Jul 8 2011, 11:00am
But John Rhys Davies was formidably dwarvish even before a scrap of rubber was applied to his face. I must admit when i first saw Gimli i thought it was the actor's real face (i hadn't seen John Rhys Davies before) and when i heard about the prosthetics it did make me wonder why on earth they'd need to, but it was reading all the behind the scenes stuff that made me realise the wisdom of it in the silhouette it created, the kind of bullish, squat lump, instantly recognisable as a dwarf. I can appreciate you saying that they wanted more of a variety of body shapes, and will throw the 'Dungeons and Dragons' argument around (i.e. that our perceptions of dwarves as being so short and stocky is a creation of later influences), but in fact Tolkien was very fond of providing his different races, even different lines within them with distinct physiology- take the hobbits- Tolkien made quite clear very distinctive physiological differences between the Stoors, the Harfoots and the Fallowhides, as shown in this piece of artwork: http://tolkiengateway.net/...bbits_comparison.jpg. These types were not rigidly adhered in the film and yet something of them existed- Elijah Wood was very much of the Fallowhide look, Dominic Monaghan was less fey and more 'average' by human standards so was a fairly good match for a Hobbit with Stoor stock, while Sean Astin was more of a Harfoot fellow. I'm sure Peter Jackson didn't cast them with that in mind, but they conveniently fit those types.
It has something to do with it
Given the restrictiveness and labour involved in John Rhys Davies transformation into i was well aware there was a conflict with continuity when it came to The Hobbit. The director would likely wish his dwarven actors to have more ability to emote and less time spent applying the prosthetics, as such, minimising the amount of prosthetics applied could only be a good thing but that would mean casting established 'dwarfy' actors- probably no-one under 45 and no tall, strapping types. On the other hand, he wanted his dwarves each to be unique and distinct from each other, and so would select actors with the ability to portray unique personalities irrespective of body type and 'dwarf them up' with prosthetics, knowing the strength of their acting abilities would shine through. What annoys me is that he has done both- casting actors who fall far outside the dwarven body-type and yet not compensating with prosthetics. They've gone through make-up sure, but they're still just normal humans wearing dwarven hand-me-downs.
Defending the more human proportions is all well and good, yeah, perhaps you could have 'tall' (for their race) skinny dwarves like Nori, but lets flip it the other way- could you have short, fat elves? Christopher Tolkien didn't think so, theorising that Salgant; Maeglin's squat, cowardly sidekick in the original Fall of Gondolin of 1917, would likely not reflect Tolkien's matured concept of elves and would have been readjusted to fit.
Ironically PJ's conception of Middle-earth humans (at least those fighting for good) doesn't seem as varied either- all the key heroes follow the 'generic middle-earth action hero' mould of being fairly tall, medium to slightly slender/muscular build, shoulder-length hair, designer stubble possibly forming a discrete tache or nominal beard and in the prime of their life. You don't see any of the like of Forlong- the wobbling, aged Sancho Panza type or the wiry bean-poles that exist in our world. Given those facts, i don't see any non-cynical reason for trying to humanise the proportions (or facial hair) of dwarves.