Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bilbo and Thorin Fight Azog

The Movie: Most of the dwarves are hanging on for dear life. Gandalf is the only thing keeping Dori and Ori from falling to their deaths. Thorin, however, is able to find his footing. He stands up and, wielding Orcrist and his oaken shield, runs toward Azog.

"Sword, check. Hair flowing in the wind, check. Piece of wood, check. There's no way I can lose."

Their fight is unfortunately very short; Azog, mounted on his white warg, makes quick work of the Dwarven Prince. The dwarves look on in horror; Balin screams, and Dwalin almost falls in his hurried attempts to rescue Thorin. Only Bilbo is able to regain his footing. As Thorin lays defeated, about to be beheaded by one of Azog's minions, Bilbo draws his own sword, collects his courage, and charges. The hobbit knocks Azog's lieutenant to the ground, and after a short grapple, stabs the orc to death.

Azog's face.

Bilbo then stumbles to where Thorin's body lays, as the rest of the orc pack surrounds him. He swings his sword a few times, in a vain attempt to intimidate them. Azog gives the command to kill the hobbit, but the rest of the dwarves suddenly charge in before the orcs can attack. After a short fight, Azog personally directs his attention toward Bilbo. He is about to kill the hobbit when the moth returns to Gandalf.

The Book: There is no such scene.

What difference does it make? This changes the events of the book a great deal. This scene is not in the book, and adds a violent battle that somewhat changes the tone of the scene. At this point, Peter Jackson has taken a step beyond "adaptation" and is now using Tolkein's book as a springboard to tell his own story. Furthermore, it is not in Bilbo Baggins' nature to rush into a battle like this. He is represented as braver and more skilled with a sword than he should be, according to the source material.

My Opinion: I have to admit to some bias, here. I'm what many refer to as a Bilbo Baggins fanboy. Any change that gives him more screen time and makes him look better is a good change in my eyes. As long as they keep it in character, I'm going to like it. That said... I loved this change.

I understand that this is a controversial viewpoint to have. This whole scene smacked of "action movie," and "obvious videogame tie-in." I can understand rolling your eyes as a 60 pound hobbit tackles a full-grown orc (in heavy armor!) to the ground. I've heard a lot of griping about Bilbo's character arc being complete far too soon, that he's not supposed to be killing things until the spiders of Mirkwood. I'm not convinced. His character growth isn't completely finished, and I'm fine with Bilbo seeing battle at the end of the first movie, instead of halfway through the second. It gives a nice climax that, honestly, the movie needed; a truly faithful adaptation would have ended things on a boring, ho-hum note.

Look closely during this scene. Bilbo is fucking terrified. And, with one rather unfortunate exception (when Bilbo joins the dwarves in combat after defending Thorin), Bilbo is terrible with his sword. He's figured out which is the dangerous end, sure, but otherwise just sort of swings it around clumsily. He doesn't know what he's doing, and is clearly in over his head.

He's just lucky he doesn't drop the damn thing.

Those who look down on this scene because Peter Jackson has turned Bilbo Baggins into some kind of action hero have missed the point entirely. Bilbo is scared, unskilled, and completely out of his element. But he's the first to jump to Thorin's defense, even if it means facing half a dozen mounted orcs by himself. Bilbo Baggins has a lot of heart, and this scene displays it better than the book ever did.


  1. I was happy with this scene as it gave a final climax and kind of rounded out the Azog arc - though from the trailers it looks like he will be back. I wonder if they will replace the great orc's general with Azog at the final battle? It would be a bit of a deviation, but I can't see that it would make a whole heck of a lot of difference if they did.

    There is a funny, nit-pick moment at the end of the fight when the eagles pick up Thorin. His sword falls near his right hand and stays there, and yet when the eagle scoops him up from the left, semi-rolling him over towards the right, the sword is laying on top of him, on his left side. It just amuses me a bit, LOL!

    1. I know Bolg (the orc general, and Azog's son) is slated to appear in the next few movies... no idea what his role will be, though.

      My issue with Azog surviving is that he shouldn't have been alive in the first place - I understand that they wanted a villain for the first movie, but since he didn't die at the end of the movie, that means he'll be a villain for at least one more movie. Why not give the role to Bolg, or just focus on Smaug as the primary antagonist? Azog should already be dead; every second they dedicate to him is a further deviation from the novel... and by the time Bolg and Smaug and Thranduil and the spiders are on screen, he becomes increasingly less necessary (and thus, increasingly more out of place)

  2. A big part of The Hobbit is the escalating heroics required of Bilbo as the party progresses. He tries to steal from the trolls, he has to fight the spiders single-handedly, he had to enter the dwarf tunnels alone. This throw-away action sequence rather short circuits that growth. It doesn't make Bilbo better, it makes Bilbo not Bilbo.

    1. That's a bit harsh, don't you think? Just a few chapters later, Bilbo will be proving his bravery with a sword by saving the dwarves' lives... Except by Spiders, instead of Orcs. Is it really making him "not Bilbo" to move it up a little bit, so that it fits the climax of the first movie?

    2. This scene works well for the pacing and drama of the film, and it sets up a crowd pleasing interaction between Thorin and Bilbo, even if that later bit is pretty cheesy. But it sure makes Bilbo seem different to me. In fact, it's what led me to your blog, wondering about that difference, as I watch the blu-ray before seeing Smaug in the theater.

      It just feels out of character for Bilbo to exhibit this much bravery, at least this early. (It's been forever since I read The Hobbit, though I did read it at least three or four times as a kid.) Bilbo fights the spiders later, yes. But isn't his sword like a special weapon, just against them? That is, without Sting, wouldn't he not really stand a chance against the spiders? So he's actually lucky that he stands a chance against them, and is able to fight them off. Right? Contrast that to this fight against Azog. Bilbo musters up courage and rushes in, against impossible odds, and much more fearsome enemies. I mean, Azog is an intelligent foe with an army behind him, not stupid (if super deadly) insects. Seems like it would take a lot more heroics, actually, to charge at Azog than it would to fight off the spiders.

      Or do I have my facts wrong?

      Cool blog, btw! I look forward to checking it out later after Smaug is on disc.

    3. Nah, there's nothing special with Sting. In the book, the sword is visible while Bilbo has the ring on, but that's the only thing special about it in that scene. Bilbo's fight with the spiders is all about his new-found bravery, and displaying some skill that he never even knew he had. Just like the fight with Azog! I really think the two scenes are more similar than a lot of people give credit for.

  3. Modern cinematic conventions are repetitive, boring and dumb anyway. I'm tired of hollywood trying to manipulate my emotions with the same cheezy tricks they've been using in action movies since I can remember. It just makes me think that Peter Jackson must be a really boring person. He's definitely a hack and hasn't had an original idea since Meet The Feebles. I don't think he cultivates cinematic climaxes very intelligently and I generally feel like anybody who gets a climactic feeling from trite, corny, high-school-heroism scenes like this one isn't exactly what I would call a thinking person's cinema buff. I hope Peter Jackson is just underestimating his audience and pandering to the market because with scenes like this one he almost makes Michael Bay look emotionally sophisticated. But hey, it takes all sorts, and that's just my two cents.

    If you can deal with watching a teenage boy's idea of exciting cinema and I can't, then maybe I'm missing out on something. I don't see it that way, but I am open to that idea that maybe I just don't get it. But then factor in the scene in the second film where Thorin rides what looks like some kind of metal body board on a stream of molten metal without getting burnt and PJ instantly loses any story telling credibility. Some things are just too stupid to look at no matter which way you slice them. Watching that particular scene was like watching someone play the most ill conceived videogame level of all time.

    Personally I don't think that any of these changes have done any favours to the story or to Bilbo, but ultimately that argument is for Tolkien and Tolkien alone to settle. I'm more concerned with how much money people are giving Peter Jackson just for making bad films based on other people's ideas.

    So for the benefit of your own brain cells I must plead with everyone; please READ The Hobbit, and watch the ORIGINAL King Kong and if you MUST watch a movie by Peter Jackson then there's always Braindead or Meet The Feebles. Sure, those movies are incredibly bad taste, but at least they're original ideas. Which is more than I can say for most of Hollywood's offerings in the last decade or so.

    Now... what to do with my time, do I watch the new Gatsby movie or the old version with Robert Redford as Gatsby... or do I just read the original fucking source material and cut out the middle man? Geez, tough call. I haven't seen the new one but I'm excited by the idea that it has JayZ on the soundtrack. I bet that will set the tone really well.