Greatest Movie Series
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The Lord of the Rings Films



The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Lord of the Rings Films
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) | The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) | The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

The Lord of the Rings Films - Part 4

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
d. Peter Jackson, 166 minutes

Film Plot Summary

The film opened with an introduction to the main protagonist - Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) - a short-statured, pointy-eared, furry-footed Hobbit (aka Halfling) from the Shire, a member of an ancient mortal race. Aging Bilbo Baggins was in the midst of chronicling his adventures "what really happened" (for his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood)) many years earlier in "a land far away to the East."

In his writings, seen in an extended flashback (the film itself), Bilbo told about the prosperous small town of Dale. It was near the stronghold of Dwarf Lord Thror (Jeffrey Thomas), King Under the Mountain, where he had built a fortress city named Erebor. The divine-right ruler Thror was "the mightiest of the Dwarf Lords" - with a son named Thrain and a grandson named Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). The massive wealth of Thror's kingdom was due to "precious gems" (gold) mined from the earth. In the heart of the mountain, the Dwarves had discovered the famous jewel known as the Arkenstone ("The King's Jewel"). All paid homage to King Thror, including the Elven King Thranduil (Lee Pace).

However, the "years of peace and plenty were not to last" - a roaring firedrake dragon (winged, razor-toothed, and fire-breathing with meat-hook claws) from the North of Middle Earth, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch), coveted the gold "with a dark and fierce desire." The monstrous greedy creature attacked the town of Dale, invaded Erebor and drove the Dwarves out. During the disastrous fiery assault, Thorin Oakenshield saw Elvin King Thranduil of the Woodland Realm and his Wood-Elves on a nearby hillside, watching, but not risking his kin to help defend the Dwarves. As a result, Thorin developed an everlasting hatred of Elves ("he never forgave and he never forgot"). The "once mighty" Dwarves of Erebor, robbed of their homeland, were forced to wander the wilderness. Eventually, they settled for a new "life of peace and plenty" in the Blue Mountains.

Bilbo then described how fate had involved him in the story, but he was briefly interrupted - he was in the midst of a celebration of his 111th ("eleventy-first") birthday at a party in his Hobbit hole. In another flashback to 60 years earlier (when he was 50 years old), Bilbo remembered how he was visited by Wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and then by an unexpected assemblage of 13 boisterous Dwarves (Dwalin, Balin, Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Dori, Nori, Ori, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, and their leader Thorin Oakenshield) who completely pillaged his pantry of food and drink.

They were on a determined, adventurous quest to reclaim their Dwarvish homeland and the gold treasure stolen many years earlier from the kingdom of Erebor by the "terrible" dragon Smaug. They were to set off to the east, to the "single, solitary peak" of Lonely Mountain, to enter the locked Erebor fortress and end "the reign of the beast." The mission would require stealth and courage, and Bilbo would be contracted to serve as their undetectable "burglar." Gandalf mentioned that he had a map that indicated a secret door set into the side of the mountain, and he had the door's key. Gandalf promised Bilbo: "And if you do (come back), you will not be the same." As a result of his journey, Bilbo would reclaim his brave 'Tookish' heritage.

Before leaving, Thorin and the group sang a version of the Dwarven Song:

"Far over the misty mountains cold, To dungeons deep and caverns old, We must away, 'ere break of day, To find our long-forgotten gold...The pines were roaring on the height, The winds were moaning in the night, The fire was red, it flaming spread, The trees like torches blazed with light."

After the group of 13 and wizard Gandalf departed on ponyback from his hobbit hole, Bilbo reluctantly signed the contract and joined them (although most of the dwarves had wagered that he wouldn't). During the first night at camp, they heard the screechings of fearsome "throat-cutters" known as Orcs. From a nearby vantage point, hunter Orcs spotted the "Dwarf-scum" and their camp, and reported back to their leader.

[Note: In a flashback sequence, it was shown that young Dwarf warrior prince Thorin had a special hatred for Orcs, led by Chieftain Azog the Defiler (Manu Bennett). The Orcs had a fierce desire to break the line of Durin. When Thorin tried to reclaim the ancient Dwarf kingdom of Moria, the Orc army had gotten there first. In the Battle of Azanulbizar, Azog beheaded Thorin's grandfather King Thror. When his shield broke, Thorin grabbed a massive oak branch and used it as a defensive shield and bludgeon - hence his name Oakenshield. In defensive revenge, Thorin cut off Azog's left arm. The forces were rallied and the Orcs were driven back and decisively defeated, but only a few Dwarves had survived the slaughter.]

During their journey, Gandalf explained that there were four other wizards in his Middle-Earth order besides himself: (1) Saruman the White, (2 and 3) two Blue wizards, and (4) Radagast, the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) from the vast forest lands of Greenwood to the east, who preferred solitude and the company of animals.

[An aside showed Radagast as a friend of the birds, a communicator with animals, and an expert in medicines and herbs. He suspected the beginnings of "witchcraft" ("a dark and powerful magic") - the defilement and poisoning of the flora and fauna of the Greenwood Forest by a strange force or presence. He was able to restore a deceased hedgehog named Sebastian to life, as giant spiders swarmed over his woodland house of Rhosgobel. According to his bird friends, the "foul creatures" had come from the old abandoned fortress of Dol Guldur. He made his way to the fortress aboard a sled pulled by rabbits.]

As the group continued on their way, they realized that some of their ponies were missing. They came upon three large Mountain Trolls (with brownish skin) around a campfire (Tom, Bert, and William) who had carried off four of their animals for a meal. Single-handedly, Bilbo attempted to steal a curved blade from one of the Trolls to cut the pony's ropes, but he was caught by the hungry beasts. He was defended by the sword and spear-wielding Dwarves, and was able to save the ponies, but he was snatched. The Trolls threatened to pull off his arms and legs if the others didn't disarm. The surrendering Dwarves were captured: half were tied up on the ground in sacks, and the other half were placed on a rotating spit above a fire. Knowing that the Trolls would turn to stone if dawn came, Bilbo cleverly stalled the Trolls from cannibalizing them by claiming he had a secret recipe for cooking dwarf, but then stated that they were all infected with parasites ("He's got worms in his tubes; in fact, they all have"). To save them all, Gandalf declared: "The dawn will take you all." He broke a shielding rock with his staff, and when the trolls were exposed to sunlight, they turned to petrified stone.

In the trolls' nearby stench-filled cave, they found a hoard of treasure, including gold and stolen legendary sword blades forged in the Elven kingdom of Gondolin in the First Age. Thorin and Gandalf each claimed an Elf-wrought blade, respectively:

  • Thorin - a single-edged weapon (with a curved pommel), Orcrist (translated as "the Goblin Cleaver")
  • Gandalf - a two-handed weapon, Glamdring (translated as "Foe-Hammer")

Along side the two blades was a third short sword known as Sting, given by Gandalf to Bilbo. The blades glowed blue when Orcs or Goblins were closeby. Gandalf explained: "True courage is about knowing not when to take a life but when to spare one."

Outside the cave, they were confronted by wizard Radagast, who reported: "Something's terribly wrong." The Greenwood forest was "sick" with a "darkness." Nothing was growing anymore, the air was foul, and giant spiders were present, coming from the fortress at Dol Guldur - a huge, decaying castle set on a hill. When Radagast investigated, he sensed a "dark power" within - "the shadow of an ancient horror, one that can summon the spirits of the dead." From out of the darkness, he briefly glimpsed the Necromancer before fleeing.

The next danger the group encountered was attacking Warg scouts (gigantic blood-thirsty wolves), followed by Orcs riding on Wargs that were hunting for the Dwarf-scum. Radagast drew off and distracted the assailants with his fast rabbit-drawn sled so that they could escape. Although they eventually were surrounded, Gandalf safely led the group down into an underground stone corridor - a Hidden Pass. Above them, they heard Elven riders slaying and defeating the Orcs, who had failed to kill Thorin.

[Afterwards, the outnumbered Orcs, led by doomed Yazneg, reported their losses (due to an unexpected Elven ambush) back to Azog at Amon Sul, who was alive and wearing a prosthetic on his left arm. Azog bristled with anger and killed the brutish commander. He issued a bounty order for Thorin: "I want the head of the Dwarf King."]

The group of dwarves and Gandalf arrived at Rivendell (aka the Valley of Imladris, or The Last Homely House East of the Sea), a lush and prominent Elven outpost in Middle Earth. Elrond (Hugo Weaving), the mighty Lord of Rivendell, arrived - after returning from hunting the pack of Orcs. He met with the group to answer questions that needed answers. He interpreted the map of Erebor, disclosing "hidden text" in the moonlight.

Stand by the gray stone when the thrush knocks, and the setting sun with the last light of Durin's Day will shine upon the keyhole.

The writing revealed that there was a secret door in the mountainside - visible only on Durin's Day (the start of the Dwarves' new year). The last light of the Sun as night fell would reveal the secret door into the Lonely Mountain. To speak with Gandalf about the Dwarfs' mission, Lord Elrond assembled his White Council, composed of:

  • himself
  • Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), an Elf and the co-ruler of Lothlórien with her husband, Lord Celeborn
  • Saruman the White (Christopher Lee)

The Council spoke about Gandalf's league with the Dwarves, and his concern about the dragon Smaug. They argued that peace had reigned for 400 years, and that the Dark Lord Sauron had been decisively defeated. Gandalf reasoned that the land wasn't really at peace - there were Mountain Trolls, Orcs and more: "There is something at work beyond the evil of Smaug. Something far more powerful." He described the dark presence reported by Radagast: "A sickness lies over the Greenwood," and then expressed the suspicions of the people: "They speak of a Necromancer living in Dol Guldur. A sorcerer who can summon the dead." Saruman was skeptical of mushroom-consuming Radagast's reports, stating that the Necromancer was not a true threat. He might only be a conjurer dabbling in black magic: "That's absurd. No such power exists in this world."

To prove his point, Gandalf revealed his "relic of Mordor" - a Morgul dagger-blade that had come from an unopened, impenetrable tomb (the location of Witchking Angmar's grave) within the High Fells of Rhudaur. To counter him, Saruman listed the paltry evidence presented by Gandalf:

  • the existence of a threatening Orc pack
  • the discovery of the dagger from a "bygone age" - a riddle?
  • a human sorcerer known as The Necromancer residing in the ruined fortress

Although the Council did not condone the Dwarf quest, Gandalf had already dispatched them (and Bilbo) to the Misty Mountains. Galadriel was concerned: "I fear this quest has set in motion forces we do not yet understand." Gandalf disagreed with Saruman's assessment that only great power could hold evil in check. He stated: "It is the small things, everday deeds of ordinary folk, that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love." Galadriel assured Gandalf of her support and help, if needed.

The group, led by Thorin, navigated a steep mountain path, where they were caught in the middle of a dangerous "thunder-battle" during a thunderstorm between three Stone Giants. The animated stone-hewn creatures hurled monstrous boulders at each other, and rained rock debris down upon them. Bilbo, who almost lost his life and was increasingly fearful of the journey, was thought of disparagingly by a disappointed Thorin, who thought the Hobbit wasn't up to the quest: "He's been lost ever since he left home. He should never have come. He has no place amongst us." They were forced to seek cover and refuge in a deserted cave, not knowing that the pale white Azog atop a white Warg and the Orcs were following their trail on the mountain pass. During the night's first watch, Bilbo told Bofur, one of the dwarfs, that he was about to return to Rivendell. Their conversation was overheard by Thorin, confirming his doubts and suspicions about the Hobbit.

As Bilbo was about to leave, his Sting sword blade glowed blue - indicating the presence of Goblins. The group fell through the cave's floor into deep passageways, where they were quickly besieged by growling Goblins. The captured group (all except Bilbo who had snuck away) was taken by armed guards to the underground Goblin Town, to meet with the fat and bloated Great Goblin chieftain (CGI, voice of Barry Humphries). The Goblin leader was seated on a flat stone, with a large staff decorated with an animal skull and shrunken heads. He sent word to Azog that he had captured the prized Thorin.

Meanwhile, Bilbo and a Goblin guard fell down a cavern and were both stunned. Awakening first, Bilbo noticed a small creature named Gollum (voice of Andy Serkis) dragging the Goblin away to feast upon him in his lair. Gollum accidentally dropped a mysterious gold ring while struggling with and killing the Goblin, which Bilbo quickly pocketed. During a back-and-forth riddle game (of tricky questions) with Gollum, a wager was made:

  • if Bilbo won, he would be shown a safe path out of the caves
  • if Bilbo lost, Gollum would eat him ("Well, if it loses, precious, then we eats it!")

The Riddles:
- "Thirty white horses on a red hill. First they champ, then they stamp, then they stand still." (Teeth)
- "Voiceless, it cries. Wingless flutters, toothless bites, mouthless mutters." (Wind)
- "A box without hinges, key or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid." (Egg)
- "All things it devours, birds, beasts, trees, flowers, gnaws iron, bites steel, grinds hard stones to meal." (Time)
- "What have I got in my pocket?" (the Ring) (Gollum made four guesses: Hand, Knife, String, Nothing)

Gollum became frantic and furious when he realized Bilbo had his ring in his pocket ("My precious is lost!") - and had stolen it. He attacked, although Bilbo, who had inadvertently realized the ring's power of invisibility when it fell onto his finger, was able to trick Gollum and chase him to the cave's back exit. Meanwhile, back at Goblin Town, with the aid of Gandalf (who killed the Great Goblin), the Dwarves valiantly fought off hundreds of goblins as they escaped - coincidentally leaving from the same cave exit used by Bilbo. He had an opportunity to slice off Gollum's head as he left, but hesitated - out of pity. Bilbo jumped over Gollum, as the creature screamed out after him: "Baggins! Thief! Curse it and crush it! We hates it forever!"

Bilbo followed the group, still invisible, and overheard Thorin denouncing his cowardice, but then decided to reappear. (Gandalf was the only one who noticed Bilbo secretly slip the ring into his pocket.) Biblo admitted he missed his home, garden, armchair, and books, but was there to help the dwarves restore their home ("I will help you take it back if I can").

Suddenly, the group was ambushed by a band of Warg riders from Azog's hunting party of Orcs. Thorin and the rest of the group retreated up cliffside trees to escape, although the Wargs uprooted them and the trees began to collapse and topple over. Gandalf and the others threw burning pine cones to repel the snarling Wargs. The Dwarves were all stranded on one final tree trunk that was suspended over the cliff. To save the others, Thorin jumped down and charged at Azog, but was felled to the ground and badly wounded with Azog's mace. When one of the Orcs was ordered to behead Thorin, Bilbo bravely defended him with his Sting sword. As the others joined in and fought off the Orcs, the group was rescued by swooping Great Eagles (alerted and called upon by Gandalf), who killed most of the Orcs and Wargs (Azog and his white Warg remained alive), and scooped up Thorin. The entire group was flown to safety (mostly on the back of the eagles) on the Carrock, a high stone rock.

Awaking from unconsciousness, Thorin sincerely apologized to Halfling Bilbo and praised him for his courage and bravery in saving his life. As the film ended, the group saw their destination in the far distance, Erebor and the Lonely Mountain ("the last of the great Dwarf kingdoms of Middle Earth"). Biblo voiced their belief in good omens: "I do believe the worst is behind us," as they watched a thrush fly to the mountainside. Inside the fortress kingdom where gold was amassed in great piles, Smaug was awakened under the treasure - and opened one massive eye. It was stirred from its slumber by the thrush opening a nut on a rock.

Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)

An epic fantasy film - the first part of a three part trilogy of epic Hobbit films, adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved 1937 fantasy novel about Middle Earth, first published 75 years ago. It has inspired many other fantasy tales, including the author's own The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Guillermo del Toro was originally hired to direct, but dropped out, so Peter Jackson (producer and co-writer) took the job. Several of the characters who had acted in the original trilogy returned.

The film's plot was a prequel - set decades before the events of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a set of 13 dwarfs (led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage)) recruited the reluctant hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) to take a dangerous quest to reclaim their homeland at the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch).

The film received three Academy Award nominations for Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling, with no wins.

It was filmed with new technology that used 48 images (or frames) for every second of footage rather than the traditional 24 frames per second rate, thereby enhancing clarity and smoothness for 3-D viewing (reducing eye strain). It was the first major theatrical movie that was not 24 fps, to produce a more immersive and vivid cinematic world (without strobing, motion blur, or flicker). Warner Bros. became the first studio to release a major Hollywood movie in 48 frames a second.

The next film would be The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013). Both films were made back-to-back in New Zealand.

With a production budget of $? million, and box-office gross receipts of $303+ million (domestic) and $1,017+ million (worldwide).

Set-pieces:The dragon Smaug's opening assault on Erebor, the flashback sequence of the battle of Orcs (and Azog) vs. Dwarves, the Dwarves' attack on Three Mountain Trolls, the Orc-Warg pursuit of Radagast while the Dwarves fled to an underground passageway, the thunder-battle of three Stone Giants, the riddle game between Gollum and Bilbo, the Dwarves' escape from the Great Goblin and Goblin-Town, and the final cliffside attack of Orcs and Wargs.


Hobbit Bilbo Baggins
(Martin Freeman)

Frodo Baggins
(Elijah Wood)

Dwarf Lord Thror
(Jeffrey Thomas)

Elven King Thranduil
(Lee Pace)

Thorin Oakenshield
(Richard Armitage)

Wizard Gandalf the Grey
(Ian McKellen)

Orc Chieftain Azog, the Defiler
(Manu Bennett)

Wizard Radagast, the Brown
(Sylvester McCoy)

Mountain Trolls
(Tom, Bert, and William)

Elven Lord Elrond
(Hugo Weaving)

Lady Galadriel
(Cate Blanchett)

Saruman the White
(Christopher Lee)

Great Goblin Chieftain
(voice of Barry Humphries)

Gollum
(voice of Andy Serkis)

The Eye of Smaug
(Benedict Cumberbatch)

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