Hobbit dystopia

So. Have seen in the news lately that the Hobbit films — made by Peter Jackson, of the book by J.R.R. Tolkien, both of which are names worth a closer familiarity — seem to be headed for a making in New Zealand after all. The harps of the actors’ organizations have not been heard stronger than the golden ring of a cascade of 1.5 billion dollars into the national economy; the movie is in the making once again.

Or, er, the movies. A Hobbit, in two parts.

Which is a fine point to begin scaring the informed reader shitless.

Where do you cut the Hobbit in two? (You orcs in the back row: the book, not the diminutive humanoid. That’s cut in two along the spinal cord, okay?) Because, by the usual rules of movie-making, there seems to be a certain want to end a movie with a bang. Where’s that?

The book has 19 chapters. The Misty Moutains orc encounter ending in the eagle escape seem like the earliest possible spot (6 and 13 chapters per movie), though it’s a bit too early; the escape from the Elvenking (9 and 10 chapters) seems the latest possible point. (If you go beyond that, the Laketown scenes would make a really tedious epilogue, blathering of the details that are the subject of the second movie. If you let the dwarves reach the mountain, you’re running out of stuff for the second movie, and still won’t find an ending with a satisfying bang.) Actually, the only other spot I can think of would be when the dwarves are dragged inside the Elvenking’s little fortress (8 and 11); much like the Two Towers ends with a hobbit (Sam) companion-separated and in severe distress.

Not that I have, cat-burglar-like (Garfield, more like) snuck into Peter Jackson’s Cabinet of Scripts, but I’m pretty willing to bet the split will be at the end of the Mirkwood adventures; it’ll let the first movie end with the Lonely Mountain in view, and the second start with a situation check in Laketown. The elf escape is not a particularly battlesome action sequence, but it lets the coward burglar shine; and the first movie will inevitably be an episodic exposition of a hobbit’s growth anyway. The second movie can then be about the proper disposal of a dragon.

Here’s a panic button: can there really be a movie like the book — one with, now that I think about it, without a single female character? (I think if I’m missing someone, it’s a someone credited as “Female Elf #2”.) More importantly, can there really be a movie without a romantic subplot and erotic tension, no matter how much this is a movie based on a book for the young uns. I think the appearance of Candy, a plucky Hobbit maiden that left Fili tied in a broom closet, is fairly unlikely; as is the appearance of Radagasta the fetching wizardess, wife to Gandalf. (The sound you heard was a fan aneurysm.) But how safe are we from a Dis, a female dwarf (“Dwarf women have beards!”) substituted for one of the dwarves?

Personally I think the right amount of sexual tension could be achieved by having the climax of part one be a homosexual ritual gay orgy of thirteen hairy dwarves; but I fear the cinema-going public is not ready for that, yet. (“Surprise midget porn!”)

Traditionally, a movie isn’t danger, danger, biggest danger. Movies tend to go flunky, sub-boss, the boss of them all. The Hobbit — the first film certainly — will have all manner of dangers that are not directly connected to Smaug the Dragon, the danger at the end of the road. It just seems so likely, so movie-like, to insert a line of “These mountains a fecking immense distance away from Smaug have become wild and dangerous since Smaug came a few centuries ago, which inexplicably hadn’t been communicated to me yet. We must be careful.”

If any connection can be made among the various dangers, it’s to the nameless shadow of Sauron, the anonymous Necromancer of Dol Guldur in Mirkwood. Which will be another interesting point: how to handle Sauron, nameless and almost unidentified at the tale’s edge, without lapsing into a ten-minute story dump about someone who’s just a storytelling excuse. (Gandalf: “I need to leave you on an urgent business. Have care in that ominous wood.” — “I am back, well timed! I and a few of my mates ousted a Necromancer from a fastness. Also, tea and crumpets. You’ve dealt with the dragon already, jolly good. Now a final crisis!”)

Then again, the Hobbit is a story that, already being episodic, could (in my opinion and fan-atic desire) very well include “flashbacks” to dwarvish history — not just to how the Dragon came, but to the falling fortunes of Thorin Oakenshield’s family. Including how his grandfather Thror tried to recover Moria, the ancient delving of Khazad-Dum, instead of the Mountain lost to the Dragon, and was killed by Azog the Orc; and how that led to war, slaughter, and a bitter victory, but not to the recovery of Moria as something already within blanched the only dwarf to look in its portal. Including how Thorin’s father, Thrain, went wandering, and was lost, and was found by Gandalf in a dark and terrible place. Each could be a thirty-second flashback; but since the story is already episodic (the Troll Episode, the Elrond Episode, the Mountain Giant Episode, etc.), it wouldn’t terribly hurt, in my openly ignorant opinion, to have a few episodes from the past, either.

And, ah, I referred to Smaug as “the danger at the end of the road”? Not quite true; so how will a movie handle building up a threat that doesn’t appear in the first movie, and is disposed of halfway through the second one? If they try to combine Smaug’s death and the Battle of the Five Armies… well, then my head will explode, because the Siege of the Mountain becomes something of a farce if the dragon’s still lurking round somewhere. (“Well apparently the Dragon flew away. Possibly to gather an army of Orcs. Now let’s bicker about whose gold this all is!”)

Finally, what about the unfriendly bits? The dwarves are utter shits towards Bilbo from time to time, and it’s an actually glorious moment of deeply felt desire when Thorin near loses it over the Arkenstone; the Elvenking is a prejudiced little shit with not an ounce of trust in him; the Lakemen are more motivated by greed than by anything else, and Bard doesn’t like that dwarves at all; Beorn is a right dangerous character; and towards the end most everyone wants to kill, rob or do both to the others. I hope that all remains. That’s drama. (Also possibly something typical in children’s fiction of English origin; but not an area of my expertise so no more of that.)

Ah, dang you, Peter Jackson, get filming it already! And find a way to make the audiences have a repetitive cashflow hemorrhage so we can have a HBO Silmarillion too! (Sigh, no; but one can hope, no? What I wouldn’t give to see Feanor’s face bright and mad by the glow of burning ships in Lammoth; Fingolfin shining like a star at Melkor Morgoth’s feet; the werewolf wizard demon Thu Sauron’s shadow of delusion and fear slipping through the forests of Dorthonion; Luthien Tinuviel singing in the lightless depths of Thangorodrim; Beren saying “This very moment I do hold the Silmaril in my hand”, and the court recoiling in horror; a storm of balrogs and dragons crawling over the burning walls of Gondolin; Maglor and Maedhros and the final desolation of the Feanori; one hundred more scenes and quotes — but, sad to say, not likely to happen until computer tomfoolery gets a whole lot cheaper still, and not worth happening until someone wants to do it right. And no, no points for guessing if I was of a particularly impressionable age when I first got hold of that book, and it got a hold of me. I’ve been looking for more of the same ever since.)

(In a less serious fashion, there’s this idea: I would also love an anime of the Silmarillion, with all the histrionics, panty shots and implausibly large weaponry that that implied. Wouldn’t be all that loyal to the feel of the original, but who of us doesn’t want to see Morgoth stepping out of Angband to meet the Elf-king’s challenge, as massive, ancient and menacing as Nausicaa’s God Warrior? And Ichigo Kuro— err, Fingolfin there, full of fury and without a shred of hope. Who of us doesn’t want to — well, the sour unadventurous types, that’s who. Miscegenate your obsessions, people!)

One Response to “Hobbit dystopia”

  1. Akheloios Says:

    I’m not sure how much we can claim it as ours, but if there’s an old story the English keep telling to our children generation after generation, Jack the giant killer, or as it’s more usually known as, Jack and the beanstalk.

    In the several different versions Jack wanders off from his farm, finds a castle, robs the owners of everything they own, and when they get upset Jack kills them. I think it’s why we had an empire.

    We’ve definately internalised burglary, romanticised it, we cuddle it at night and think that when we do it, it isn’t wrong, just as long as we can point out that the people we do it to are slightly different to us in some way.

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