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Ringer Reviews - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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A Peace & Peril Framing Score

Date Posted: 2013-01-01
Tolkien Fan Level: 9
Film Format Seen? Imax 3D 48 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes

Howard Shore's masterful weaving of familiar musical themes with wholly new ones — an ingenious harmonizing of signature melodies with fresh motifs — is something that no one but Shore, under Jackson's guiding direction, could have done, and succeeded at so brilliantly. Peter and Howard's own journey together will one day exist as one great musical saga, and in the main its various 'chapters' must feel 'of a piece': finely honed components of a richly woven tapestry of unified imagery and sound.

Shore's gorgeous, emotion-inducing score was artfully (not haphazardly or reduntantly) done, and it's to be enthusiastically applauded — including the 'Revelation' theme for certain undead Monsters with 'renewed life' debt-ties to Mordor (used also when Sauron, the quintessential EVIL THREAT fated to become the Necromancer himself, sallies forth from Mordor's depths in the Battle of the Last Alliance): May all the worryings cease! — there are musical reasons (very good ones, we're assured) of why that particular theme seems oddly 'reincarnated' in the Azog-Thorin confrontation. After the trilogy's final installment they'll all be understood — so Doug Adams reassures us (in his blog entry of 12/16/2012). Who knows? Perhaps its rationale is one that will wholly surprise us (in a good way) — not be reduced to unconvincing propositions, such that certain characters in the saga become other characters' 'own worst nightmares' (BTW, I absolutely LOVED the look of the pale Great Orc, Azog the Defiler — especially the brutal apathetic gaze of his eyes: my focus was on the actor underlying the digital wizardry — Manu Bennett — NOT his unfairly maligned CGI work, because for me this first chapter's villain, in both terrorizing look and intimidating presence, works very well).

Having again in PJ's new film heard Shore's Middle-earth music, which melodically frames eras of both peace and peril within Tolkien's realm of Arda, I'd like to address Elrond's 'for more than 400 years' comment to Mithrandir at Imladris. For in the use of that four-century time reference to the 'Watchful Peace' among members of the White Council, I believe the filmmakers here mean simply to transpose Third Age dates, pushing them forward due to the compressed nature of their retelling — that is, moving up the period of T.A. 2002-2460 ('more than 400 years') to end finally in 2941 (the year of Thorin & Company's Erebor-quest: 25 April 2941 - June 2942).

In Tolkien's writings, the 'Watchful Peace' begins in 2002 (when the Witch-king and the Nazgûl overtake Minas Ithil, which thereafter is called Minas Morgul) and ends in 2460 (when the Necromancer — the Dark Lord Sauron — 'returns with increased strength to Dol Guldur'). Just three years later, in 2463, the White Council is formed, per the LOTR Appendices. In Jackson's adaptation, this intervening period of vigilant peace apparently begins sometime after the year 2500 and subsumes the White Council's formation. The filmmakers, I believe, in their own (compressed) retelling of the story, simply wanted to maintain the integrity of the DURATION of the 400-year Watchful Peace that lies between these highly significant events in Middle-earth history.

The 'counting of years' becomes very interesting indeed when speaking of Lord Elrond's identification of those famous ancient swords, Orcrist 'the Goblin-cleaver' (or 'Goblin-slasher'), and its mate, Glamdring 'the Foe-hammer' (or 'Hate-striker') — his great-grandfather King Turgon's Noldorin elf-blades that, like Bilbo's 'Sting', were fashioned in Gondolin for the Wars of Beleriand and which shone with a blue light in the presence of orcs and goblins (who, in their Orkish tongue, called them 'Biter' and 'Beater', respectively).

It's interesting, because Gondolin's destruction by dragons and goblins 'many ages ago' had, in fact, taken place 6,472 years before Elrond's Rivendell reading of the blade-runes to the very day! According to the '(Later) Annals of Beleriand', Gondolin was destroyed 90 years before the end of the First Age ('The History of Middle-earth V: The Lost Road', pp. 142, 144): Thus, 90 + the 3,441 years of the Second Age + the 2,941 years of the Third Age that had passed before Bilbo reached Rivendell = 6,472 years ('The Lord of the Rings', Appendix B).

Tolkien's 1930 'Quenta Silmarillion' states that the Gondolin attack came before dawn as the people were preparing to celebrate a festival known as 'the Gates of Summer', which meant 'greeting the dawn on midsummer's day' ('The History of Middle-earth IV: The Shaping of Middle-earth', p. 144). Appendix D of 'The Lord of the Rings' states that the elvish festival day started at sunset ... Therefore, the midsummer's eve (1 Lithe, the day after 30 June) on which Elrond reads the Gondolin runes is the anniversary of the destruction of that great ancient city where dwelt both his father Eärendil and grandfather Tuor ('The History of The Hobbit', pp. 836-38).

The Ratings
The Other Ratings
Martin Freeman 's performance as Bilbo Baggins?
Richard Armitage 's performance as Thorin?
The Overall representation of The Dwarves ?
Andy Serkis' performance as Gollum?
Ian McKellen's performance as Gandalf?
Bilbo's retelling of the history of Erebor and of Thror/Thrain/Thorin
The Eagles rescue sequence?
The Goblin King ?
Initial impression of Thranduil?
Hugo Weaving's performance as Elrond?
Radagast's portrayal in the movie?
The representation of Goblintown?
Cate Blanchett's performance as Galadriel?
The Bag End Supper scene?
The scene of the Trolls?
The representation of the Arkenstone?
The Stone Giants?
Escape from the Goblin cave?
Riddles in the Dark scene?
The return to Rivendell?
The attack on the party by the Wargs
The first glimpses of Smaug?
The ending of the movie; in regards to leading well into the next film, and serving as a good ending point.
The overall pace of the film
Peter Jackson's vision in bringing the Hobbit to the big screen.

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