Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thoughts on a second viewing of The Hobbit

1) The 2D, 24 FPS is much, much, much better than the 3D, 48 FPS.  This time I was visually taken in; the first time, I wasn't.

2) Glamdring and Orcrist only occasionally remember to glow.

3) Which is OK, since "glows brightly when orcs are around" isn't actually Tolkien's best idea; it makes the bearer awfully visible at inconvenient times.

4) Dwarves have 10,000 HP each, or else the Misty Mountains are made of cotton airbags.

5) If I ever build my whole civilization over bottomless chasms, I'll build sturdy bridges with real handrails that are supported by redundant ropes and knots.

6) Christopher Lee has gotten really, really old.  It's tough to pretend that he's 60 years younger.

7) I've decided that it's lichen on the side of Jar Jar's Radagast's face.  That makes me much happier than what I thought it was the first time I saw the movie.  If I'm wrong, don't tell me.

8) The Battle of Five Armies is going to feel kind of anticlimactic after we've seen Thorigorn and his adventuring party kill orcs and goblins by the hundreds time after time.

9) How does the Great Goblin recognize Orcrist and Glamdring?  Even Gandalf didn't know which particular Elvish swords they were.  Orcs don't live for thousands of years...

10) Trailers: Man of Steel looks terrible.  Whose idea was Kevin Costner?  Even Amy Adams, whom I really like, looks hopelessly out of place.  Jurassic Park 3D: we've now moved beyond sequels and remakes; we're just getting the same movies rereleased with the latest whizbangs.  Pop culture devours its tail.

11) I actually liked Cate Blanchett's Galadriel better in the invented White Council scene here than in LOTR.

12) I of course like that Gandalf is never a 20th-level D&D wizard throwing fireballs and meteor swarms all over the place, nor a even a flashy Dumbledore.  A flare in Goblintown is as showy as his magic gets in The Hobbit; his offensive magic is largely limited to setting pine cones on fire.  I even like that, in the movie, there's some teasing about this: "How many dragons have you killed?"  "Is he a great wizard, or is he more like, well, you?"  But this all sits strangely with the Aragorning of Thorin and the Indiana Jonesing of all the dwarves.  If everyone else gets turned into a 10,000 HP action hero while Gandalf stays the same, he starts to look pretty unimpressive.

13) Overall: not remotely as good as FOTR or Two Towers, and overall I'd still rather have the smaller Bilbo's-eye story.  But I did like it better the second time around.


Michael Kochin said...

Actually, orcs do live for a very long time, perhaps thousands of years. See the conversation between Gorbag and Shagrat in The Two Towers chapter 10.

Jacob T. Levy said...

Do you mean this: "there's some one loose hereabouts as is more dangerous than any other damned rebel that ever walked since the bad old days, since the great Siege"

I don't see anything there to suggest that Gorbag personally *remembers* the Siege.

Robert Farley said...

The orc lifespan question is hotly debated; depends on orc origins, and given that Jackson has embraced the elf thesis, it's not implausible to suggest that orcs have elvish lifespans.

It's also been floated that the Great Goblin may be Maia, which would certainly make it possible that he'd be familiar with the blades.

Jacob T. Levy said...

(cross-posting from FB)

There's lots of discussion of orcs rapidly breeding and multiplying, which sits poorly with immortality both mathematically (you run out of room soon!) and in Tolkien's sensibilities (think about how few children elves have). And I have a hard time with the thought of an immortal race conducting quite the kind of cannon-fodderish warfare we always see orcs engage in. I suppose those two problems could solve each other (orcs don't overrun the world like immortal cockroaches precisely because they're constantly slaughtered in battle) but it feels odd to me.

From what I can tell poking around on the first page of the 27,700 results google returns for fan discussions "are orcs immortal?" (ah, the internet!) Tolkien did eventually notice this odd implication of orcs being twisted elves and tried to write himself out of it in the various unpublished materials, including coming up with an idea that ordinary orcs were short-lived but that their captains and leaders were sometimes shapeshifted Maiar (!) All we seem to have for sure in the books is that some of the leaders live for at least a few centuries (like dwarves)-- but there's nothing beyond this odd memory of the swords to suggest that they live for millennia.


End of cross-post. I have to say that I find the idea of Maiar becoming orc-leaders goofy ("Hey boss, how 'come *he* gets to wear huge wings of fire and shadow, and *she's* a spider-spawning destroyer of light, and *he's* a lidless eye of fire, and *I* get stuck as this warty little green thing?") but I suppose that's question-begging, since there could be lots of ranks of Maiar below the most powerful.

This is all interesting; turns out I'm 25 years out of date on Tolkien fan speculation. Been hanging out on the wrong parts of the internet since then, apparently.