First and foremost, it showed how much the relationship between Bilbo and Thorin has changed, much for the better, if not tried by the end. There is a faith there. A subtle dependence on each other for hope and expectation. Bilbo wants Thorin to have his home back, and Bilbo again and again gives Thorin the chance to keep believing that they will succeed. In this way, they are holding on for dear life. What is life, if there is not hope? That is what I love most about the movie, this relationship.
To put it concisely, this story was about having a fighting chance for what you believe in, hope for. Discovering how far you're willing to go--how hard you can hold on. Bilbo and Thorin and the dwarves, we know what the cost is for them.
But I appreciate that the writers have brought in the hopes of the people of Esgaroth more personally--I feel it more acutely, I feel, than I did in the book.
We get to know Bard and his family enough that I care about them, wish them better than the hardship they have, along with their fellow men. And of course, that is contrasted well by The Master and his sniveling aide. Their very existence makes me think of a nasty snotty rag filled with sick. These people, the people of Esgaroth, need hope. And the coming of Thorin and his warriors bring them that. Yet Bard knows the cost may be their undoing. He is the unclaimed champion of the people, a true leader--but like many before him, few listen to him.
In the story hope within reach is symbolized physically, and dually by getting to the Doors of Durin in time and opened, and the regaining, most importantly, of the Arkenstone--but in striving for that, the dwarves and Bilbo truly waken The Dragon. And what I liked most about this portion of the story was that not only was it a physical threat with a presence that shadowed over everything--it was incredibly psychological like a relentless nightmare. Vain, mental, and almost seductive in his magnificence and smartly woven words, dripping like patronizing venom. Smaug is a true impersonation of the classic serpent--and I will never forget his golden magnificence.
Smaug was everything we could have hoped for. And what escalates the story is that Thorin almost sacrifices Bilbo to finally get back what he wants most--it has become an obsession. Everything is turning to madness, leaving us knowing that something truly devastating this way comes.
Until the next part (where I continue to spill my guts)...