Movie Inspiration: Are you excited to see The Hobbit? Why not? The Star Wars Effect and other Stuff.
The Hobbit soon come. It’s bizarre to me to think that within the week a film is opening, called The Hobbit, about The Hobbit, that really I know very little about. Given all the fanfare and anticipation of the Lord of the Rings in the time leading up to that film, in comparison to The Hobbit you couldn’t tear me away from anything that had a picture or blurb on the subject. And even after the initial relief of its success, the mania continued into the hope of the next two films. For 4 to 5 years it was LotR awesomeness. Time has passed since then, roughly 9 years in fact, and now The Hobbit is about to release and my attitude is pretty subdued, almost apathetic. Why then, in God’s green middle earth, is this?
Who the hell cares? is my first thought. And then, upon further reflection, I guess it does matter as to why I could be so jaded as to not really be that interested. I mean, for me. You can continue reading if you like, but really, I need to sort this out here and now. But I don’t think I’m alone in this either. Seriously, aside from the occasional TV commercial, there doesn’t seem to be that almost frightening level of intrusive buzz that is normally associated with this kind of thing. Around Christmas even! Some reasons as to why?
The Star Wars Effect:
Let’s blame Star Wars! It’s an interesting coincidence that the various releases of likely the most anticipated movies of the last 25 years (to that point) were peppered in and around the years of likely the most anticipated movies of the last 40 years. Great time for geeks it was for sure, but since May of 1999 it became more of a fantastical ping pong game between soul crushing disappointment, and uplifting enjoyment. Hypotheticals that rarely get discussed: what if both Star Wars and Lord of the Rings sucked? Ugly fcukn’ thought that is…In a do over, if you had the choice, which would you choose not to suck? Interesting thought for me. However, what is done is done, and time heals, and many of us have dealt with the confusing pain of the crappy prequels. And there’s the problem. Y’see The Hobbit is a prequel, and we’re all suffering from prequel hangovers. I mean, “prequel” is starting to sound like a cheap tequila to me, especially now that every movie franchise out there seems to be investing in the prequel silliness with similar nauseated results (Prometheus, The Thing 2011, Hannibal Rising, etc.).
No more shots of prequel please.
Really though, The Star Wars Effect is about geeks – especially elder geeks – having to come to grips with the pull of nostalgia and its effect on why we might love the things we do. I remember the reading of The Hobbit quite fondly. I would love for this film to dazzle me. There’s a strong possibility it might not. I’m ok with that. Consequently, my low level of indifference has contributed to me not investing in The Hobbit the same way I did for Lord of the Rings. Lucy ain’t gonna pull that ball away a second time…
It’s not ‘cause I’m older, but the Internet sure is:
You hear the following phrase a lot, and I believe it:
Now-a-days it’s hard to imagine the world without the internet. I don’t actually remember accepting the internet as routine until somewhere around 97’. I wasn’t actually full blown using it until ’99, and it took the launch of Fiery Dragon that same year to finally envelope me in its world. It exposed me to <obligatory porn reference here>, among other things, including www.theonering.net. It was an exciting time. This new avenue of information and commerce coming to fruition was just as cool as suddenly being able to read and see real time reports and pictures about the Lord of the Rings. All of a sudden I didn’t have to buy a magazine to get my fix on all the rumour surrounding it, and there were like-minded people available, although in a digital presence kind of way, to talk and debate with as well. Essentially, the phenomenon of the internet helped to feed into the phenomenon of the movies. AND, we would later discover that this new internet community would have a hefty influence on the making of the films in all areas of production and design. Well, that’s all old hat now.
There’s Nothing at stake:
You ever notice that every time there’s a documentary on Star Wars, Peter Jackson is in it to eagerly comment and support, but when there’s a thing on Lord of the Rings, George Lucas is nowhere to be found? At least we know they’ve met…
As I intimated earlier, there does seem to be a synergy between the two franchises. Like the hassle it took Peter to actually get The Hobbit made. The streak of development hell stories that seemed to be constantly hitting the ticker concerning The Hobbit was getting weak. The circumstances surrounding it sounded a lot like what George had to go through with Empire. Another example of Hollywood history repeating itself. That’s all worth a cute little Yoda yawn by my reckoning, because you just knew that if it came to it Scrooge McDuck himself was going to make this thing, so what was the fcuking hold up already?
In fact, the real tension for me was that for some inexplicable reason Peter announced that Guillermo del Toro was going to direct. I was cringing at the thought of puppets running rampant across the screen; like somehow a heavy dose of Hellboy II: The Golden Army was the final piece to The Lord of the Rings design criteria. Thankfully, someone reminded Guillermo of all the other contractual obligations he had to a trillion other projects (that he’s somehow involved in) that he will likely never make either. So he moved back to LA. Phew! Peter, how close you came to George’n’ it!
Once the animatronic Smaug was wheeled away, Peter could finally allow himself to be solely in charge again, and make us all feel a bit better about where this was supposed to go, and that is, more of the same. When you basically have Cate Blanchett…sorry, I mean to say Carte Blanche…everything is at stake, and yet, because you have Carte Blanche, nothing is at stake…as long as it’s more of the same. The preview appears to be more Lord of the Rings. No more, no less. Well, that’s not entirely true. There does appear to be some pretty goofy looking ewoks in it.
Um, Maybe Peter’s movies aren’t as cool as one would think?:
Just sayin’. I love the movies, I really do, but hear me out…
Again, it’s easier to use Star Wars as the past precedent as we’ve all watched the movies a skillion times. So, with Star Wars, repeated viewing seemed to heighten the experience, fuel our imaginations, raise our expectations, and teach us what we like…with regard to the first two, certainly, the third was garbage even back then, but I hope you see where I’m going here. Weirdly, Lord of the Rings did not do this for me. In fact, the more I watched, the more my opinion changed on a few things. For instance, I’ve gone on record as to how much the music pisses me off. Howie Shore ain’t no John Williams and I’m sure he’s continuing the Celtic Fiddles of Boredom with The Hobbit (more of the same, more of the same). But there are other things too – Gandalf tells them when he’s returning to Helm’s Deep, which roughly translated, means “in the nick of time”; the crazy green zombie cloud in Return of the King; Gimli, elf friend, and purveyor of comic relief, and the modern language colloquialisms found throughout the dialogue. These are just a few. I can come up with a sizable list. I bet you can too. In a lot of ways, the films were so well done that these annoyances feel more like George’s Special Edition annoyances seeing as they both come from sturdy source material that is loved by fans a hundred times over. Maybe that’s not a fair comparison because unlike George, Peter was very sensitive to the fan’s feelings on how he was going to make these movies. His biggest obstacle was what to subtract, rather than what to add (although when he did decide to add, it was always kinda weak). The Hobbit on the other hand turned out to be the opposite. This is a one movie story. Ok, ok, probably two. Sure. But three movies?! Now Peter’s problem is what to add rather than subtract. Doesn’t seem like much of a problem. That third movie is a $300 million dollar up-sell if you ask me. Anyone taking bets on extended versions? At least the blu-ray should be available the same time as the DVD.
It’s The Hobbit:
This movie is NOT Lord of the Rings. This movie is The Hobbit. Not as sexy. As I’ve said, I remember the reading of The Hobbit quite fondly. From the perspective of a child. As in, The Hobbit is a story written for children. Let us not forget that fact when we happily rush to the theater to see it. It’s the equivalent of all those adults reading their child’s copy of Harry Potter*, and then getting a must see on for the movie as well. At least it is in theory.
I think the other point to quickly tack in here is that Lord of the Rings fans had the Bakshi film to unfairly beat on prior to Peter’s release. The Rankin and Bass version of The Hobbit is remembered well for nostalgia purposes. Does it still hold up? We’ll see. For me, I couldn’t help but compare the Bakshi film to Peter’s films. I personally remember the Rankin and Bass film warmly. I loved it, still do. Will Peter take the same tone with his film(s)? Yeah, yeah no singing. I get it.
We already assume it’s going to be good:
In the beginning, Peter Jackson was a maker of cult horror films, and The Frighteners. Collectively, in North America, we didn’t know who he was. Now we do, and he has gained our trust…well, sort of. King Kong was…not very entertaining in a lot of areas – kissy poo ice skating scenes and such. However, he has done the geek mantle proud by winning a bunch of Oscars for a genre that’s never even gotten within a whiff of Oscar. He showed Hollywood that you can have established material and strive to please its fans while taking their money and still have their respect. You can have the cake and eat it too.
We’ve seen the previews, it’s more of the same, and everybody knows he’s awesome with this stuff. No sense of urgency to jump on the hate wagon, or be dazzled otherwise. I can hardly wait!
*We’re well aware that a sizable percentage of Harry Potter’s readership are adults without children as well. Personally. If you know what I mean. ed.