Thursday, April 4, 2013

THE HOBBIT films as "sausage fest"

So, setting aside the whole Radagast and prequels thing, now that AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is out of theatres, interest is beginning to build in the second of the three HOBBIT movies, THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG. No trailer yet, at least that I've seen, but here's a description of what Jackson showed folks at a recent 'making of' event:

WARNING: if you've been avoiding spoilers, 
now's a good time to stop reading.

For a more in-depth look, here's a link (posted by Alana Joli Abbott to the MythSoc list on 3/26) that puts things in context more:

The idea of introducing Bard a little earlier harkens back to the similar decision to give Arwen Glorfindel's role in Jackson's FELLOWSHIP; more interestingly, it seems likely to offer chances to juxtapose THE HOBBIT's two kings-in-exile, who share such similar backgrounds and yet end so differently. I can't recall ever seeing a piece comparing and contrasting the two, but it's such an obvious topic, once it's pointed out (like the Theoden/Denethor pairing in LotR, first highlighted by Jane Chance Nitzsche, or the Turin/Tuor pairing noted by the late great Paul Kocher) someone must have worked it up at some point. If not, then this might be one of those cases where Jackson's films send us back to reconsider the text, with his changes helping to highlight why Tolkien did things the way he did in the original.

I do have to say, reading through this list of things that are to appear in the second movie (and mentally adding in all the things I already know are part of the second film from bits and pieces in the production blogs and design books), it seems to cover everything from the Carrock to the death of Smaug. Which really leaves only the Siege of the Mountain and The Battle of Five Armies for the third film -- unless they expand the 'And Back Again' part, which seems rather unlikely. Perhaps the third film will simply be shorter than the first two (say, an hour and a half rather than close to three hours). Time will tell.

Unfortunately, THE HOBBIT recently got drawn into a minor flap set off when at an awards show Dame Helen Mirren (one of the greats) used the occasion to belittle another honoree's speech for not having been politically correct enough (he'd given shout-outs to specific scenes and directors that had inspired and moved him; she criticized him for not including movies directed by women among them). Which prompted film critic Robbie Collin of the TELEGRAPH to take up what he imagined to be Mirren's point and, in passing, denounce Jackson's HOBBIT --which had just won Best Science Fiction/Fantasy film, as well as Best Actor (Martin Freeman)-- as a "tedious fantasy sausage-fest"

I think R. Collin must hail from the F. R. Leavis school of critics, who strongly focus on trying to prevent people from reading (or in this case, watching) and enjoying works of which the critic disapproves. Although elsewhere* he identified himself as a Tolkien purist and criticized the movie for not being faithful enough to the original, now he's reversed himself and is  blasting Jackson for choosing to remain true to the book in keeping with Tolkien's all-male cast of characters. As well criticize PRIDE AND PREJUDICE for its lack of Napoleonic battle scenes as THE HOBBIT for its lack of female characters, sez I.

Jackson himself is of course well aware of the problem of no female characters: note how the scenes at Dale, in Hobbiton, at Rivendell, where he can fill in, include a large number of women.** And the team he's assembled to make these movies are not some Old Boys Club: the scripts are largely by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, as had also been the case with his earlier LotR movies; both women are also among the new film's producers, along with several other women; six of the seventeen assistant directors are women. Maybe R. Collin will be satisfied by the addition of Tauriel in the second movie, a deliberate departure from Tolkien's original to try to redress the imbalance. But I rather doubt it, given that Collin's criticism ignores the simple fact that Jackson's Tolkien films have been hugely popular among women.


current reading: TOLKIEN'S BAG END by Andrew H. Morton (2009)
(quote for today: "In fact, [the real] Bag End was a substantial Elizabethan manor house" --p.18)

*   --He even hates Martin Freeman's Bilbo ("who makes exactly one-third of a good job of portraying the character "), reserving his praise only for Serkis's Gollum.

**there's also some indication that Belladonna Took will appear in the extended edition of AN UNEXPECTED PARTY

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