I’m not a Tolkien fan, having never read any of his books. I saw all of the LotR trilogy enjoyed them, then promptly forgot them, except for Gollum and his precious. I wouldn’t have been particularly interested in seeing The Hobbit were it not for Richard Armitage being cast as Thorin. So my knowledge of the story is either forgotten or nonexistent. As for RA, I’ve made no bones about not being an avid fangurl. But I wanted him to do well and was thrilled for him that he’d snagged this major role. Also, I attended with a friend who didn’t know RA from Adam. Truth be told, I would have felt mortified had she turned to me and said, “So that was your boy? He sucked.”
So yes, I hoped he didn’t fall on his face. That was the extent of my expectations of him.
That’s also the extent of my objective fan bona fides. Okay, now for RA and Thorin.
Knowing next to nothing about Thorin, I was prepared to embrace this dispossessed king. I knew he might have some issues over the situation, but this Thorin is a total prick. He is prideful, ego-driven, stubborn, obsessed, bastard – the poster child for grudge carrying. Even the flashbacks showing Smaug toasting Erebor, Thranduil the Elvenking turning his back, and Azog beheading his grandfather didn’t adequately explain his highly antagonistic attitude towards Bilbo and need to insult him every chance he got. Aside from marveling his noble and commanding warrior badassery, I felt little reason to care, other than he is the good guy. By the end, I wouldn’t have been surprised had Bilbo acknowledged Thorin’s thanks by telling him where he could go. RA gives a solid performance as a solid asshole. But wait, this is a children’s movie. Other fan reviewers raved and cried. Hmm.
Clearly I was missing something. So, I went back for a second viewing in a closer seat. All became clear. Literally. I was too nearsighted to see RA’s eyes during the first showing. This time, Thorin is still a bastard, but such a good-looking one. That always helps, it really, really, really does. (But you know I’m shallow). More importantly, seeing his eyes makes him more
human dwarven; they signal more depth and emotion underneath the gruff exterior. This makes Thorin more palatable to me, but he is still not admirable as a character. The big scene in which he loses his mind and marches out of the burning tree to take on Azog AND his warg, leaving his group to die, qualifies him for a major beatdown later. Or at least a good right hook. There’s also the strong indication that his quest is more motivated by personal vengeance and the need to redeem himself in his own eyes as an heir of Durin than an altruistic reclamation for his people. As he tells Balin, “*I* have no choice.” He’s hell-bound to proceed with the mission no matter what and feels no qualms about leading a paltry band of 14 to do what an entire army of dwarves could not. Again, having never read Tolkien, I assume honor and vengeance is the dwarven creed, so maybe his behavior is understandable. While Thorin is not a particularly likeable character, there’s an indication that might change as the journey continues. However, considering that he’s already half unhinged, I’m not sure how he will avoid the dragon sickness and its greed.
[EDIT: Thanks to our Mujer Tropical, I have a better understanding of Thorin. Facing his destiny and fears is certainly admirable, so I revise that part. However, I still have difficulty with his likeability, mainly because it take a little more time to understand such a character without some outside source (the books, Mujer Tropical). Unlike Sir Ian with Gandalf, RA was given precious little time to convey Thorin’s complexities.]
RA delivers a solid performance as Thorin, considering he was quite hampered by the prosthetic forehead. He had to dispense with the repertoire of micro-expressions for which he’s known. RA reported he had to overreact scenes with his eyes and jaw in order to signal emotions to the audience. He managed successfully, giving Thorin more depth than he would have had ordinarily. Instead of being a bastard on a quest, he’s an interesting bastard with potential on a quest. RA uses his low- baritone effectively, lending a commanding voice to his fine visage. His characterization is mostly Thorin, although I detected Thornton in two lines, and Guy of Gisborne in a few eye and head movements. His fight scenes are excellent with his dancer’s spins and graceful choreography. He did well with the material he had. I can find no fault with his acting. Most of my issues concern problems with the script and overall editing.
More about that later.