Thorin under the influence of Proctor? The versatility of Richard Armitage’s voice in The Battle of the Five Armies

50569120141212141001_440Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) in full regal garb, looks upon his fortune — gold beyond grief. Publicity still from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.


Armitage’s voice — it came in second to me to his face and eyes — but it was still a major component triumph of his performance as Thorin Oakenshield.

Without having vid to rewatch at this point, my remarks are mostly impressionistic, but two structuring factors are on my mind.

First, Armitage’s self-acknowledged move of his voice into a deeper register for his performance as Thorin in AUJ. He worked with a vocal coach in New Zealand and then we learned more about how he did that this summer, when he acknowledged Glynn Macdonald for her assistance in helping him find John Proctor’s voice. I’ve always had mixed feelings about this, because he’s a baritone, not a bass, and while he has a lot of resonance in his voice, if he constantly works outside of his tessitura, unless he is very careful, sooner or later he risks inability to regain that resonance. Armitage as a bass is a delightful thought, but in fact his normal range is also pleasant, and it is much more resonant than the lower register that we have heard for Thorin and Proctor. This summer, while watching The Crucible, I found myself thinking that the problem wasn’t so much voice strain as that he simply didn’t sound as resonant as the other actors often did because no matter how hard he was working on providing breath support — and it times one could see it as a physical moment in his work — he couldn’t support his words that much. Consequently, his voice didn’t always carry with the clarity that those of his fellow actors had. (I wonder if this will be at all noticeable on the video version when we see it.)

Second — we know that Armitage did ADR for The Battle of the Five Armies immediately after the Crucible run, in New York City. This means that it becomes harder to associate that voice with acting that had been done in the summer of 2013 — Thorin’s voice as we hear it on screen now must have been substantially influenced by Armitage’s run as Proctor. I don’t know a lot about how ADR works and whether they do pitch correction or add other dynamics to an actors’ voice — maybe someone can enlighten us.

What I want to say, though, is that I could definitely hear that MacDonald had had a positive effect on Thorin in the third film. Armitage’s bass in the first two films was often growly and raspy — this effect befit the role, but it was sometimes hard to listen to — one couldn’t help but mourn the loss of resonance. In the third film, in contrast, he reaches a true bass register that holds the necessary resonance at least for the brief moments in which he slides into it. To me this was most noticeable in the scene above — when we encounter Thorin, regally clad, poring over his treasure horde — and then greeting his sister’s sons formally. In particular, because he’s also anxious in a piece of this scene, we hear the whole range — from the bottom of the bass to the top of his baritone. He’s still capable of that higher register for consternation, as we see when Thorin later reacts to Bilbo’s revelation that the Arkenstone in Bard’s hands is a real one. And similarly, in Thorin’s death scene, Armitage is as much in control of his own potential breathiness as speaker as he ever has been.

[This was supposed to be longer, but my throat has been sore all day and my legs are aching. I hope this isn’t what it feels like. Home to bed.]

~ by Servetus on December 19, 2014.

2 Responses to “Thorin under the influence of Proctor? The versatility of Richard Armitage’s voice in The Battle of the Five Armies”

  1. Hope you feel better after resting… boiling ginger root and using that water to steep green tea in has often saved my life when battling a cold/sinus thing or (dare I say it) flu-like symptom. Face it, teachers work with little “petri dishes” and their immune systems suffer until they can have enough time away to fight the germs! Wish I could send you some soup…


    • I end up touching a lot more students now — I shake hands with a stranger at least ten times a day now. Should be good for the immune system!


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