THE HOBBIT: The Desolation of Tolkien

I loved the first Hobbit movie and hated, hated, hated the second. It was stupid on every level of stupidity. It is rightly to be called THE DESOLATION OF TOLKIEN.

Before swan-diving into the sewer of total stupidity that is the DESOLATION movie, my intractable Southern courtesy requires that I say something good about this movie. Well, as it happens, there was not just one thing good about this movie, there were three: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, and Richard Armitage. They played their parts so well, that I feel I have met the real Gandalf, Bilbo and Thorin.

Sylvester McCoy did his best with what he was given, but the movie maker put bird poop in his hair. Which is not, come to think of it, so very different from what the movie maker did to us, his audience. This was to make Rhadaghast the Brown, the divine and august Istari who journeyed from the Blessed Lands beyond the Uttermost West to aid Middle Earth in its dark hour, to be as silly-looking a human whoopee cushion as possible.

On to what I hated with a nerdrageous passion that knows no sense of proportion: let us start at the beginning.

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Let us start with the poster. Who is missing from this picture? Hint: it is the character the movie is named after. He is also missing from most of the film. Apparently he was drowned beneath an inundation of padding. He will be missed.

Second question: which three characters in this poster do not appear in the book called THE HOBBIT on which this movie is loosely, very loosely, somewhat supposedly almost inspired by something like part of maybe the name?

On to the first scene: One of my favorite scenes in THE HOBBIT is the meeting between Gandalf and Beorn. Gandalf, being a wise old man, does not bring in thirteen dwarves and a hobbit all at once and beg hospitality from the fearsome and proud freeholder whose homestead dares the eaves of Mirkwood itself: nor does he use any charm other than his charming demeanor. Instead he toys with Beorn’s curiosity as he tells the story of their adventures so far, introducing each pair of additional dwarves, as if by a slip of the tongue, so that the fierce freeholder is won over. Had this scene been in the film, it would also have brought the audience up to speed.

You see, the scene is charming because it is a children’s story, and in children’s stories, tricks like this work, and they do not need to be magic tricks. Gandalf comes over as a wise man, a counselor, not a magic-powered superhero.

The drama here is that the dwarves are stranded without any gear or provision or provender, and if the lonely and stubborn Beorn, a man distrustful of travelers and beggars who has no love for dwarves, does not help them, they starve and the quest fails.

Gandalf also drops a hint that Beorn is not as he appears. Some dark secret, redolent of the supernatural, clings to this figure somehow able to survive in the eave-shadows of a cursed and haunted wood.

No, instead Beorn’s dark secret is revealed from the get-go, and he complains about having been enslaved and his people exterminated, and it as about as hamfisted and heavy-handed a characterization as can be crammed into a five minute clip of film, and nothing comes of it and it comes from nowhere, since the dramatic tension of having to win his alliance lest the quest fail does not exist in this version.

His makeup is stupid, as if he is the Middle Earth version of Samson, who, instead of having his power hidden in his hair, has it hidden in his eyebrows.

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Hawat-1984

 

 

 

 

 

 

He looked like Freddie Jones in his Mentat get-up in the 1984 film version of DUNE. I was expecting him at any moment to chant: “It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, the stains become a warning…”

There is a scene where the dwarves want to keep the ponies loaned by Beorn but their overlooked last member, Bilbo, reminds them to keep their promises – at which moment the looming shadow of a bearlike shape is seen on a ridge nearby, watching them, silent as an angel of vengeance. Or at least that is in the book.

I do not remember that scene, which is the first step of Bilbo’s character arc to becoming the hero of the company, as being in the film. Maybe I had to get up to get popcorn. I do remember the eerie hints of Beorn’s true nature not being present in the film, but instead a garish special effect, maybe tossed in for a pointless reason.

Wow. I am already weary under the heavy load of stupid things, and we have not even reached Mirkwood yet. How about a mini-vacation, dear reader? There were two other thing that were not just done right, they were done brilliantly: the gateway to Mirkwood looked like a gate should look if long lost elves had carved it; and there is a scene, taken straight from the book, where Bilbo climbs a tree and for a moment sees the winds of the world above the leaf-gloom, and beholds the black butterflies of Mirkwood in the sunlight. Peter Jackson did that scene, and did it perfectly.

Now let us descend back down into the abyss of poor filmsmanship like Bilbo reluctantly shimmying down the tree away from the sunlight, smiling clouds, and fluttering butterflies. Farewell, one good moment! Hail, boring inanity!

The quest enters Mirkwood, and Gandalf leaves them with the warning that they are not to depart from the path. Leaving the path is bad.

In the book, as in any number of old myths, fairy tales or medieval legends, they are indeed lured off the path due to weakness of character. In the book, the dwarves see what seems to be the campfires of a gay company dancing and feasting with music and rich ale and savory meats, and when they blunder off the path toward the vision, it turns out not to be men but rather forest elves, who vanish in a twinkling, as by magic, and the dwarves are left dazed and asleep amid the mossy forest roots.

In the movie, they try not to leave the path, but then they get stoned at Woodstock, because maybe they dropped some bad acid, man. The vibes turn bad, man, it’s a bad trip! And Bilbo turns and sees himself. WHOA, this is so heavy, dude!

Okay. Does anyone who has ever told a story to a child actually need lessons in how it is done? The rule is very simple. Adults will allow you to cheat the story. Children won’t. If the story says that only Love’s First Kiss will wake the sleeping princess, an adult might allow you to pull an ironic trick such as having the prince be the villain and the sister’s love save the princess. But no kid will allow it. It is cheating. There is an unspoken contract, as binding as if enforced by an unsmiling and clear-eyed king who rules with a rod of iron, between the teller of the tale and those who enter the tale. The rule in children’s stories is that you don’t say things you don’t mean.

Gandalf tells them not to leave the path. He does not mean it. If he meant it, the dwarves would be tempted to leave the path due to a weakness of character, or fear, or hunger, and the hobbit would remind them to stay on the straight and narrow. Get it? It is the first rule of story telling. Maybe it is the only rule. Story telling is serious and telling a children’s story is even more serious, because children are more severe critics than adults, and their sense of justice is more finely honed.

Other complains? I have a Brazilian, which is a number larger than a Cotillion.

There was not enough Mirkwood in the film. It was supposed to be murky, and seem endless, and gloomy and forbidding, and you were supposed to feel lost. Instead the dwarves zipped through the endless miles of gloom in, what, like an afternoon? Did they even camp overnight?

Time for another vacation from stupidityland. There was something that was not in the book but that was so damned cool that it almost makes up for the disappointment of Beorn.

When Bilbo puts on the ring which he got from Gollum, he can hear the spiders talking and understand their evil speech, for he is partway into the shadow realm.

Ah, I loved that idea. It was way cool.

Then there was a fight scene where the film maker threw gallons of glop in three dee toward my eyes. Vacation over.

In the book, Bilbo lures the spiders away from their prey, the helpless dwarves, by calling them names, such as Lazy Lob, Crazy Cob, and Old Tomnoddy and, of course, Attercop. It is classic Jack-taunting-the-Giant fairy tale gimmick, as fresh and ancient as Eastertide, where the little guy lures the big guy with eight legs clustered eyes and a pincer mouth away from the prisoners.

Vocabulary trivia time! Attercop —n. 1. a spider. 2. an ill-natured person. [Old English attorcoppa, from ātor poison and cop head]

In the movie, no such luck. No such attercop. Instead we get a WORLD OF WARCRAFT style CGI fight with giant spiders. Now with extra glop.

This film was like being hit in the head over and over with a hammer, and with each blow, the IQ of the audience dropped another few digits. At this point a particularly fierce blow of the Stupidity Hammer struck home. Yes, fans, it was time for Legolas to come onstage!

I do not know if you have ever played Dungeons and Dragons or any of the various role playing games that occupied my youth, but if you had, you would be familiar with the phenomenon called ‘the moderator’s pet NPC.’ This is when a moderator introduces a character into the adventure who does everything better than any player character, and the entire universe (the moderator’s invented universe, that is) showers him with blessings and love. You might see a similar phenomenon among writers of fan fiction, when they intrude themselves into their favorite scene as ‘Mary Sue’ the ensign who saves the Enterprise.

Well, watching Legolas, a character not in this book in any way, shape or form, I felt I was watching the moderator’s pet NPC in action.

It was like seeing Legosue, not Legolas.

And then came another blow of the Stupidity Hammer: the interspecies romance between the cute elf-girl and Kili, who for some reason did not look at all like a dwarf.

Look here, I am a married man, so I have been forced by the wife under the threat of domestic displeasure to go see my fair share of romances. Cowering and uxorious, I went. These included BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY not to mention the remake of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, which I simply adored. Romance, like children’s fables, has a simple rule. The couple needs two things (1) some strong reason for them to be together and (2) some strong obstacle which keeps them apart. The drama of romance consists of item (1) against all odds and beyond all hope overcoming item (2).

But in the movie now and hereafter to be called, the Desolation of Two Hours of My Life That I Will Never Get Back Again, there was item (2), namely that the two creatures were not of the same order of being, not to mention the Son of Earth was in the dungeon of the elf-king; but there was no item (1). What did they have in common, again, exactly? What did she see in him? What was the basis of their mutual attraction?

Time for another mini-vacation from the endless blows of the Stupidity Hammer! We get to see a scene set in the underground halls of Thranduil the Elf-king. Whatever else Jackson does wrong, he does his set direction right, does his art direction right, and every prop and weapon and artifact and smallest thing looks simply perfect. I loved the set of the throneroom.

AN-NNN-ND then, for a small but very painful smack of the Stupidity Hammer, we get to see Thranduil’s face melt for a second, as if he is hiding by enchantment (an enchantment that slips when he is angry) some old scar from where the dragon burned a huge hole in his cheek so that all the teeth of his skull are visible. Or maybe his face was burned by acid only on one side, and he hates the Batman so much, that he will flip a coin to see whether he will spare his captives or kill them. And he only steals things related to the number Two. Yes, that is it: Thranduil is Two-Face. But whatever he was, he was not like a Tolkien character.

Ergo the scene where Thranduil kills an orc after the helpless prisoner cooperates is not because the director forgot that no Tolkien elf would ever break his word of honor in such a sadistic and low and nasty way, not even to an enemy; no, the orc just lost the coin toss! (That noise you just heard was the sound of my brain sloshing against the scuppers of my skull under the impact of the Stupidity Hammer.)

Of course nothing comes of Two-Thranduil’s melty face, except to show that he hates dragons. Because otherwise there is no reason to hate a dragon, because we all love them, right?

Then the Stupidity Hammer lashes out again, this time as blow to the groin of every man in the audience, because, SURPRISE! The lovely and eternally young elf-maiden, instead of doing elf-maidenly things like dancing in the moonlight on the surface of enchanted lakes or singing magical songs to beguile the watchful terrors of Thangorodrim, turns out to be Xena the Warrior Elf Princess. Yes, she is the roughest, toughest most kick-ass Spartan Marine Navy SEAL Special Forces Ninja Battlebabe in the entire warrior-harem of the elf-lord’s politically correct gender-neutral and gender-accommodating fashion-model army. She makes as much sense as a platoon of bathing beauty Cataphracts or the dread and dreaded Playboy Bunny Brute Squad.

ebas_Red_Sonja_by_Mystic_Oracle

All medieval and classic cultures of the ancient world, including those on which Tolkien modeled his elves, routinely expose their young and marriageable women to the fortunes of war, because bearing and raising the next generation of warriors is not needed for equality-loving elves.

Equality-loving elves. Who are monarchists. With a class system. Of ranks.

red_sonja_em_alta_bBattles are more fun when attractive young women are dismembered and desecrated by goblins! I believe that this is one point where C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien (and all Christian fantasy writers from before World War Two) were completely agreed upon, and it is a point necessary in order correctly to capture the mood and tone and nuance of the medieval romances or Norse sagas such writers were straining their every artistic nerve and sinew to create.

So, wait, we have an ancient and ageless society of elves where the virgin maidens go off to war, but these same virgin maidens must abide by the decision of their father or liege lord for permission to marry?

At that point, another blow of the Stupidity Hammer descended, when we see Gandalf, all by his lonesome self, wandering into the stronghold of Dol Guldur.

In the book the stronghold of Dol Guldur was, you know, a stronghold. Hence the name. That means it was a fortress, filled with soldiers of the dread sorcerer known only as the Necromancer. In the book, while the scene is not onstage, the hints dropped imply that Gandalf and his brother wizards of the White Council put forth their strength and assailed Dol Guldur and drove Sauron forth. “Assailed” means they besieged the place, which means they parked an army in a circle around the tower, battered the walls, used catapults and trebuchets and battering rams to crack the gates: you get the picture.

Instead, in the movie,  Gandalf waltzed in, tells Rhadaghast not to waltz in, gets mugged by orcs, and then Sauron shows up as a huge black special effect, and telekinetically pins the old man up against a wall — and does not kill him.

Okay. Time for another lesson in story-telling. This is a lesson which, unlike the others, only modern fantasy writers know, and which not all children or all women fans of romance know. This is because in the old days wizards were never the main characters; they were either wise councilors and prophets like Merlin, or they were antagonists whose curse or enchantment was the main obstacle to be overcome.

But when the wizard is onstage as the main character, you have to adopt what I call the Jack Vance Rule. (I call it this because Jack Vance is the first author successfully and adroitly to have applied this rule in his THE DYING EARTH). The rule is (1) The wizard has to be able to do something unusual, or else he is not a wizard (2) he cannot do everything, or else there is no drama; therefore (3) the story teller has to communicate the reader whatever the dividing line is that separates what the wizard can do from what he cannot do, so that the reader can have a reasonable expectation of knowing what the wizard can and cannot do.

In Jack Vance, the rule was that wizards could only force into their three-dimensional brains the ultradimensional and reality-warping syllables of at most three to seven spells a day, which, once they were spoken, evaporated from the wizard’s brain like a dream at waking, their force expended, unable to be spoken again. Sound familiar? It is such a simple and clear and elegant rule for how to limit magic that Gary Gygax used it in his Dungeons and Dragons game, which then outstripped Vance in fame, so that modern readers often find Vance disappointingly similar to a D&D game.

Any rule will do. In GREEN LANTERN comics, the magic ring can do anything as long as it is green, and it is helpless against the color yellow.

In the book, Gandalf does not need his rules defined because he is not a main character. He is a wise councilor and a wonder worker in the fashion of Merlin. He never does anything more magical than throw a pinecone full of napalm at a warg, lock a door, break a bridge, or hold up his staff to forbid an unclean spirit entrance into a gateway. He is roughly as magical as your average Army chaplain who carries a flamethrower.

In the movie, however, the wizard is a main character who faces another main character, also a wizard, in a duel of magic. The results are lame and stupid because the audience sees a bunch of meaningless lightshow effects, with no idea of what allows either side to win or lose. I felt like astronaut Bowman entering the spacewarp of the monolith. Wow. Pretty lights.

2001 A Space Odyssey 4

My only consolation is that this lame duel of magic was nowhere near as lameriffic as  the wizard duel between Gandalf and Saruman in FELLOWSHIP, which consisted of old men flying about on wires slamming each other into walls with their green lantern style telekinesis.

This also was the main drawback of the HARRY POTTER movies, by the way. In the final duel between Harry and his Dark Lord (same job, different guy), they point their wands at each other. Then they grimace. Then they point their wands at each other even harder.

Bilbo is not onstage during all this. Where is the Hobbit in this film, allegedly called THE HOBBIT, again?

Ah, but then we see Bilbo. After his friends are captured by wood elves, using his ring of invisibility, he sneaks into the buried palace of the elf lord. Unseen, his wily eyes spy out that the elves drink wine imported from Laketown, and float the empty barrels downstream as part of their trade and traffic with the human settlment.

He waits until the jailor is drunk, steals the keys, frees the dwarves, and, instead of attempting to sneak them past the heavily guarded upper gates, takes the dwarves to the loading dock beneath the wine cellar, seals them in the barrels, and clings, still unseen, to a barrel himself as the unsuspecting elf prentices pole the empty barrels downstream to the Laketown. It is simple and brilliant. Unfortunately, he gets a wetting, and takes a headcold: little bit of realism, if not comedy relief.

Oh, no, wait. That is not what happens.

Just then, just when I thought I would be free from the repeated blows to my tender head of the Stupidity Hammer, the Stupidity Hammer rose up from the shining screen, drew back, whirled hugely and with great force and might and main slammed me right between the eyes so my brain squirted out my ears a yard past my shoulders in both directions.

Bilbo does not seal the barrels.

I will wait for you to recover in case you just got the sensation of a Stupidity Hammer clonking you from the computer screen. They I will repeat myself, because it is so dumb you might not believe me:

Bilbo does not seal the barrels. He leaves the tops open.

So the dwarves are perfectly visible, by which I mean visible to the eye, by which I mean not hidden. By which I mean people with eyeballs can see them, such as the elf-people from whom they are allegedly trying to escape.

Bilbo leaves the barrel tops open when he is dumping the barrels into the water, which is a substance, so I am given to believe, that enters openings and makes things wet inside, and sometimes even sinks things.

Now the Thirteen Stupid Dwarves and One Stupid Hobbit are floating away on the smooth and placid river. Ah, but with another and fiercer blow of the Stupidity Hammer, I now see that the river is a rock-filled rushing rapids of white water which no one would ever float barrels down as part of their trade and commerce, and which is guarded by a water-gate that stupidly cannot be lowered in time, and which is prone to sudden attacks for no reason by hordes of stupid goblins, so that an endless, endless three-way battle between the barrel-dwarves, the dancing and skipping acrobat elf archers (including their young women!) and the roaring and ever-missing goblin horde. It is like a ride in a fun carnival! Except stupid!

As I was in the theater, gripping the popcorn-stained carpet in my teeth because I was dazed from the blow of the last Stupidity Hammer, and I started to stagger weakly to my feet, when, lo and behold! I was treated to the sight of a roaring dwarf sticking his arms and legs out through the wood of the barrel bashing enemies left and right.

This was the only moment in the whole sucktastic movie when any dwarf warrior actually does anything effective against his hereditary foes, the orcs. Roaring dwarf wears barrel. Arms, legs, stick out. The wood acts as armor, and he rolls on people and stuff.

And therefore a giant hammer of pure stupidity lashed out of the screen and felled me again. I lay mewling, clutching my head with my sweaty hands, whimpering for my Mommy to make it stop. MAKE IT STOP!

But it did not stop. It. Did. Not. Stop.

For awesome Legosue in his awesome flying trapeze artistic awesomeness had to flip across the screen and shoot goblins full of arrows. I wish he had had a boxing glove arrow, or one that shot out poisonous smoke, or one that had a lit stick of dynamite lashed to it. That would have been EVEN COOLER!!!! And then Legolas could have joined the Enterprise as the newest midshipman recruit yet saved them all from the Klingons, and Lt Uhura would have fallen in love with him.

Well, the Legolas Movie went on for a few more hours, and we got to Laketown. Every fan of Tolkien was eager to see the George RR Martin like intricacy of the political by-play between the various Machiavellian factions of Laketown. We all remember the dashing smuggler, known only as the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, who is trying to sneak past the secret police and the border guards to free French Aristocrats from the guillotine of Laketown, right?

Eh? What is that you are saying? There is nothing like all this crap I just made up in anything written by Tolkien? That it would only have bogged down and sullied the rather clear message about greed and ambition versus the virtues of a simple life which THE HOBBIT represents?  Oh. Well, yeah. You know that and I know that but Peter Jackson does not.

Excuse me, I must take a moment to consult my inner orc:

Peter u bagronk sha pushdug Jackson-glob búbhosh skai!

So, what happens next that could possibly be even stupider and make even less sense than what I have said so far? OF COURSE! Kili comes down with a headcold or a war wound or something, and since dwarves are wimps who give up as soon as convenient, he has to be left behind, so that Agog the Disrespectful, that orc who has been hunting Thorin with the menacing intensity of Tommy Lee Jones hunting Harrison Ford in the remake of THE FUGITIVE could show up in Laketown for another endless, endless scene of elf wonderboy Legolas shooting orcs with his elf wonder bowmanship! YEAH!

Oh, yes, you recall all those Dwarf warriors and warlords who go to war, and cut things in bits with axes and are as doughty and terrible as all getout because they do not retreat and they never get tired and they are ferocious and tough as the rocks they cleave? And strong as enough to slay orcs in secret wars hidden in dank tunnels far beneath the earth?

Remember those dwarves? Those dwarves are not in this movie.

No, in this movie, the wife and the little children of the smuggler do more damage to the attacking orcs than the dwarves. The dwarves are here for comedy relief.

Oh, and instead of goblins, who, you know, act like a horde of barbaric and vicious fighters, and do things like cover the battlefield and use scimitars and recurved bows to shoot enemies,  in THIS movie there were ultrasupersneaky ninja-goblins! Looks like the Stupidity Hammer landed a solid blow on my medulla oblongata!

We have a scene where ninja-goblins are wafting across rooftops, using their ninja-karate-magic to hide from the guards. I am sure I saw a scene where they used suction cups to climb a skyscraper or special radioactive insect clinging powers, but maybe I am confusing them with The Shadow, or with the Spiderman.  Or maybe Peter Jackson was.

Okay so then there was another fight, this time between ninja-orcs and the awesome flying acrobat ninjette-bowgirl elf. I think her name is Arrowette or Artemis or something.

young_justice__artemis_by_camilliette-d4jkhftJust kidding. To be quite honest, the actress Evangeline Lilly is not only quite attractive, she handles both the demands of the acting and a physical stunts very well. Indeed, I am afraid I have a bit of a crush on her, with her long lustrous hair, her finely chiseled cheekbones, her kissing-soft feminine lips, her soft curves aching with the promise of luscious loveplay … Oh, wait a minute. I am think I am looking at Orlando Bloom. Er, never mind. Sorry, Miss Lilly.

HBT2-fs-140204.DNGJust when I picked myself again off the sticky floor of the theater, blearily wondering where the Hobbit character after whom this movie was apparently named might be hiding, BAM! The familiar Hammer came down again. This time, it was a scene where Orlando Bloom is standing a zillion feet away from the evil orc bounty hunter Slopgog the Unmentionable or whatever his name is, and he does not shoot him with an elf arrow.

I sat there, rocking back and forth with my eyes crossed, and through the stream of drool and vitreous humor leaking down my chin I muttered again and again, “Shoot him with an elf arrow. Shoot. Him. With. An. Elf. Arrow. SHOOT HIM WITH AN ELF ARROW!”

But no. No elf arrow was forthcoming.

Blogsnog the Debunker or whatever his name strolled in a leisurely fashion down the narrow walkway of Laketown, not ducking for cover, and meanwhile no one was calling for the town guard, and the elf guy continued not to shoot him with an elf arrow.

You see, the film slimer, er, maker, wanted this scene to be like a gunfight in an iconic Western, with Clint Eastwood and John Wayne staring at each other with narrowed eyes as each strides menacingly ever closer, spurs jangling with each step. Of course, in a Western, both are armed with revolvers, and both are wary of making the first move lest the other man prove fast enough to draw and shoot first, but then both shooters want to close the distance to improve their aim. That is what makes such scenes tense.

Here was what makes a sense spectacularly NOT tense. One guy has a gun and the other had a knife, or a club, or maybe strangling wire or even a stick of butter, because no one gives a rat’s fart for what the other guy has because you can shoot him first.

If you have the weapon that, you know, shoots, you can shoot the guy who has no weapon that shoots, and so there is no downside to letting him see you go for your gun, or, for that matter, use a winch to load your crossbow in a leisurely manner, because you can raise it and turn him into a pincushion before he can attack you with his club or strangling wire. Or stick of butter.

In such a case, he will be running toward you at full speed, because if he walks a menacing walk, well, that give you time to roll a cigarette, light it, put your foot in the stirrup thingie on the crossbow, clamp it to your belt winch, and crank the string back, yawn, read a magazine, drop a bolt in the slot, check the grease on the bolt, aim, make vacation plans, check the wind speed, and fire a bolt through this heart and left lung and out his back in a three-dee spray of unnamed orcish life fluids.

Unless you are superspeed acrobat the wonder elf, in which case you can shoot him nine times a second and spell out your monogram in his vital organs.

Well, who cares? Neither character was in the book anyway. I think I lost consciousness at that moment, overcome by the fumes of the butter-substitute substance coating the theater floor between the seats. I woke a little later, and elfboy still had not shot Urgslug the Irkisonic, or whatever his name is. My wife had to stuff a wide handful of popcorn flavored food substitute into my face, in order to smother the broken, wretched burbling — shoot him … with …  an elf arrow.

Of course, the wife was shouting SHOOT HIM at the screen during this event, so the point of her behavior was not clear. Maybe she remembered that I invited her to this turkey, and we paid for many children and my mother in law.

I was semi-conscious for a long and dreary and utterly pointless scene where the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh was looking for the one last remaining black harpoon thing what was the only McGuffin that could kill the dragon, and then only when fired from a standing catapult that looked like it had been designed by the Professor on Gilligan’s Island. Why there were not a hundred of these, and scores of giant harpoon shooters, I do not know. But I am glad that Ishmael and Queequeg will appear in the sequel.

As it turns out, it did not matter that I, or for that matter the script writer, were only semi-conscious because, as with everything else in this movie, nothing comes from the scene and nothing led up to it.

Please, let no purists tell me that Bard and his Black Arrow were indeed in the book. You are mistaken. You are confusing them with Kirk Douglas’s character Ned LAND in Disney’s TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. He is the one who harpooons the evil dragon with his dragon harpoon. In Tolkien, Bard the Archer shoots an arrow. Got it? Arrow. Pointy thing. Flies. Like what the superelves use.

The next time I regained consciousness, it was in time to view one of my most favorite scenes not merely from Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT, but indeed from all literature whatsoever. You know what scene I mean!

Bilbo, donning his ring of invisibility, is pressured by the justifiably frightened dwarves to sneak into the lair of the loathsome wereworm, Smaug the Great, who is found asleep on the heaps of horded gold.

Bilbo steals a single cup, the smallest trifle, and this wakes the dragon to wrath, who emerges from the mountain on wings of flame, and finds and destroys the dwarvish camp, and eats their ponies. The dwarves flee into a secret door, hiding in an upper corridor, unwilling to go down and see what Smaug is about when he returns, shivering with rage, to his unclean burrow.

Those of you who are keen on literary references will see the parallel. In BEOWULF we recall the nameless escaped slave who, happening upon the grave of dead kings, enters it seeking shelter, and instead finds the wereworm aslumber on the heaped horde.

… At the awful sight
tottered that guest, and terror seized him;
yet the wretched fugitive rallied anon
from fright and fear ere he fled away,
and took the cup from that treasure-hoard.

He steals a cup to bribe his lord to receive him again and forgive his escape attempt. But
the sequel is horrific:[…]

When the dragon awoke, new woe was kindled.
…  discovered soon
that some one of mortals had searched his treasure,
his lordly gold. The guardian waited
ill-enduring till evening came;
boiling with wrath was the barrow’s keeper,
and fain with flame the foe to pay
for the dear cup’s loss.—Now day was fled
as the worm had wished. By its wall no more
was it glad to bide, but burning flew
folded in flame: a fearful beginning
for sons of the soil; and soon it came,
in the doom of their lord, to a dreadful end.

The whole point of the scene is the difference between a good and kindly lord, one who
open-handedly rewards his brave earls for their faithful service in battle, and the insane greed of the dragon, who cannot bear to part even with the smallest trifle, but who knows every article and implement and coin to the smallest detail.

As in Beowulf, so here. This second time Bilbo enters the stifling lair, the canny dragon wakes, and sweeps the dark around with his hypnotic, penetrating eyes, but Bilbo is invisible. Bilbo is clever enough to amuse the dragon with flattery and riddles, putting the noisome monster off his guard.

I am pleased to say that my favorite line—or at least part of it—appeared in the midst of this mockery and wreckage of one of my favorite books.

“The King under the Mountain is dead and where are his kin that dare seek revenge? Girion Lord of Dale is dead, and I have eaten his people like a wolf among sheep, and where are his sons’ sons that dare approach me? I kill where I wish and none dare resist. I laid low the warriors of old and their like is not in the world today. Then I was but young and tender. Now I am old and strong, strong, strong. Thief in the Shadows!” he gloated. “My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!”

And then, as by now we should have suspected, the steam-powered Stupidity Hammer caved into the front of my skull with the force of a pile driver. Because Bilbo took the ring off.

Okay, I get it. I get the idea. This movie is a sequel to the successful FELLOWSHIP, and the audience knows the ring is actually the One Ring, and therefore major mojo and bad news and so on. It is supposed to simply scream EE-VIL-LL whenever it appears on screen, and ergo again Bilbo has to yank it off his finger as often as possible so as not to become a shadow beneath the vaster shadow of the Dark Lord. I got it. I got the concept.

But the execution of the concept was a big, fat skull-whack from the now all-too-familiar Stupidity Hammer.

Smaug can defy armies of men and elves, but when a three foot tall burglar materializes right in front of his nose, he can suddenly neither bite nor strike nor breathe fire. Or, rather he does all these things, but is suddenly effected by some odd nerve disease that makes it impossible for him to control his limbs, so the bane of the Lonely Mountain, the destroyer of kingdoms, the scourge of Esgaroth, he flails and spits flame and hits to the left and right of his targets.

Just so we are clear on this point: Smaug suddenly and for no reason find he cannot kill a perfectly visible hobbit, because Bilbo suddenly and for no reason thought it was a good idea to doff his magic ring while standing before the dragon ergo so as to make himself perfectly visible.

Well, things go from bad — no, excuse me, they were already WAY past bad. This dial had been cranked up to eleven when the meter only goes to ten — things go from inexcusably stupid to indescribably stupid.

I should not attempt to describe it. The pain … the pain …

And yet I must! It is my penance for having spent real money on this turkey and inadvertently aided the forces of brain-gag by rewarding them for this craptastic jerktrocious smegbladder of a film. My money crossed their palms! Peter Jackson went out and bought himself a Starbucks cup of coffee with the four bucks he got from the forty dollars I spent on tickets! Forgive me, O Muses! I MUST SUFFER! (And you shall suffer with me, dear reader.)

The next scene is almost too stupidcallafragilisticexpeallidumbass for words to describe it. In fact, in the last sentence, was something that was not a word and did not describe it, proving my point. But what happened next is this:

When the dwarves heard the ruckus of Smaug unable to kill Bilbo, they decided Smaug must be the biggest pussywillow in Middle Earth, and unable to hit the broad side of a lonely mountain, because the twelve (or is it ten?) short men scrambled down into the lair and stronghold of the diabolical monster who killed WHOLE FINGOLFIN ARMIES and KINGDOMS and CRUD LIKE THAT because he is MORE OF A BADASS THAN FINGON GODZILLA!

Where was I? Oh, yeah, on the floor, in the fetal position, weeping blood from my eyes and brain goop from my ears, calling on mommy to make it stop. But. It. Won’t. Stop.

The comedy relief pantomime dwarves, who could not manage to fight a group of shrimpy, non-fire-breathing goblins except with elf acrobat-ninja help while wearing comedy relief barrels, now attack Godzilla. The rockets of the jets and the gunfire of the tanks of the Japanese Self Defense Forces can do nothing against the monster, and wading through the high tension power lines only enrages him, so he ignites a petroleum refinery.

But the dwarves come to attack him, and their plan is to dance on his nose.

They ignite the furnaces, thinking perhaps that hot things will hurt the demon-serpent whose inward parts are filled with fire hotter than any furnace in Middle Earth can achieve. Good thinking. If that works, you and Thor head out to find the water-breathing sea-serpent coiled around the world and drown it. In water.

Now, no doubt you are asking — well, if the dwarves are so hardcore balls-o’-brass brave in this scene, why were they so cautious about the army-eating dragon earlier? I mean, this is a monster that eats armies. He deep fat fries them and eats whole armies.

I dimly recall that there were some scenes of short people swinging on long lines, unless I am confusing this with a similar scene where Frankenstein’s monster while trying to escape from Dracula was spidermanning across a deep chasm in the movie VAN HELSING. Or maybe that was Spiderman trying to escape from Doctor Octopus atop a speeding train. Or maybe it was the last board in the famous video game DRAGONSLAYER made by that guy who animated RATS OF NIHM. I dunno. It is all a popcorn-oil-flavored blur now.

With the infinite weariness of one who wishes only to die and be reborn due to bad karma as a stinging centipede, I pried open one gummy, tear-crusted eye and focused it dimly at the great shining screen of neverending movie dumbness.

I saw a giant statue of a dwarf king made of molten gold fall over on the dragon. It hit the dragon and he shook it off, sending expensive droplets, worth a thousand dollars an ounce, off in every direction. He is not hurt in any way.

That was the plan.

It was a two step plan: Step (1) dance on the dragon’s nose and then Step (2) construct or find a conveniently placed Lady Liberty-sized master mold of a cast statue of Durin the Great or someone, fill it with the molten gold conveniently stacked and prepared in the furnaces, which conveniently all heat up to the proper temperature and need no crew to work any of their moving parts, and wait until the flying version of Godzilla, the guy who EATS WHOLE FUNDIN ARMIES is hovering on his vast batlike wings right in the exact right spot, and drop the entire molten statue on his head, because he will be too surprised and stupefied to use his vast batlike wings to move eight meters to the left or two meter up and ergo avoid the falling Lady Liberty-sized but still hissingly molten statue of Durin the Great or someone.

Ah, but not to worry, because the third part of the plan, right after the dragon shakes off the molten gold because it cannot hurt him in any way, is better than the first two parts! In the third part of the plan, the dragon shakes off the molten gold and opens his mouth and breathes out fire which kills every living thing in the chamber where he is and all the corridors and chambers to each side of him, as he destroys everything in his vast, inhuman, unstoppable rage.

The dragon then uses his nose like a bloodhound, and scents his foes, if any survived, and follows them one by screaming one, slithering his snaky body into narrow spaces if need be, or if the prey attempts to hide in holes too small for him, he vomit fire on them, burns up all the oxygen in the room, and laughs while they die.

Failing that, he topples titanic pillars and statues to block any escape exists he discovers, and then goes to the main gate and takes up a position and waits for them to starve to death, all the while shouting out mocking riddles to them, or perhaps catching the king’s deer and, with puffs of his fiery breath, cooking the venison so they can smell the savory fumes.

Whoops, I am sorry, that is not the third part of the plan. The third part of the plan is that the dragon loves the idea of people breaking into his lair and taking his stuff, and he does not really want to disturb them, and so he flies away to go attack Laketown, perhaps because he is miffed at the customs agents who are stopping the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh and mad about the treatment of French aristocrats.

The end.

To be continued in our next episode. Perhaps there will be even less of Bilbo in Part Three.

Let us be clear on that last, dumb, super dumb, stupidly dumb scene of dumbfounding dumbness.

Got the plan?

Let us review, one more time, the steps of this awesome, awesome plan: 1. Send down Bilbo. 2.  Have him take off his magic ring while standing directly in front of the dragon’s nose. 3. Listen for the sound of the dragon inexplicably not killing the hobbit in one eighth of one second. 4. Rush into the dragon’s lair. 5. Hope he misses you while trying to swat you. 6. Dance on nose. 7. Swung on things, run in circles. 8. Hit him with a zillion cubic feet of molten metal. Watch to make sure he is not wounded or inconvenienced in any way as he shakes it off. 9. Watch as he flies off for no reason whatsoever, during the one moment when nothing in Middle Earth or Upper Heaven or Lower Hell could possibly have forced him to depart, namely, the very moment when someone is trespassing on his horde.

Since that was the plan anyway, I wonder why the plan was not to forget about the stupid map and key and Durin’s Day and all that rigmarole, march into the front gate, hope dragon misses, et cetera, and watch him fly off to go burn Laketown, and then gather up as much loot as your donkeys can carry. Repeat every week for 151 weeks or until you have all the hoard.

The paramedics had to haul my broken and bleeding body and wet, soggy brain out from the theater after the riot police, mistaking my hysterical leaping and gargling caused by post-traumatic movie disorder for a threatening gesture, had been forced to club me down, and as I was dragged away, leaving a long slimy snail trail of popcorn butter-flavored oil behind, my last words could be heard, as weak as twitching ants blinded by exposure to fumigation fumes who crawl out into the sunlight to die: “Shoot… him.. with… an… elf… arrow….”

About John C Wright

John C. Wright is a practicing philosopher, a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, and a published author of science fiction. Once a Houyhnhnm, he was expelled from the august ranks of purely rational beings when he fell in love; but retains an honorary title.
This entry was posted in Drollery, Fancies, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

105 Responses to THE HOBBIT: The Desolation of Tolkien

  1. bear545 says:

    There was a whole lot of stupid in this movie. There was also the new black arrow problem. When they suddenly revealed that the only thing that can kill a dragon is a black arrow shot from a dwarf windlass, I wondered why these dwarfs didn’t show up packing a few windlasses of their own, plus two hundred or so black arrows. Also, Thranduil cutting off the head of a prisoner. I thought that in particular was a betrayal of character. Plus… ah, the heck with it. The whole movie was a screw up. You could spend a year writing posts on what that movie got wrong and barely scratch the surface.

    I have said before that, despite the popularity of the LOTR and Hobbit movies, I think Jackson was the wrong man to helm the movies. He is a post modernist, through and through, trying to adapt the works of a man who rejected modernism. I don’t think he can understand the books. Further, I have seen some of his other works, and in several of them he can’t seem to tolerate the existence of innocence, and goodness, and hope and any form of virtue. All must be revealed to be darkness at its core.

    So, you planning on seeing the next movie?

  2. MissJean says:

    Oh, dear, Mr. Wright. That sounds painful. I hope you’ve managed to pull yourself together after that movie and then having to relive the trauma all over again. Suffering for someone else’s art is the worst.

    The Hobbit was my favourite book when I was child, and I re-read it before watching the film. I liked the first film well enough to have just bought the extended edition – because I heard the Goblins’ song was being put back in, and I love me some singing Goblins – and eagerly await its arrival next week.

    Should I just have found the old cartoon version from my youth instead?

    A Sylvan elf in love with Kili the Dwarf? The mind boggles, especially since he and Fili die defending their uncle Thorin. Or will that change now due to Artistic License? Maybe a happy family of Elf-dwarrow….? (Oh, I’m sorry. Did reading that make you ill again? Sorry.)

    I must say I don’t understand the point of adding more elves at the expense of Mirkwood. I mean, if you have more time available, you could have MORE SPIDERS!! Also, I was looking forward to seeing the elven feasts and poor Bombur being lugged, asleep, through the forest.

    The dragon sounds like a terrible disappointment. The cartoon version impressed us kids enough that my bff spent several weeks pausing the VCR so she could sketch him and then watercolour him in all his fiery glory. (In fact, she’s now a watercolour artist specializing in portraiture and landscape – I think that Smaug counts as both.)

    Thank you for your (painfully) honest review and, of course, for pointing out some of the things that make The Hobbit so enjoyable.

  3. Stephen J. says:

    Yeah, I wish I could argue with you; I can’t.

    I found myself kind of enjoying it on this surreal level of, “Okay, this is a big dumb fantasy movie that is ostensibly a Tolkien story except not really. Just watch to see what goes wrong next.” Kind of like how McDonalds isn’t real food, but if you’re hungry and desperate enough it’s possible to trick yourself into not finding it repulsive. Temporarily, anyway.

  4. Rainforest Giant says:

    I am truly sorry Jackson ever got his hands on the series. The first movie was so bad at times I thought someone had edited in a Roadrunner cartoon by mistake. Not a good Chuck Jones cartoon either but one of the crappy seventies ones made from construction paper and shot at six frames per second.

    There was one or two great movies waiting to be made. A ‘White Council’ war against The Necromancer and ‘The Hobbit’. Your description makes me sorry I even watch the previews.

  5. Oddly, I, too, saw this movie last night. My wife wanted to go, and I wanted to be with my wife, so we went.

    Unlike you, I hated the first movie as well, but for much more subtle reasons than I hate the second. Jackson somehow manages to do the whole opening Gandalf/dwarves scenes in such a way as to leave you wondering why Bilbo doesn’t just go home at the first sign of trouble. Tolkien deftly uses the opening scenes to establish Bilbo’s character and set up the whole honor means more than life thing that kinda drives Bilbo’s actions throughout the story. That’s completely missing from the movie – as fans of the book, I think we just read that into the scenes – but it isn’t there. No, Bilbo is cowed or tricked into going. There’s no great moment when his honor is challenged and he steps up. So I hated it. But, I grudgingly said to myself: I’ll see the 2nd just in case it gets better.

    No such luck, for the reasons you describe. I started checking the time about 20 minutes in. When Risiblerog the Modcom Model faces off with Legosue, I, too, turning to my long-suffering wife, said: just shoot him! But that would be too easy. Not to mention rational.

    So, I will not be seeing the third part, unless people I trust tell me it’s great.

  6. Krul says:

    I too was annoyed by the presentation of Beorn. I was asking myself how he manages to transform into a much larger bear with a much larger wrist without breaking his bones in the shackle that he still wears on his arm for some reason.

    I was more annoyed later when I realized that Beorn was cut to make room for the elf girl, Taurible. But as Taurible’s scenes dragged on and on, annoyance gave way to humor when it became clear that Taurible’s story in the movie is LITERALLY a bad fan fiction. Juvenile LOTR fans wrote their own Mary Sue into The Hobbit, a flawless PC dream, a perfect female warrior who possesses beauty and skill, a victim of class discrimination, the Captain of the Guard (it’s always the “captain of the guard”), and to top it off she wins the hearts of BOTH franchise pretty boys: Legolas and Kili. It’s just that these fans happen to helm one of the biggest motion picture franchises in history. I was actually forced to stifle my laughter at the meta-comedy with a hand in the theater, with limited success.

    Why is Bard’s Black Arrow now a ballista bolt – one of a matched set. In the book Bard pulled his one unique Black Arrow, the legacy of his father and distant ancestors, and struck Smaug with the just retribution of old Laketown. But now there’s a black arrow factory in Laketown, apparently.

    You could spend your life heaping abuse on this movie, and it would not be a wasted life.

    • Rainforest Giant says:

      This movie needs Mike and the ‘bots.

    • Rainforest Giant says:

      When I was a boy I always got a thrill when I read the part where Bard shoots the arrow. Now ruined forever. And why a black ballista bolt? It negates the whole part about Bilbo warning the thrush and the thrush telling Bard. It takes away much of the fairy tale magic. But that’s what Jackson does he ruins heroics because he cannot understand heroism. He ruins a fairy tale because his world lacks the deep magic. His villains are straight out of Scooby Doo. His special effects mere lights smoke and mirrors. His understanding of war and conflict as meaningless as Xena or Buffy.

      Tolkien understood war, sacrifice, magic (as a storyteller and father), heroes and villains, hope and despair. Jackson lacks a deeper soul thats why he writes bad fan fiction and cartoon action.

    • Noah D says:

      I hereby submit for coinage the term ‘Taurisue’, from the above detailed offense against story-telling.

  7. KEYoder says:

    Sadly, an accurate recounting. Jackson took a light-hearted (but not silly or foolish), charming kids’ story that could have made one or two very good movies, weighted it down with the more dark and grim tone of Lord of the Rings and with additional material (not germane to the story) to extend it to a trilogy (because of course we must have a trilogy, since we already had one trilogy and because….SQUIRREL), then flavored the whole mix with the disastrous modern sensibilities and poor choices so aptly portrayed by Mr. Wright above. The whole sorry overweight mess collapses into breathless incoherence, with many of the best bits left unfilmed or on the cutting room floor.

    A visual feast…a hog trough for the mind…famine for the spirit.

    There’s a quote teasing the back of my mind. It’s a conversation between two characters (Gimli and Legolas? Aragorn and ?) in one of the Rings books about the works of Men. I know this is not exact, but hopefully the flavor comes through.

    First Character: The works of men may lie long asleep before some unlooked for harvest…
    Second Character: Yet come to naught but “might-have-beens” in the end.

    That is exactly the way I feel about Jackson’s films. So close to greatness. What might they have been?

    Kenton

    • KEYoder says:

      Found it…Legolas and Gimli walking through Gondor after the battle fought on the plain outside the gate of Gondor:

      Gimli: And doubtless the good stonework is the older and was wrought in the first building. It is ever so with the things men begin: there is a frost in Spring or a blight in Summer and they fail of their promise.

      Legolas: But seldom do they fail of their seed. And that will lie in the dust and rot to spring up again in times and places unlooked for. The works of men will outlast us, Gimli.

      Gimli: And yet come to naught in the end but might-have-beens, I guess.

      Legolas: To that, the elves know not the answer.

      • Is it just me, or does anyone else catch a whiff of Christian theology behind that passage, a note of the long, slow defeat of history, the promise that unless a seed fall to the ground and die, it will bring forth no fruit?

        • Rainforest Giant says:

          No that’s definitely Christian. It reminds me of the parable of the sower Matt 13:3. I’ve been reading Tolkien for 40 years and I am still learning important lessons.

        • MissJean says:

          My BFF and I had long talks about this. The Dwarves valued craftsmanship and material goods; the Elves were supernaturally gifted. Neither race could imagine God’s purpose for Men.

          My friend, who loves reading even more than I, read the Silmarillion and said I should definitely read it to get more of the theology of Middle Earth. Or maybe she said “try to read it” – I hear it’s a bit rough going.

          • MissJean says:

            And my whole first paragraph is missing:

            Yes. Gimli’s comment about “fail(ing) of their promise” is also an echo of all those kings of Israel who ultimately “took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord” (like Jehu) and then Israel fell again.

  8. Krul says:

    I hope Mr Wright makes time to discuss the latest Superman movie: Man of Steel.

    Produced, written, and directed by Lex Luthor, I believe.

  9. Pingback: THE HOBBIT: The Desolation of Tolkien | ChristianBookBarn.com

  10. There are so many ways he could have tried to reconcile the books. The Hobbit’s dwarves are, in the book mostly interchangeable and Tolkien doesn’t really illustrate why they’re such tough customers. Instead of inventing a few Mary Sues, Jackson could have invented a couple of minutes of flashback to flesh out a few more dwarves.

    Dol Guldur would look more menacing as seen by somebody trying to hide as he snuck in.

    I’d put up with Radagast’s hygiene issues if he was able to do something dramatic: maybe something from The Birds.

    And….

    But he does have marvelous settings.

  11. Bobby Trosclair says:

    A big part of the blame for this and many other current CGI-dominated movies lies with the 3D process. In order to accomodate the needs of the largely juvenile audience that watches the concurrent 3D release, there must be extended scenes that fully utilize the process – so, extended chase scenes with huge objects collapsing all around the heroes, characters spinning and whirling and leaping and flipping – all of which the non-3D audience must also endure as plot and characterization all come to a halt.

    • DungeonHamster says:

      Given that the more time given to plot and characterization in these movies, the further they stray from the truth, I’m inclined to view it as a mercy in disguise, though I still find it frustrating that all competent warriors in recent movies seem to practice gymnastics and parkour.

  12. “In GREEN LANTERN comics, the magic ring can do anything as long as it is green, and it is helpless against the color yellow.”

    Sorry to rub salt in your Stupidity Hammer wounds, but DC did away with the whole “yellow impurity” restriction.

    Anyway, I agree with your autopsy of the second Hobbit film. I’m still holding out hope that someday a merciful Tolkien fan will edit all three Hobbit movies down to the single 90 minute feature it should’ve been.

  13. ChevalierdeJohnstone says:

    I think the major explication lacking from the Jackson Cycle of Tolkien films is an examination of the truly evil nature of the One Ring. It is a major problem that greatly detracts from the storytelling in all the movies. The crux of the problem is that Tolkien quite obviously wrote assuming that his audience would be familiar with the legend of the Ring of Gyges.

    I realize that “scholars” have searched for and not found any cross references between Plato and the Ring in Tolkien’s notes. At least, that’s what La Wik says. This just proves that “scholars” are stupid. I expect we are also unlikely to find cross-references in Tolkien’s notes between, say, living a moral life and loving God and your fellow creations, as opposed to say, doing whatever you feel like and claiming morality is just subjective. There are some things that intelligent, informed people realize are obviously true and don’t feel the need to spell out in excruciating detail. Only the idiots go pouring through notebooks and then conclude that because the intelligent person never wrote down something so obvious, they must not have known about it.

    Of course Tolkien knew about the Ring of Gyges and of course the One Ring is directly modeled on that passage from Plato. Understanding of the relevant text in the Republic makes it obvious that using the Ring truly is an immoral, damned, soul-destroying act (even when used for “the right” reasons.)

    But decades of improper schooling and a popular culture that glorifies ignorance and stupidity have resulted in 99.9% of the movie-going populace lacking any knowledge of the Ring of Gyges or why its invisibility-granting property is such a perfect example of horriffic evil. To most fans it is a mysterious conundrum: it’s supposed to be horribly bad, but it’s also just a ring of invisibility that you might find in a random loot drop at around level 3 or so.

    Jackson’s chosen means of conveying that the Ring is Evil is…when you put it on the giant disembodied eye of Sauron opens up and starts looking for you. Well, first of all this doesn’t explain why using the Ring is evil, just that it might be dangerous. Presumably if you keep the Ring on long enough Sauron’s giant disembodied eye will find you and…watch the poor hobbit at his daily bath? Stare disapprovingly at his belly fat?

    The reason the whole “I’m invisible, but oh no Sauron might see me!” works for the movie audience is that it echoes common fear of being caught masturbating, or being seen without your Spanx. So this directorial technique plays on the knowledge that we aren’t perfect, and the sick cultural fallacy we enjoy in which we are supposed to pretend that we are perfect and all fear desperately that everyone else might find out we are not, because what matters is appearance and not substance.

    This is a neat trick of misdirection, because by reminding the viewer of her fear of being found out to be phony, Jackson nicely circumvents any explanation of okay, sure, my cheekbones don’t really look like that without makeup, but WHY DOES PUTTING THE RING ON DRAW YOU INEVITABLY TOWARDS EVIL EVEN IF YOU TRY TO USE ITS POWER FOR GOOD?

    • Montecristo says:

      I think Tolkien only used the idea of the Ring of Gyges as a jumping-off point, given that I agree, as a well read and well-educated man, The Republic almost certainly was a work with which he was familiar. That being said, I don’t think Tolkien was intending to have his Ring be nothing more than the temptation of invisibility that the Ring of Gyges is, given what we know from his books and some of what we read about or by Tolkien himself.

      Tolkien’s One Ring draws the wearer inevitably toward evil not just because it makes its wearer invisible, and like the wearer of the Ring of Gyges, able to perpetrate wickedness with impunity, but because of something more. Power itself. I think Tolkien missed quite a bit of opportunity to explore some of what he wanted to say by only hinting in the books at what he was driving. Many of his readers get the mistaken impression that the Ring’s semi-sentience (a mistake on Tolkien’s part, in my opinion) engages in a contest of wills with the wearer, and either posesses or else otherwise corrupts the wearer to wickedness. The Ring’s semi-sentience is an element of horror, but ultimately unnecessary.

      We have all that we need to understand the Ring’s peril in the Ring Spell:
      One Ring to rule them all,
      One Ring to find them,
      One Ring to bring them all,
      And in the darkness, bind them.

      Sauon’s wickedness is an echo of Morgoth’s (Tolkien’s Lucifer; read The Silmarillion). The wicked of Tolken’s world mirror Dante’s Lucifer. They are jealous of creation because they cannot be as God, who creates ex-nihilo, out of nothing. They can only imitate and mock and use what God/Illuvatar previously created in order to dishonor and disparage their Creator. They envy and hate. Morgoth and Sauron want to rule and replace the Creator. They despise his creation and want to destroy it out of spite.

      The Ring is Sauron’s tool to that end. What is its purpose? It was created to dominate the other Rings of Power, worn by the other potentates of Middle Earth, and through this domination bring all of the Elves, Dwarves, and Men under the dominion of Sauron: One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them. Why? To gather all of the races into darkness. Why darkness, is this just a metaphor for something scary? No. When one is in darkness, one is denied one’s sense of sight. One’s sight is an important means of apprehending the Truth. When one is blind, one becomes dependent upon the sighted. Sauron means to blind Illuvatar’s creatures and deny them Truth and their very ability to discern it, and to dominate them, and corrupt them, and to twist them into forms that mock the Creator, out of spite.

      Tolkien tells us how the Ring accomplishes its function: it is a tool of domination. This is HOW the Ring works; this is its mechanism, it’s modus operandi, its pathology. The Ring is a tool for stealing and crushing the free will and ability to apprehend the Truth. That’s what it does. That’s its prime function. The fact that its power blots out the physical visual manifestation of weaker-willed, less powerful wearers, rendering them invisible, is essentially a side-effect, although, like the Ring of Gyges, the ability to commit wickedness without being seen is also first and primary corruptor of Gollum.

      So, the Ring is THE Ring of Power, the One Ring, the Master Ring. It’s ends are evil, but much more than this, its means are evil. Narya, the Ring of Fire, Tolkien suggests, gives Gandalf the power to craft more excellent fireworks, to make napalm-like bombs out of pinecones, to throw at worgs, and to encourage and ignight and inspire the fires of courage and imagination in the hearts of those with whom he speaks. Narya’s means are morally neutral, for the most part, even morally positive; they can be used in the pursuit of good, as was intended by design of their maker: the Elf, Celebrimbor. The The purpose of the One Ring is to dominate others, and that is also its means, as can be inferred from what Tolkien tells us and from the Ring Spell itself, which brought the Ring into existence. It is the tool of the Libido Dominandi, writ large. Its means are evil. To use the Ring is to invoke evil means. To dominate and crush the free will that is the gift of the Creator to his Children is a species of Satanic blasphemy — an affront to Illuvatar/God. In Christian theology, Cain merely murdered Abel; Sauron’s Ring is worse because it afflicts the spirit of its victims; it is a blighter of the work of Grace in others. This is why no good can be accomplished with the Ring. The ends of its use lead to evil because its means are evil, and as a classically educated man like Tolkien would have known ends do not justify means. The very desire to use the Ring is the desire to accomplish one’s ends by evil means. This is why and how the power of the Ring corrupts. The Ring is Power, and as Acton tells us, power corrupts. Force and domination are wicked, in essence.

      Tolkien distracts us with the Ring’s semi-sentient “antics:” slipping off of Isildur’s finger, luring its wearers with a vaguely implied subliminal campaign of temptation… Tolkien didn’t need these extra devices. Gandalf’s horror at the thought of Bilbo giving it to him is evidence. The mere desire to posess the Ring corrupts and undoes both Boromir and Saruman — further evidence. Galadriel gives Frodo a frightening taste of what it would be like to give a powerful Noldor Elf, born in Valinor and the Grand-daughter of Finwe, possession of such a monstrous power. She explains, nearly demonstrating, how the ultimate power to dominate everyone and anyone she chooses would corrupt her and doom Middle Earth, telling Frodo, when he offers her the Ring: “In place of a Dark Lord, you would have a queen! Not dark, but beautiful and terrible as the dawn! Treacherous as the sea! Stronger than the foundations of the earth! All shall love me, and despair!” There is no way to use the Ring for good, except incidentally, and even then, it is a danger to employ it thus. Tolkien, by his own admission, in a letter to his son, Christopher, admits to being what we would call a “Rational Anarchist” today. He took Acton’s position on the nature of power.

    • Montecristo says:

      ChevalierdeJohnstone:

      I think Tolkien only used the idea of the Ring of Gyges as a jumping-off point, given that I agree, as a well read and well-educated man, The Republic almost certainly was a work with which he was familiar. That being said, I don’t think Tolkien was intending to have his Ring be nothing more than the temptation of invisibility that the Ring of Gyges is, given what we know from his books and some of what we read about or by Tolkien himself.

      Tolkien’s One Ring draws the wearer inevitably toward evil not just because it makes its wearer invisible, and like the wearer of the Ring of Gyges, able to perpetrate wickedness with impunity, but because of something more. Power itself. I think Tolkien missed quite a bit of opportunity to explore some of what he wanted to say by only hinting in the books at what he was driving. Many of his readers get the mistaken impression that the Ring’s semi-sentience (a mistake on Tolkien’s part, in my opinion) engages in a contest of wills with the wearer, and either posesses or else otherwise corrupts the wearer to wickedness by somehow “leading the wearer astray” via a campaign of temptation to greater and greater arbitrary wickednesses. The Ring’s semi-sentience is an element of horror, but ultimately unnecessary to Tolkien’s ultimate point.

      We have all that we need to understand the Ring’s peril in the Ring Spell:
      One Ring to rule them all,
      One Ring to find them,
      One Ring to bring them all,
      And in the darkness, bind them.

      Sauon’s wickedness is an echo of Morgoth’s (Tolkien’s Lucifer; read The Silmarillion). The wicked of Tolken’s world mirror Dante’s Lucifer. They are jealous of creation because they cannot be as God, who creates ex-nihilo, out of nothing. They can only imitate and mock and use what God/Illuvatar previously created in order to dishonor and disparage their Creator. They envy and hate. Morgoth and Sauron want to rule and replace the Creator. They despise his creation and want to destroy it out of spite.

      The Ring is Sauron’s tool to that end. What is its purpose? It was created to dominate the other Rings of Power, worn by the other potentates of Middle Earth, and through this domination bring all of the Elves, Dwarves, and Men under the dominion of Sauron: One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them. Why? To gather all of the races into darkness. Why darkness, is this just a metaphor for something scary? No. When one is in darkness, one is denied one’s sense of sight. One’s sight is an important means of apprehending the Truth. When one is blind, one becomes dependent upon the sighted. Sauron means to blind Illuvatar’s creatures and deny them Truth and their very ability to discern it, and to dominate them, and corrupt them, and to twist them into forms that mock the Creator, out of spite.

      Tolkien tells us how the Ring accomplishes its function: it is a tool of domination. This is HOW the Ring works; this is its mechanism, it’s modus operandi, its pathology. The Ring is a tool for stealing and crushing the free will and ability to apprehend the Truth. That’s what it does. That’s its prime function. The fact that its power blots out the physical visual manifestation of weaker-willed, less powerful wearers, rendering them invisible, is essentially a side-effect, although, like the Ring of Gyges, the ability to commit wickedness without being seen is also first and primary corruptor of Gollum.

      So, the Ring is THE Ring of Power, the One Ring, the Master Ring. It’s ends are evil, but much more than this, its means are evil. Narya, the Ring of Fire, Tolkien suggests, gives Gandalf the power to craft more excellent fireworks, to make napalm-like bombs out of pinecones, to throw at worgs, and to encourage and ignight and inspire the fires of courage and imagination in the hearts of those with whom he speaks. Narya’s means are morally neutral, for the most part, even morally positive; they can be used in the pursuit of good, as was intended by design of their maker: the Elf, Celebrimbor. The The purpose of the One Ring is to dominate others, and that is also its means, as can be inferred from what Tolkien tells us and from the Ring Spell itself, which brought the Ring into existence. It is the tool of the Libido Dominandi, writ large. Its means are evil. To use the Ring is to invoke evil means. To dominate and crush the free will that is the gift of the Creator to his Children is a species of Satanic blasphemy — an affront to Illuvatar/God. In Christian theology, Cain merely murdered Abel; Sauron’s Ring is worse because it afflicts the spirit of its victims; it is a blighter of the work of Grace in others. This is why no good can be accomplished with the Ring. The ends of its use lead to evil because its means are evil, and as a classically educated man like Tolkien would have known ends do not justify means. The very desire to use the Ring is the desire to accomplish one’s ends by evil means. This is why and how the power of the Ring corrupts. The Ring is Power, and as Acton tells us, power corrupts. Force and domination are wicked, in essence.

      Tolkien distracts us with the Ring’s semi-sentient “antics:” slipping off of Isildur’s finger, luring its wearers with a vaguely implied subliminal campaign of temptation… Tolkien didn’t need these extra devices. Gandalf’s horror at the thought of Bilbo giving it to him is evidence. The mere desire to posess the Ring corrupts and undoes both Boromir and Saruman — further evidence. Galadriel gives Frodo a frightening taste of what it would be like to give a powerful Noldor Elf, born in Valinor and the Grand-daughter of Finwe, possession of such a monstrous power. She explains, nearly demonstrating, how the ultimate power to dominate everyone would corrupt her and doom Middle Earth, telling Frodo, when he offers her the Ring: “In place of a Dark Lord, you would have a queen! Not dark, but beautiful and terrible as the dawn! Treacherous as the sea! Stronger than the foundations of the earth! All shall love me, and despair!” There is no way to use the Ring for good, except incidentally, and even then, it is a danger to employ it thus.

  14. denizb33 says:

    Love this! Smegbladder, ha!
    I tried to keep my tone lighter but had essentially the same opinion…
    http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2013/12/a-visit-from-author-and-archaeologist.html

  15. Pingback: DYSPEPSIA GENERATION » Blog Archive » THE HOBBIT: The Desolation of Tolkien

  16. deiseach says:

    I’m very torn on Peter Jackson and his Tolkien adaptations.

    It’s clear that the man does not understand High Fantasy or the nobility of characters. He’s the George R.R. Martin level, or the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser level of fantasy.

    So he changes the motivations of characters like Aragorn and Denethor to something more ‘understandable’ from a modern perspective.

    On the other hand, what he gets right, he gets really right. And to do him justice, for years nobody was willing to take on a LOTR movie because they had no idea how it could be done. I still don’t think he should have chopped “The Hobbit” into three movies, and you can see how it suffers as a result: a ton of padding needs to be inserted to get three movies’ worth out of the material.

    And the fangirls have argued all the points you mention already, from Kili not looking Dwarvish enough (the affectionate consensus is that, although Kili may be handsome by Human standards, by Dwarvish standards he thinks he is hideously ugly and his brother spends much time reassuring him that ‘Never mind, one day you’ll grow a proper beard’ and the like) to the introduction of Tauriel.

    So Jackson definitely has flaws. And yet…

    …Yet I have to defend him, because I’m seeing for myself young fans getting into Tolkien because they’ve been introduced to his work via the movies. They’re coming onto blogs and onto Tumblr and asking “So where do I start with the books?” and “I’ve decided to tackle the “Silmarillion” again after giving up on it, but any help about keeping everyone straight as to who is who?”

    There are passionate and devoted discussions about all the divisions of the Elves, the Houses of the Edain, the geography of Middle-earth, the other Five Houses of the Khazad (besides the Line of Dúrin and the Broadbeams), defences of the Valar and their perceived inactivity when it comes to intervening in Middle-earth (there’s one person who role-plays Manwe in her Tumblr blog and she is pitch-perfect as the Lord of the Breath of Arda), why no, you can’t use the Eagles as a taxi service to drop the Ring into Orodruin, and both myself (middle-aged white Irish Catholic female) and an early-twenties mixed-race Ásatrú English male are in solid agreement that Dáin II Ironfoot is an absolute badass and if we don’t get an appropriately stupendous portrayal of him and the Dwarven Army of the Iron Hills in the third movie, we will riot and burn down the cinemas we see it in write very strongly worded posts of disapproval online.

    So Jackson’s version is very, very far from perfect, but he at least gave us what no-one else (apart from the Bakshi animated versions, which were – um – unique?) tried to do when it came to Tolkien.

    • bear545 says:

      I wonder if I am alone in thinking that the Bakshi Lord of the Rings was alright, and in many ways better than Jackson’s. I believe the main problem with Bakshi’s version (apart from the fact that it was irredeemably ’70′s) was time: He tried to get through as much of the book as possible and the movie became a race. As such, parts are missing- Glorfindel, for instance, and Merry and Pippin’s characters are never really developed at all- but what is there is from the book. He added nothing new, and what he got right he got very right. I think in tone his movie is much closer to the books than Jackson’s, and that is what I missed most from Jackson’s movies, that ineffable tone the suffuses the entire series.

      • wlinden says:

        No, you are not alone. I have said so repeatedly, to anyone who would listen. Hell, I even prefer the cartoon TV HOBBIT to this atrocity.

        • I kind of liked the cartoon TV Hobbit, except, of course, for the Prussian blue, and Prussian, and blue, lizardmen of Mongo they hired to play the wood elves. The TV version kept in my favorite line from Smaug boasting of his immense strength.

        • Raphael says:

          I like the TV Hobbit, too. It captures the right tone in a lot of parts, and the backgrounds are generally rather pretty. Sometimes that “Ho Ho My Lad” song starts going around my head for no reason, despite the fact that I haven’t seen it in years.

          The blue wood elves are kind of strange. Filmmakers are just so anxious to make sure elves look different somehow, and resort to crude artifices (like pointy ears) because they’re apparently unable to capture the spiritual differences between elves and men through, you know, acting, or direction, or cinematography.

    • My Southern courtesy requires me to admit the good that Mr Jackson has done: my favorite political commentator of all time, Bill Whittle, is a fan of Lord of the Rings because and only because of the Jackson movies.

      But, as a gentleman, I must object to any hint or implication that I am attacking Jackson. Clearly I am not. Reread the first line of this screed. I loved the first Hobbit movie. Loved it. I hum the dwarfish song about the Lonely Mountain every St Barbara’s Day. My objection is not to Jackson.

      My objection is to Tauriel the She-Elf Warrior Princess after falling in love with a dwarf in an open barrel pushing a giant molten statue of a dwarfking on the head of Smeg, the most incompetent dragon in all the commonwealth of the imagination.

  17. Joshua says:

    After reading this I have concluded that the movies have a very clear and holy purpose: to make you appreciate the books that much more. Thanks for helping me justify not seeing these movies.

  18. LugoTeehalt says:

    These included BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY not to mention the remake of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, which I simply adored.

    I hope you mean the well-done 1995 TV series, not the 2005 movie with the annoying Keira Knightley…

    • Mr Teehalt, for a man with a 1B Locator, I hope you are not mocking the movie made by Joe Wright, who may be a long lost cousin of mine. Yes, indeed, I mean the version with Keira Knightly, because it is a role where she shines, where she is well directed, and where she is actually given some acting to do, and ergo she is not annoying in any way, shape, or form. I have seen at least six versions of this novel made in movie form: this is the best.

  19. Sean Michael says:

    I was greatly amused by Mr. Wright’s review of Peter Jackson’s second HOBBIT movie and agree with him in sharing his disappointment over how mind boggling bad the movie was. I kept noting all the uncanonical changes, omissions, and additions made to the story. One minor disappointment was not seeing Thorin Oakenshield falling flat on Bilbo’s doormat with three other dwarves on top of him in the first movie. And that leads to another point, in THE HOBBIT we become gradually aware that stuffy, pompous, and prone to anger tho he was, Thorin Oakenshield was also brave, loyal, and capable of rising above his faults. And, yes, we don’t see enough of Bilbo in this second movie.

    I hope another and better movie director and script writer will be so inspired by the success of the Jackson films that they will produce their own versions of THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS. And that they will then be FAITHFUL to the actual plot of the stories.

    Sean M. Brooks

  20. WATYF says:

    This whole essay had me rolling. Kudos.

    It really is true that modern movies remove every element from storytelling that makes for a good story and replace them all with three-dee.

    WATYF

  21. ChevalierdeJohnstone says:

    I only saw the first Hobbit movie and didn’t particularly like it. I didn’t think any of the major character acting was up to par. I thought the whole movie felt like meaningless filler.

    Case in point: the song/dishes scene when the dwarfs are at Bilbo’s home. Yes, there is a song in the book at this point. The song (in the book) serves a purpose: it shows that while the dwarfs might value things (gold and gems) that elves or hobbits put little stock in, they recognize beauty and create and appreciate art and have sense of humor and like to have a little fun once in a while and thus are _like_ the hobbits and elves, i.e., “We’re all on the same team, even if Bilbo doesn’t understand that yet.” However, in the movie, the song is an opportunity for several minutes of whiz-bang plate-spinning. I’m sure its a technical and directorial feat of accomplishment, but what purpose does all this spinning plates serve to advance the story? It’s eye-candy for an audience with the mentality of a bunch of third-graders. Jackson has confused film with the circus.

    I also don’t particularly like Ian McKellan’s portrayal of Gandalf. I don’t think he does a good job of acting at all; he completely misses the part. Sir Ian plays a prime example of a Wizard, but Gandalf the Grey isn’t a prime example of a wizard, he is the ultimate rebel wizard.

    McKellan plays a great stock wizard character. He is old and wise and holier-than-though and noble and a know-it-all and kindly in a sort of offhandish, absent-minded-great-uncle manner. Gandalf, however, is quick to anger and enjoys practical jokes and smoking and drinking. He plays with fire because it’s fun, and far from being noble and respected, people (except the Hobbits) kind of don’t like it when he shows up because he’s generally the harbinger of disaster. Gandalf is a wizardly rebel.

    Gandalf the Grey skulks around the edges of the peaceful lands, mostly only showing up when there is trouble, living at the thin grey line that divides light and dark, and many wonder if all his spying on the Enemy has caused him to go over the edge to the Other Side. Of course ultimately his intimate knowledge of evil is what vaccinates him against its temptation, where as Saruman (who is the wizardly epitome who never gets his hands dirty) succumbs to that same temptation.

    Gandalf the Grey is not a kindly old man who always keeps calm and can pull the right thing from his bag of tricks to say the day. Gandalf the Grey is a slightly disheveled grey-bitten wanderer whose face is smudged from an explosion in Act I and who carries the weight of centuries of watching good friend after good friend die horribly in battle against the Enemy. I’ve said it before, Hollywood doesn’t understand heroes. Realistically “human” superheroes or fantasy hero wizards aren’t dashing, good-tempered men with a firm handshake and steady grip, they are shell-shocked survivors who have been through Hell and back.

    In fact I think the two roles of Saruman and Gandalf were miscast. Ian McKellan is basically playing Saruman the White, and Christopher Lee could have better portrayed the role of Gandalf, the rebel-wizard, Grey Pilgrim, Stormcrow. Actually I think Richard Burton would have been a better choice than either of them for the role of Gandalf; Burton really knew how to play a rebel. It’s too bad he was wasted on that farcical exercise in imaginary masturbation that JK Rowling provided the semi-literate public.

    • With all due respect, Ian McKellan does a perfect ‘quick to anger’ character, and can say ‘Fool of a Took!’ with perfect authority, and so on. Tastes differ, but I think he bags Gandalf perfectly. In no film of Jackson’s does McKellan came across as merely a wise old man.

      I must disagree wholly with your assessment of Rowling. f you cannot tell the difference between a triumph and a farce, turn yourself back into a child before you dare read any storybook again. Rowling may be a typical anglo-liberal looser, but her book is better than she is, a fairly clear and striking Christian allegory. She even telegraphs her meaning by quoting scripture on the headstones of Harry’s parents in a scene where he seeks out their graveyard: THE LAST ENEMY TO BE OVERCOME IS DEATH.

      As an author myself, I pray daily that God smite me with the curse of JK Rowling.

      • Stephen J. says:

        Oh, it’s easy to come down with Rowling Syndrome. All you have to do is use a lot of Tom Swift-y dialogue adverbs (“‘Don’t you dare!’ Hermione said warningly”) and have things “hurtle out of nowhere” at least once or twice a book.

        (I kid because I love, as I hope can be seen; but I have to admit that I think the last three books might have benefited from an extra few weeks each of editing, time I strongly suspect Rowling’s publishers simply wouldn’t or couldn’t afford to wait.)

        • Wow. Is that all it takes? I have a 23 thousand mile high tower made of artificial neutronium hurl out of nowhere in JUDGE OF AGES, and a small solar system complete with battle-ringworld hurl out of nowhere in CONCUBINE VECTOR, so I should have the Rowling level of fame come rushing in any moment!

          (At this point, Wright opens his front door, looking for the oncoming rush of fame. Outside is a level wasteland, cold beneath the moonlight reaching to the horizon. In the distance, a single cricket chirps.)

          Hmph. No fame today. Well, tomorrow is another day, and I can always go back to Tara!

          Agreed about the last three books. This is a case where fame was too great a burthen to JK Rowling, and she should have been edited by a compassionate but stern editor wielding a pen of iron.

          • Stephen J. says:

            Good God. That height is thrice the width of the Earth; do I want to know what the 23,000-mile-high tower is standing on? (A tower’s gotta tower over somethin’ or it ain’t no tower, as my Pappy always said.)

            Actually, don’t tell me yet; I’m waiting until I can actually read the books. (I’m hoping the fact I’ve bought the first two in hardcover will compensate for not having read either yet.)

      • HiroProtagonist says:

        McKellen’s Gandalf could not, for me, have been improved upon. Christopher Lee’s Saruman, on the other hand–terrible, terrible. The point of Saruman was that he looked fair though seemed foul–had a golden persuasive voice, could deceive otherwise smart people into thinking he was a friend, etc. But Lee (and, in fairness, Jackson’s direction and the makeup department) makes him about as deceptively fair and subtle as Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West. And Lee’s line readings are just painful–slow, pompous, with Shatneresque pauses, and all at one-quarter speed. I think Jackson cast him out of respect for Lee’s personal connection to Tolkien–I shudder to think how he would have played Gandalf.

    • wlinden says:

      All right. Perhaps I am missing something which is obvious to any (other) fool. But what is the connection between Richard Burton and Harry Potter, which you so love to hate? I was under the impression that he had been dead for thirty years, shortly after portraying O’Brien in the 1984 _1984_. Perhaps I missed the scene with his ashes?

    • Pierce O. says:

      Gandalf, however, is quick to anger and enjoys practical jokes and smoking and drinking. He plays with fire because it’s fun, and far from being noble and respected, people (except the Hobbits) kind of don’t like it when he shows up because he’s generally the harbinger of disaster. Gandalf is a wizardly rebel.

      Gandalf the Grey skulks around the edges of the peaceful lands, mostly only showing up when there is trouble, living at the thin grey line that divides light and dark, and many wonder if all his spying on the Enemy has caused him to go over the edge to the Other Side. Of course ultimately his intimate knowledge of evil is what vaccinates him against its temptation, where as Saruman (who is the wizardly epitome who never gets his hands dirty) succumbs to that same temptation.

      Gandalf the Grey is not a kindly old man who always keeps calm and can pull the right thing from his bag of tricks to say the day. Gandalf the Grey is a slightly disheveled grey-bitten wanderer whose face is smudged from an explosion in Act I and who carries the weight of centuries of watching good friend after good friend die horribly in battle against the Enemy. I’ve said it before, Hollywood doesn’t understand heroes. Realistically “human” superheroes or fantasy hero wizards aren’t dashing, good-tempered men with a firm handshake and steady grip, they are shell-shocked survivors who have been through Hell and back.

      Is it just me, or would this description also fit an older Harry Dresden?

  22. erynien says:

    This is one of the funniest, best reviews of this movie I have ever seen.

    Even people who really like changes had huge problems with the amount of stupid in this film. I saw a Tauriel cosplayer who had a huge rant about how much she hated the movie on her blog, and a lot of her points were the same points you touched on. If that doesn’t say anything to you, I don’t know what will.

    Speaking of — the only parts where we disagree are on the Elves. Tauriel as a warrior is fine. In Tolkien’s canon, it’s acceptable for women to go into the military. This is stated in “The Laws and Customs of the Eldar.” However, her role as the Captain of the Guard makes absolutely no sense in the context of the films because, in the movies, Greenwood is in the process of becoming Mirkwood during the events of An Unexpected Journey. Since Tauriel is young, she wouldn’t have seen ANY action. Any common sense, let alone knowledge of Tolkien, would have you think, “Since she hasn’t seen any action, why is she in a position of authority as opposed to older Elves with real combat experience?” There are Elves who survived combat with the forces of frickin’ MORDOR, since Thranduil led about 1/3 of the surviving army back to Mirkwood after the Battle of Dagorlad. And this young’un is Captain? Futhermore, I’d assume that someone with her title would be able to take orders from her king and have the kingdom’s welfare on her mind, at least TRYING to understand Thranduil’s motivation for isolation as a method of safety. But, no, that doesn’t happen — because justice and self-righteousness and Kili or something. The character, with the very general concept of her intact, COULD have been done well, but there were just way too many illogical writing choices.

    Oh, and I wouldn’t call this The Legolas Movie, since she got more screen time than he did. And an actual attempt at a storyline (which was still awful, but I digress). You know, as opposed to just killing things, which is what Legolas did most of the time.

    If you’re going to put Legolas in there, then give him something a little more poignant than stabbing and shooting arrows and doing freakin’ aerobatic pirouettes off the deep end. Why is he there in the first place? Well, his dad is there, so it’s logical that he’d be around. Alright, so why do they HARDLY interact? They have one scene, and I found myself thinking, “Why isn’t there more of that INSTEAD of all those fight scenes!?” We don’t get much of WHO Legolas is in LotR — and rightly so, since he’s a supporting character. But, if you’re gonna stick him in, let’s do some character development! Like, actually give him a little depth to his personality! Even a little. . . ? Oh, right, no, we have to do The Kili-Tauriel Thing. Everything is for The Kili-Tauriel Thing. Augh.

    This makes me even angrier when I remember that PJ was talking about having the theme of father/son relationships in the film. We have Bard and his kids. Thranduil and Legolas. Azog and Bolg. With all of the changes made, I figured that something like that, a theme about something that people can relate to, like family, would be nice. It’d give a little more purpose to the changes. Oh, nope. Can’t have that! Fight scenes. We need ‘em, apparently. ALL OF THEM! And, no, PJ — three pairs of fathers and sons, with relationships barely, if at all, touched upon, does not constitute a “theme.”

    Also, Thranduil got about five minutes of screen time and he was the only named Elf in The Hobbit. Lee Pace was fantastic. Why isn’t there more of him? Why didn’t we see that feast scene they were talking about, the one that might at least somewhat echo the book, while we were stuck watching an Elf and a Dwarf making googly eyes at each other in the dungeon while TALKING about the feast? It felt like someone was dangling a piece of candy on a string in front of my face and pulling it away every time I reached for it. It was more than slightly infuriating.

    Or why not have less of the other Elves, then? I love Legolas as much as the next person. I really do. But he got WAY too much screen time. Tauriel got waaaaaaaaay too much. When they showed up in Lake-town, I was so mad. And I was EMBARRASSED, because I’m the person who shows up to midnight premieres in cosplay. So there I am, feeling secondhand embarrassment for the mess happening on the screen because I’m dressed as Legolas. Yeah, that was pretty mortifying.

    I’m mad about the recycled story ideas and copypasta’d dialogue from LotR, too. Glowy healing scene. Kingly object (Arkenstone/Anduril) being used to have armies fight (Dwarven armies/dead armies). “Athelas. Aye. It’s a weed. We feed it to pigs.”

    There are no words to describe the last thirty minutes of the film. I was really confused. Also angry. What happened to Thorin’s development??? Why do we suddenly have hero!Thorin again!? Just. . . WHY!?

    A side note: The switch from made-up Bolg to CGI Bolg is one of the biggest middle fingers to a make-up department that I have ever seen. I’d be really upset if I was in that department.

    • Tauriel as a warrior is fine. In Tolkien’s canon, it’s acceptable for women to go into the military. This is stated in “The Laws and Customs of the Eldar.”

      I concede the point with shame! I have been utterly overgeeked! I should have remembered this bit of Tolkien trivia. Also, Dernhelm is a famous Tolkien character: the hand that slays a Nazgul is a woman’s.

      • Stephen says:

        Even so, the mistake is worth it to read “dreaded Playboy Bunny Death Squad”, though it is a mortal threat to perfectly innocent drinks subjected to involuntary trips through the nasal passages.

    • Pierce O. says:

      Tauriel as a warrior is fine. In Tolkien’s canon, it’s acceptable for women to go into the military. This is stated in “The Laws and Customs of the Eldar.”

      Yes, Tolkien even notes that the differences in physical strength between the Eldar sexes is not as pronounced as it is in Men (plus, I believe Eldar as a whole are stronger than Men). He does, however, say it is not customary for Eldar women to fight, both because most women are still not inclined to warmaking, and because engaging in bloodshed lessens the efficacy of their “magic” healing talents. By the way, which book is “The Laws and Customs of the Eldar” in? The Appendix of ROTK, the Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, etc.? I’ve been trying to locate it without much success, but I know I’ve read it before somewhere.

      I saw a Tauriel cosplayer who had a huge rant about how much she hated the movie on her blog, and a lot of her points were the same points you touched on.

      Do you have a link by any chance? This sounds like an interesting read.

    • Subcreator says:

      “Tauriel as a warrior is fine. In Tolkien’s canon, it’s acceptable for women to go into the military. This is stated in “The Laws and Customs of the Eldar.””

      I wouldn’t go that far. First, Laws and Customs isn’t really canon since Tolkien abandoned it and it only was published after his death in HoMe.

      Second, there’s a very large difference between it being “acceptable” for Elven women to go into the military and what Laws and Customs says. What it says is that except for matters of childbirth, there is nothing that Elven men can do that Elven women are unable to do. Physically, that is, they are more or less equal. However, it also points out that do to natural inclination and cultural norms it was the Elven women who generally practiced healing while it was the Elven men who bore arms at need. Elven women, it says, fought in dire straights, but apart from that abstained from dealing death even in the form of hunting because it reduced their healing and nurturing capability.

      So I would contend that there is still plenty of room to criticize the role of Tauriel.

      For my own part, I am proud to say I have watched neither of the Hobbit movies. I was given the first for my birthday since being a Tolkien fanatic my mother thought I would enjoy it, but I have yet to even remove the plastic wrapper. My husband and I refuse to watch anything else produced by Peter Jackson, the Black Foe of Middle-earth. We remember what he did with LOTR. Fool us once, shame on you, fool us twice, shame on us.

    • Sean Michael says:

      Hi, erynien!

      Actually, I disagree with your statement that Thranduil was the only named Elf in THE HOBBIT. There were two others: the first being Elrond. Granted, some might argue that he was not entirely elvish in blood, seeing that his Earendil was half mortal and his other Elwing also had mortal ancestors. But Elrond chose to be of the Eldar when the choice was given him to choose being either of the Elves or of Men.

      The second name Elf in THE HOBBIT was Galion, King Thranduil’s butler. Yes, the same person who got drunk with his friend the Captain of the Guard. I am sure no other elves were mentioned by name in THE HOBBIT.

      This is a good opportunity for me to recommend a very good fan movie based on Middle Earth: BORN OF HOPE, directed by Kate Madison. The plot is based on the first five paragraphs of “The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen.” I loved this film, watched it 15 times, and heartily recommend it to all true fans of Tolkien.

      Being very much a FIRST movie by Kate Madison which had only a painfully limited budget, BORN OF HOPE does have some minor glitches and rough spots, but it towers hugely above Peter Jackson’s films in honesty, accuracy, and respect for the sources.

      Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

    • Rainforest Giant says:

      I have to respectfully disagree. Tolkien was not ‘just fine’ with a female elf warrior. Elven women fought in ‘dire straights or desperate defense’ not as a regular part of the military. Women abstained from hunting and went to war as a last need not a first things first.

      Eowyn is remarkable because she is a shield maiden. The chance that the captain of the guard for any elven king is female is negligible. The only reason nobody guessed Dernhelm was female because of the strong gender roles including those of dress and deportment in those societies. Even the hobbit sharing a horse with her didn’t guess she was a woman.

      That was part of the movie I think Jackson got right by accident. There is no way a modern audience could understand how Merry could miss Dernhelm being female. Most simply cannot place ourselves in a mindset even a hundred and fifty years old. Merry would have looked foolish (well more foolish) than Jackson made him look in the first place.

      I am not saying there were not elven women who fought but the idea that they were ‘equal in everything’ or even close should be exposed for the modern and incorrect interpretation of Tolkien that it is. He certainly has females who fight and face hardships but they are extraordinary for that not run of the mill.

  23. Bluekutsu says:

    Very well written and I agree with all of it, except the credit you give the first installment. As a big Tolkien fan and enjoyer of the LOTR movies despite their alterations, I just couldn’t get on board with the whole “white orc” storyline and the off-tone comedy relief they tried to add in a ‘la Gandalf slicing open the Goblin King’s testicle-chin, etc.

    • It is unfortunate, because if we are of the same mind, you will find your vocabulary slowly becoming pompous and old fashioned, and you will get an unhealthy obsession with the comic supervillainess Catwoman. I am hoping for my part that you have many accomplishments and virtues which will bleed over into my lobe of our shared brain. Being of one mind may have advantages.

      • I have only recently fond your blog, have read and enjoyed several of your posts, and can only aspire to your vocabulary. I must admit that while I am not obsessed (or so I assert), I have often pondered the loveliness that is the comic book version of Sif….

  24. Stephen says:

    Under typical circumstances, I would remain silent about minor errors in a lengthy and agreeable piece of writing. Since I know from my lurking observation of previous replies you graciously welcome or even encourage the observations of unsolicited editors, I submit this list of items.

    1. “Rhadaghast” is actually “Radagast” throughout.

    2. Dwarf warriors… cut things in bits with axes…ferocious and tough as the rocks…
    ^^^ ^^^^
    3. “strong as enough to slay orcs”, delete “as”

    4. “the demands of the acting and physical stunts”

    5. “I am think I am looking at Orlando Bloom” delete first “am”

    6. “wondering where the Hobbit character was”, delete “was” or the later “might be”

    7. “black harpoon thing that was the only McGuffin”

    8. “Smaug… finds he cannot kill a perfectly visible hobbit”

  25. Nom de Guerre says:

    I think her name is Arrowette or Artemis or something.

    That girl has atrocious form…

  26. Scott W. says:

    In the movie, however, the wizard is a main character who faces another main character, also a wizard, in a duel of magic. The results are lame and stupid because the audience sees a bunch of meaningless lightshow effects, with no idea of what allows either side to win or lose. I felt like astronaut Bowman entering the spacewarp of the monolith. Wow. Pretty lights.

    My only consolation is that this lame duel of magic was nowhere near as lameriffic as the wizard duel between Gandalf and Saruman in FELLOWSHIP, which consisted of old men flying about on wires slamming each other into walls with their green lantern style telekinesis.

    This also was the main drawback of the HARRY POTTER movies, by the way. In the final duel between Harry and his Dark Lord (same job, different guy), they point their wands at each other. Then they grimace. Then they point their wands at each other even harder.

    Let me recommend going to YouTube and search under “rifftrax” which are done by the old Mystery Science Theater 3000 bunch. They riff both the Jackson films and Harry Potter. I recall the latter because in one of the movies, they show a table full of magical deserts and focus on a cake with white icing and an tiny figuring skating across the cake fully animated. The comment the riffers make sums up the series perfectly: “Magic is either evil or stupid.” :)

  27. meunke says:

    haven’t seen the movie, not sure I will.

    So tell me, those of you that have: does its betrayal of the source material rival that of Starship Troopers?

    • So tell me, those of you that have: does its betrayal of the source material rival that of Starship Troopers?

      No, not in the slightest, not even close. Veerhoven, or whatever his name is, hated STARSHIP TROOPERS and set out with malice aforethought to insult the readers and fans of Robert Heinlein by calling the ideas in the book fascist. Jackson loves his source material, and the main flaw in HOBBIT is that Jackson is trying too hard to make HOBBIT too much like his LOTR movies. He is still attempted to entertain the audience and very, very skillfully portraying the look and feel of Middle Earth.

      Jackson is like watching an ice skater do a pratfall. It is comical, so I laugh. Veerhoven is like watching someone shove a poisonous snake up your nose. It is malicious, so I boo.

      Not the same. Nowhere near the same. Jackson is worth watching for the visuals. Veerhoven is a mortal insult that should be avenged with lances in the lists.

      • Sean Michael says:

        Dear Mr. Wright:

        I thought the movie version of Frank Herbert’s DUNE was also horrible. Would you rate that film as either a well meaning botch a la Peter Jackson’s LOTR/HOBBIT movies or more like Veerhoven’s malicious slandering of Heinlein’s STARSHIP TROOPERS?

        Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

  28. deiseach says:

    Dear Mr Wright, I go off-topic to express my delight with “Judge of Ages”, the most recent volume of the “Count to a Trillion” series.

    I am still only half-way through it, and I spent my time reading equally divided between laughter and “WHAT????”

    I can certainly say I never saw the plot convolutions coming.

    Menelaus is as wonderful as ever :-)

    I definitely see the family resemblance between him and Scipio, though I fear I may be racking up the time in Purgatory between the pair of them and their oaths as I’m mentally voicing them as I read – as Chaucer says in “The Parson’s Tale”:

    For cristes
    Sake, ne swereth nat so synfully in dismembrynge
    of crist by soule, herte, bones, and
    Body.

    Though I am glad to apprehend Menelaus’ tasteful restraint – indeed, more than 2% of the interior of the Earth would be ostentatious and over-the-top :-)

    Dear Sir Guiden: were you not already a happily true-married man, I would be throwing myself at you. There were tears and smiles as I read Oenoe’s account of how she fell in love with her husband.

    Dear Mickey the Witch: as a person of a spherical contour of bodily form myself, I appreciate the cunning use to which you put your superfluity of tissue. Also, I agree: the best way to sum up what Menelaus and his opponents are doing is “magic” ;-)

    I’m probably way off here, but did I detect the slightest hint of jealousy in Exarchel about Menelaus giving Mickey a nickname? Almost as if it/he were thinking “I’m the only one he gives a nickname! I’m his Blackie!”

    Good grief: between the double-, triple- and quadruple-backstabbing and intrigue, and the fact that Menelaus planned most or all of this, I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen next, and I love every minute of it.

    Also! You are making me like your characters! Soorm is charming, if one can say that of a Hormagaunt (licking up the brains and all), and dash my wig, if Reyes y Pastor died in defence of the Blessed Sacrament, I’ll have to pray for his soul. I already like Ximen much too much. And Illiance was already the best of a bad lot, so what you did with him – grrr, can a girl not have at least one villain to boo and hiss?

    Can I please assume (not yet having come to the end of the book) that Naar at least comes to a sticky end? I don’t like Naar one bit, and if he reforms and all, I don’t know what I’ll do with myself.

    Finally, I appreciate your use of language. The names you give the Hermeticists (and others) are beautiful; they may be villains and rogues and traitors to humanity, but they have such absolutely lovely names: Sarmento i Illa d’Or is a scoundrel, but his name is gorgeous to say and to see.

    • I can take no credit for the Hermeticist names. I merely took the names of Spanish and Portuguese, Basque and other Iberian scientists and mathematicians from history. Del Azarchel is a latinized version for the Ninth Century mathematician Al-Zarqali. Sarmento is named in honor of Raúl Arturo Chávez Sarmiento, a Peruvian math prodigy. i Illa d’Or means ‘of the isle of gold’ And so on.

      I am dee-lighted that you like the book.

      After you read of the fate of Naar, write and tell me your verdict. I live to serve my beloved patrons.

      • deiseach says:

        I am hobbled by not wanting to reveal any spoilers for those who have not read “Judge of Ages”, so all I can truly say is this:

        (a) This is a public service announcement to every person who has learned to read the English language. HASTEN FORTH AND PURCHASE, WHETHER IN PHYSICAL COPY OR AS A DOWNLOAD, “JUDGE OF AGES”

        (b) Now that I’ve read all the way to the ending, my reaction is

        !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Also, WOW!

        Also, I definitely did not see that coming and it serves both Menelaus and Del Azarchel right as the necessary kick in the pants they need to remind them that they are not, in fact, the Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

        (c) The duel scene was perfect, even up to the unexpected ending. And drat you sir, you had me wiping tears from my eyes at various points, e.g. when Del Azarchel was talking about the little picture of the Virgin they gave Rania to serve as her mother. I had to keep reminding myself that Blackie is a villain, a murderer, a schemer, an oath-breaker and such because I kept having fits of liking the megalomaniac.

        I could throw words like “amazing”, “stupendous”, “magnificent”, “awe-inspiring” and “slapstick humour in the style of the Three Stooges” around but suffice it to say that I am one very satisfied customer and will be a repeat customer for the next volume (God and the publisher willing).

        • I am flattered by the praise. You have penetrated through to my secret philosophy: I think villains are people who do bad things for reasons that seem good to them, and grand villains do bad things for grand reasons. Even Stalin wanted to cast down the proud and feed the poor; even Hitler wanted to restore Germany to her rightful place as master of the world and avenge the treason of the Great War; even Satan wanted to make himself equal to the most high, too proud to serve even a sovereign most worthy of service — what Whig, what Republican, does not comprehend that pride?

          I would also like to know (since you brought it up) whether you thought the fate of Naar was appropriate.

          Also, I definitely did not see that coming and it serves both Menelaus and Del Azarchel right….

          And yet, it was perfectly logical given the set up, was it not? What else would a race of beings inspired by the no-nonsense egalitarian philosophy of Menelaus Montrose do?

          • deiseach says:

            I was delighted that he got crushed under his own automaton, because by that stage I really wanted somebody, anybody, to grab hold of him and drag him down off the damn thing. (And mush him into a bloody pulp, which Mickey more or less managed).

            I’m not sure if he’s dead or not, because it was my understanding that all the living wounded got put into the cryo-coffins which would heal them, so if he’s still alive, I’m a bit disappointed. If he gets healed up and thawed out and incorporated into the new dispensation, I don’t know how I feel about that.

            I want him dead (and I really haven’t felt this degree of dislike for a character in a long time).

            On the other hand, I don’t know if he’ll enjoy being part of a global unitary mind as one of the cogs, and not one of the overlords, so that may be a fitting fate for him.

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  30. Noah D says:

    This might cheer you up, Mr. Wright et alii:

    http://www.uproxx.com/gammasquad/2014/02/guardians-of-the-galaxy-concept-animation/

    It most certainly did me, but…I’m susceptible to just that kind of thing.

    (Scroll down for the .gifs, if the videos are not loading.)

  31. Thanks very much for this. I had no plans to see this or any of the Hobbit movies, and now I have no plans to see this or any of the Hobbit movies still. My one regret is that I am middle aged and it is not feckin’ likely that I will see during the years remaining to me any other director touch the Tolkien mythos with a ten foot pole. Jackson has successfully poisoned the Telperion and Laurelin of Hobbit and LOTR. Maybe he can next go and piss in the clear waters of the Silmarillion and then, having thoroughly befouled the Valinor of Tolkien’s mythical world, he can haul his fat, bloated carcass away to some deep, dank hole in the dark earth.

  32. I decided to not watch any of the Hobbit movies based on simple math. Book approx. 300 pages – movies 3 – runtime of first movie 169 minutes.

  33. KingRichard says:

    “He is roughly as magical as your average Army chaplain who carries a flamethrower.”
    Yeah – Lew Pulsipher, grandmaster of roleplaying games and super-genius, figures in D&D terms Gandalf was a 7th level Cleric with a magic ring.
    Not too shabby, but not a powerhouse.

    • 7th? He cannot even throw a fireball. Gandalf has wizard lock (he uses it on the door to seal the Balrog) but he does not have Knock (or else he would have used to open the doors of Moria), and aside from that some pyrotechnics and a ward against Nazgul. Maybe he’s 5th level.

      • Stephen J. says:

        I always thought Gandalf did know Knock; it was simply that the Wizard Lock on the gates of Khazad-Dum was high enough level to resist it. (Or more strictly, to resist the level of power Gandalf the Grey was able to use; I doubt Celebrimbor of Hollin was more powerful than Olorin the Maia, but he definitely had far fewer restrictions on what he could do with it.)

        And Gandalf’s Light spell is powerful enough to illumine the whole of the Great Hall of Khazad-dum; one could probably calculate his effective level from that if we knew exactly how big the Hall was in feet. Alternately, if we assume the Nazgul are equivalent to AD&D Spectres (as noted in the original Monster Manual), we can check the cleric level required to Turn several of them at once.

        • In any case, Gandalf’s alignment was clearly Exasperated Good.

          Instead of the Michael Moorcockian Law-to-Chaos axis (which never made sense to me) in my D&D games, we use a Exasperated-to-Nonchalant axis. The gods of exasperation include Zrull the Impatient and Glorgslurp the Pissed, whereas Dra the Uncaring, Issek of the Jug, and the Sleeping God of Gorgzid are the Nonchalant gods. Any cleric of Nonchalance, such as the Monks of the Great Temple of Whatever Dude, losing his cool has to lose a level; any exasperated Cleric who decides that, after all, it is maybe no big deal to sin, so let us eat and drink and be merry, likewise loses a level and changes alignment.

          Okay, I am so totally kidding. We do not have alignments for Exasperated and Nonchalant in my games. That would be silly. Instead we have an alignment axis for Giraffe-to-Weasel. My character Gulliver the Giraffe of Oz has the same powers as Mister Fantastic or Monkey D. Luffy and is firmly on the Giraffe side of the alignment matrix.

          His father, Gir-El, was convinced that the planet was about to be destroyed by an earthquake, and so shot me, his only son, in a space rocket from the middle of the great Munchkin forest upward about two thousand feet and down again to land in the northern part of the Winkie country, near Oogaboo. There he told everyone he was a strange visitor from another planet. Meanwhile, my character’s father Gir-El is the town laughingstock, or would be if they were not so horrified that he shot his son off into space in an experimental rocket, and has been locked up in a madhouse for people who think the world is coming to an end. He is in the cell next to Chicken Little, Al Gore, and Robert Neville the Omega Man.

          • Stephen J. says:

            All the way from the Munchkin forest to Oogaboo?! That’s clear across the land, from what I can see. Scales are remarkably hard to find on the Oz maps, but based on estimated travel times from Munchkinland to Emerald City, the Land of Oz is at least 100 miles from side to side, and Gir-El’s first invented rocket covered almost the entirety of that distance. Von Braun’s just not in it anymore, man!

            Pity the Wizard didn’t hear about this fellow. Putting one of those rockets on his balloon might have let him get back to Kansas a mite quicker.

      • KingRichard says:

        *ahem*
        7th level *Cleric* [opposing/turning the Nazgul; curing the wasting sickness; etc.] The rest was from the Elven Ring of Fire….

  34. I’ve found a thought that helps:

    Peter Jackson has not made movies of Tolkien’s stories; he has merely made poorly planned (though beautifully executed) fan-fic which happens to be set in Middle Earth.

    • Paul Weimer says:

      I have a somewhat allied thought.

      No, these movies are not The Hobbit that we know and loved. This is a vision of The Hobbit as prequel to the LOTR movies, and not an adaptation of the book itself.

      I think the mistake many of us made is to assume he was going to do the second…when Jackson wanted and intended to do the first all along.

      I think you could argue this is a “bait and switch” of the first order

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  36. wlinden says:

    Thief! Thief! Jackson! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!

  37. Pingback: Lightning Round – 2014/02/19 | Free Northerner

  38. CarlosJGonzalez says:

    I shared the blog, as I enjoyed it, and my friends like it – though I personally think the rant about the Evangeline Lilly character comes off a bit sexist – I know you’re not trying to be – you’re’s comparing her to fanboy fantasies, and you’re saying the /way/ she was designed was inconsistent and silly. I will point out Tolkien had warrior women – Eowyn was not an invention of Hollywood. Sure, she had to sneak into the field like Mulan, but the point was that a woman who has the skill and heart for it can do it too. I will say that in the real world, while we don’t have female Navy SEALS (yet), many NATO countries HAVE used women warriors to good effect on the battlefield, and it hasn’t been a major problem. It’s been done. Heck, /we/ do it, we just don’t call it that. Female police officers, female combat pilots, female Seabees (who do patrols and shoot people), and the list goes on. Just saying, “I’m right-wing and I think women combatants is dumb” doesn’t make it so – and the reality as experimented has not proven such a comment right.

    • If I am not clear on this point, let me emphasize: I think it is wrong for women to try to act like men, and wrong for men to try to act like women. I think feminine and masculine natures are real and should be celebrated, not suppressed. Eowyn dressed like a soldier and rode to war because she was melancholy and wanted to die, not because women can perform equally on the field of combat with men, and not because this is a normal rather than an abnormal behavior.

      You seem to think that I wish to avoid accusations of being called sexist. I neither welcome nor flee such accusations, because they have no meaning. Likewise, I reject the word ‘sexist’ as a term with no meaning. It is a portmanteau used by combining ‘racist’ with ‘sex’ to come up with a concept that means nothing, since the sexes are not races, and women have never, as a sex, been the object of race-hatred or anything like it. Southern Planters did not give flowers and candy to Negro slaves and ask on bended knee to make him the happiest Planter in the world by agreeing to pick his cotton.

      I regard it as meaningless because those who claim that asking a woman to act more womanly is an insult to womanhood are in the position of claiming that it is a compliment to women to have them be less womanly. Whatever impulse drives this envy, it certainly is not pride in the particular magic of feminine nature, but a distaste for femininity.

      Women in the military have been a major problem. Would you like me to cite the statistics? My family is Navy: when the standards for Naval aviators were lowered to accommodate women, Kara Hultgreen died.

      “Just saying, “I’m right-wing and I think women combatants is dumb” doesn’t make it so”

      Just putting words into my mouth does not make it so, either, Mr Strawman. Please avoid informal logical errors with me, youth. I have no patience for them.

      • CarlosJGonzalez says:

        Wow. Well, you certainly decided to take the gloves off and come out swinging… I will address those points, if I may.

        (1) First off, my intended argument in my original post was that I believed your intent was /not/ to belittle women, but to comment on how badly (in your opinion) the Evangeline Lilly character was presented – as more of a fanboy caricature than anything else (I agreed with you on that). In others words, I believe you looked misogynist (a more proper term) but that //you did not deserve it//. However, it appears that in your retort, you work to prove me wrong on the last part.

        (2) Back on Tolkien, though – I stand by my argument about Eowyn. For one, it fits the theme of the Norse sagas you mention in your article here. The shieldmaidens fought – both in real life and in the sagas and myths. While it may not have been normal in Tolkien’s /Rohan/, it was not something alien to an epic fantasy writer like Tolkien, or even C.S. Lewis (where Father Christmas gave Susan a bow – the better to shoot bad guys with, my dear).

        Also it fits the quotes in the Lord of the Rings:
        “What do you fear, lady?” he (Aragorn) asked.

        “A cage,” she (Éowyn) said. “To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”
        — J.R.R. Tolkien (The Two Towers)

        I do not believe that quote depicts someone melancholy wanting to die – that quote shows stir-crazy and wanting to kick bad guy tail. She wanted to be where the action was.

        I DO agree that it was depicted in the books as abnormal behavior. However, that is a far stretch from being /bad/ behavior. She rode with the army when no one would openly let her, with the little guy that no one wanted in the fight – and together they became war heroes and showed up thousands of men. Gandalf even commented on her courage. That’s not liberal interpretation – that’s what happened in the book.

        (3) For the pilot comment: “My family is Navy: when the standards for Naval aviators were lowered to accommodate women, Kara Hultgreen died.”

        The problem is that for that argument to work, you would have to show that accidents went through the roof the moment women got into Naval combat aviation, with the new (hypothetical) increases being predominately caused by women, /and that the numbers stayed that way/, to show the problem you imply. I doubt you will find such evidence. That one accident you mentioned pales in comparison to the many other accidents (by men) in that same decade.

        While I can believe that on the /average/, in the large scale, you will likely get more good soldiers from men than from women, the fact is, both in epic fantasy literature (even by Christian authors) and in the real world, medieval and modern, there were and are numerous strong women (many of them very attractive), who quite capable in matters of war and battlefield heroism.

        (4) As for your last line: “Please avoid informal logical errors with me, youth. I have no patience for them.”

        (a) Thank you. :) As an American in our culture, I like being seen as young. :) Especially as I get older. :P

        (b) That said, this appeal to experience would require that you have more experience in these matters. Simply put: You don’t.

        Though as a writer you do (I wouldn’t be on this page if I didn’t respect you as a writer.), in matters of war, /you don’t/.

        Though I am no Rambo, I am sad to admit, and many of your readers know more than I – at least I was there. I served in the warzone, outside the wire quote often, in fact, with female soldiers and armed ‘civilians’. Thousands of us have. You can absolutely argue evidence, but you cannot effectively appeal to experience on this one.

        (5) That said, I actually agree with you that it is very attractive, and perhaps in many cases ideal, for a woman to act in a way our culture considers feminine. I would be lying if I said I felt otherwise.

        However, to say it is “wrong” to not fall in that specific category is a further step that you take – that I do not, and that Tolkien did not.

        Also, one would have to more specifically define what “femine” means. A female doctor or engineer (traditionally a male job), or /combat engineer/ may still rock a short skirt (!), and know how to cook better than grandma (!!). A female police officer may still be a great mother.

        At no point did I say I would see it as an insult to like feminine women or to celebrate feminine qualities – while there are people that do say that – it would be wrong to assume that everyone who disagrees with you is cut from the same cloth.

        • I am not sure we disagree at all. I do not know what cloth you are cut from, but it is rude, and, worse, it is an informal logical error to put into another man’s mouth words he did not say, pretend he said that, and argue against it. That is called a ‘straw man argument’ and that is what you did in your first letter. Me pointing this out hardly constitutes a bare-knuckle brawl. I assumed that you were young because most people, at least in my day, were taught basic logic in school.

          But, no matter, not everyone is trained with these things, nor need any honest man anything but his native wits to argue his conclusions, if his argument is sound. Let us consider the points one at a time:

          1. You say I am working to show myself to be a misogynist, whereas what I said was that I think women have a special genius of their own, something exalted and fine, if not divine. A misogynist is someone who denigrates women, not someone who exalts and honors them. So your assertion is a paradox, to say the least. However, you do not back up the accusation with any argument or evidence, so, in logic a gratuitous assertion can be gratuitously denied. Perhaps you mean it as a joke.

          2. Eowyn is described this way: “When I first looked on her and perceived her unhappiness, it seemed to me that I saw a white flower standing straight and proud, shapely as a lily, and yet knew that it was hard, as if wrought by elf-wrights out of steel. Or was it, maybe, a frost that had turned its sap to ice, and so it stood, bitter-sweet, still fair to see, but stricken, soon to fall and die?” This is not a description of Xena the Warrior Princess. There are no other women depicted as going to war in war-gear, and she travels in disguise. The implication that women did not normally ride to war in the Third Age of Middle Earth.

          But I agree with you that warrior women are not unknown in sagas or in real life. Good heavens, sir! I am a Roman Catholic! Do you think I object to Saint Joan of Arc?

          You and I seem also to be agreed on the point that the portrayal of Taurible, or whatever her name was, was terrible, and was nothing like the portrayal of Eowyn in Tolkien or Brunhilde in Wagner or Brandemante in Spencer, and so on.

          3. In order for may argument to work, all I need to establish is that the standards were lowered to accommodate women. Is that point in dispute?

          From the report of the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces (report date November 15, 1992, published in book form by Brassey’s in 1993): “The average female Army recruit is 4.8 inches shorter, 31.7 pounds lighter, has 37.4 fewer pounds of muscle, and 5.7 more pounds of fat than the average male recruit. She has only 55 percent of the upper-body strength and 72 percent of the lower-body strength… An Army study of 124 men and 186 women done in 1988 found that women are more than twice as likely to suffer leg injuries and nearly five times as likely to suffer [stress] fractures as men.”

          Further: “The Commission heard an abundance of expert testimony about the physical differences between men and women that can be summarized as follows: Women’s aerobic capacity is significantly lower, meaning they cannot carry as much as far as fast as men, and they are more susceptible to fatigue. In terms of physical capability, the upper five percent of women are at the level of the male median. The average 20-to-30 year-old woman has the same aerobic capacity as a 50 year-old man.”

          From the same report: “Lt Col. William Gregor, United States Army, testified before the Commission regarding a survey he conducted at an Army ROTC Advanced Summer Camp on 623 women and 3540 men. …Evidence Gregor presented to the Commission includes:

          “(a) Using the standard Army Physical Fitness Test, he found that the upper quintile of women at West point achieved scores on the test equivalent to the bottom quintile of men.

          “(c) Only 21 women out of the initial 623 (3.4%) achieved a score equal to the male mean score of 260.

          “(d) On the push-up test, only seven percent of women can meet a score of 60, while 78 percent of men exceed it.

          “(e) Adopting a male standard of fitness at West Point would mean 70 percent of the women he studied would be separated as failures at the end of their junior year, only three percent would be eligible for the Recondo badge, and not one would receive the Army Physical Fitness badge….”

          The following, quoted by Brian Mitchell in his book Women in the Military: Flirting With Disaster (Regnery, 1998) and widely known to students of the military, are results of a test the Navy did to see how well women could perform in damage control — i.e., tasks necessary to save a ship that had been hit.

          Test: Stretcher carry, level
          % Women Failing before training:63//After: 38
          % Men failing before training:0//After: 0
          Test: Stretcher carry/up, down ladder
          % Women Failing before training:94//After:88
          % Men failing before training:0//After: 0
          Test: Fire hose
          % Women Failing before training:19 //After: 6
          % Men failing before training:0//After: 0
          Test: P250 pump, carry down
          % Women Failing before training:99 //After:99
          % Men failing before training:9//After: 4
          Test: P250 pump, carry up
          % Women Failing before training: 73 //After:52
          % Men failing before training:0//After: 0
          Test: P250, start pump
          % Women Failing before training: 90//After:75
          % Men failing before training:0//After: 0
          Test: Remove SSTO pump
          % Women Failing before training: 99 //After: 99
          % Men failing before training:0//After: 0
          Test: Torque engine bolt
          % Women Failing before training:78 //After: 47
          % Men failing before training:0//After: 0

          I have not even spoken about the new Marine requirements that women recruits no longer do a single pull up to pass PT.

          There was indeed a spike in the piloting accident rate for women pilots. This is true both for civilian and military women pilot. One study showed that women are Four times as likely to crash the plane as men: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0305048396000126. Ironically, this study showed that one DWI doubled the odds of a pilot for a major airline of having an accident, but being a woman pilot quadrupled those odds. So it is safer to fly with a pilot who has been arrested for drunkenness, than a female pilot.

          At one point female Navy jet flighter pilots had a much higher accident rate than men. This was because, under pressure from Congress, the Department of the Navy was trying quickly to increase the number of women flying. Since there were fewer women applying, women that would not otherwise have qualified were selected, then pushed through faster with less training. That is what lead to the Hultgreen disaster. Now, do you have more recent information that this? Has the Navy changed its policies since then?

          Seriously, is the argument (1) that women can perform on an equal footing with men, or is the argument (2) that women soldiers are so valuable to the combats troops that they should be integrated into combat despite the physical inequality with male recruits?

          4. I do not need more experience than you for this argument to work, since I am not presenting myself as an authority on the matter. I am an ordinary man who makes an ordinary observation about the obvious.

          Just to be clear on that point: The reason why I mentioned my family background is only to show that the matter has some emotional depth for me: people killed by under-performing servicemen would include people I know. My background was not meant to be part of the argument. (If it had been, it would have been an informal logical error, namely, argument from authority). So, no, I am not asking you to take me on faith; I am trying to appeal to your sense of logic.

          5. I am glad we agree on this point as well. At least I now know I am talking to a sane man. I do not assume that everyone who disagrees with me is the same, far from it. I just don’t want to hear accusations and sneers rather than solid logic, proof, facts, evidence.

          I am not saying it is morally wrong to be unfeminine, only less fun for all involved. But I am saying it is wrong to undermine the standards under which we live, or, rather, our fathers once lived, because those standards are prudent and pleasant and humane.

          Defining femininity is a difficult chore. Fortunately, I have done so here, and at length: http://www.scifiwright.com/2014/01/saving-science-fiction-from-strong-female-characters/

          So, I have answered your questions. I hope you will do me the courtesy of answering a few of mine, and if you would please, seriously not flippantly:

          Tell me: should I teach my little boys that it is okay to hit a woman under certain circumstances, such as, for example, if she hits first?

          Or should I teach them it is always wrong?

          How am I to teach them that it is always wrong, if I also teach them whether or not a woman fights on the battlefield is a matter of her personal choice, and not a matter of what the unit or the service or the nation needs?

          Again, I have taught my sons that any man going into combat should stand ready to be wounded, maimed for life, or killed or captured by the enemy in order to preserve the flag of the nation and the regiment, and that this sacrifice is worthy of being honored.

          Should I also teach my sons that any woman going into combat should stand ready, not just to be killed or captured, but also, if captured, to be raped by the enemy; and that this rape is as worthy a sacrifice as the battle wounds of a veteran?

          Should I tell my sons that the nation should reconsider that sacrifice an honorable one?

          Should I teach my sons that, if they are in a combat unit with a young woman, not to take extra steps to protect her, above and beyond the steps they take to protect other young men in the unit?

          Now if you answer in the affirmative to all the questions, I ask next on what grounds I can both teach my boys (1) not to strike women, and (2) teach them women can and should fight just the same as men, with equal strength and fighting spirit, and should not be shielded from danger any more than any man should be?

          Or is it your contention that, for the sake of equality and civil rights, little boys should indeed be taught that there is no difference between when it is right to strike a woman and right to strike a man?

  39. CarlosJGonzalez says:

    As for the Black Arrow – while it may not be exactly like Tolkien, I thought the ballista was the way to go. Killing a giant super-powered fantasy-nuclear-weapon-scale dragon with a bow and arrow would have just looked stupid on the screen. I think making it a special weapon was the right call, actually, for the movie medium.

    Mind you, pretty much everything else in there, I agree with you on…. “Shoot him with an Elf Arrow…..”

    • And by “not exactly like” you mean “just like Queequeg and nothing like Bard the Bowman”, eh?

      • CarlosJGonzalez says:

        SPOLIER ALERT FOR THE FIVE OF YOU THAT DON’T KNOW THE STORY!!!

        OK, back to posting: My point is that it doesn’t matter in this case. It’s a different medium, for a different audience, and ultimately, a movie needs to speak to the audience. Whether Our Hero shoots him with a hand-held bow, or with a well-engineered ballista, is window dressing for the fact that he kills the bad guy with a fantasy ranged weapon. The problem is that taking Smaug out with one good shot of a hand-held bow and arrow would look dumb /on screen in the modern age/. It’s for a similar reason that Boromir was shot with three big thick arrows in the first movie, instead of being pin-cushioned by arrows like they described in the book. It wouldn’t go over right, and one can still tell the gist of the story without it.

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  43. Eliphion says:

    I know I am coming in very late to this review — I read it not long after you first posted it and I pretty much agree with you… but I’m back to comment on your “Jack Vance Rule.” I like it! And I wanted to ask if you were aware of Sanderson’s First Law? Like you, Brandon Sanderson is a wonderful fantasy author. His wording is more direct on this issue: “Sanderson’s First Law of Magics: An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic.” He expands on this idea with examples from other books (superheroes too!) like you did. I just thought it would pique your interest, and of course I’m eager for your opinions. Keep being WRight! (If that sounds corny, blame the guy after me, it was his idea.)

  44. LugoTeehalt says:

    Just saw it on the plane. It was every bit as awful as described. I must have forgotten what you said about the Smaug scene, because I wanted to stand up in my seat and shout to the other passengers — FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, HOW CAN HE STAND IN FRONT OF A DRAGON, TOTALLY VISIBLE, AND NOT GET EATEN???

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