Friday, December 28, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

An Unexpected Journey twenty minutes in.
Anyone who knows me knows that I like The Hobbit. It's arguably my favourite novel, and I've been known to assert, facetiously or otherwise, that it is the pinnacle of human literature. The works of J.R.R. Tolkien are one of my lasting passions, one of the few things about which I'm not cynical and derogatory, and I have a great deal of affection for them. Does that mean that I like the film adaptations? No! Of course not; what are they beyond being pale imitations of a source material which cannot be conveyed with any kind of accuracy through anything other than literature? The film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings are visually detailed but thematically shallow renditions of a vastly complex text dumbed down and generalised for an audience which only wants more and more of the same thing. They must be some of the most stupendously overrated films in existence. It was for these reasons that upon learning that Peter Jackson was making a film of The Hobbit I was suitably concerned.
One thing needs to be established first: The Hobbit should have been made before The Lord of the Rings. The plot of The Lord of the Rings ultimately owes too much to The Hobbit for its dramatic integrity to be fully realised alone; instead we get a version of the original turned into a prequel based on the film version of the text which is actually the sequel. This, the need to re-dress The Hobbit as a prequel to the films of The Lord of the Rings, is one of the main issues with the film, as well as its plot being tortured over three films instead of at the most two.
Ian Holm upon learning what happens to his face.
As such the film begins with a long-winded voice over. We appropriately start with Bilbo, but it's the older Bilbo from the time of The Lord of the Rings played by Ian Holm with some extremely distracting CG work on his face to presumably make him look less old. Seriously? We know Ian Holm's old; he can't look that much older than he did back in the late 90s or early 2000s when the earlier films were made, and even if he does, who cares? This is, however, representative of the overuse of a good deal of unnecessary CGI in the film. I suppose they really shot themselves in the foot by casting an old actor to play Bilbo in the earlier films anyway. Remember how Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring muses that Bilbo hasn't aged a day even though he visibly has between the opening monologue and the beginning of the action? Why did they do that? He's meant to have not aged between 50 and 111 anyway, so why bother casting an older actor to play the role rather than just using makeup later when necessary? Again a consequence of not doing The Hobbit first.
An Unexpected Journey forty minutes in.
So old Bilbo delivers this long-winded monologue about the Lonely Mountain and the Dwarves and how it was taken by the dragon, Smaug. I can't stand big abstract monologues for the sake of doing a story dump. It annoys me in the film adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring and it annoys me here; it's just lazy storytelling designed to sucker people in by giving them some action early rather than delaying our gratification. Dale and Erebor look nice enough even if Erebor's interior is a bit of an excessive CGI extravaganza which stretches disbelief to the limit. I was impressed also by their maintenance of the Thrór-Thráin-Thorin family tree. We're only teased, somewhat effectively I suppose, with hints of the dragon. I'll give a comprehensive account of major changes from the real storyline of the source material at the end but they begin here.
"You are aware that I am not really a wizard?"
Once Bilbo's rather heavy-handedly established the goal of the forthcoming mission we return to Bag End for a conversation between Bilbo and Frodo. While Ian Holm and Elijah Wood seem to have assumed these old identities from a decade ago without difficulty it doesn't really excuse the fact that the whole scene is, really, quite pointless and mostly seems to exist to pad the film out. In my opinion the entire sequence should have been cut and we should have started with our true beginning, young Bilbo smoking outside Bag End and meeting Gandalf. This scene is more or less adapted in a straightforward fashion in terms of dialogue and action from the novel. What a coincidence that it's an example of one of the strongest scenes in the film! Professor Tolkien's own dialogue always sounds better. We follow this with the unexpected party and the introduction of the Dwarves.
Ever since they were first revealed I haven't been able to help but feel that the Dwarves are a little overdesigned and the film didn't change my opinion. I understand perfectly that they wanted to make them distinguishable, but wouldn't the differently-coloured hoods have helped with that? We get the "That's What Bilbo Baggins Hates" song, which is nice, although the general rowdiness and crudity of the Dwarves is a bit of a tired cliché, incidentally one which is at odds with Professor Tolkien's depiction of them as a bunch of stuffy middle-aged men, which I think could have been more interesting. It certainly would have been a more effective contrast to the flashback scenes of battle and war depicting the Dwarves in their wrath. That being said the Dwarves are generally likeable and sympathetic; an especially good job is done with Balin, as well as Fili and Kili despite the fact that they've obviously been done up to keep the girls interested.
An Unexpected Journey sixty minutes in.
One thing I might quibble about is the pronunciation of some of the Dwarves' names. These names are Old Norse in origin and derive from the Dvergatal or Dwarves' List in the Old Norse poem Völuspá. Óin and Glóin's names therefore according to the transcription of Old Norse Icelandic should be pronounced something like "Owin" and "Glowin", but in the film they're pronounced to rhyme with "coin" as if the accented o and the i were a single diphthong in modern English pronunciation. Now the BBC pronounced these names correctly in their radio adaptations of Professor Tolkien's work. It's surprising that, for all their efforts to pronounce Elvish somewhat correctly and so forth such a basic mistake was made in this film. Similarly the names of Thorin's father, Thráin, and his cousin, Dáin, should be pronounced something like "Thraa-in" and "Daa-in", but in this they're pronounced again as diphthongs to rhyme with "stain". It's a disappointing oversimplification, albeit one which ought only to be noticeable to Old Norse scholars.
"This big!"
This leads us to Thorin. In my opinion the characterisation of Thorin and his story arc is one of the film's more serious weaknesses. Thorin is transformed from this rather pompous, self-important and greedy but ultimately good character from the novel into a sort of proto-Aragorn, grim, dark and brooding, who steals focus and attention from Bilbo. The Dwarves seem to dread his arrival; instead of a humorous entrance with Bombur falling on top of him in the front hall he turns up after all the other Dwarves and in comparison to pretty much all of them is strikingly noble. Some of the members of the company, particularly Balin, Dwalin, Óin and Glóin really feel like Dwarves; stocky and solid types, bearded and weathered, and to me they were the ones who most strongly captured the feeling of Professor Tolkien's own characterisation, albeit still rather exaggerated.
"Only how many lines each?"
Thorin by contrast doesn't really feel like a Dwarf at all, much like his nephews Fili and Kili. I almost feel like this image of a "handsome Dwarf" is a contradiction in terms because despite the strength of characterisation they just feel like short Men. There is something of that indefinable "Dwarvishness" which is captured in, say, Balin, which isn't in Thorin, who looks like something out of a magazine and acts like every other boring anti-hero for the last thirty years. Instead of being a character whose outward grouchiness and greed conceals the soft harp-playing smoke-ring-blowing core he's an angsty warrior-king who's constantly chewing out anyone who second-guesses him: Bilbo, Fili and Kili, even Gandalf. It gets a bit boring after a while and just makes Thorin seem like a cookie-cutter anti-hero bad boy from the worn out Hollywood mould. He is of course given something more in his backstory. Now he, not Dáin, fought Azog at the gates of Moria; apparently Azog swore to "wipe out Durin's line", although it's never explained why. It's also never explained who Durin is, actually. Over the course of the first third of the film we receive two major Dwarf flashbacks and it really does seem a bit like too much. This causes us to become more and more distracted from Bilbo.
"Mr Bilbo, where are you off to?"
"I think my career might finally be taking off!"

Speaking of which, let's get back to Bilbo. Martin Freeman does a good job as our titular Hobbit, appearing suitably bewildered and bewuthered as it were. I do feel somewhat that his typical bemused sense of resignation at the absurdity of existence does somewhat grate with the characterisation of Bilbo, however, as a comfortable stay-at-home type having his eyes opened to the outside world. He often feels too world-weary already. He's good enough at seeming painfully middle-class and awkward when applicable as the adventure continues, although some of the times where he's openly hostile to the Dwarves invading his house or openly refuses the "call to adventure" in very strong terms don't always gel especially plausibly with the depiction of him being forced to abandon his reluctant, avoidant, passive-aggressive tendencies and embrace his "Tookish side". This is the problem which occurs when the film starts to deviate too drastically from Professor Tolkien's original narrative for the sake of padding or elaboration; eventually the original story they're following and the embellishments simply don't cooperate.
Speaking of embellishments, once we're finally out of the Shire these come to the fore and the sense of disconnectedness really begins. The first incident is in Balin's (somewhat altered from the source) account of the War of the Dwarves and Orcs and the Battle of Azanulbizar outside the gates of Moria, which I've already mentioned. By this point we're getting relentless amounts of Thorin, and Bilbo's starting to fall by the wayside. Following this we have another deviation to Radagast the Brown.
"The fourth series was definitely going to be the best."
A lot of apologists for this film have made the argument that the padding can't be criticised because it derives from Professor Tolkien's own work, particularly the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings. While this is to an extent true of the Battle of Azanulbizar flashback it's totally untrue of the Radagast the Brown diversion, which is completely spun out of whole cloth. The entire sequence of events with Radagast is another element which should have been completely omitted. Radagast is a typical Sylvester McCoy performance which is employed for some cheap laughs and a bit of side-plot development while giving an unsubtle and inaccurate acknowledgement to fans of the books. He bumbles around, cures a hedgehog, gets bothered by some spiders and goes to Dol Guldur. Later, after the incident with the trolls, he turns up to lead some hunting Orcs on a wild goose chase in a rather bizarre sequence where he seems to drive his rabbit-drawn sled around and around in circles while the Dwarves run on foot to Rivendell. Despite the fact that at some points he seems to be no more than a hundred feet away from the Dwarves the Orcs never seem to notice that their real quarry is right there. This is another sequence which could have been omitted, but it's time to get back to the Trolls.
After many hours of travelling they finally
got to Chapter 2.
The episode with the Trolls was a strong moment in the film; I felt that the Trolls were, with some reservations about the high-pitched squeaky one, well-portrayed and performed. While it was a shame that they changed the way the Trolls were defeated that's again a consequence of the three-film choice. One of the major tipping points of the novel is the stage at which Gandalf leaves Thorin and Company; he can no longer be the one who turns up and saves everybody, and as such Bilbo has to step up to becoming effectively the leader. By torturing the tale out over three films, however, we don't even get that far, so we have to accelerate Bilbo's development a little bit. The part where he distracts the Trolls was a little odd but at least it fit with the general idea of keeping them occupied until the sun came up. One thing I might note is the inherent ridiculousness of this entire episode. The Hobbit is a very episodic novel, and events don't begin to interrelate until late in the plot. The Troll affair is basically a silly incident where three giant cockneys truss up the Dwarves and get tricked into having an argument. While they did a good enough job in the film to use the Troll incident to imply the waxing of Sauron's strength it didn't exactly fit very well with the overall tone. Seeing Richard Armitage, serious as can be, tied up in a sack at the mercy of three big computer generated lads from the East End came across as even more ridiculous than it already is. This film puts itself in a difficult position by trying too hard to reconcile the more childlike tone and story structure of its source with the gravitas of its literary sequel and its own pretensions of legitimacy. It was one of several moments in the film that had me feeling vaguely unsettled. There's too much inconsistency.
Peter Jackson's house.
After the aforementioned chase with Radagast and his bizarre rabbit sled we get to Rivendell. Despite my complaints about the tone up until this point I was finding the film more or less enjoyable, Radagast bits aside. It was during this segment however that I found the film frustrating. Much of the action is taken up with a meeting of the White Council, or Council of the Wise, composed of Saruman, Gandalf, Galadriel and Elrond. Galadriel gets a bizarre moment where she seems to rotate on a Lazy Susan concealed beneath her dress. Saruman waffles on about the Dwarves and Gandalf and Galadriel have one of their telepathic conversations. I found this whole scene to be totally long-winded and unnecessary, just a fan-pleasing effort to bring back Galadriel and Saruman and serving little real purpose. The Council appears to oppose the Quest for no good reason and the whole thing is such a general waste of time that Bilbo and the Dwarves head off without even bothering to wait for Gandalf to catch up (I realise this was turned into a plot point, I'm being facetious). We're given some poorly-explained Necromancer side-plot that they could have made infinitely simpler for themselves and drastically improved the pacing and flow of the story if they'd simply followed what Professor Tolkien actually wrote. Radagast, incidentally, disappears with no explanation and isn't seen again.
Who are you again?
What frustrated me about this whole sequence, besides weird things like the Elves being vegetarians and stuff, was that we got to see so little of Bilbo. Besides Elrond reading Thorin's map we don't get to see Bilbo's wonder at the House of the Elves or his sense of discovering an amazing new place and so on. It's all glossed over for boring White Council exposition. I might as well also mention at this point that we're additionally getting cutaways involving these Orcs hunting Thorin. Why are they hunting Thorin? Who knows really. Azog wants to kill Thorin for cutting off his hand I guess. It's just more time wasting that could have been deleted, and more of a distraction from Bilbo. Who's story is this? What's going on?
One of the many harmless escapades
encountered by our heroes.
Anyway we finally get to the Misty Mountains. Can you believe this is only the fourth chapter of the novel? I was surprised at the inclusion of the stone giants, although I found the scene to be faintly ridiculous. The giants have a huge fight in which the Dwarves miraculously survive landslides and geological calamities which seem to recur frequently for the remainder of the film. Bilbo gets caught hanging off a cliff and Thorin gets annoyed at him, after which he tries to sneak off and leave. This seems to echo the "Go home, Sam" debacle which was shoehorned into the film version of The Return of the King (it has no precendent in the novel) and which further muddies Bilbo's characterisation. First Thorin's insulting him in Bag End (with a line Glóin delivers in the novel, incidentally, and gets reprimanded for by Gandalf; no such friendly support here), then he's helping the Dwarves with the Trolls, now Thorin hates him again. It's all over the place and inserted simply to exaggerate the sense of drama. Then it's down to Goblin Town.
"Hello Possums!"
This is the point where I started to feel like the film was really getting bogged down. Bilbo gets separated from the gang so that we can hasten to the Riddles in the Dark sequence, but the rest is just a CGI assault on the eyes where not entirely convincing Goblins ruled over by a motion capture Barry Humphries generally arse about. Gandalf shows up and there's a big chase, not just down a tunnel but with scaffolding and bridges and bizarre Mr Magoo esque moments with swinging beams and more falling down steep slopes. Is this a film or the log flume ride? It'd mostly be fine if it wasn't for the fact that we've already had a crazy chase sequence earlier with the unnecessary Radagast sled silliness, and even still it's a bit over the top. The film is so breathlessly desperate to be spectacular it starts to become tiring, like a drunk guy who gets a big laugh on one joke and so won't stop repeating it even when no one finds it funny anymore. The Great Goblin jumps up onto a bridge at the end like the second stage of a boss fight from a video game and is swiftly dispatched by Gandalf. Lots of this film feels like a game, really - intense chases and bursts of violence punctuated by cutscenes. The pacing is really all over the shop.
"A trilogy? Seriously?"
Where this suffers in particular is the interconnection of this sequence with the Riddles in the Dark. This is one of the strongest points of the film. I'm not a huge fan of Andy Serkis' Gollum; I find him too "cute" and funny despite all his creepiness. I'd prefer it if he was more seemingly ancient and wretched and sinister. I did like the employment of the shining eyes, however. Nonetheless the Riddle game was done well for a sequence which is essentially two people trying to outwit each other; it was conveyed visually with surprising effectiveness, but intercutting it with the Goblin Town events disrupts the pacing and the sense of anxiety and torturous uncertainty. Bilbo may have lost sight of Gandalf and the Dwarves but we haven't, so we lose our sense of his total isolation with this murderous villain. This also badly disrupts his escape from Gollum's cave and discovery of the powers of the One Ring, although the point at which he stops himself from killing Gollum is an effectively realised moment.
"Arr! Set sail for the Lonely Mountain!"
All that remains is the warg attack in the woods. For a start, Azog looks like crap. I thought his CGI body was very unconvincing and that the design used for him was dull. Giving Thorin a nemesis only confuses his motivations anyway. What is also bizarre is when Thorin strides out ready to confront Azog and gets completely owned, requiring Bilbo to save the day. I often didn't understand what they were trying to convey with Thorin; at times they seemed to be presenting him as this troubled but worthy leader, and at others he just looked like an incompetent idiot. There's also the ludicrous fakeout where he appears to be dead and then just blinks and gets up unharmed. His eventual acceptance of Bilbo is fairly heartwarming but it overemphasises the development for Thorin rather than Bilbo, who seems to change his mind about ditching the Quest once again for no particular reason. It's much more effective, I feel, in the original novel when Bilbo repeatedly calls the Dwarves out when they're being selfish and blaming him for their problems and reflects his increasing strength of character which simply isn't something we get here.
Blue Elvish Steel
All in all the film's an adequate adventure yarn but it's simply too long and when it tries to extrapolate the backstory in order to pad things out it unnecessarily mangles it and overcomplicates things. There isn't enough focus on the titular character, Bilbo - too much is given to Thorin and too much screentime is wasted on the White Council - and the general sense of pacing is off, from fight to fight and chase to chase interrupted by awkward exposition dumps which don't even accurately reflect Professor Tolkien's delicate story structure. The mood swings wildly from the facetious and absurd to the melodramatic and while the performances are generally strong they're made to follow unambitious Hollywood templates which make the entire story seem stale and inconsequential. We could have received a refreshing fish-out-of-water type tale of an isolated individual rediscovering himself with a supporting cast of grumbling associates. This could have been layered over a darker backdrop if necessary to hint at what we know to be coming in The Lord of the Rings rather than giving it a fanfare and making us forget about the rest of what's going on. Too much of the film reflects the need to drag things out over three instalments: extra chases and fights, made up and inconsistent characterisation, and badly paced scenes that should simply have been abandoned. Its excessive length and inconsistency are items of disappointing evidence for the dangers of corporate greed. Cut Old Bilbo and Frodo, most of the White Council material, Radagast in his entirety, and Azog, and have the explanation of the Dwarves' backstory slowly revealed over the course of things and you'd have a good adventure fantasy. It could even have still ended as early as it did in the novel's sequence of events and nonetheless been a perfectly fine adaptation with a two hour runtime; it's not like it was split into a trilogy and the first film only goes for eighty minutes or something, it's two and three quarter hours long! If they've got as much material as they claim and were really intent on a trilogy then surely rendering the story as, say, three two-hour films would be easy; couldn't they have cut some of this junk out? As it is it's only an adequate piece of cinema which struggles to decide what its plot and character focus is with some iffy special effects and a rather fatuous representation of the source material. It's primarily worth it for Bilbo; so much else should, like Mr. Baggins' pocket-handkerchiefs, have been left at home.
Me when someone claims the films are accurate to the books.
Story Notes - Some major changes from the Real Story and the Original Text
1. The Arkenstone - This wasn't taken by Thrór as a sign of his "divine right to rule"; that would sit very uneasily with Professor Tolkien's view of the role of providence. The Elves also didn't pay homage to the Dwarves. Incidentally, I don't know what the deal is with Thranduil's weird head tilt. The Elves didn't ditch the Dwarves when the dragon attacked, either; Thranduil's halls in Mirkwood were several days' march away and they had virtually nothing to do with the Dwarves. The actual enmity between the Elves and the Dwarves dated back to the First Age when the Dwarves of Nogrod sacked Doriath in Beleriand, where Thranduil lived, and stole one of the Silmarils; it had nothing to do with Thorin's people, the Dwarves of Durin's House. There was only a general uneasiness and distrust; neither side considered the other to be their enemy. The Elves of Thranduil of course had absolutely nothing to do with the Elves of Rivendell, which makes Thorin's antipathy for the household of Elrond even more inexplicable.
2. The Dwarves - in the novel while they are presented as doughty fighters in the early events they're mostly unarmed and ill-prepared for combat. They're also less distinguishable. Thorin is the leader, Balin is old, Fili and Kili are young, Bombur is fat and Dori is strong, but that's about it.
3. The Battle of Azanulbizar - it wasn't to reclaim Moria. Thrór, crazed after the loss of Erebor, went to Moria with only a servant, Nár, and there was decapitated by Azog the Orc who had taken rulership of the abandoned Dwarf mansions. Thráin and Thorin waged a long war with the Orcs of the Misty Mountains for revenge. In the end they confronted the Orcs at the gates of Moria and Dáin Ironfoot, Thorin's cousin, slew Azog, but the Dwarves could not reclaim their ancestral halls because despite their victory over the Orcs the Balrog of Morgoth still lurked inside, an enemy they had never had the strength to best. Incidentally this entire sequence was reserved for the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings and is only mentioned very much in passing in The Hobbit.
4. Durin - He was one of the first seven (yes, seven) Dwarves, and the original ancestor of Thorin and his family. He established Khazad-dûm (later known as Moria) in the Misty Mountains during the First Age, and many of his successors were so like him in appearance that they too were named Durin. It was Durin VI in the Third Age who was slain by the Balrog; a year later Moria was lost to that demon.
5. Radagast the Brown - Radagast appears exactly once in the entire storyline. During the events of The Fellowship of the Ring Saruman gave him a message that he requested Gandalf's presence at Isengard. Radagast delivered the message and promised to send whatever other news he could via his animal friends. It was because of this that Gwaihir the Windlord, one of the Great Eagles, was able to rescue Gandalf from the pinnacle of Orthanc. Radagast is mentioned but unseen in The Hobbit. That's it. That's everything Radagast does. According to everything published Radagast had absolutely nothing to do with the investigations into Dol Guldur and the Necromancer; these were entirely conducted by Gandalf prior to the events of The Hobbit. There isn't even any evidence that Radagast was a member of the White Council.
6. The chase sequence - The events in which the Dwarves are pursued from the Trolls' cave to Rivendell is entirely an invention of the film. In the novel the Dwarves have a completely peaceful journey from the Trollshaws to Rivendell.
7. The Trolls - in the novel it's Gandalf who keeps the Trolls distracted by impersonating each of them from a safe distance in order to prolong their argument.
8. The White Council - this was indeed composed of Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel and Elrond, as well as Círdan the Shipwright, who is omitted in this film; he certainly has the smallest role in the text. It's worth noting in this sequence of the film that Saruman argues that Sauron was destroyed. This is inconsistent with the source material because the Wizards (or "Istari" to employ the Elvish term Saruman correctly uses in the film) were deliberately sent to Middle-earth by the Valar to oppose the will of Sauron. The Council knew Sauron was still active in Middle-earth, they simply for a long time didn't know where or what he was up to. Saruman never argued that Sauron had been destroyed; he definitely still considered him a threat. He simply, and falsely, argued that the One Ring had been irrecoverably lost because he desired to find it for himself, and delayed the attack on Dol Guldur in the hope that the Ring would reveal itself if its master was given time to regain his strength. By the time of The Hobbit the Council was already completely aware that Sauron was the lord of Dol Guldur. It's worth noting that when The Hobbit was written Professor Tolkien hadn't even invented Saruman or even Galadriel, whom he later retconned to play a fairly significant background role in The Silmarillion. The Council did not oppose the Quest for Erebor even slightly, and indeed had nothing to do with it whatsoever; Gandalf was really pulling a lot of strings. The Council didn't meet while Thorin and Company were at Rivendell (they didn't even always meet there, they also convened at Caras Galadhon and Isengard) and Gandalf accompanied Bilbo and the Dwarves from Rivendell without obstruction.
9. The Morgul Blade - no such incident ever occurred. The Witch-King of Angmar did indeed destroy the North Kingdom, Arnor, sister-kingdom of Gondor from The Lord of the Rings. This occurred much earlier in the Third Age. However, he was never sealed into a tomb or anything of the sort. The Witch-King of Angmar was the Lord of the Nazgûl, Captain of the Ringwraiths, and had never died. He was given one of the Nine Rings of Men by Sauron during the Second Age and gradually faded until he became a Wraith. He had no tomb because he was undead; his life was indefinitely prolonged by the Ring, even though his body faded away. After Sauron's defeat at the end of the Second Age he went into hiding with his master; later in the Third Age he took control of the evil realm of Angmar in the North and used it to destroy Arnor. Afterwards Angmar was defeated by an army from Gondor and the Elves of Rivendell and the Grey Havens. After this the Lord of the Nazgûl went South and conquered the city of Minas Ithil in Gondor, which became the city of Minas Morgul from which he began harassing Gondor (Arnor no longer being a problem) and preparing Mordor for the return of Sauron. He was never in a tomb, he never had anything personally to do with Dol Guldur or Mirkwood and he didn't die until Éowyn and Merry slew him in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields during the War of the Ring. How could he have a "Morgul Blade" if he was sealed away in tombs, not off ruling over Minas Morgul, the namesake of said blades?
10. Goblin Town - Professor Tolkien uses this segment to give a brief diversion about the technological advances of the Goblins, suggestive of his recurring theme of the dangers of progress for its own sake, especially in the areas of industry and weapons. For some reason the Goblin-Town of the film is a ramshackle cavern full of troglodytes; a disappointing case of point missed for the sake of spectacle in my opinion.
It's also worth mentioning that Bilbo was present with the Dwarves during their encounter with the Great Goblin and was only separated from them and met Gollum later during the escape.
11. Azog - as I mentioned above, by the time of The Hobbit Azog was dead; the rulership of the Orcs of the Mountains had passed to Bolg, his son. There's certainly no plot involving him hunting down Thorin or meetings on Weathertop or anything of the sort. Incidentally Bolg was quite heavily played up in the promotional material for the film and then failed to appear, which suggests to me that his role and Azog's were probably altered rather dramatically quite late in the day.
12. Thráin's Key - Gandalf was given the key and the map by Thráin, Thorin's father, in Dol Guldur while he was there seeking the identity of the tower's ruler. Thráin had been imprisoned there by Sauron who captured him to recover the last of the Seven Rings of the Dwarves. This eventually gave Gandalf the impetus he needed to get the Quest in motion; as the film mentions, it was important to prevent Smaug from being a weapon in Sauron's hands. The film never has Gandalf account for how he acquired the key, and so we are needlessly presented with Radagast investigating Dol Guldur when this could easily and more accurately have occurred through Gandalf.
13. The Necromancer - He was discovered to be Sauron by Gandalf some time before the events of The Hobbit. While Sauron operated under the guise of the "Necromancer of Dol Guldur" he was never perceived as someone who literally raised the dead (which is largely impossible according to the metaphysics of the story). Professor Tolkien rather chose the term for its more general connotations of an "evil sorcerer". In the film Saruman suggests that the Necromancer might be a merely "human" enemy. The term "human" is never used within the stories. The mortals are called Men and the immortals are Elves. Elves and Men (including Hobbits) could both be considered "human". The Necromancer is also accused of using "black magic" by Radagast and the White Council. "Magic" is essentially a meaningless term in Middle-earth; ignorant folk used it to describe those powers and arts employed by Elves, Wizards and the Enemy which were beyond their comprehension. It's certainly not a term members of the Wise would have used among themselves. A very minor point I know, but Galadriel makes an issue of it in the book so why can't I?
An Unexpected Journey two hours and forty-five minutes in.

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