Wednesday 19 December 2012

Thorin & A Lot More

[ CONTAINS "The Hobbit" SPOILERS ! ]

Before I start with this article, I must add that I neither can, nor intend to do a full review about "The Hobbit".
The article is completely based on my personal experience watching the film (3D 48frs) and so far seeing it one time only (though I would like to see it numerous more times).

What got me started with my ramblings, musings and just letting my thought drift off on various subjects, was

Gratiana Lovelace on Facebook (16.12.12), who asked the following questions:

1)  Most favourite and least favourite moments?
2)  What surprised you about "The Hobbit"?
3)  If you were the director, is there anything you would do differently and why?

Those questions got me to think, what I would answer and in the following got me started on my more in depths analysis of the film experience.

The easy part was, what I like most:

  1. The heroic appearance and behaviour of Thorin Oakenshield at the beginning, setting his 'royal' and 'worthy' background for the rest of the story.
    (As I find Thorin a rather comic and involuntary funny and not to be taken serious leader in the book, I was surprised by this valuable characterisation of Thorin Oakenshield in the film.)

    What - strangely and surprisingly for me - I like least about "The Hobbit", is the embracing at the end, though I appreciate the way it is done. (I come back to it in point 3, though I am not sure, I would make it any better with my interference.)
  2. Really surprised I was, that well halfway through the film, suddenly somebody seemd to start snoring next to me in the audience. It took some more strange sounds to alert me, that suddenly I became aware of the new surround sound, which really made you believe you were sitting in the middle of the action. - So no real snoring ;o) How could one fall asleep while watching that wonderful film?
  3. What I would make differently if I could (and knew what I was doing in such a complex surrounding like the filming of "The Hobbit") is:
    In the embracing scene between Thorin Oakenshield and Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit, I would take away some of the prosthetic layers on Thorin's face.
    Here is the only moment I really got annoyed with the mask, while in all other scenes, I was quite happy, what emotions RA could transmit though having his face heavily covered.
    I know he wants to portray a stony faced warrior in that scene breaking down with emotion, but still, I would like to see that (or rather more of that).
    [Perhaps, I did not get a too good look at this scene during the first watching, because I was much too surprised that Thorin Oakenshield would really get emotional and embrace Bilbo. I must have a closer look the next time.]

What I, with answering those questions, did not mention so far is, the most impressive moment, where all the technology and image density made complete sense to me, was the moment the eagles flew like the rulers of the world.
I want to see this again, each layer of the feathers, each movement, the landscape and enjoy this freedom and heavenly peace all over again.

One thing I was astonished about in other reviews about "The Hobbit" was that the time spent in Rivendell was seen as too long.
I did not have that impression at all. May be because I only saw the first part of "Lord of the Rings" and wanted to explore each well crafted detail of this setting to full extent and would like to, like Mr. Armitage told he did before starting filming, go through the created set, see and discover each crafted piece, see the drafts and models for it and how they turned into the end result of this beautiful stage.

The other reason why I saw this sequence completely appropriate in its timing and slowing down of the pace is, because this so well shows the different mentality of hectic and active dwarves who grab the opportunity when it comes and stumble into danger, which they can't control or oversee and where they might not be able to stop in time. They are forceful and fierce warriors.

In contrast, the elves are thoughtful, don't speak before they heavily evaluated each aspect and think they are the better people for it. So, in a way arrogant in their presumed nobility, which allows them to live their life in comfortable, comfort enjoying pace.
In comparison, the dwarves have no sense for these comforts (except their own food) and no patience with the slow pace of the elves, which in the end brings Thorin Oakenshield to leave them with his men and not await any long thought through resolution or compromise the elves might have come up with at the end.
Thorin wants to act, not discuss and debate his quest.

I find especially that change of the tempo of the film very well composed and each moment at Rivendell showed one different aspect, why elves and dwarves just don't get along too well.
Especially the debates I found quite amusing, imagining what Thorin would have done if he would have been allowed to join the discussions and little mind fights.

Further Points:

Initiated by RA's interpretation and connecting the dwarves to the Jewish race, I followed the thought through further and found parallels to other parts of societies / peoples in "The Hobbit", which make sense, but seem so flattened out, that I won't mention them, as in most aspects, they are not overly favourable or a positive or even hopeful interpretation of the world.

What I could not appreciate in full, are the cave scenes of "The Hobbit".
They are full of action (like an action game) and considering my slow eyes go into emergency mode - that means, they reduce the image to movement impressions and when there is lots of movement at the same time, just reduce the input of information further.
So to appreciate any of the realistic special effects and the part of the actors here, means for me to having to see this part many more times.
Once is not nearly enough, but just a blur in my memory, though at the time I was impressed by the detail all this movement still reached on screen.

The one thing lots of J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis (Narnia) interpretations don't mention, that they were not happy or hopeful interpreters of their time. This is the reason why I so much appreciate RA's reference to WWI as background for Tolkien to write this story.
Thorin is no hero, neither is the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, but they struggle to make sense of a world around them, which makes no sense.
They try to fight for their little space to make a living and have a 'home', each in their own way and ideology.
The motive of small men thrown out into an unfriendly world they can't influence, but which means gravest danger, allows them to become heroes or to fail, for no ulterior motive or no goal or sense in life.

This also is part of the reason, why I never liked either "Lord of the Rings", "The Hobbit", nore the "Narnia Chronicles", when I read them.
They have no goal or sense of promise of redemption, but are just brutal fights for their own right.
No goal of redemption, doing right by some measure of morality (which does not exist or at least not in a way one would expect in the writing of either author, who are seen as leading Christian literature for teens).
No bravery (though doing what is necessary could be rated in that way, but I don't, as all characters are pushed into their position and just act and react upon it and not out of a conscious sense of bravery and trying to be strong or do the 'right' thing, but doing what must be done).
No reflection upon the morality or rightfulness of their doing, just puppets in a greater game they have no means to understand.

This is the reason, why I find the connection to WWI so important, to the sense of inevitability, of helplessness, of having to do what must be done.

When I think back of reports about the wars from my family, that so much resembles their experience of the time, thought they stood at the opposite side of J.R.R. Tolkien and his friends.

The worst critique I have for the two authors, I combined even before I knew they were friends, is:
Their writing has no hope, no goal, no change for the better, just a respite from the worst, a delay from the winning of unclear, hateful, yet not legitimized or legally banned bad forces for some time longer.

This hopelessness, the never changing ritual of fight of the good against the bad forces, makes me avoid the authors, though I see their writing in a way as a time document.
They depress me enormously and make me search the more for a reason for life, for joy, for rightful and good behaviour, beside a just temporarily appearing wizzard / lion, giving sense like a doctrine or a 'deus ex machina' from the Antiquity.

I don't believe in such a haughty, self-obsessed position of G*d, but in a loving, caring and freedom loving G*d, having a reason for each single one of us.
So my outlook to life is much more hopeful, much friendlier, much more joyful, than either J.R.R. Tolkien's or C.S. Lewis' could ever be.
I hate the spreading of depression and giving it an almost religious meaning, prolonging and manifesting a for me hateful image of G*d.
In principle, I do think we can make things better in future, not making the same mistakes all over again like I see it in those authors' work. (Not that we do make things better, but at least that we get the G*d given option and not follow a pre-set path of fate, that repeats itself over and over again.)
J.R.R. Tolkine and C.S.Lewis give me no hope, that except for a daily fight between good and evil forces, nothing will ever change, just the participants of the fight, not the attitude, not the fierceness, nothing ... forever ... till the last day of creation and the end of time.

Just perhaps need to explain, that all the fuss in J.R.R. Tolkien's work as well as the Narnia Chronicles with lots of pretended ulterior motives like brotherhood, loyalty, honor, 'religious believe' in something, to build a forceful army and strong fighting unit, for me are just absolutely empty and senseless motives, created to get the story along, but not in a way to build a hopeful future or religious mind system upon. So therefore I always, even when I read the "Narnia Chronicles" and "Lord of the Rings" years ago and discovered that they were the recommended literature for a Christian youth, found them dangerously violent in the name of an empty believe system.
They explain nothing and build nothing in a creative, hopeful, understanding and future building way.


  1. Interesting review, Cdoart. It had not even occurred to me that the film slowed down in the Rivendell scenes, but you are right. Also agree about the embracing scene - out of character for the haughty majesty to be spreading the live that way ;-)
    Happy Christmas

  2. Thank you very much for your feedback, guylty !
    I hope you have wonderful Christmas days and wish you all the best !

  3. Your review gives me a lot to think about. I was not a fan of The Lord of the Rings series of movies. Although they were beautiful to look at - they left me cold, and battle scenes always bore me! But I was not clear why I was not emotionally touched by the movies. I think you might have hit on the reasons why!

    1. Thank you very much for your feedback, Phylly3!
      With those two authors, I always wonder, why my judgement is so very damning.
      They just give me no hope at all, that the right forces will win for a bright future or have any legitimization for future hope. They leave me hopeless and with a future which will bring lots of further fights and conflicts, which will allow men to fight brave battles. What 'hope' is that?
      The connection to Northern mythology, though fitting, for me is a rather depressing one to prolongue such a 'stupid' world view. As a woman, I am exceedingly happy, that we got ahead of such a world view.
      Even a simple criminal novel solves one thing and so has a world-ordering function. Lord of the Rings, Hobbit and Narnia don't do that.
      I know, that this is the reason why especially women read criminal novels, as they need a solved and civiliced environment, for their own space, to live peacefully with their children and family and to survive themselves.
      To go back to such a barbarian system and world view and idealize it, is exceedingly depressing for me.