[Spoilers] The Hobbit: Second impressions

So it took me a day longer than expected, but I saw the 2-D version today, and I had a much better time during the film than I did on Thursday. Much of this I attribute to (as Sloan mentioned) not being worried that my kid had the lead and might mess up badly — or that he might appear and I might miss a crucial second. I think that the way I’ve been watching Richard Armitage all this time has really conditioned me to an unusual level of visual alertness and corresponding physical tension.

It’s so cool to Armitage’s name all by itself on the screen. Really cool.

However, and here I’m being heretical (sorry, Mr. Jackson; sorry, Mr. Armitage, who defended him) I do not believe that anything hugely significant about this film is lost to anyone who sees it “only” in 2D. The movie screen is important; this film will not be as impressive on a television screen unless it is a very large one. But the 2D version is also beautiful and shows Middle Earth wonderfully. And, although it may be because I now had an idea of where to direct my eyes, I caught a lot more detail in the action scenes this time around.

I liked Martin Freeman slightly better, the conference between Elrond, Galadriel, Saruman and Gandalf at Rivendell much less, and the preaching between Gandalf and Galadriel not at all. I got a better idea of some the dwarves who’d gone under in the melee the previous time, especially Jed Brophy, who has a really interesting face.

And, of course, I had a better impression of Richard Armitage. I see what people are saying who were noting that they feel like the dwarf prosthetics slowed his forehead way down. I think that’s essentially true. But I stand by remarks about his eyes — they’re really amazing and they do an incredible amount. This time, I got tears in my eyes in the scene where Azog almost kills Thorin. I also saw the moment Armitage was referring to when he said that there was a second where all the pieces fall together for Thorin when Gandalf gives him the key — it’s very brief, though, but yes, a quite successful moment.

But the biggest gain from this watch was in personal associations. I’m about to take on a big challenge that’s going to occupy a lot of time in my personal life and space on this blog, for the next month and a half, and you may have noticed there’s a new countdown on the righthand margin. The challenge I was worried about in September has materialized — and I am not walking away from it. Partially because it would be unwise to do so, partially because despite all the distance I’ve gained, I don’t feel fully able to leave it. I hope I’ve learned enough to master this. It’s weird how all of these things have coalesced around Richard Armitage, but that’s just the way it is. If there are no coincidences, I will read the signs where I find them. And where Armitage pops up there seem to be few coincidences and many signs. So now I’m searching the movie for clues.

One big theme for me in this viewing was the tension between Thorin’s awareness that success is unlikely and his inability to avoid the path that seems laid out before him once the key and the map were there. He has a tremendous loyalty that applies equally to the patchwork group of companions around him (and his repeated sacrifices to rescue Bilbo despite his opinion of him) and to his own notion of the meaning of his past for his present and future. I’m trying to figure out what Thorin’s loyalty, or inability to let go of, the past means. Should he not have gone on the quest when the path opened up? Should he have gone on the quest in greater awareness of the stumbling blocks that felled his grandfather? The scene where he tells Gandalf he doesn’t want to make for the elves seemed key to me — Gandalf telling him he didn’t give him the objects in order to see him hang onto his old resentments, and Thorin’s rejoinder that the key and map were his — not Gandalf’s. That seems like a tension I’m living on palpably, now. Also Gandalf’s agreement with Thorin that the elves will not want to support the dwarves on their quest — but that they can answer questions. And his point that the elves bear Thorin no ill will, that the ill will is all inside of Thorin.

And at the same time, as this film makes much more clear than the book does — all of this is tied up in the quest to defeat evil. Maybe this is part of why I dislike the sermon at Rivendell so much — because in fact, all of these tiny little people are tied up in the thrall of a great power conflict that is well beyond their ken. Thorin is thinking about the restoration of “his” kingdom and that is more than sufficient — without having to wonder about Sauron in the background, as the filmmaker has (as some critics have noted, to the detriment of the film). I know myself that the question can’t be too big, the horizon can’t be too far — or I will fail. Thorin feels ready to face his destruction — he doesn’t seem to think that what he’s built in the interval is weighty against the restoration of his kingdom. But as meager as what I’ve built seems to me — a better self-awareness, a capacity to know when to stop, an enjoyment of writing and flow, and the renewed capacity to desire and to feel love — I am so scared of giving these things up.

It was interesting to me that the scene where this picture appears is one where Thorin is almost completely out of control — with Gandalf and Thorin’s nephew taking charge. Armitage acting is showing flow, but the character he’s portraying is chiefly experiencing threat, desperation, failure, being trapped.

What should Thorin’s attitude toward the elves have been?

People who are especially good with metaphor are enjoined to help me figure this out (and not just in this post). What is Thorin telling me? What is this story telling me?

~ by Servetus on December 16, 2012.

50 Responses to “[Spoilers] The Hobbit: Second impressions”

  1. ‘I’m trying to figure out what Thorin’s loyalty, or inability to let go of, the past means.’ – I think it’s just dwarvishness. The line of Durin is a sacred line, and Erebor an almost sacred home- and It hink dwarves take more seriously than most tasks to do with ancestry. You can use metaphor all you like when it comes to Thorin, but at the end of the day, when I write him, I go back to the source material as Richard does, and re-read what Tolkien wrote about the nature of dwarves’ personalities and get the feel for the structure of their world. I think PJ bringing in the alliance with the elves of Mirkwood was cool (as he couldn’t use tuff from the Silmarillion to give the elf/dwarf background), and as we know, dwarves bear grudges like no one’s business, especially grudges to do with loyalty! On a side note, I really liked Gandalf’s little sermon :3 I’m a sucker for that sort of stuff.

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    • maybe I should have ended that sentence with “for me.” You know way more about Tolkien than I probably ever will, because he frankly doesn’t interest me that much.

      The blog is an exploration of what these themes mean to me — I forget that people who haven’t been reading forever don’t necessarily know that. If I were making the film, or writing fanfic, I would care what these things meant for Tolkien in the original source — but I’m not. I’m writing my life. That’s why I’m asking the questions about metaphor, because the question of what the hero (in this case Thorin, because I’ve become fixated on Richard Armitage on a sort of mystical level) does in a certain situation is essential for me to understand.

      So I guess the question I would ask in return is: what is “just dwarvishness”? What is the nature of dwarves? Is it only to pursue their historical legacy? (in which case I’m doomed and I need to abandon this metaphor quickly, because I only have six weeks). Or is Thorin especially dwarvish? Less than especially dwarvish? He’s different from the other dwarves, no?

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      • I’m heading out to see the film again because I think my nearsightedness and too far away seat may have affected my opinion of RA and Thorin. Might have an answer formulated when I return.

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      • As an author who’s had to do a lot of Thorin fixating to write about his life, I understand sort of where you’re coming from in understanding his motives. I think that dwarves are formed by their history: they’ve had a forbidden upbringing and were almost forbidden to exist, and so have guarded themselves throughout time (which also forms their relationships with elves). I think being closely connected to the royal family, Thorin has drawn into this especially- protecting himself and his people from outsiders and cary on the legacy and integrity of his people. Thorin displays what is good and bad in the nature of dwarves- and blends them in measure, to make some sort of ‘uber dwarf’ 😛 he’s a strong leader, but he’s also a grumpy bastard; he has dragon sickness, but he’s fiercely loyal. And displaying all of these traits is what makes me love him (from an author’s point of view… a lot of good material). What Thorin means for me is learning how to use all of these attributes, and also accept the ‘bad’ attributes as something to guard- to be proud of- as a dwarf would be proud of the personality shaped by his legacy.

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        • OK, that wasn’t clear to me, that Thorin also has dragon sickness. Does he have it already, or only once he gets back to Erebor? That seems really important to me.

          So your reading is that there’s no way that Thorin could have walked away.

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          • It’s a bit like a hereditary condition- passed down from his grandfather to father to him. Thorin’s father had one of the dwarf rings of power, and whilst he didn’t give it to Thorin (or even showed it to Thorin) I think the implicit connection with that evil is worth noting. He was surrounded by dwarves affected by this, and he’s always had the lust of the Arkenstone latent within him somewhere. Thorin’s quest always had to be undertaken by him- for him not to do it, would be as good as him being dead to himself.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I saw this yesterday in 2D and thought it looked amazing (3D…my equilibrium can’t handle it. Plays into my never-ending sinus-related issues). Richard was FAB. I don’t think I’m going to be able to write about the film, though, until I read the book again (hoping to make that happen this week). Visiting Middle-earth is SUCH an emotionally-charged experience for me, it takes me a while to process it all.

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    • That makes sense to me. I wanted to reread the book before seeing the film — but couldn’t make myself. Will look forward to your review now that I know it might come!

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  3. Thank you, Servetus, for your second interpretation.
    I am just working on my comment and about Rivendell. My interpretation, essentially disliking the major scheming in Lord of the Rings, makes me base my view of it much closer to the races characteristics than the universal goal and sermons. (Will try to have the article ready tomorrow.)

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  4. Hi Servetus –

    Not sure I am equipped to help on this post as I haven’t seen the movie and will likely not see it until after Boxing Day here in London and have been avoiding much of the Hobbit movie PR like the plague (even as I worked 1 block away from the Waldorf Astoria during the NYC press conference).

    I did, however, just watch THIS video interview and wonder if it might provide clues in terms of questions to ask yourself:

    I think Strombo does a great job – especially between 2:30 – 5:00 – of feeding the mythological theme of Thorin’s journey to Mr. Armitage, who in turn, knocks it out of the ballpark as an interviewee.

    Probably one of the best interviews I’ve seen (disclaimer: I haven’t seen very many). 🙂

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    • Hmm. I didn’t like this interview as well everyone else did, but you did help me find the quote I was looking for earlier that seemed especially relevant to me, around 7:10. He has a goal, he has to go back, he leads his own people and his nephews into this place, “but that the door to that mountain is the most terrible horror he can possibly imagine.” That’s the operative metaphor in this interview for me at the moment.

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      • Well, I haven’t seen many interviews to know what’s been popular or not – but it seemed an odd coincidence that I read this post thinking I couldn’t respond since I hadn’t seen the movie and then meandered off and clicked on this interview – which then responded to your question regarding the Elves.

        I liked Strombo’s comment about Thorin having ‘the longest grudge ever’ and Richard Armitage’s response of it being a “long process of hatred towards the Elves” – and how when the Dwarves finally emerge, ‘they’ve got a lot of agenda going on’. Interesting! An AGENDA! Is it possible there is a hidden agenda? For Thorin? For yourself?

        Whatever it is – Strombo points out that it is going to be a long and hard-fought journey to get to that place… of redemption.

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        • well, I can’t think about redemption at this point. That would be too much, and I’m not sure I believe in it, anyway, or desire it if I do believe in it. I’m still at the meeting with the dwarf kin in the Iron Mountains — noting that the prophecies are coming true and wondering what that means for me.

          Hmm, I wonder if I should draw Pilgrim’s Progress into this.

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        • IF he goes on the journey, THEN he must deal with his hatred for the elves. He could go out of his way to avoid them otherwise. Thorin misses the point that Elrond is not Thranduil, of course. Maybe that’s what’s bugging me.

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  5. I like what UK Expat says about the interview with Strombo — Richard definitely got the chance to speak seriously on the subject of Thorin’s nature and attitude.
    So, you’re wondering what Thorin’s inability to let go of the past means? Well, that “not letting go” is a big issue, I think. Seems to me that “dragon sickness” or greed is another kind of not-letting-go, too. You can’t heal if you can’t let go of the pain. You can’t leave if you can’t let go. If your hands are full of one thing (like gold) you can’t grab on to anything else.
    When I wrote my fanfic, I had a big problem with this dragon sickness idea. I thought, “Why would Thorin get overwhelmed with greed? It’s Middle Earth, for crying out loud — what’s he gonna spend all that gold on? It’s not like there are any good restaurants or shows…” That led me to the idea that I see gold as something to use to get something else — pleasure, entertainment, or whatever. Something that’s not gold. But greed, in this case, is wanting the gold itself for no other purpose. And I don’t undestand what he’d get from just having gold. Is miserliness, greed, just another kind of fear? Is the gold a bulwark against some unknown peril?
    So Thorin longs to have things back the way they were before the dragon attack. And somehow, the gold is a protection from some bad thing.
    There, that’s about as deep a bunch of thoughts as I can manage to provide. Hope they help!

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    • This “not letting go of the past” was the issue that fundamentally drew me w/r/t Lucas North even before the Bateman plot development.

      This is helpful. It’s hard for me to twist into a metaphor that I can make work for me but I haven’t thought about it enough yet. The point is the love of a questionable thing for itself and not for its other purposes.

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      • Well, yeah. Then the question is, if you love this “questionable thing” and you know you probably shouldn’t, why DO you love it? What are you getting from it? What does it mean to you?
        For Thorin, he wants to hold onto that past where things were good (he thinks). The dwarves were wealthy and respected, he was heir to an impressive throne. He could turn a blind eye to his grandfather’s growing mental issues, that is, the greed or dragon sickness. To reclaim Erebor means that somehow he can go back. Turn back time.
        But, as I may have said here before, our lives are composed of moments like the notes of a melody, and when you try to hold on too long to one single sweet note, you’ve stopped the song.

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    • It’s also love of what the gold represents: power, status, wealth. So much so that even the great Thranduil had to pay homage. Heady stuff for a forbidden race.

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      • Yes. Dwarves weren’t renowned or given the chance by other races to create beautiful literature or song or things of ‘eloquence’, or even things which the more privileged races saw as beautiful (I doubt elves really gave much notice to dwarven design, though it is noted Thranduil USED dwarves to build his own halls!). They thrived on the things they created with their own hands and built up their own fortunes with help from no one else, and amongst Men, became feared as great architects and craftsmen (and the Men of Dale really saw how beautiful the makings of the dwarves could be; they created magnificent magical toys, and of course beautiful weaponry, which unlike elvish designs, was hardly shared with other races). The hordes of the dwarf kings were legendary. A dwarf without gold… well, you can see just how they got treated once Smaug destroyed what they had. They were nothing, and were treated as such. For better or for worse- dwarves believe they are nothing without gold and power. This leads them to work hard, but as I’ve already said, the pursuit of wealth manifests itself amongst Durin’s line as terrible greed and sickness.

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        • This statement is a bit unclear to me. Dwarves don’t take pride in their workmanship?

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          • Of course they do, but I’m not sure how much other races do. There’s always a sigma attached to that race and everything it does, which tarnish other races view of their works, even though they create some of the marvels of Middle Earth. Though they’re a proud and self assured race, there’s always an element that others scorn them, usually for inherently dwarven traits. This was evident by how Thorins been treated all his life by other races.

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  6. I have more to say but my quick reply: I was so underwhelmed by the HFR 3D (I didn’t see it in IMAX because at the first ticket release our IMAX wasn’t HFR) that it has put me off of 3D unless its animation which I think it suits.
    PS.: your first impressions being a bullet list? LoL was still an EXTENSIVE one 🙂

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    • Interesting. I wonder if it has to do with how many 3D movies one sees. I haven’t seen many, so I’m still impressed by it?

      You know me. Logorrhea is my middle name.

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      • This is only the second 3D movie I’ve seen and I wasn’t impressed at all. As I said before, I couldn’t really tell the difference. My brother saw the 45fpm at IMAX and he couldn’t tell a difference either. Not sure about any metaphors but isn’t the story line essentially a generic tale. One must leave one’s comfort zone to live life on the edge. We shouldn’t look back and hang on to our baggage, but let go and move on. I think I may go back and see the regular version so I can concentrate more on the story. And I loved that interview. I haven’t seen it before — just about burned out on interviews.

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        • Well, as I learned this fall, 12 % of the US population is not in a position to notice 3D for organic reasons.

          I think you are correct if you see the story from Bilbo’s perspective — the msg is something like “get out of your comfort zone, even against your will.” I don’t think that is what it is for Thorin. He’s already been made uncomfortable by events in his life.

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          • I definitely identified with Bilbo. The opening scenes were hysterical to me — he reminded me so much of myself particurlarly the parts where he’s fretting over the chaos of the dwarves. But I should be looking deeper into what’s going on with Thorin because like him I’ve had plenty to make me uncomfortable in life even though I prefer to stay in my comfort zone. IMHO living life on the edge is way overrated.

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        • Thought of you tonight as I was forced to watch several more episodes of American Pickers and Pawn Stars. Sigh.

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  7. I don’t know what Thorin’s message(s) for you are, Servetus, but some of my thoughts about him as a character are: He just canNOT let go of the past. It was inevitable that he would try to reclaim his kingdom because no matter how good of a life he has created, he cannot enjoy it. The trauma was too great and the dream of avenging his people and getting back what was stolen is the only kind of happiness he has left. He ALSO has beautiful visions of what the future could be like, and all the good he could do for his people by getting his kingdom back. Whenever I read the book I HATE the death scene, but I also think it was perfect and poetic and I’m glad he is at peace.

    As far as the dwarves and their love of gold, it’s not totally about security. When Gimli waxes poetic about the caves in LOTR, he talks about spending YEARS deciding which type of tool and which angle to use before making one carving in the crystal wall to enhance it. They love art and they love bringing gorgeous things to life.

    My impressions watching the movie this weekend, as a lifelong LOTR fan but not fanatic, are that Rivendell was kind of blah (disliked the salad stuff), but otherwise it was something I want to watch repeatedly. I was not sure about the Pale Orc storyline, but I thought those were some of Thorin’s best scenes. Throughout the movie I often literally forgot it was RA I was watching, which is impressive.

    Hobbit definitely has a lighter feel so far than LOTR, which is good because the book was a kid’s story compared to LOTR. I wish I could live in the Shire…

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    • I think my read of Thorin is the same as yours based on the film anyway. This is troubling. Once he has that key, it’s like he can’t let go of the promise.

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  8. I’ve always identified strongly with characters like Thorin, or Professor Snape, which kind of bothered me. I do identify with some happier characters too, like Samwise Gamgee, but I wish I identified with Manic Pixie Dream Girls or something, LOL!

    In all of literature I’ve always thought the person I most resemble is Jane Eyre. It was like meeting my doppelganger when I first read the book. It’s a somewhat uncomfortable experience to read the book and realize that yes, I am a damaged person like her, and yes this bit and that bit are eerily like my life.

    If by chance you are worried about being too much like Thorin, all I can say is that lately I’m starting to feel an affinity with some different types. It’s been odd to notice it and I’m not sure where it’s heading or what kind of changes are happening, but I think it’s good. Change does happen…

    I feel like my thought is not finished but nothing comes to mind at the moment. Maybe I’ll add more later. Anyway, it was so much fun finally seeing The Hobbit!

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    • My #1 identification is w/Jo in the original novel of Little Women. The one who can’t get along.

      The issue for me at this point, I guess, is that in the wake of the repeated disasters that occurred in my life between 2005 and 2010 (and the additional ones that hit in 2012), I got fixated on Armitage because roles he played seemed to speak to particular problems I was having. So it’s a bit eerie to me that so many of the current conflicts that are directlly in front of me bear strong parallels to Thorin’s problems. Part of this is happening because Armitage likes archetypal roles and my problems are strongly archetypal (or can be understood that way). So I’ve decided that if this is what’s going to happen, I am going to start looking for answers in these roles as long as the roles apply. A bit of practical reverse mythology.

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      • That’s true, he does play archetypal roles… hadn’t exactly thought of it like that, but very true.

        I always *wished* i were more cool like Jo, but she’s so much more confident than I am! I like how her life turns out in Little Men.

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        • Well, some of us spent 12 years waiting for a German professor based on Jo’s experiences 🙂

          I see her as an ambivalent character. In the end, she realizes she can’t help but be who she is — but as much as she’s confident and willing to be exuberant and herself and question social presuppositions, she also feels hurt by her own stubbornness and unwillingness to compromise, I think.

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      • What I liked most about Jo was she was always up in the attic writing something. I never thought about her not being able to get along; it just seemed she had more courage than anybody else. So she would bump heads with folks more so than those who were less courageous.

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        • I always thought that her bravery and her headstrongness were sort of tandem qualities. She wasn’t so much brave as driven?

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          • Yes driven is a good way to describe her. Or intense — as a lot of folks describe RA. I know the first time I saw him I was drawn to him because of his intensity. Someone commented here that they were more impressed with his intensity than his acting. And I noticed that he does everything with that intensity (or what I’ve been able to observe through the media): he researches the role and portrays the character with intensity and is out there now describing his role, the movie, PT, and his fellow actors intensely. And Jo went about everything that way too…very intense/driven. It’s not a characteristic I share with them, but I always admire it in others.

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            • I think it makes life difficult unless one figures out how to deal with it … there’s my elliptical statement for the day. The thing with Jo is that she wants to be different but she can’t make herself do that very successfully (or at least not in Little Women). She has to learn to accept herself and behave as she feels she must while trying not to hurt others. She pays a high price for that. The novel rewards her with Professor Bhaer, who seems to love her for who she is.

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