I had lunch the other day with an author friend who is completely hooked on The Hobbit.
I have always been obsessed with The Lord of the Rings since I read it in high school. I used to read the book about once a year until the movies came out. Now I have an annual pilgrimage through the extended editions plus the special features (of course).
But for some reason, The Hobbit movie didn’t bite nearly as hard. I’m not a huge fan of the book – it’s written for juveniles, not even young adults, and I can remember when I first read it, after having read The Lord of the Rings, that I found it simplistic and facile. There were some important themes running through the book for sure, or Peter Jackson would never have been able to wrangle a decent movie out of it, but it’s not an entertaining book to read as an adult.
I watched the movie with most of my attention taken up with professional questions: How was he going to extend the story to make it last for two whole movies? How much was he going to mess with the storyline?
And, too, I was more than happy to go back to Middle Earth, no matter what the story medium.
So my first viewing of The Hobbit was a pleasant one, even a sentimental one, with the added bonus of discovering Aidan Turner amongst the cast, and watching how Martin Freeman handled the role of Bilbo (perfectly, of course).
I pretty much dismissed the movie from my mind after that, with a mental note to pick up the extended edition when it comes out on DVD or BluRay in the near future, to keep my collection complete.
Then I had lunch with my Hobbit obsessed writer friend and asked her what the big deal was. I have been watching her Facebook status updates for weeks now, and The Hobbit and Thorin Oakenshield have coloured her conversations with the regularity of Middle Earth leather studs.
She took a deep breath. “Well…” she began.
When she came up for air about twenty minutes later, we were both nodding. After all, I am a huge Middle Earth fan, even though The Hobbit hadn’t, for some reason, grabbed me the first time around, unlike The Lord of the Rings, that had me weeping with the opening credits with the sheer perfection of The Shire and the fact that finally someone had got it right.
She also said something that hooked my attention: “I am passionately, madly in love with Thorin Oakenshield,” she said. “But not Richard Armitage.”
I made it a point after that lunch to go back and watch the movie again. And damned if she isn’t right. Thorin Oakenshield is absolutely gorgeous. Very majestic (as the running joke among fans goes), which isn’t half bad for a guy who only stands 5’2”. So I started watching him more closely…and got sucked right in.
The Hobbit breaks with the formula for nearly every Hollywood movie going: There is no romantic interest and no female lead. I’m not sure if there will be in Part II, but Part I is 100 per cent totally a guy movie. It’s not any less entertaining for the lack of a romance story, and despite Thorin not having a woman to enthrall (as I’m sure he would), there is a pulse pause moment in the first movie. Of course it comes right at the end and if you haven’t yet seen the movie I would spoil it to describe it in full detail, so I will merely say that Thorin picks up his sword and shield and faces an old enemy that he knows is probably going to beat the crap out of him, and you can see the determination in his eyes, expression and bearing. It’s a shivery, breath-robbing moment, and Peter Jackson plays it out to the hilt.
I became a Thorin Oakenshield fan right then.
But I can also appreciate my friend’s sentiment about loving Thorin but not Richard Armitage, the actor who plays him. There are plenty of actors who are the roles they play – they’re really just playing themselves. Richard Armitage is nothing like Thorin Oakenshield even in appearance and the difference is so vast it is staggering.
That’s okay. There’s plenty of Thorin Oakenshield to go around. Plug the name into Google and brace yourself. I’m not the first…second…fan to discover him. Not by a long chalk.