Nasty Tricksey Hobbitses

This is a rant brief analysis – my opinion on the film adaptation of The Hobbit. It comes nearly a month after I saw the movie, so I’ve had time to give it some thought. I’ll also clarify that I saw this film twice; once in a standard theater (with an 11-year-old ward in toe); the second viewing was a full IMAX/3D experience with the (less than entertained) wife.

 

  • The book is jovial, lyrical, filled with exceptional songs and poems, made-up words, heartwarming animism and fairy tale prose. It’s a children’s book foremost, lighthearted and humorous, with Middle-Earth’s grander themes explored without really needing further explanation.
  • The movie is an epic adventure, consuming a mere third of the book (2 more films coming out in the next two years) with decapitatingly bloody battle scenes, weaving plotlines pulled from the appendices and archives of Tolkien’s other writings (or completely fabricated), and a mess of an action movie. It’s clearly a prequel to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, with lofty and often misinterpreted themes, endless CGI, and enough violence and noise to weigh it against any modern hollywood blockbuster.

radagast cartoonIf it sounds like I’m being harsh, maybe I am? The film has heart-lifting moments that made me smile, the simple story and underlying theme, beautiful landscapes and good acting all around; but constant, extraneous, and dire excess plagues this movie. It’s too action-oriented, too long, too garish. It’s like Saruman was retelling the story, and the amount of trash tied to the movie and franchise – everything from Hobbit-themed Denny’s meals to Gandalf on my popcorn box, all just screams with the type of consumerism and industrialism that Tolkien adamantly deplored. To see his vision commercialized and pandered like this is a hypocrisy. It could have been far worse, and I do hope to enjoy the future movies, but as someone who’s been so influenced by his writing (since grade school), it was a bit of a disappointment – and a disservice for those who may not have read the book first.

Go see it, but please enjoy it as an interpretation – rather than a faithful retelling. okay?

Hungry Hungry Games

Hunger Games is an interesting but welltrodden story. I do wonder if the general message has been a bit thinned in the movie-version, where it seems to focus more on battles and struggles, as opposed to morals and character developments. Either way, it was a decent movie, I’d give it 3 out of 4 stars and certainly suggest the books as a quick fun read.

 


As far as politics, you can get anything out of it, really. Whatever your beliefs, the story can align itself to you without much difficulty. The ‘President’, played by Donald Sutherland, and his government are designed to be ostracized by pretty-much any camp. One one hand, it’s a staunchly conservative, 1percenter oligarchy. On the other hand, a decadent and liberally elite regime. The reason why this works so well, is that the government is displayed as exceptionally cruel for effect. While there’s some questionable acts, there’s also a bevy of universally detestable ones, such as slavery, severe class hierarchy, poverty, corporal punishment, etc. At the same time, our hero Katniss embodies sacrifice and hope, the same themes that make countless other stories, such as the Bible, resonate so strongly.

 

The movie and book seem to conciously avoid making any sort of political statement, despite the prominence therein. Instead, it focuses more at a personal level, dealing with issues of trust, friendship, overcoming hardship, etc. Despite no partisan message, there’s basic themes we can get from the movie/books, if we assume Hunger Games was written with allegorical or prophetic intention:

1. Things aren’t going well

2. Government is not trusted (except to privileged few)

3. Ubiquitous Surveillance

4. Violence as entertainment/passivization

 

These seem to be the four general themes that pervade Panem, but allegorically they are also wider themes that many Americans feel or worry about. Honestly these have been issues to civilizations going back in time. The Romans are the closest example of this sort of dystopian Panem scenario, but a lot of literature has touched on these themes, from the Númenóreans in Tolkien, to the Empire in Lucas’ Star Wars.

 

I’m not quite decided as to whether this movie is good for young-teens, who might be a bit confused about the messages. It makes me wonder if the authors message is being told properly. If indeed Suzanne is trying to get a younger generation to think about government oppression, severe poverty, and myriad personal struggles, this is a good thing. I worry whether something like action-figures or games based on the series will have kids reenacting the violence instead…completely missing the message.

 

The iThneed

There’s a new cgi movie coming out soon, based on The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. I assume hope that it sticks close enough to the deeper message, being a story about protecting the environment, preserving nature for the next generation, discouraging excess, and so forth. Yet recently I saw a commercial for The Lorax…well actually it was a Mazda commercial; a co-branded advert for a small SUV. The commercial can be seen here (if mazda doesn’t take it down due to all the complaints) and features their vehicle driving through a happy countryside of truffula trees, with cheery music and bright colors.

Also, the Lorax totally looks like Wilford Brimley

The real fact though, is that this is a new SUV, made on a huge assembly line, from 20000 parts, all of which require fossil fuels to refine and fabricate; metal, plastic, glass, rubber. At which point, it is shipped across the country/world, and begins its decade of consuming gas at 30MPG, barrels of oil and lubricants, new tires, batteries, and not to mention the air pollution, roads and infrastructure.

 

This is what we call greenwashing, friends. The commercial even makes reference to being “Certified Truffula Tree Friendly” an “Truffala Tree Seal of Approval” and something called “SkyActive Technology”. There is no intention or nod to being sarcastic, they actually and cheerfully tout these fictitious awards with the same authority as JDPower and Motortrend.

As an adult – and with an eye for marketing –  I can recognize this blatant branding ploy.The fact that the commercial is so bright, so colorful, so cartoony, makes me wonder how kids view these sorts of commercials…whether they will see the movie and this commercial…and question things, or whether they just nod, not knowing corporations can hide truth.

 

My general disposition would be to not pay to watch the movie. The Lorax is tied into several other products as well, over 70 ‘launch partners’ as they’re called. And I certainly I have no plans of owning or recommending a Mazda. But, at what point should people, common folks like you or I, take a further step…signing a petition, participating in a boycott? Am I upset enough about this unholy Mazda/Lorax affair that I want to do anything about it?

Perhaps the fact that I wrote up this blog is a step itself 🙂