Saturday, December 15, 2012

Notes on "The Hobbit" Premiere: Apotheosis of the visceral?

This guest review is by K. L. Mulder, "a committed multi-disciplinarian recovering from specialties in art and architectural history." Let us know what you think of the film versions of Tolkien's stories. And have a look at our beautifully designed paperback editions of all the books in the Middle Earth saga.
 
The numbers are: 48 frames per second [as opposed to the standard 24]; upwards of $91 million in predicted box office receipts for the first week; 13 dwarves with flawlessly grimy gear. Even the hobbit feet seem tripled in size. Ultimately, the heart has to overcome the numerology if you’re going to enjoy this movie.
In the week before its opening, critics anticipating The Hobbit premiere gleefully shredded its content, ridiculing Jackson’s seamless fashioning of a new world (again) as ‘teletubbies’ for an eternity, ‘overstuffed,’ ‘torturous,’ and ‘inflated.’ The fact is, Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth has morphed into a streamlined fantasy so meticulously rendered that everything seems overly familiar.
For example: no spoiler alerts are needed for the reappearance of the old LOTR crew, whose entrances seem constructed to inspire the audience’s cheers.
In truth, just about every moment is cheerily predictable. The writers obviously mine moments of foreshadowing to support the LOTR realm. The animators obviously mine 3-D technology to nauseating effect (great for rollercoaster fans). Jackson clearly indulges his lust for cinematic overkill, leading to more grossness, more squishy visceral sound effects, and more explosive violence. A pudgier, more tentative Sir Ian Holm fades gracefully into Martin Freeman’s young Bilbo—initially meek, mild, and tweaked by the messy cascade of dwarves that pillage his larder, but later, inexplicably provoked into heroics and swordplay. While Sir Ian McKellen’s Gandalf seems anachronistically aged compared to his LOTR self, with a more cracked, uncertain voice and stiffer joints, Galadriel and Elrond have clearly enjoyed revitalizing spa treatments. Andy Serkis’ Gollum works every motion-captured pixel to death in a series of facial climaxes, inspiring discussions about a special ‘motion-capture’ Oscar in H-wood. Barry Humphries (of Dame Edna Beveridge fame) rants gloriously from the folds of a goitered, ickily scabrous, pus-slimed body that trumps the disgusting epidermal condition of the trolls and orcs. Such excruciating details make Jackson’s version of Tolkien’s imagined worlds realistic, albeit a little indigestible.
On the other hand, of course the movie is predictable. We’ve been taken back to one narrative from five in the last LOTR film; the story’s been around since 1937; and Jackson’s able crew has mastered every possible ‘trickseyness’ to animate Middle Earth. We must hope that Jackson’s second and third installments expand in complexity (not just texture or visual stench), trusting the director’s godlike purview, if not his extreme dedication to Tolkien’s visions. If you are willing to suspend the endless critical comparisons and simply ‘ride’ the movie as entertainment—provided by one of the most sincere moviemakers on earth—you will enjoy The Hobbit.

6 comments:

  1. Interesting post.

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  2. You would think a higher definition picture would be made of a prettier subject.

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  3. WILHELM THADDEUS FINKDecember 17, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    This is very illuminating! I will say that it's silly to expect anything but a re-tread of LOTR. It's set in the same world and lots of the same characters are involved. I expected Peter Jackson's vision to be the same this time around, as well. I'm excited either way:)

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  4. Did the one who wrote this review read the book??

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  5. I asked this because of all the books Mr. Tolkien wrote about Middle Earth, The Hobbit is the one which resembles most to a book for children; of course it's all predictable...of course it has to make a connection to the previous LOTR (every fan on this planet was expecting it holding his/her breath)...of course Mr. Bilbo is "meek" at the beginning and afterwords finds his courage. It's all out there in the book!!!!! I didn't mean to offend by my question, it's just that whoever wrote this was so preoccupied to criticize the cast and crew that he forgot what the story is all about! I have seen this yesterday just by reading the critique, now that I've seen the movie, I'm even more convinced of it. Thank you.

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