". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey  (2012)

This is Part one of of three installments of  movies based on Tolkien's slim book intended for children, which turned out to be the prequel to the adult Lord of the Rings trilogy. 

This first movie of the projected trilogy was better than I’d been led to believe by either professional or fan responses / reviews. Perhaps the reason that it is better than I expected is it appears that by this time around Tolkien Jackson has shed himself of all compunction about departing from the source material that  he may have had when adapting LOTR.*  Another reason is in this installment Jackson managed to, barely, present us with more expository, character and story telling times on screen, than the endless orc, troll and other chase and flee and pound scenes of his LOTR. However, the capture by the trolls goes on too long, as does the chase in -- where were they exactly?  The kingdom of the Goblin King?  This looked like those same endless scenes under the mountain in Moria from Jackson's LOTR, with endless M.C. Escher stairs and platforms suspended above bottomless abysses.  And fire, o yes, much fire.

There are problems in The Hobbit of tone, as the treatment careens from the whimsy and perspective of a child's entertainment, to Jackson’s need for a heroic masculine warrior protagonist who will attract the female gaze and  fulfill her desire to yearn for imaginary romance.  The dwarves flop from bad-mannered, fierce Viking pillagers, to the comic Disney dwarf types: instead of being Sleepy, Sneezy, etc., they are Fat, Dim, Mischievous Twins (filling in for the Merry and Pip pairing of LOTR), Noble, etc.

Audience is the only role of females in this tale, whether in print or as a movie that departs from its print source.  There are no women in this story, unless one counts Bilbo's description to Frodo of Lobelia Sackville-Baggins's mean, covetous and thieving character, or the statuary poses of Galadriel at Rivendell. 

There are so many departures from the book it's a different story with characters who have the same names as from the source material. Niether Galadriel nor Saruman were in The Hobbit.. Instead of resting at the House Beorn (hopefully we will see Beorn in the next installment) after the Eagles rescue them from the wargs and orcs, the Company comes to Rivendell. We have an addled-and-bird shit-pated Radagast -- who is pulled in a sleigh-travois contraption by rabbits of breakneck, breathtaking speed -- an awkward misalliance of Santa Claus with the Easter Bunny.  The Eagles are as glorious as they should be, though we don't get to hear them speak. But we do get to see more Rivendell, which, like Bilbo, we all want to see more of.

One wonders too how much of the footage in The Unexpected Journey was edited out of the LOTR movies, or unused in them?  This is a good thing.  However, as the first installment of Jackson's LOTR was the best of the three, so this leads one to expect the same may happen with The Hobbit films.

In any case, never having been a fan of The Hobbit, I enjoyed An Unexpected Journey much more than I did the book.
*  See also HBO's  GOT's departures from its print-source material.  Improvement or disgrace?  Are both versions disappointing in the same ways? Are both disappointing but in different ways? 

When it comes to rating the departures Jackson chose from Tolkien, with the exception of Arwen and her Ride in The Fellowship of the Ring, the departures were deeply disappointing. Frodo's repudiation of Sam in favor of Gollum, destroyed the foundation of why the Ring was destroyed and why Frodo and Sam survived: their unshaken devotion and loyalty to each other. It was wrong and the choice to do this was entirely Jackson's. All these wrong things in the film version are Jackson's responsibility entirely.  The source material was just fine.

The HBO-Got begins with deeply flawed print-source and then overlays its own chosen failures of taste, misogyny, torture-porn obsession, etc. on top of the print version.  Additionally, the source material isn't complete. Has there been another project that went on screen before the final source material was completed? (True Blood doesn't really apply to this as the author intends for the Sookie Stackhouse books to be stand alones as much as a series.)

Betting sorts who understand how to go about such things are probably making long book on the chances that the print version of GOT will never be finished. The author's provided the show runners / writers an outline as to how he projects the project to conclude, "in case," while the production team expects to carry their series through to that end on HBO with 6 or 7 seasons. HBO-Got's popular enough that there doesn't at this time seem any reason to not expect it to roll that way. As authors who write books to find out what happens know all too well, it's very hard to write a book when the story has already been finished. This is what creates the eternal conflict between outlining and not outlining, and makes writing proposals such a byatch.

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