I left off as the Dwarves were on their way to Laketown with Bard and Gandalf was off on his mission to ( as I now understand) check out what was happening in Dol Guldur.
In the Laketown scenes, Richard Armitage, as Thorin has three outstanding moments: first is when he spots the dwarven windlass. Once again, Armitage tells us what he’s feeling with nothing more than his expression and the tension in his shoulders. We hear the story and the meaning of the weapon in the background, if I recall, and then the flashback. And, for fans of his, it’s a beauty shot as he gazes out the window. It’s a good moment for Richard Armitage, and I can’t help but contrast it with the scene when Bard has the realization that Thorin has come back to fulfill the prophecy, and he, Bard, seeks out the tapestry to confirm his beliefs. On Armitage, the expression is subtle, but completely readable. On Luke Evans, it’s more exaggerated. I plan to confirm this when I see the film again.
The scene where Thorin lobbies the townfolk of Laketown to aid him in fulfilling the prophecy will probably be considered one of the high points in his performance. I was a little put off by the more dramatic portions- what he was probably referring to as his Henry V moments – but when he tones it down, and simply talks to the audience, telling them they will share in the wealth, I thought he was brilliant in conveying sincerity of cause without the desperation of his position. With Richard Armitage, I always think less is more. I’ve yet to see him portray high emotion, except anger, with speech that doesn’t seem over the top. In truth, there haven’t been that many scenes that fit this description in the roles he’s played. I’m thinking here of the scene in Spooks when Lucas realizes Maya has been killed, certain scenes with Paul Andrews and Julie Graham in Between the Sheets and the scene in Strike Back when he’s denied a job by John Bratton, although part of that scene would qualify as anger.
I’ve reconciled my feelings here with the notion that Thorin was testing out his kingly bearing. This Thorin seemed closer to the character I found in the book, which I finally read ( most of). Thorin’s bearing in this scene is in marked contrast to his demeanor with Thranduil in the earlier scene. Some of this is borne out in the pomp we see in the procession when the Dwarves (and Hobbit), now dressed in donated finery, march through the streets of Laketown to board their boat.
On the other hand, that one line we’ve heard over and over, when he responds to Bard’s warning, ” I have the only right,” is flawless, understated and restrained. The stuff I love most from dramatic Armitage.
Finally, the beautifully executed scene when Thorin orders Kili to stay behind, patient, like father with beloved son, gentle, comforting Kili in his disappointment in contrast to his more stern treatment of older Fili. (I wish Dean O’Gorman would have had more to do in this film. This is the only decent line I can think of now. )
The later Laketown scenes without Thorin can be separated into – action with Bard as he gives the black arrow to the son and gets arrested ( Alfrid has it out for him, but we’re never sure why), the Tauriel healing Kili scene ( yes he lies on a pillow of walnuts. Why? Because they wrestled him to the kitchen table as he was in delirium, and that’s where he landed. Who would have thought walnuts would generate such chatter? Peter Jackson. He did it to drive us mad).
I’ve already discussed the Kili/Tauriel plot. I like the idea of it. The scenes where she heals him and he gets soppy were just plain silly. I liked the fight scene with Legolas, but the second time around, I was thinking Pirate, not Elf.
I think Richard Armitage’s best moments come with Thorin’s approach to the Lonely Mountain. His joy in achieving his goal and successfully completing his quest, his increasing anxiety, almost hysteria, as they are unable to open the door, and his ultimate despair when he gives up, are masterful, especially the heartbreak. His heart is broken at that moment, when he believes he has failed. He puts the failure on himself, although he asks “What did we miss?” Armitage uses his body language, slumping shoulders, head down, as he walks away in defeat – disgusted, confused and broken.
All this ends in triumph of course, and Thorin smiles. Armitage’s talent in expressing such a range of emotion, switching on a dime, from victory, to anxiety, to failure, disappointment and despair, and back to victory and triumph – all convincing, is just brilliant.
Then, when he enters the mountain for the first time, such a brief moment, but almost a religious experience for him, and the script is really well written here.
The next scene confuses me. I thought the whole reason to have a burglar was so that he could get into the mountain and find the Arkenstone. So I didn’t quite understand why this part of the task was just revealed to Bilbo, as though it were sprung on him, or why there was any question that Bilbo was to go down to Smaug’s lair without the dwarves, because, after all Smaug could smell Dwarves. I just don’t get it.
For that reason, I don’t see where Thorin has yet shown any indications of dragon sickness or impending madness. He said, right or wrong, that he needed the Arkenstone to establish his kingship and lead armies. I took that as truth, not some excuse to possess it. While I think he was firm that he was going to make Bilbo go in and get it, I didn’t see any of the beginning of descent into madness that Richard Armitage was talking about in interviews. Is it possible that during the earlier interviews, he didn’t know how far the story would go in film 2? That’s all I can think of, because while this movie is darker than AUJ, I don’t think Thorin’s character was any darker in this film than in the first.
He is single minded about his quest. In Laketown, he tells Balin that he was not risking his quest for a single dwarf. In Erebor, he uses the same line, “I am not risking this quest for a some burglar.” So, I think at this point, Thorin is still acting with the same motives that have fueled him throughout the quest.
I think these scenes, in addition to the Mirkwood scene, when Bilbo kills the spider to recover the ring, are Martin Freeman’s strongest scenes in the film, especially the scene between Thorin and him after Bilbo has stolen the Arkenstone.
Overall, up until this point in the films, Bilbo has morphed much more than Thorin, Each is plagued with a weakness- Bilbo, the gold ring, Thorin, the gold of Erebor – but only Bilbo currently has the gold. And he has become, not only a burglar and a killer, but also a thief.
I’m happy that this film is so well-received and that all fans of Richard Armitage seem to love his performance. No one seemed disappointed with him, even those who voiced mild to really harsh criticisms of part of the film.