Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Azog the Defiler

The Movie: At Weathertop, the pack of orcs and wargs that had chased Thorin's Company earlier congregate and discuss their hunt. Yazneg, the orc who had previously led the pack, apologizes to his master for the dwarves' escape. We see his master is none other than Azog the Defiler.

Probably the only twist that those who didn't read the book saw coming before those who did.

Azog's hand, which had been chopped off by Thorin at the Battle of Azanulbizar, has been replaced with a metal fork. Azog is large, covered in scars, and most noticeably, is pale as snow. He is uninterested in Yazneg's excuses, and kills him for his failure. As the wargs tear Yazneg apart, Azog angrily demands the rest of the orcs send word out - he is placing a bounty on the Dwarf King's head.

The Book: No such scene occurs. Azog was killed at the Battle of Azanulbizar.

What difference does it make? The orc pack hunting Thorin's Company has already been discussed, but this time, we learn that they are headed by none other than Azog himself. This change is enormous; Peter Jackson is literally bringing characters to life that had explicitly and unambiguously died before the novel even started. Azog's death was never in question; his head was removed after the Battle of Azanulbizar. Peter Jackson is not only creating storylines of his own, but he's making changes on details that Tolkein had been very clear on.

My Opinion: I'll start with the good first: Azog is made far more interesting than he ever was in the books (or, should I say, the appendices). He was never called "the Defiler," and was never described as being any different from another orc, except for having a "huge head." The scars and pale skin make a very distinctive character, and as far as villainous titles go, "the Defiler" is as good as it gets. I'm irritated at his blue eyes, though. Why not just make him an albino? Not only would this explain why his skin is so pale, but it'd be the perfect opportunity to give him evil red eyes! It's a small detail, I know, but one I think that would have made a significant impact.

That said, this is probably the biggest and most controversial change Peter Jackson made for the movie. While I do understand the need to have some sort of villain created for the movie, like Lurtz from the first one, Peter Jackson had a couple of other options available to him. He could have invented a character, like he's done in previous movies, just to act as a sort of personification of some nameless book villains. Using the white warg, for example, and increasing the wargs pack's role a little bit would have served this role excellently. They could have began hunting Thorin's Company between the troll attack and Rivendell, and returned for the exciting conclusion. Or, if Peter Jackson wanted to make things more "personal" for Thorin, he could have used Bolg, Azog's son, who leads the goblin army in the Battle of the Five Armies. Bolg would have a personal vendetta against Thorin for killing his father (in Peter Jackson's adaptation), and his villainy would have lasted until the end of the new trilogy. Using Azog not only complicates the story of The Hobbit, it pointlessly makes changes to Tolkein's history of Middle Earth for the sake of a little more drama. This is a terrible change, made so much worse by some uncharacteristically bad CGI.

Plus it looks like he's having an orgasm when he kills this dude.


  1. Human albinos usually have pale blue eyes rather than red, so I took Azog's eye color as a sign of albinism, although I'd wager most people have no reason to actually know this. Still, it may very well be a misguided attempt at authenticity.

    At this point I'm fairly certain that Peter Jackson plans to replace Bolg with Azog in the Battle of the Five Armies, and tries to build up his menace for that purpose. Oherwise resurrecting him to harass the dwarves makes very little sense, especially when, as you said, using Bolg would have required changing less from the book. If I'm wrong and Bolg does make an appearance later, Azog's presence will be the most incomprehensible change in the entire movie.

    1. I don't want to spoil too much, but Bolg does indeed make an appearance in Desolation of Smaug!

    2. Finally saw the film yesterday, and I was so very wrong. I genuinely do not know what to think anymore, but Azog's presence is definitely incomprehensible. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if by movie 3 the spirit of Sauron ended up possessing his body or something equally daft.

  2. Keep in mind that Jackson isn't allowed to use some of Tolkin's material, specifically the parts he doesn't have the rights to. So he has to make up stuff with what little he has.

    1. That's not a good argument with this character, though. Lurtz, from the first Lord of the Rings movie, is an entirely new character made up for the film. And that's fine - Jackson gave us a central "boss" villain. All he really did was give one of the Uruk-hai a name, a presence, and more camera time than any of the other Uruk-hai. That's different than changing established Tolkein lore.

      What's really baffling about it, though, is that Bolg would have been an excellent choice to sit in for Azog here. Instead of reviving a dead character, why not use a deadly enemy already in The Hobbit? It'd fit the lore and themes of the movie that Jackson's making.

  3. Not using Bolg as the main villain was a missed opportunity.