Monday, January 6, 2014

I Am Fire. I Am Death!

You shouldn’t have to defend a movie that you like, let alone love.  You should be allowed to gush about it like a high school crush who just said “yes” when she could have said “no”.  Any problems or issues or discrepancies can be ignored in the white-wash of positive emotions and general happiness of having found what seems like a place in the world.
See anything you like?

This can work really well if the movie is a small indie flick, or if it’s an under-rated, lower budget production that you happened to catch.  Larger films make loving them a bit tricky, like being odd, awkward Molly Ringwald and falling for cute and popular Jake Ryan.  Everyone is going to have an opinion on why it does or doesn’t work, and there really is no getting away with a simple opinion on the matter.

Enter Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  The second installment in the latest Tolkien trilogy really stepped up the game.  From all the light-hearted silliness that was An Unexpected Journey, Jackson seems to have once again found the controls of his massive Middle Earth machine, and really started crafting something wonderful.  The movie focusses much more on the dwarves who actually look like capable, fearsome warriors, and less on the odd hairstyles and “unique” character traits.  Those are still there in Desolation, but the seriousness and semi-reality of the story creates clarity.

Yeah, I have a thing for archers.
That’s not to say there aren’t flaws, and as any Tolkien-fan will tell you, they are legion.  A thousand tiny cuts that can kill the unwary.  This explains why within my own circle of friends and Middle Earth scholars (yes, that’s a real thing), there have been such mixed and extreme reviews.  Jackson’s script changes characters, adds plots, twists elements and forgets some of the key items that made the book “The Hobbit” so very cool.  In are the “missing” scenes from when Gandalf leaves Thorin and company to go root out the Necromancer from Dol Goldur.  These things happened in the history of Middle Earth, but probably (about 99.44%) not the way Jackson portrays them at all.  New is the political rivalry and tension between Lake Town’s Master and Bard the Bowman who is now Bard the Bargeman and General Malcontent.  New also is the addition of Tauriel, the feisty, fiery Elf warrior who also has kind of a thing for Dwarf Kili and for Legolas (yes, that Legolas).

But getting bogged down in these details, while fun for the sake of argument, really removes the enjoyment of the story that Peter Jackson and company have created.  At the end of the film, I felt like I had been returned to Middle Earth, a place that lives and breathes with history, wonder, danger and adventure.  So what if not a single Gondorian blade is shown glowing blue in the presence of enemies?  Not one.  Not around Spiders, Orcs, Dragons or even evil-seeming Elf kings.  Not even a flicker.  One of the coolest visuals ever dreamt up by a fantasy author is completely ignored. 
Why yes, that is my opinion!

Ok, so maybe that’s my own personal issue.

And that’s the point.  There’s something for any fan of Tolkien to latch onto and get really worked up about.  It’s like the Purity Test you take in high school and then obsess over.  The point isn’t what percent you got right or wrong.  There is no right or wrong when you enjoy a movie that transports you to a place you’ve only ever dreamed about (and watched in 10+ hours of movie previously), that, if it had to be summed up in a single word is “epic.”

Check that: EPIC!

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