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It was, of course, pretty cool to watch. But was it just for showing off graphics prowess, or did it actually do something to affect the story? I later guessed that the incident prompted them to take up refuge in an ill-researched cave... am I right?

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I later guessed that the incident prompted them to take up refuge in an ill-researched cave... am I right?

Correct. It's clearer in the book, where the company is sheltering under a rocky overhang and is not immediately threatened by the giants (they just see them from afar). Together with the rain and the lightning, this prompts Gandalf to declare their current location too risky and send some of the dwarves out to find a better shelter.

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