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Jan 052013

The Hobbit Review Part Two ~ The Stone-giants

In Part Two of the Mordor Review of The Hobbit: AUJ, we will begin our look at of the Dark Creatures in the film and our review will be going into Spoiler Territory… so if you have not seen the film yet… beware!

In Part One of the Mordor’s Review of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” I discussed the over all look and pacing of the film, focusing on the story line which I believe deserves high marks! I touched on many of the areas that critics and reviewers have mentioned and hopefully addressed most of them. In Part Two of this review we are turning our lens on the Dark Creatures of The Hobbit, so for those who’ve not seen the film… there will be spoilers!

Lets begin with  a discussion of the stone-giants. Spoiler Alert!

Please go HERE to our Hobbit Review Page for all seven parts of the Mordor review!

The scene on the cliffs of the Misty Mountains with the Stone-giants is a prime example of how Peter Jackson can take just a few vague lines of text from Tolkien and turn them into a massive action sequence.

He did this to great effect severl times over during the course of the Lord of the Rings Films and he has done so again in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I’m quite sure he will surprise us again with even more wildly entertaining action sequences over the course of the next two films! You need only look at the Stairs of Durin and the Bridge of Khazad-dûm scenes from The Fellowship of the Ring, to see a great example of how Peter Jackson can make a thrilling action sequence from just a few words of text!

Anyone that has read The Hobbit knows how small a moment the Stone-giants play in the book. For me this illustrates how wrong the critics have been in saying the book is being stretched too thin in order to make three films. This line of criticism makes no sense to me. In my opinion this comes from reviewers, who don’t really understand Tolkien or how masterfully Peter Jackson has adapted his words to the big screen. I think when all three films have been presented and watched, this idea that Peter Jackson is having to stretch the material to make three films will evaporate into thin air. The films will stand on their own merits.

The Stone-giants

In The Hobbit book, the Stone-giants get nothing more than one or two vague mentions in the chapter in the Misty Mountains, “Over and Under Hill”

“When he [Bilbo] peeped out in the lightening flashes,  he saw that across the valley the Stone-giants were out, and were hurling rocks at one another for a game, and catching them, and tossing them down into the darkness where they smashed among the trees far below, or were splintered into little bits, with a bang.”, “They could hear the giants guffawing and shouting all over the mountainsides.”

Peter Jackson takes this opportunity to turn these few lines written by Tolkien into a thrilling scene in the film.

The CGI (Computer Graphic Imagery) used to create  the giants works perfectly. The folks at fxguide interviewed the Animation Team at Weta and here is what they said…

Stone doesn’t normally bend yet alone fight, but with some magic of their own, the animation team at Weta Digital infused life where there was none, expression when the giants had no faces and action while still looking like the sides of rock mountains. “You can’t have any deformations of any kind,” notes David Clayton.

“They had to be rigid structures when they collide. We we could have them clash and break apart and send out showers of rock, that would help sell scale too because you would see these rocks exploding out falling with gravity quite slowly in the scene and you’d be much more aware of the scale of the creature.”

Weta relied on proprietary rigid-body sim software and a cracking tool for shots of boulders breaking and the Stone-giants clashing. The stormy sequence also relied on rain and fog simulations and dramatic lightning developed using a tool called Tesla that controlled bolts and allowed them to hit with dramatic shapes and detail.

The origins of the Stone-giants in Tolkien’s world are subtly explained… at least it seemed so to me.

The giants really do look like huge rock giants made from the very rock of mountains. Peter Jackson has the giants rise up off the sides of the rock cliffs, which leads us to believe that in the day, these behemoths simply blend into the side of the mountains, prehaps sleeping until another stormy night awakens them. Then they rise up and hurl rocks at one another as the rain, lighting and thunder beat down upon them. In the book very little is said beyond the immediate description of their actions and I always wondered where the giants lived and what they did during the day… this vision of the giants created by Peter Jackson suggests they are simply a part of the mountain that awakens during violent storms. All this is made evident without a word of exposition. Well done!

The Stone-giants are impossibly huge and look very realistic as they toss, roll and tumble down the mountainside. The company of Dwarves hang on for dear life as they struggle to stay alive in the maelstrom of rocks.

The look and attitude of the giants is spot on and it works as a perfect incentive for the company of Bilbo and the Dwarves to take cover from the wrath of the storm and the violence of the giants. The rain and lighting creates a dramatic back drop to an important plot point in the movie. Bilbo makes himself  even more of burden to his companions as he slips on the wet moving cliff and nearly falls to his death, only to be saved by Thorin at great risk to himself! Thorin berates him and says that he should never have come on this journey. I believe, saying out loud what he has thought all along. Now that Gandalf is no longer present, he feels free to tell the Hobbit what he thinks. You can see that Bilbo is hurt, but that ultimately he agrees with Thorin… he has no business on this adventure… he is a Baggins of Bag End and he’s ready to go home! Though this plot point never occurs in the book, I think it help create more dramatic tension in the build up to Bilbo becoming in effect the leader of the group… which takes place in Mirkwood in the book.

The Company survives the encounter with the Stone-giants… just barely and finds what they believe is a safe haven in a small cave along the path. This of course is the beginning of the next great action sequence in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Once inside the cave… which of course is the Front Porch to Goblin Town… Bilbo is told by Thorin,  that he should never have come on this journey. Bilbo makes up his mind then and there, to leave the company and return to Rivendell. When the rest are asleep, he packs his bags and prepares to leave… he has a touching moment with Bofur. However, they are interrupted by the sound of grinding rocks, that open up and swallow the entire company into a long shoot that ends in the heart of Goblin Town!

Part Three of the Mordor review of the Hobbit covers the Goblin Town action sequence.

Please go HERE to our Hobbit Review Page for all seven parts of the Mordor review!

 January 5, 2013  Posted by at 1:19 pm

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