A scene in Armitage’s eyes, or: Thorin’s glance as action

Given the importance of Armitage’s eyes as a means of characterizing Thorin Oakenshield, I expect I may be spending a lot of time on them for awhile. This is another favorite moment from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. In the scene with the stone trolls, the dwarves have lost their battle and are tied up, being roasted or awaiting the spit. Bilbo is trying to stall the trolls, and asserts that the dwarves are parasite-ridden and not fit to eat. The dwarves, a bit thick under any circumstances and already exercised by by Bilbo’s assertion that they should be skinned before roasting, begin a vociferous protest.

And then the camera moves to Thorin. It’s about a second or a little more of camera time, but four distinct expressions move across his face.

vlcsnap-2013-01-06-23h11m28s54vlcsnap-2013-01-06-23h11m34s122vlcsnap-2013-01-06-23h11m43s210vlcsnap-2013-01-06-23h11m54s62Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) reacts to Bilbo’s stalling of the trolls in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Observation, calculation, resolve, action (note the subtle closing of the mouth in the last cap) — and in the next moment we see Kili twitching as Thorin kicks him.

Lots of reasons I like this. First, it’s his eyes that betray at all at the beginning of the scene that Thorin’s at the back of the heap of dwarves. They’re visible even through the gloom. A moment earlier:


Second, it’s the kind of scene that children will notice — oh, Thorin’s big eyes — so it’s something that kids can enjoy right along with parents. Third, it expresses what’s going on in Thorin’s mind perfectly — you can see the stages of the thought process play themselves out concretely and obviously — even as it is subtle and takes up very little time or space. And finally, it’s such a neat way of showing Thorin’s desire to act even when he’s tied up and entirely motionless. He can’t move anything but his mouth and his eyes — but in his eyes we see his resolve to act and we realize something important about his personality. He won’t lose control — even when he’s lost control.

I’ll leave you with the treat of a rare Thorin Oakenshield smile of relief, from the same scene:

vlcsnap-2013-01-06-23h13m47s172Thorin (Richard Armitage) glimpses Gandalf splitting the rock to let through the dawn, in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

One thing I like about the expression here — I think it’s not just Thorin relieved that Gandalf has come to their aid, although of course that’s there. I think it’s a bit of the starry-eyed Richard Armitage coming out, thinking, “Oh! It’s GANDALF! I’m in the same place as Gandalf.”

It’s another one of those childlike moments of wonder that one hopes some children in the audience will be open enough to enjoy and their parents will be open enough to remember.

~ by Servetus on January 10, 2013.

17 Responses to “A scene in Armitage’s eyes, or: Thorin’s glance as action”

  1. Indeed, he pinches the scene with his eyes. You spotted so much more detail after 5 viewings, while I only saw it one time, while my mind made jumps to process it all.


  2. I always enjoy when you break down RA’s subtle shifts in expression like this, Servetus. This is a fun moment, too. I love that Thorin is the only one who “gets” what Bilbo is trying to do.
    Another moment that I’ve heard praised (especially because his blue eyes stand out in the dark) is when Bilbo is trying to ditch the dwarves and get back to Rivendell, and has that conversation with Bofur about the dwarves being homeless. The expression on Thorin’s face as he overhears this exchange is eloquent.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And I was seated at the side and not in the middle. 😦 Oppportunity has risen for me to see it again soon.


  4. Wow, you are REALLY good at analysis! BTW, I esp. liked when RA said that it all became “real” to him when he saw Ian dressed up as Gandalf standing in front of him in Bag End.


    • Yes, I was thinking of that, too — the moment at which all the surroundings stop being set and start being a world.


  5. We all know that Richard is a master at communicating everything using his body; he even gestures with his hands when he talks! In this particular scene I believe Thorin is wracking his brain wondering what he can do, since his gesture to save Bilbo’s life has put all of them in mortal peril. Is he thinking, ‘this is it!’? Is he praying to whatever gods they have, if any? Gandalf has ‘abandoned’ them because of Thorin’s stubbornness when they were setting up camp. Who will save them? He has no idea what to do. Then, as if by a miracle, their ‘useless’ hobbit stands up and begins to try and persuade the trolls to let them go. Of course, his ‘dumb jock’ nephew has to open his beautiful mouth and screw things up! What impressed me – apart from the use of his eyes – is that Thorin hasn’t said a word all this time, not even when Kili screws up. No, he kicks him hard, a language the ‘boy’ can understand. Then, that beautiful smile after Gandalf saves them…it is so swoony! I agree that right there, that is Richard smiling, not Thorin. Back to our heir to the throne, though, when Gandalf scolds him for not thinking about doing what Bilbo did, Thorin is humble enough to concede the point by nodding to the Wizard. There is so much nuance to Richard’s work, so much thought and preparation go into his performances…I love how he weaves details and subtleties and feelings into a tapestry that reveals the depths of each character he plays.
    I know that much has been said about how handsome Thorin is, how majestic…true, but it would be unfair for anyone not to see beyond that. I am glad you have taken the time to point out one of the great tools in Richard’s acting arsenal: his gorgeous and expressive eyes and that smile!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have to look for a blog which only covers the eyes of actors…love this!


  7. I love that moment. You can see in his brain trough the eyes. I’m so in love with Richards eyes. He has such beautiful expressive eyes.


  8. […] As a side note, too — he’s going to get a lot of hugs from kids, something he really appreciates, perhaps because of the own portions of his emotional profile that still draw while acting on an open, more childlike emotionality that is more accessible to those who share it chronologically. I’m not saying Armitage lacks complex emotions — on the contrary — just that he’s still able to access earlier emotional states without too much difficulty, and that this …. […]


  9. […] in this scene is how much of Richard Armitage went into this moment of Monet. I always felt (and have said before) that the picture below was as much Armitage as it was […]


  10. […] as he imagines, playfully, what Bilbo will do in his garden in Bag End (and recalls for us the delight on Thorin’s face when Gandalf rescued the dwarves from the stone trolls in TH: AUJ), to, in turn the displeasure, as he is interrupted by Dwalin with a piece of news — a […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: