Episode 338: The Hobbit (Under Circumstances of Extreme Metal-itude)

Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather overthink the end of “The Colbert Report” and “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies,” which is metal as hell.

Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather overthink the end of The Colbert Report and The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, which is metal as hell.

→ Download Episode 338 (MP3)

Subscribe to the Overthinking It Podcast

Want new episodes of the Overthinking It Podcast to download automatically?

Subscribe in iTunes
Subscribe with RSS

Tell us what you think!
Email us
(203) 285-6401 call/text

Your Panel

Further Reading

17 Comments on “Episode 338: The Hobbit (Under Circumstances of Extreme Metal-itude)”

  1. Chimalpahin #

    Hopefully this one will have more fellow-feeling and at least a blooming of empathy ;)


      • Chimalpahin #

        Indeed, who would be the FOX news and Colbert of Middle Earth? Tom Bombadil?


  2. Lemur #

    One of the things I always loved most about The Hobbit (the novel) was the absolutely bleak image of war. I will probably avoid seeing the movie because I cannot imagine that any of this makes the transition:

    When Bilbo came to himself, he was literally by himself. He was lying on the flat stones of Ravenhill, and no one was near. A cloudless day, but cold, was broad above him. He was shaking, and as chilled as stone, but his head burned with fire.

    “Now I wonder what has happened?” he said to himself. “At any rate I am not yet one of the fallen heroes; but I suppose there is still time enough for that!”

    He sat up painfully. Looking into the valley he could see no living goblins. … But all was deadly still. There was no call and no echo of a song. Sorrow seemed to be in the air.

    “Victory after all, I suppose!” he said, feeling his aching head. “Well, it seems a very gloomy business.”


  3. Chimalpahin #

    Okay now that I’ve listened to this how can we get you guys to make this Hobbit Metal Album? We gotta kickstart this mother up!

    Hey even if you “hated” the Colbert report, we still love ya Wrather ;)!


  4. Chimalpahin #

    Also when I heard about the Elvish Food Aid, I could only think of this –

    It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid

    At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish orcs


    And bring peace and joy to Lake Town

    Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?


  5. Braintree9 #

    During the discussion of the Hobbit trilogy, Wrather described the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the books in general tendency to lionize British sensibilities and values.

    While I have not seen Battle of the Five Armies, nor plan to (’cause fool me twice), it sounds from the panel’s excellent description that this movie seems to look to norse mythology for its inspiration. Much like the imagery of Metal music: badassery, battle-axes, and blood rule the day. The final fight would be an excellent fit for the daily battles for glory that are fabled to take place in Valhalla



    • Chimalpahin #

      If you want to know about the extensive use of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Germanic influences I would highly recommend The Aldasaga podcast http://aldasaga.libsyn.com/

      Well the Lord of the Rings was meant to lionize British values, Tolkien meant it as a mythology for the English in the way that the Kalevala is for our Finnish comrades.

      Many of the names, locales and concepts come from Germanic Heathenry, thru a Christian lens of course ;) From the ring as a corrupting influence, the Ring Cycle and the original Nibelung tale as well as the Norse Sagas. He purposefully reused Germanic myth to his liking and for a new generation, much like a bard. He even drew from two non-Germanic sources for his mythos, ex the languages, the Elvish tongues are for the most part original but heavily based on two languages he loved, Quenya on Finnish and Sindarin on Welsh.

      Funfact – Gandalf (Gandálfr in the Norse) is actually the name of a Dwarf in the Norse Sagas and it means “elf with a magic staff. (Alf meaning Elf, hence some modern English names Alfred (Elf Council) or Alvin (Alf wine) Elf Friend.


  6. Braintree9 #

    Also, I wanted to bring up a weirdly specific trend in the Jackson Middle earth depictions. The cervical spines of Jackson’s orcs seem remarkably poorly constructed. Beheadings are incredibly common. This was less apparent in the LOR, but in the Hobbit trilogy and in the recent Shadow of Mordor (SOM) game, heads pop off left and right. With the right power-ups, in SOM, you are able to gain what abouts to a beheading button.

    SOM also takes place prior to the timeline of LOR. Is it possible this serious orc anatomical error was addressed and correct by Saruman in his breeding of the Uruks? Can this explain this obvious continuity error between the film series?

    (on a separate continuity note, how is it possible that the badass elders (Gandalf et al) were in direct combat with the sauron in hobbit 2 and the ringwraiths in hobbit 3 and yet are still completely surprised by the presence of sauron in LOR)


    • Chimalpahin #

      The Dark Side their judgement corrupts – Yoda

      Maybe we have a case of Lucas Prequel syndrome here


  7. Stokes OTI Staff #

    The heavy metal voices are, for me, a new high water mark in the history of this podcast. I was giggling like an idiot on public street corners as I listened. (I live in NY, though, so it’s ok — no one noticed.)


    • Chimalpahin #

      I’m in absolute agreement here. I now un-ironically want an Overthinking it records Hobbit Metal Album


  8. Taliesin #

    I’m not a Tolkien buff any more, but say, about eight years ago, I used to be pretty seriously into the Tolkien mythos, being an active participant in the forum of a local Tolkien-society where people discussed all things Tolkien and had, for example, judged debates on different topics with references and all. Also some Middle-Earth larps.

    There used to be a certain thrill about trying to learn as much as possible about that world, like trying to find out about the canon of the parts that was not mentioned in the big three main works, such as the nature and work of the blue wizards or what happened in the Fourth Age.

    However, it now strikes me that this approach (and I was not alone in that approach) took Tolkien as a very Doylean authority figure while Tolkien in his works often took a Watsonian approach, noting for some things that we do not know how these things came to be or that the chronicles about those things have been lost. Tolkien often described himself as a scholar of Middle-Earth, and to me, there often seemed a very enlightenment-styled (for lack of a better word) approach to that – trying to describe the world as ordered and rational and fitting into discrete categories. For example, I vaguely remember there being canonical three or four created races – men (among which the hobbits), elves, dwarves and maybe ents (plus trolls and orcs and suchlike created by Melkor). This is like a Linnean description of the sentient peoples of the Middle-Earth .

    And this brings me to one of the reasons why I really liked the first Hobbit film. There is quite a lot of that early-installment-weirdnesses where these kinds of systems fail. (similarly how we nowadays find exceptions about earlier scientific systems) Tolkien the scholar tried to organize this world he had studied, but hey, here are these rock giants that don’t fit anywhere! There are probably more examples of how we can see the Watson-ness of the Tolkien mythos through Hobbit, but I forgot them, because I thought of these things when the first movie came out. I might have written a similar comment to the podcast of the first Hobbit movie, or actually may have gotten these ideas from the podcast, in which case I apologise.

    (The other reason why I really liked the first film was that it had this really DnD-adventure vibe to it – we are this party of actually not very important people that goes to a quest that seems like The Most Important Thing In The World to us, so it doesn’t make sense that people like Gandalf go off to do something different – come on, this is the Main Quest!, while, of course, there are bigger things going on in the world that the party is unaware of).


  9. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    Finally saw the movie! I feel like I SHOULDN’T have liked it. It had none of the emotional heft of The Lord of the Rings. There wasn’t an action set piece as ambitious as the fight against the dragon or the barrels down the river. And Gandalf, probably the most beloved character of all, has approximately nothing to do in this one.

    And yet, I liked it! Maybe my expectations were appropriately calibrated. It had spectacular production design, well-choreographed action, and it was short enough so that it never had time to drag. It was a pleasure to visit Middle Earth one more time, even though the stakes felt meaningless. (Does anyone remember that elf necklace ever being mentioned before? The one that was the main impetus for the battle?)

    To me, the Hobbit book always seemed like a satire. Gandalf shows up and asks Bilbo point blank if he wants to go on an adventure, and Bilbo basically says “Why would I want to do that?” And I’m not sure he ever sees much to change his mind. The Battle of the Five Armies is a stupid battle where everybody is fighting out of greed, at best. Isn’t it supposed to be symbolic of World War I, another giant bloody fight over nothing that sort of took all the luster out of the idea of heroic adventure? Anyway, the Hobbit movies were always trying to recreate the epic scope of The Lord of the Rings… but there was never any big central good-versus-evil struggle to make us care. In the end we got a lot of beautiful, exciting scenes, that added up to very little. I guess I’m okay with that, because it was a very entertaining ride.

    It was probably a project that was doomed to some degree of failure from the very start (which most of us kind of suspected since they announced it was going to be a 10 hour epic) but they did a hell of a job on it anyway.


  10. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    Also, when I listen to this podcast, there better be a discussion of the Tremors worms, which were completely ridiculous. There was no compelling plot reason why they were needed, nor of how the orcs can control them, nor of why they weren’t used in the battle. Basically, someone just wanted to shoehorn them in the movie for ONE SHOT. I blame Guillermo Del Toro. But at that point, I was sort of like, “Sure, why not?” I was only disappointed that Legolas didn’t try to ride one, Dune-style.


    • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

      You know, we don’t get to it. But their absence struck me as well. They were meant to…what? Bore holes in the side of the mountain so that troops could storm through, and then retract?

      Actually, that’s a pretty good target for some Overthinking. Suppose you’re a tremors worm. You can bore holes underground wide enough for you to crawl through. Suppose you bore through a mountain and an army follows you. How on earth do you back out so they can get past and attack? Did you pre-bore an escape tunnel? Do you have mouths at both ends?


      • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

        I feel like the point of the worms was SUPPOSED TO BE so the orc army could take everyone by surprise. (There was a scene where Gandalf was trying to convince Thranduil that an orc army was coming, and Thranduil was like “Where are they, then?”) But no army in Peter Jackson’s movies has ever NOT taken everyone by surprise. They always appear dramatically on a ridge where no one is expecting. There are no advanced scouts in Middle Earth.

        To be charitable, I would say the orc plan is to sneak up on the women and children in the town so they can get the human army to panic. But first of all, I’m totally positive that the dwarves and elves fight the orcs for a while BEFORE they hit the town, so nothing about the battle says “sneak attack” to me. The battle would have gone exactly the same way if the orcs had merely run up from behind the town.

        Secondly, I’m not convinced that fighting in the town was a real advantage for the orcs – they lose, right? So all in all, no compelling reason why digging giant underground tunnels is worth the effort at all. It was just creature porn. I’m not against creature porn, but this seems VERY forced into the plot.

        In all seriousness, I wonder if they originally planned to have the worms play a more central role in the battle. The giant elephants were a fan favorite in Return of the King, right? It makes sense that they’d consider an even BIGGER giant animal that our heroes had to fight, something to kick it up to 11. But then maybe they retooled the battle so it was less large-scale combat, more one-on-one fighting on that icy peak. Or maybe they didn’t want to have a non-Tolkien invention hog the spotlight. In any case, the worms were too much, but Jackson just had to leave them in for one shot.

        As for what happens to the giant worms after they pop out of the ground, I look forward to the Extended Edition!


Add a Comment