discover the hidden entrance into the mountain. When Bilbo enters the mountain to retrieve the Arkenstone, he accidentally awakens Smaug. Bilbo and the Dwarves try to rekindle the mountain’s forge in an attempt to bury Smaug alive in molten gold. This fails however and Smaug stumbles out of the mountain and flies off to destroy Laketown in revenge for aiding the Dwarves. Bilbo watches in horror at what they have unleashed, saying to himself, “What have we done?”
Meanwhile Gandalf on his own private mission finds the ruins of the Nazgul infested with Orcs and is ambushed by Azog and the Necromancer. The Necromancer overpowers and defeats Gandalf and reveals himself as Sauron. Azog and a huge orc army march from Dol Guldur to the Lonely Mountain while Gandalf watches helplessly.
OK – that brings you pretty much up to speed on the previous two films … keep in mind that at about 3hrs each I have compressed these greatly and only given you the high points. My next post on the final film (The Battle of the Five Armies) I expect will be quite a bit more detailed. Stay tuned and come on Christmas!