Armitage cantans; or, Servetus laetatur [Second year, second candle]

Last year’s post, when I was concerned about the problem of having enough time and energy to do everything necessary, and gave Richard Armitage the notional gift of the feeling that he will have enough time to do everything he wants to do. New reflections follow. It’s a bit wild that a year ago tonight by the Jewish calendar I was writing that his work sets us on fire. That certainly happened last night! I have Chanukkah gifts for Armitage and more “Armitage menorah” photos, but this post was long enough. Why is there always so much to write about?

Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) and Tin Tin (Jamie Bell) in Tin Tin. Now I see what CC meant when she said that Richard Armitage’s beard makes him look like Captain Haddock. Is that a bad thing?

Like a lemming, I shelled out $30 (matinée tickets plus 3-D glasses) and betook us all to see Tin Tin this afternoon at the closest local showing. Well, I took them to see Tin Tin and me to see the trailer for The Hobbit in full size. I was driven by my ecstasy last night, and though the film was not that great (I agree completely with the reviewer here, and would add that there are practically no female characters, either), it was completely worth it to see the trailer on the big screen. I would certainly do it again.

Richard Armitage with Natalie Portman in The Phantom Menace? Your guess is as good as mine. Source: Phylly’s Faves

Added surprise bonus: the trailer before the trailer for The Hobbit was for the upcoming 3-D version of The Phantom Menace. I looked hard for Richard Armitage but did not see him. Now that he’s famous, though, I’m sure that they will have digitally remastered the nose to make it pop out where he appears, so I’ll be sure to check that out when it appears in theatres as well.

A commanding Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) looks down from his horse in the December 14, 2011 trailer for The Hobbit. My cap. Love that the reviewers are describing Armitage as regal and steely. Which he absolutely is.

Anyway. I went to see the trailer for The Hobbit, and it’s just as convincing in full size, although its use of 3D was rather limited. Actually, I think that it was in 3D; I remember having my eyes adjust to see Bilbo running through the market — but maybe I was mistaken. I wear those 3D glasses on top of my regular spectacles and experience occasional difficulties. On the other hand, you could say that the drama of the trailer is convincing enough that you don’t find yourself looking for more 3D effects. (As Tin Tin demonstrated yet again, lots of 3D without any dramatic interest is a losing proposition. The problem with the film is not created by the effects, but by the script.)

We got great seats (not many people in the theatre) and so when Thorin looked down from astride his horse, he seemed to be looking straight at us. Oh, those eyes. And the chance to gaze at the flickering expressions on his face in his conversation with Gandalf in full size. This is just going to be much better than Captain America. And both the nieces “want to see that one!Hmmm. Maybe in a year.

The song. Link stolen from RAFrenzy.

But the best part, and something I hadn’t thought of at all in advance, was the singing. Don’t get me wrong; that was my favorite part last night, too, but last night I didn’t hear it in digital stereo space age whoopty doopty surround sound — just from the speaker on my MacBook Pro, with the incandescent lights from the living room playing over my shoulder.

Tonight, in contrast, I shivered to hear that song enfold itself around me in cool, near silent darkness.

The review for The Guardian completely missed the point when he called the singing “twee,” and I wonder if we had seen the same trailer. The atmosphere of sad mystery created here was something I was hardly expecting but was completely convinced by. Calexora said last night she felt like she was having a religious experience. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve had that feeling in the past, as after Armitage’s casting in the role, for example, but it was intense last night. As I was waiting for the trailer I was thinking that I needed to wait until I was sure everyone was sound asleep before I lit my menorah (my détente arrangement), which is actually very late, especially because the rule is that the light of the menorah may not be used for other purposes other than enjoyment of it, and because the candles may not be extinguished. We have to wait for them to burn out.

A pensive Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) concentrates as he sings “The Misty Mountains Cold” in the December 14, 2011 trailer for The Hobbit. My cap.

So I had the lighting on my mind, and on the first night we say three blessings: the blessing over the lights themselves, the blessing that commemorates the miracles performed for our ancestors, and then “shehecheyanu,” the blessing that thanks G-d for bringing us this far. All three of these start with the Hebrew word בָּרוּךְ, pronounced “baruch.” And the first word of that song is “far,” which has the same vowel and closing consonant as “baruch.” And then the scene takes place in a slightly darkened room with flickering candles. And Armitage as Thorin has this unbelievably concentrating, meditative look on his face. The dwarfs are smoking their pipes, which adds to the atmosphere. And the song begins so softly, and then you see it transferred from Thorin to Balin, just as the singing over the candles makes its way from person to person.

Balin (Ken Stott) rises as he listens to Thorin’s song in the December 14, 2011 trailer for The Hobbit. My cap.

And then the motion of the camera transmits this sharing of the melody over across the room, to Bofur (James Nesbitt) looking back at where Thorin is standing, as if they’re part of a shared pact that you see sealed in their eyes — an elusive melody that they all hear together.

Bofur (James Nesbitt) joins in the singing of the song in the December 14, 2011 trailer for The Hobbit. My cap.

So, although it sounds a little maudlin, watching this vid, I was granted a bit the feeling that I might have had, had I been able to open Chanukkah with other people and not by myself. It was silent, and gorgeous, and mysterious, and sad. And yet joyous at the same time, because it was such a momentous occasion.

A screenshot of Richard Armitage trending on Twitter last night — around 9:45 p.m. CST. Twitpic courtesy of @Julischka80.

I had wanted to say something about Shehecheyanu last night because people always write to say that they like to read about Judaism as it is actually practiced, and it’s a first night prayer. The English text of the prayer is typically translated “Blessed are you, our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who has given us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.” Shehecheyanu is said ritually on certain occasions — the first night of any holiday, for example — but also at novelty moments, at any occasion where something rare happens that brings joy, as when you eat a fruit that you have not eaten in a long time. Shehecheyanu is not to be said at painful times. It’s said enough about “trivial” things that some people find it kitschy, but it’s the prayer to say in joy and relief. I’ve mostly been saying it in relief the last year. Thank you, G-d, for keeping me alive this long and allowing me to reach the point where I’ve left that ordeal behind me.

Above is evidence of the evening’s big shehecheyanu moment for Richard Armitage, whether he realizes it or not. The trailer pushed him forward quite clearly as the new figure about which to be curious; the reviewers quite clearly responded to this with mentions of his royal gravitas. He even trended on twitter — independently of any organized effort by fans — for something like ten minutes — and no other actor in the film did, I believe. I didn’t see him trending but a number of fellow fans did and Julischka80 took the picture above. Though I have no idea where Armitage is, I wondered what he thought last night, what the cast and crew of the film were doing as these premieres were occurring, whether they were watching the publicity stats, or continuing their tasks, or having a party, or whether they’ve all broken for the holiday already and are off around the globe to see their families. In thinking about what this moment means, I’m reminded a bit of his remark that after being cast as Mr. Thornton, his reaction was shock, and then realization that he had a huge mountain to climb. I’m sure he’s in a similar situation now, climbing the mountain, and even literally, as they’re still filming, but the evidence from my blog hits last night shows (and again, Calexora had a similar experience) that curiosity has been raised and people want to know about him. So he’ll have another mountain to climb, soon, and that’s the sort of increased attention among people who’ve never heard of him before and are not Tolkien fans with opinions about who should or shouldn’t be cast in the upcoming film. (Side note: I was bemused by the number of commentators on the review in The Guardian who expressed negative reactions to Martin Freeman’s casting as Bilbo.)

A whole new group of people now want to know who the man is behind that low, steady voice, behind the granite eyes, behind the whispered insistence: “I cannot guarantee his safety. … Nor will I be responsible for his fate.” It seems like a prophetic statement in the largest sense. Words for me with which to begin the holiday — in more uncertainty than ever, if also in more hope than last year. Words for Richard Armitage, who doesn’t yet quite know what all this will mean for him, even as he works away and even as he trends on twitter. What happens next will emphatically not be safe. If much may be lost (privacy, anonymity, tolerance for shyness, the permission to make mistakes with relative impunity), much also may be gained. The caverns are cold, but the torches blaze. What exactly may be won remains to be seen, but the potential scope of it became much clearer last night to all of us, I think, who watched the trailer premiere with tears in our eyes, each of us saying our own private shehecheyanu. Thank you, universe, for bringing Mr. Armitage this far. Thank you, Mr. Armitage, for allowing us to reach this season with you.

Quite a trailer, Mr. Jackson. Quite a performance, Mr. Armitage. May the forces that bind the universe together, the forces that gave you such talent and such determination, sustain you as you reach this season — and the next.


It’s that time of year again: a point at which we think about the needs of others in the midst of gratitude for the gifts we have received. Here’s a link to Mr. Armitage’s recommended charities at JustGiving and a link to Act!onAid, a child sponsorship organization for which he recorded a voiceover in December 2010. In 2011, Mr. Armitage also participated in fundraising efforts for Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. You can also generate a donation by doing any or Book Depository shopping that you do for the holidays via, or or shopping via, as these fansites both donate earned commission to charities that Armitage has endorsed. Fans have also donated in honor of Armitage to Oxfam International.

~ by Servetus on December 22, 2011.

16 Responses to “Armitage cantans; or, Servetus laetatur [Second year, second candle]”

  1. Amen, and amen A beautiful post, Servetus. Thank you.

    . I have never cried over a movie trailer before in my life.

    Never downloaded and watched it over and over and over.

    I agree that Thorin was presented in such a way as to pointedly introduce him as the “new kid on the block” to watch–that shot of him on horseback was the perfect choice.Hasn’t all that RH riding experience has really paid off. I am not surprised at all so many people were wowed by him.

    The singing “twee”? Hmmm, maybe they were watching the trailer for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” by mistake. 😉 Hauntingly beautiful, sad, thoughtful, moving–those are the words I would use to describe the song.

    As to the photo cap with Natalie Portman, certainly looks like him around the eyes to me. The photo comparison of Capt. Haddock and RA hasn’t appeared yet on my end, but I had noticed the resemblance before. 😀


    • Uhh, my two hours of sleep are showing. Forgive the typos above.
      It’s all Richard and Sir Peter’s fault, of course. 😉


  2. We have a name, “United Nations of Armitage”, by Angie.. I belive that now we may even have a hymn..:)


  3. How the author of that article could relate the “Song of Thorin” to twee as defined “Overly quaint, dainty, cute or nice” (yeah, I had to look it up!)I just don’t get. Other Tolkein songs, maybe, but this one??! To me, the song reminds of perhaps Gregorian monk chants. Or along those lines.


  4. “Neither will I be responsible for his fate” as prophetic? Not entirely certain. S- happens, but that oughtn’t stop us trying to be responsible for our “fates”, or being there for others. So, is Armitage responsible for what happens apres The Hobbit? To the extent that it depends on however he handles whatever transpires. It is a terrific trailer – and it does not spare Armitage-exposure, a very good sign. I hope the nieces enjoyed TinTin – it played a big part in my son’s pre-grade 1 reading life. Even though it was of its time and attitudes.

    Please continue to take us through the days of Channukah.
    PS, those undeniably the Armitage eyes and brows. 🙂


    • I should have been more exact — I wasn’t arguing for disregard for the people around us (that would be sort of out of character). I was sort of pointing out that multiple things are about to happen that would seem to push him out of his safety zone, and he’s someone whose behavior seems to indicate a preference for safety.


  5. I gave up on The Guardian’s film blog ages ago – I’m not convinced they actually watch the films, though it might just be that you experience these things differently when you’re watching professionally, day in, day out.

    As to the comments, I’m amazed at how positive they were. Aside from the hilarious threads on the TV blogs written by Vicky Frost (a recurring theme on the Spooks blog was what Lucas kept in his shed; and the threads on The Killing veered from discussions of Danish and Swedish compared with German and Old English, to drinking games around the phrase “FFS, Lund!”), I have resolved never to read comments on The Guardian site. For some reason, the angriest, most ill-mannered, sneering bigots flock there to engage in pointless, childish slanging matches, apparently under the impression that it makes them appear ever so sophisticated. Yuck.

    So, that so many people were just thrilled to pieces to see that trailer makes me happy.

    We’ve watched it several times at Ye Olde Homesteade, with much “YAAAY!”ing and excitement. I’d been worrying somewhat over the singing – having grown up with the BBC Radio 4 version, fully orchestrated; that even one of the songs is as arresting and spine-tingling as this is a triumph.

    Yes, it’s clear that Thorin is being positioned as a dominant force, and I for one eagerly welcome my new Dwarven overlord.


    • Agree with you about the Guardian’s comments in general — i was following a blog series there on housing issues in London and the comments were merciless.

      Love the phrase “my new Dwarven overlord.” May have to use that in a future title. Thanks for the comment, Karen.


  6. […] while reading it even now, which doesn’t happen that often.) Yes: Armitage cantans — the voice got me above all else when I saw the trailer. But tracing back my posts on the topic, I found myself attracted first to the beard and hair, and […]


  7. […] is what I thought of trailer 1: initial reaction, from seeing it on the computer, and then here, where I had seen it in the theater and was especially moved by the singing. I haven’t seen trailer 2 in the theater […]


  8. […] December 2011, I wrote, “Thank you, Mr. Armitage, for allowing us to reach this season with you.” In December 2012, I am more conscious than ever that I should also repeat what I wrote on […]


  9. […] the excitement of the very first video blog with Richard’s part in the powhiri ceremony, and then the stunned reaction to the first trailer for TH: AUJ, with RA leading the singing of the “Misty Mountains” song. As far as I can see, other […]


  10. […] a few more times in subsequent years — for the Captain America premiere, and more famously, the first time we saw #richardarmitage trend on Twitter. But seeing “new” Richard Armitage work put me on the same knowledge level for the very […]


  11. […] to mind. My first fan meetup. Watching the Captain America premiere red carpet via live streaming. Seeing Richard Armitage’s name trend on twitter for the first time. Watching the production diary of Richard Armitage in the powhiri. Getting to see The Hobbit: An […]


  12. […] Which puts me in mind of December 2011, the first time I think anyone saw Richard Armitage’s name trend on Twitter. […]


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