December 20th, 2012 / 6:08 pm

250 Points: The Hobbit, or, As Expected, a Bogus Journey

  1. I really, really hated Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. I think it only fair I get that out there, right up front.
  2. Why did I hate them so very much?
  3. Well, it’s complicated.

  1. For one thing, I disliked how so much of those movies consisted of closeups of the actors’ faces.
  2. Don’t believe me? Rewatch the Council of Elrond.
  3. The scene runs just shy of seven minutes, and culminates in a group shot of the Fellowship of the Ring, which was one of the most widely disseminated images taken from the film.
  4. However, despite the presence of that iconic image (which is onscreen for all of five seconds), the scene mostly consists of closeups. Of its 169 shots, 121 are closeups of single actors. That’s roughly five of the scene’s seven minutes, or about 72% of the footage.
  5. Furthermore, the forty-three wider shots largely consist of no more than two or three actors (and usually consist of characters that are the same size).
  6. Finally, the five master shots, where we see the whole Council together, are done in extreme long shots, presumably due to the fact that size doubles are being used.
  7. I’m not opposed to closeups, not at all. But I tend to prefer it when filmmakers do more than just train a camera on an actor and have them knit their brows and deliver line readings (again, 72% of the footage!).
  8. And the remaining footage in LOTR tends to be CGI mishmash, swooping cameras over landscapes and battle scenes that I don’t care anything about.
  9. I’m also one of those bizarre people who takes at least some offense at Peter Jackson having cut all of the singing and most of the walking from the epic. Because while I’m not some great Tolkien nerd (maybe half such a nerd?), I do think that the journey and its songs and leisurely stories are the lion’s share of the trilogy’s pleasures—and not dumb battles with monsters (which Tolkien always describes as minimally as he can).
  10. And that’s not all. Indeed, for for a long time, I thought about writing a lengthy essay that detailed my various complaints about LOTR. I even started writing it on more than one occasion. (That above analysis stems from one such occasion.)
  11. But then I gave up. Because—hell, it’s not like some detailed formal critique is going to change anyone’s mind, and writing about the damn trilogy tended to wear me out.
  12. So if you love those movies—whatever, fine, I do not care. I’m not going to rail about them here.
  13. But now there’s this new Peter Jackson Tolkien adaptation. And what about that?
  14. It seems as though nobody likes it? That intrigued me. Why did people go for the LOTR films, but don’t care for this new one?
  15. Certainly I went in hoping to like it.
  16. I always do. I don’t think it makes sense to walk in wanting a film to be terrible.
  17. I generally like Peter Jackson’s pre-LOTR films. I think he’s a decent filmmaker, or at least can be.
  18. And I think he had good financial and technical justifications for the way he shot LOTR.
  19. I just didn’t like having to watch the results.
  20. But hope springs eternal. I called some friends, and we met, and bought tickets, and went in to see this new one.
  21. The lights went down and the movie started.
  22. Actually, before the movie started, we saw like a dozen science-fiction movie trailers. And after the first three I was like, “Dear god, please stop making science-fiction films!”
  23. I said this, mind you, as a great lover of science-fiction.
  24. I also said, “Please stop putting CGI animals in films!” Despite being a lover of animals, and not someone wholly opposed to CGI.
  25. But mark my words—somebody’s going to make a movie someday, using just a single camera, and a single long take, and it will just have a single guy in a single room, and no special effects, and that movie will blow everybody’s mind.
  26. The Hobbit is so not that movie.
  27. The movie started—or, rather, it started, but still didn’t start.
  28. Instead, there was all this nonsense footage we had to sit through—stuff about some great glorious dwarven kingdom of old.
  29. Why did anyone think it was good to start with that dwarven crap? Seriously, I care fuck all about all their problems.
  30. And am I supposed to remember all of these characters’ names? As well as this Arkenstone gem thing?
  31. And if so, why?
  32. Just drop us into the Shire, and have it start with Bilbo sitting at home, and then the dwarves showing up! I don’t need to know their tragic back history.
  33. In fact, here is all I need to know about dwarves:
  34. They love goooooold!
  35. Can you imagine being one of the poor schmoes whose job it was to animate, say, Smaug’s left hind limb?
  36. I thank god regularly I don’t work in the entertainment industry.
  37. Then we cut to Bilbo and Frodo, conversing. Why are we watching all this Fellowship of the Ring stuff? What movie is this? Is this The Hobbit?
  38. Why is Bilbo explaining to Frodo what a hobbit hole is?
  39. Why is Bilbo going out of his way to clarify that his hole was not nasty, or dirty, or wet, or filled with the ends of worms, or an oozy smell?
  40. I mean, I can understand why Tolkien would tell us, the readers, that, but why would Bilbo want to tell Frodo that?
  41. Incidentally, I saw the film screened in 24fps, but I still could totally tell everything was fake. All the makeup, for instance, looked fake.
  42. That didn’t bother me any, though. Indeed, I found it to be pretty charming!
  43. It’s like the makeup and sets and effects in the 1980s Russian version, where the monsters are all puppets. Fake is fun!
  44. I mean, I’m a grownup; I know what a fantasy movie is, and that all this is for pretend.
  45. Can you imagine being the guy whose job it was to make sure that all the a‘s in the hobbit’s written language had those three dots over them?
  46. Ian McKellan, to his credit, has really embraced the role of Gandalf.
  47. I admire his conviction?
  48. This is the kind of movie that can’t show you a close-up of a sword without adding a metallic ringing sound to the soundtrack. Kinda like how in LOTR, Jackson couldn’t give us a shot of the Ring without putting a whispery snarling voice on the soundtrack. (Don’t believe me? Go check that Council of Elrond clip! Where, among other things, the little thing growls, and I quote, “The doom of man …”—see around 0:54 in that clip … )
  49. This is also the kind of movie that should just start with the dwarves arriving at Bilbo’s hole place of lodging!
  50. Finally, after forever, the dwarves all showed up. Why didn’t the movie just start with that?
  51. I was so happy when the whole bunch of them fell through the door, because before that I feared Jackson was going to have them all arrive in ones and twos.
  52. I read at least one critic complaining about the dwarf dinner party, arguing that it keeps us in the Shire for far too long, but I have no idea what they’re talking about. Me, I rather liked the dwarf dinner party.
  53. The later action on the road is interminable. The dwarf dinner party is the best part of the film!
  54. Cut all the non-Hobbit stuff from around it—the dwarf kingdom shit and the older Bilbo shit—and the sequence would work perfectly fine!
  55. One thing I liked about the dwarf dinner party is that all the characters were interacting with one another, and with props, and with the setting, and were expressing their personalities, and not just running on green screen sets from fake CGI things, or screaming in slow motion, or fighting in quickly edited shots that my mind can’t follow.
  56. It also highlighted what’s so nice about this movie. Which is that, unlike LOTR, The Hobbit isn’t all closeups!
  57. I can’t believe that no one has mentioned this at all (at least, not in the reviews I’ve read). Can people not see that this film looks totally different than the LOTR films? And I’m not talking about the frame rate.
  58. This film has a lot of composite editing. Peter Jackson et al have finally figured out how to resize everyone, so they can continuously include all the characters in a single shot.
  59. Indeed, it’s extremely impressive! I couldn’t even see how it was an effect. I just accepted that the actors were all different sizes, and interacting with one another.
  60. And I rarely get gushy over special effects, but this is a truly special special effect; it really works.
  61. Sometimes I wonder what so many critics are looking at when they watch films. They don’t seem to be really looking at the film, but rather describing the effect the movie had on them—i.e., “It felt good to me!”
  62. Which is fine, I guess—but there’s also real value in describing films formally, and in observing that this new one looks like a totally different animal than the previous ones.
  63. What’s more, the compositing frees Jackson up a lot more, in terms of how he can dramatize the scenes. It’s no longer a single actor staring past the camera, wincing slightly and giving a line reading.
  64. The Hobbit includes actual choreography!
  65. And wider shots!
  66. And longer takes!
  67. The average shot length on the LOTR films is 3–4 seconds, but I bet it’s longer in this film. For what that’s worth.
  68. And it is worth something. For starters, less frequent cutting is less taxing on the viewer.
  69. It also allows the director to put more information in a shot, which can now be more than just a single actor’s face.
  70. It gives the viewer more time to look at the things in the frame—which you might think important for a fantastical fantasy film, which wants to build a strange other world.
  71. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I thought the production design looked significantly better in this film.
  72. I always thought LOTR looked really cheap, like those TV miniseries adaptations from the 90s—Merlin and Gulliver’s Travels.
  73. I imagine they had a bigger budget this time around.
  74. Even the green screening looks better!
  75. BUT. There are, of course, still plenty of problems.
  76. Gandalf’s line about all good stories deserving embellishment—that is so not true.
  77. It bears repeating: I really don’t need to know much about the dwarves and their motivation. They’re setting out to get their gold back.
  78. Because they love goooooold! And that’s it!
  79. So, uh, Smaug desecrated the dwarves’ sacred holes? Really? (Update: there appears to be some confusion as to who, precisely, desecrated the dwarves’ sacred holes. Rest assured I will get to the bottom of this!)
  80. And why is Jackson making this some diaspora analogy? Are the dwarves supposed to be, like, Palestinians?
  81. If so, does that make the elves Israelis?
  82. And why is there all this subtitled orcish? Why do I give a fuck what an orc is saying?
  83. Can you imagine being the poor guy whose job it was to make sure all the orcish was correctly subtitled?
  84. Why should I care in the slightest about this pale orc leader, whom people call the Pale Orc? And is his name really “Ashcrack”? Or did I just make that up?
  85. He reminds me a little of Mumm-Ra. Now there was a wicked-awesome villain!
  86. Can you imagine being the guy whose job it was to design this pallid thing? I bet he felt very proud of his design, of getting those facial scars just right.
  87. The world is so terribly sad. I often cry myself to sleep.
  88. This movie has way too much crap in it already. Scale back! It also has way too many flashbacks.
  89. This movie definitely demonstrates the principle that narratives can be endlessly embedded within other narratives!
  90. Hey, here comes Radagast the Brown!
  91. So Jackson cut Tom Bombadil from LOTR, and his justification was that it slowed down the action too much, and lightened the tone too much. But now he’s stuffed all this extra crap into The Hobbit?
  92. Actually, I kinda liked the Radagast scene, the one where he heals the dying hedgehog or porcupine CGI thing, while giant monster spiders try to break into his house. Don’t get me wrong—it was all totally unnecessary, but it was also unabashedly dopey, and enjoyable in its naive campiness. And so I threw up my hands and said, “You know what, this scene’s pretty goofy, I sorta like it!”
  93. That sentiment, however, didn’t last long.
  94. Mr. Bilbo must have found the One True Ring already! Because he keeps disappearing from his own movie, lol.
  95. Mr. Jackson, pick some POV and stick there! This isn’t some Victorian comedy of manners!
  96. You know, there’s a source text you can use as a guide, and that did it right. Tolkien rooted his story with Bilbo Baggins for a good reason.
  97. The LOTR films suffered from a similar problem—we kept leaving the hobbits to go visit Saruman and Sauron—but at least there it was somewhat justifiable, since the movie’s scope was larger.
  98. (Even though in the book it’s about seeing that much larger world from the hobbits’ perspective.)
  99. But in this one—why, precisely, do we keep cutting all around? Nothing is gained from any of it.
  100. Plus, the transitions that Jackson et al use to skip around are horribly clumsy and groan-inducing.
  101. Now the company’s ponies are running off. Smart of the ponies—get out now!
  102. The ponies should all get names, and extensive back stories, told in flashbacks.
  103. As well as toy versions of themselves.
  104. Hey, here come the Three Stooges, starring as trolls! And you totally know that all three of these guys all have names, and lengthy histories, and can be purchased, wrapped in plastic, in multiple toy versions, at a Target.
  105. Oh, I guess that trio of bickering trolls wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
  106. The CGI characters in this film have more personality than before, and look less wobbly.
  107. For whatever that’s worth.
  108. You can see how they’ll finally be like Muppets, someday, or something.
  109. For whatever that’s worth.
  110. In other words, the cinema has almost evolved back to being capable of making Labyrinth!
  111. There’s still way too much CGI in this film. I say this because it pulls too much of the focus. In too many scenes, the justification for the scene is some CGI thing that Jackson wants to show us.
  112. Also, all of the lighting is uniformly bright, even during the night scenes. Though I don’t know why this should be.
  113. The company escapes, and they go exploring inside the troll hole. (Which is, unlike Bilbo’s hole, it should be noted, rather nasty, and dirty, and wet, and wormy, and smelly.)
  114. This movie is totally all about holes.
  115. I mean, it’s totally committed to its commitment to being about holes! And I think that’s just great.
  116. “We’re making a long-term deposit”? Peter Jackson, you are a really terrible writer.
  117. Why is it so impossible to make a Hollywood film without one-liners? Do people really like one-liners that much?
  118. The outdoor scenes, I will admit, look better this time around. More outdoorsy.
  119. And the woods look more fantastical? I think?
  120. How many hobbits can fit on the head of a pin?
  121. Anyway, I would say that, overall, The Hobbit is a prettier film than LOTR.
  122. And speaking of pretty, here comes Radagast the Brown again! … More like “Radagast the Goofy.”
  123. Wow, blatant marijuana usage! Very Lord of the Rings.
  124. Radagast vs. the Wargs in an epic CGI race; I take back everything I said. This guy is just awful.
  125. It’s like Peter Jackson is on some mission to thoroughly dumb down Tolkien.
  126. I don’t even think he’s even read the books. It’s more like someone summarized to him while they were Larping.
  127. God, this movie is violent! There are beheadings, bludgeonings, impalings, drug use … What the hell was this movie rated? (Not that I really care.)
  128. And then there’s comedy with hedgehogs and rabbits. It’s tonally all over the place, like the Star Wars prequel films.
  129. No sex, though, of course. Thanks, Hollywood!
  130. Hooray, more subtitled orcish, like I really give a shit!
  131. The orcs keep going on and on about “dwarfs’ cum.”
  132. “The dwarfs’ cum got away from us! It escaped into the elf holes!”
  133. And back to our fearful company. “This will require no small degree of charm.” Take your own fucking advice, Mr. Jackson.
  134. You want charm, read Guy Davenport’s magnificent essay on J.R.R. Tolkien. That’s charm.
  135. Are the elves supposed to be Italian? Italian vampires?
  136. The Lord of the Rings is all about racial violence.
  137. I liked the part where the dwarves couldn’t eat the elvish food. I guess I just like any scenes where dwarves eat!
  138. Hey, here come Elrond and Galadriel, shoehorned into the film.
  139. They also shoehorned in Joanna Newsom, making an appearance on the harp. I guess she’s a Tolkien fan, like Stephen Colbert? (He has to be in here, somewhere … )
  140. The elves help the dwarves read the magic map’s moon runes, using Superman’s crystal desk.
  141. Peter Jackson really can’t keep his camera still.
  142. And yet more flashbacks. Just like in a Christopher Nolan film, whenever anyone mentions anything, we cut to footage of it. In this case, Gandalf tells the story of Radagast’s journey to Doppledogoor … and so we see a dramatic depiction of his journey to Doppledogoor!
  143. And then we cut to Doppledogoor? And Gandalf is talking about something …
  144. “And where sickness thrives, bad things will follow … “
  145. ???
  146. “Small people will save the world with kindness and love … “
  147. ???
  148. You know, the legendary American director Howard Hawks once defined a good movie as having “three great scenes, no bad ones.”
  149. The Hobbit has three decent scenes, and all the rest is fucking terrible.
  150. Yet more nonsense CGI stuff … I guess the mountain rock storm god monsters look cool, but who really cares? None of this has anything to do with the film; it’s just random CGI nonsense.
  151. This is the kind of thing I was talking about earlier. The whole point of this scene is to showcase CGI and nothing else. The characters don’t even do anything; they just stand there watching it happen, along with us.
  152. And they’re just these tiny bodies who careen all over the place, but never get a single scratch or bruise. They bounce around like the Gummi Bears.
  153. The theater I saw it in was rumbling the entire time. I couldn’t tell if that was part of the film or not.
  154. When Bilbo packs up to leave the dwarves, Jackson starts using jump cuts, eliding the action.
  155. This is one of the precious few moments of narrative economy.
  156. (Did you see what I did there?)
  157. Then there’s some violence, and Bilbo falls down into a cavern, and ends up on Georges Méliès’s set from A Voyage to the Moon. (At least, I hope that shortcut to mushrooms was a deliberate reference to Méliès.)
  158. And hey, here comes Gollum! I’m glad to see that; Andy Serkis is a fine actor, and this part of the film was fine.
  159. If anything, the Riddle Game scene was too rushed. It’s a bright spot, and a place where the movie should have slowed down.
  160. Do you think there’s any Gollum slash fiction out there? “Gollum and Lord Elrond in ‘My Precioussss….'”
  161. (Yeah, I just know that already exists.)
  162. That said, the whole discovery of the Ring was totally botched. What’s up with enormous clanging sound as it falls out of Gollum’s pocket? Wouldn’t Gollum hear that? Or was it not a real sound, audible in Middle Earth? (If not, though, what was it? Was it a sound intended just for us?)
  163. Plus they recycled that shot of Frodo accidentally slipping the Ring on, in Bree.
  164. You know, in the ancient boring book that somehow served as the source for all of this, when Bilbo came across the Ring, it was, from his hobbity point of view, just some odd little ring. It wasn’t The Most Important Artifact in the Universe. See, that’s part of the charm of that old-fashioned, musty tale.
  165. Meanwhile, the intercutting with the dwarves and the orcs is interminable.
  166. Hey, here comes the Goblin King!
  167. I mean the Green Goblin.
  168. I mean “Balzac.”
  169. And the Goblin King sings a song! “You remind me the babe…
  170. Actually, he’s more like King Herod, in Jesus Christ Superstar. Either way, I kinda like this guy; he’s fun …
  171. Oh, he’s voiced by the actor who does Dame Edna. That makes sense.
  172. Is this goblin supposed to be the world’s first openly gay goblin? (Mind you, if so, I’m all for that.)
  173. Hey, he knows Thorin! Just like in the Star Wars films, Middle Earth turns out to be a very small place, where everyone knows everybody else.
  174. Is that gibbering little orc scribe riding the zipline a reference to Salacious B. Crumb?
  175. Some filmmakers sure learned the wrong lesson from Return of the Jedi.
  176. Which is, make a goddamned toy for every goddamned character in your film.
  177. I wonder if you can buy Radagast’s super-fast rabbit-sled thing. Because I can totally picture it, in its elongated cardboard packaging …
  178. And does it come with any mushrooms?
  179. This movie is maybe exciting if you’re fourteen twelve seven five.
  180. I understand now the criticisms that older critics made of films like Temple of Doom, back in the day.
  181. It’s like an amusement park ride: you’re riding around in your little cart, brought close to some kind of false peril, but there’s never any peril. It’s just stuff happening.
  182. Mr. Jackson, just stick with Bilbo! We shouldn’t have seen a single second of this Great Dwarf Escape nonsense (even if that meant cutting the Gay Goblin King).
  183. So, this is the part of the film where I really checked out. Once Gandalf and the rest started swinging around on wooden bridges and ropes, I just no longer cared what happened.
  184. Instead, I started reviewing the whole film, making some larger notes in my notebook (which is where I’m transcribing this from).
  185. Jackson and Walsh really should never rewrite Tolkien’s dialogue. They seem hellbent on eliminating all of his prose’s subtle charm.
  186. I also don’t think Tolkien cared that much about the dwarves. They weren’t all that detailed in the book, if I remember; only Thorin got any real personality, right? They’re just a device to get Bilbo out of one hole and into some others.
  187. In this movie, am I supposed to remember all the dwarves?
  188. I wonder how many of the dwarves I can remember.
  189. I’m going to try and list all the dwarves I can remember.
  190. Of course there was Thorin Oakenshield, their boring leader.
  191. And then there was that older, white-bearded one. Gloin? He was all right.
  192. And then there was the morbidly fat one, whose name, I think, was Butter.
  193. And the young, fresh-faced brunette one. Virgil?
  194. The one who looked like Ryan Gosling. (“Hey, dwarf…”)
  195. The dumb country bumpkin one who was wearing the hat with the ear flaps, like so many guys here in Chicago do.
  196. And the bald one with all the tattoos. (Shouldn’t he have been wearing that hat?)
  197. And after that, uh, hm, …
  198. The redheaded one with all the braids?
  199. And the steely-gazed one with an ironic mustache.
  200. As well as the Amish one.
  201. And the Asian one.
  202. And the Jewish one.
  203. And the black one.
  204. As well as the lady dwarf.
  205. And the blind one, wearing the visor.
  206. As well as the half-cyborg dwarf.
  207. And the zombified dwarf.
  208. Though, the truth be told, just like the action scenes in this film, all of them tended to blur together.
  209. So all the dwarves somehow got away from the horde of goblins, with nary a scratch, and still the movie’s not any closer to being over. Funny, I kinda remember this part of the book being over!
  210. Oh, I see, there’s yet another battle to go. Because now Mumm-Ra is back. (Hello, Mumm-Ra!)
  211. The last hour of this film is nonstop CGI mishmash, just relentless.
  212. And the final battle scene is utterly endless. I think it’s fair to say that it’s about as stupid as any random battle scene in Twilight.
  213. All the flames, all the slow motion, all the dwarves falling out of the tree and screaming “Nooooooooo!” and grabbing at one another’s arms …
  214. It’s an actual cliffhanger!
  215. The ending of The Hobbit is quite possibly the stupidest ending I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s like all the cliched movie endings, ever, all rolled into one!
  216. It’s like a parody of endings, but I don’t think Jackson intends it as parody.
  217. You know, if Peter Jackson used less slow motion, then the movie would end that much faster.
  218. Trees falling like dominoes? Wasn’t there some shit-ass scene in The Mummy, where all the bookcases toppled over like dominoes?
  219. Here’s a golden cinematic tip: If something was in The Mummy, don’t put it in your film.
  220. Wow, this tree that the company’s stuck up in is like a catalog of all the false cinematic perils.
  221. Seriously, they drive their enemy back using pine cone grenades?
  222. Don’t even get me started on Bilbo’s “arc,” and how he has to win Thorin Oakenshield’s respect.
  223. This movie is like a master class in deus ex machina (hat tip: Ben Sachs).
  224. So the eagles rescue the company here. And later they’ll rescue everyone, at the Battle of the Five Armies?
  225. And they also rescue Gandalf from Saruman’s tower, as well as Frodo and Sam on Mount Doom?
  226. Well, thank god for the eagles.
  227. I bet the eagles all have names as well, and can each one be bought separately.
  228. When the good guys got away, and Mumm-Ra cried out in rage, I was like, “Dude, I know exactly how you feel …”
  229. Does this mean there’s going to be more fights with Mumm-Ra in the next two movies?
  230. Why?
  231. Then the eagles dropped everyone off on some giant rock. Thank god that there were stairs!
  232. And thank god that the movie went out of its way to show us those stairs!
  233. And it’s still not over! Of course, at the end, they have to show us Smaug in his money bin.
  234. And then … it’s finally … over!
  235. Except for the Irish Rovers song that plays over the final credits.
  236. So what, in the final analysis, were my conclusions regarding The Hobbit?
  237. In some ways it’s exactly the same as the previous trilogy. The writing is total shit, and there’s way too much meaningless action and false peril, and everything’s treated with a weighty solemnity, while anything truly interesting in the source text has been excised.
  238. But I will gladly admit that I liked the composite editing, and the consequences of that. I think it all looked significantly better this time around.
  239. Mind you, it still doesn’t look all that great, or do anything amazing or even interesting, visually—but it didn’t make me want to go blind.
  240. The first half of the film is such that I might be willing to say that I thought that it was perhaps mildly enjoyable.
  241. But then the CGI mishmash assault of the second half totally beat me down.
  242. It’s all very dumb.
  243. And everything takes twice as long as it should.
  244. (Insert obligatory 48fps joke here.)
  245. The thought of two more films after this feels unbearable.
  246. I’m amazed that the fat dwarf didn’t fart at some point; the film showed great restraint on that sensitive matter.
  247. The Hobbit includes three songs, and a great deal of walking in the woods, and for that reason alone I like it so much more than any other film Peter Jackson has ever made starring a Hobbit.

Other movies I’ve reviewed: Inception | The Dark Knight Rises | Scott Pilgrim vs. the World | Drive | Lifeforce | Cloud Atlas

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  1. rawbbie

      RE points 76-79 or something:

      I think the Dwarves are Jews and the Dragon is Islam and the Elves are Europe and the Humans are French and the mountain is Israel and Bilbo is an Atomic Bomb and Gandalf is America and the Orcs are Germans… I think…

  2. A D Jameson

      I think you’re probably right.

  3. Taylor Napolsky

      oh my gosh this review made me realize that albino orc didn’t die, which means he probably will be in the next ones. Please no…enough with that guy. He was such a bore.

  4. Brooks Sterritt

      Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow

  5. A D Jameson

      Yeah, exactly! He’s going to be in the entire trilogy! I’m calling it right now, he’s totally there at the battle of the five armies, where he’ll have some epic slow-motion showdown with Thorin Oakenshield. You know it to be true!

  6. A D Jameson

      I just hope that in a few year’s time, when they’re looking for more money, they get Edgar Wright to adapt The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

  7. Brooks Sterritt

      Haha. The question is whether they will stoop to milk The Silmarillion.

  8. A D Jameson

      I love science-fiction films, and science-fiction in general—but, man, those dozen sci-fi trailers wore me out! There’s something to be said for not getting everything you want…

  9. A D Jameson
  10. Brooks Sterritt

      Oh no.

  11. A D Jameson

      They can go ahead and make it. I will feel no obligation to see it, just as I feel no obligation to ever read the thing.

      One of my two filmgoing companions last night, incidentally, had read The Silmarillion. But not The Hobbit, it you can believe that!

  12. Brooks Sterritt

      I actually can’t believe it. I read the trilogy and Hobbit when I was really young, but only flipped through (and was bored by) The Silmarillion. I saw the trilogy films but don’t think I can bring myself to see the Hobbit. Maybe I will change my mind…

  13. rawbbie

      idk if you noted this, because 250 points is a shit ton of points, but i felt like i was watching short people walking along the edge of a cliff for three hours. It was pretty annoying. like, middle earth was just one big cliff, except the scene where the orcs on wolfback chase the short people across the plains into that cave. BUT LATER the orcs chase them, AGAIN, to the edge of a cliff.

      Maybe the short people are on the edge of a cliff or in a cave or both, through the whole movie…

      You’re right about the CGI. Someone’s job on the movie had to have been ensuring maximum CGI at all times.

  14. rawbbie
  15. Ultra VGA

      I kind of agree here. And I just saw two trailers the other day. Oblivion with Tom Cruise and After Earth with Will Smith. Meh.

      I don’t think there’s been anything science-fictional manufactured in Hollywood in this century that’s even remotely made me want to at least download the thing on a torrent (well, maybe Looper). Hollywood + SF = Crappy CGI pseudo-realistic video-game. I’m way more excited by hearing about A Topiary (Carruth’s out-there 250 pages script -there’s a pdf of it somewhere online that I just need to find), a film that if ever gets made will probably rewire the idea of what a SF movie can be; or even Richard Kelly’s script for Bessie, a movie he hasn’t been able to make after his wanktastic commercial fiasco Southland Tales (gimme this kind of ambitious if failed hotchpotch of a movie instead of anything “created” by a board of studio execs), about GE talking cow.

      I think the best science-fiction I’ve seen lately is the series Black Mirror (but it was just three episodes). I hope the make more.

      If someone can point me to any recent decent SF movies, I’ll all eyes.

  16. A D Jameson

      Hey Ultra VGA, I’m sure you know all of these, but—

      I think my favorite recent SF film is Moon. I also enjoyed Source Code OK, though I found it somewhat forgettable. Moon, though, has really stuck with me; I think it’s pretty great.

      After that, I’d say A Scanner Darkly. After that? Shaun of the Dead and Primer, I guess. Again, I’m sure you know all of these, but they’re my favorite English-language SF films of the past 10 years or so. (Am curious to see A Topiary myself. I have issues with Primer, but I’m still totally on Carruth’s side.) (I’ve also not yet seen Looper or Dredd 3D, but have heard great things about both. And Carruth supposedly did some work on Looper?)

      More recently, I thought Never Let Me Go was OK, but nowhere near as good as the novel. And along those lines, I’d recommend instead Lucile hadzihalilovic’s 2004 feature Innocence, which isn’t really sci-fi, but still explores some of the same issues as NLMG:

      I also enjoyed both Chronicle and X-Men: First Class. (Hybrid SF films, I guess?)

      Beyond that I can’t remember anything domestic that’s really stuck with me. For instance, I sort of enjoyed I Am Legend when I watched it, but I quickly forgot that I’d seen it. (All I remember is the scene where he kills his dog, and lots and lots of racing a sports car around in a fake deserted Manhattan.) And I guess my despair at watching those trailers came from the feeling that most of those films would be closer to I Am Legend than, say, Moon—not god awful movies, but nothing really worth it in the end. Cheap thrills. Or maybe, at best, they’d be like Prometheus or Cloud Atlas, “the New SF of Ideas,” lol. (I’m not really a fan of either of those last two, though I am grateful that they’re both trying to do something. But trying and failing, I’d say.)

      I hear also that The Hobbit is pretty cool, and that there’s a cyborg in it.


  17. A D Jameson

      Oh, and I like Southland Tales, too. I guess that’s sort of sci-fi? The Box finally convinced me, though, that Kelly has no idea what he’s doing. Still, here’s hoping?

  18. A D Jameson

      You’re right about the cliffs! I hadn’t noticed that, but you’re right.

      Nothing signals false peril like a cliff.

  19. A D Jameson

      I felt as though the film kept trying to coach me on who was who, often by showing their faces as someone said their names. And then there were those posters. But why should I have to memorize 13 dwarf names to watch a stupid movie? Gandalf knows their names, and presumably they know their own names as well, and that should be enough.

  20. Nick Mamatas

      Chronicle was a great surprise, as was X-Men: First Class. But, sheeh, The Hobbit looked like a turd from the get-go. Once they announced that it would be a movie, no two movies, make that THREE movies, it was clearly just an exercise in cynicism.

  21. Taylor Napolsky

      You go to a fantasy film and complain about the fantasy trailers, when you know damn well they gear the trailers to correspond with the genre of movie you are attending.

  22. Taylor Napolsky

      (gimme this kind of ambitious if failed hotchpotch of a movie instead of anything “created” by a board of studio execs)

      That’s what Cloud Atlas tried and it was a huge failure at the box office and has been completely ignored for the Oscars. Did you see Cloud Atlas? I bet not. Nobody did.

  23. Taylor Napolsky

      That disgusts me. I really don’t want to watch that guy for two more movies.

  24. A D Jameson

      Well, I’m exaggerating at least slightly. I just have high hopes for the world; I want everything to be great.

  25. A D Jameson

      I saw Cloud Atlas, and wrote about it here. I wanted to like it more. I still like the Wachowskis and I hope I love their next film.

  26. Taylor Napolsky

      ha that was me that wrote that “guest” post but then I tried to erase it because I decided I didn’t fully agree with it but instead of deleting it they just changed it to guest. About to read your review now. Sad you didn’t like it—I loved it.

  27. A D Jameson

      I wanted to love it. I went in wanting to love it. I’m glad you loved it. I wish it had done better, financially. I want sci-fi to be more ambitious. Thanks for reading what I wrote about it! Night, Adam

  28. Taylor Napolsky

      Yeah I loved it and it has been so maligned/ignored that I want to rent it when it comes out, maybe to convince myself that I was deluded and it’s not as great as I thought. Of course, knowing how loathed that movie is, I wouldn’t be surprised if the DVD never comes out.

  29. A D Jameson

      Write about why you loved it! I’d be happy to read that.

      I am a huge fan of the two Matrix sequels so tell me about it. Sometimes I feel like the only person on planet Earth who likes them.

      When more ambitious movies like Cloud Atlas do badly I want to stick up for them. I will stand by my criticisms (and note that I did admire some things about the film), but I did tell everyone I know to go see the thing.

  30. A D Jameson

      I will maintain that I liked The Hobbit more than I liked the LOTR films. Call me crazy, but call me.

      I think when all six of the films are finally out it might be possible to cut a single decent feature from them? I will try doing so, just as soon as I finish distilling the three Austin Powers films down to the single brilliant film I know is in there…

  31. Ultra VGA


      I liked Moon alright, although it contains some bits of hocus-pocus that made me cringe (but hey, they’re so common in SF movies these days that you basically have to ignore/swallow them if you want to enjoy something). Source Code falls clearly within the range of how Hollywood concieves SF, and it’s an inferior film just for it, although I sort of managed to enjoy it somehow. Moon was made in England.

      Really liked Scanner Darkly (the scrambler suits were kind of ridiculous, though). It’s light-years from giving you the same experience that you get from reading the novel, which is probably why Chris Cunningham thought it unfilmable. I have to read Charlie Kaufman’s script and see how he dealt with this “unfilmability”.

      Shaun of the Dead. I barely remember watching it. Not so keen on it, but I tend to not like anything zombi.

      I have to rewatch Primer; I also have some issues with it, but that’s probably why I like it so much.

      Saw Looper just yesterday. It’s really bollocky and it probably has more plot/logic holes that Prometheus, which is funny because I kind of liked it, and I totally hated Prometheus.

      I haven’t seen the others you mention, of which Cloud Atlas is probably the one I’m more curious about, even if I can foretell I’m not going to like at all.

      I’ll say superheroes are not exactly SF, but hybrid SF, as you say.

  32. Islington Comic Forum

      I haven’t actually seen The Hobbit (and ain’t making any real plans to) but I totally LOVE this write-up: totally excellent.

      Also: I totally love point 64 (“Sometimes I wonder what so many critics are looking at when they watch films. They don’t seem to be really looking at the film, but rather describing the effect the movie had on them—i.e., “It felt good to me!””) Seeing how you manage to prove how much more interesting film criticism can be when you attempt to – no dur – talk about the film and what’s actually there AS WELL AS showing how much interesting detail you can get from talking about the effects the film had on you and what you thought about it. So – yeah – I dunno: having your cake and eating it too (or something). Whatever it is – I LOVE IT.

  33. Islington Comic Forum
  34. mimi

      this awesome list (list! list! list!) actually makes me want to see The Hobbit (pine cone grenades! a real cliff hanger! 198! a zombified dwarf!) when previously i had no intention of doing so (and haven’t read or seen LOtR or read TH) ADJ

      PS – i actually have a student whose nickname is Butter

      PPS – are two ‘actually’s one too many for a comment on a lit blog??

  35. deadgod

      In a very real sense, ‘actually’ belongs on a, like, Wallace thread, basically.

      Tolkien is more eckt-chew-uh-leh.

  36. deadgod

      Could hardly agree more than with the Moon recommendation. A clever story gimmick that the viewer comes to understand along with the character’s growing realization–in other words, nothing’s artificially withheld from the viewer, but likewise, the character isn’t made to be stupid by the viewer being given a cheat-sheet.

      The science idea is trickeration – but that’s sci fi, right? –a machine or knowledge one pretends to imagine is possible, because it’s not feasible, but which, as human understanding changes, might someday, somehow, be technology and not magic.

      (The tech idea of Moon can’t be mentioned–even in one word–without spoiling the movie.)

      I didn’t see the “hocus-pocus” that Ultra VGA had to ignore/swallow; Moon is a low-effect production, given the astronautics and the sci-fi technology that’s used as the twist (or gimmick) of the movie. Except for that twist, the movie’s just a guy in a room, in this case, working ’til the end of a project so he can go home. It’s, as it were, a 20th-c factory movie: namely, a cubicle movie. –set in the nth-c, with that technological advance (and concomitant social use of human life).

  37. mimi

      um, like, three, actually

  38. mimi

      thanks deaders

  39. A D Jameson

      Do check out Innocence. It’s a great film, and not SF, but very fantastical. Like a very dark fairy tale.

  40. A D Jameson

      (The tech idea of Moon can’t be mentioned–even in one word–without spoiling the movie.)

      Giant robots battling monsters come out of the ocean?

      I guess what disappointed me so much about the trailers I saw before The HobbitPacific Rim, Oblivion, Epic, others I can no longer remember—was that they all looked like the same movie: using CGI to show people fighting one another and/or monsters in strange worlds. I like action films fine—I think Terminator 2 is an absolute masterpiece of a film, and I love the Matrix films—but I also find most action films boring. I couldn’t stand how much of The Hobbit consisted of the merry little band running around impaling wolves and goblins.

      So I guess my complaint is less with the current spate of SF films, and more with the current spate of bad action films. Or how so many films these days come down to having to kill some bad guy somewhere; it’s so dull.

      Just yesterday I was remembering Princess Mononoke, and how that film has the courage to end with its main characters signing a truce, and agreeing not to fight a mutually-devastating battle. How many Hollywood films are willing to end by averting a battle?

  41. A D Jameson
  42. A D Jameson

      I’ve been told I use that word too often myself.

  43. A D Jameson

      Thanks! I do intend to check it out (the film and your write-up).

  44. A D Jameson

      Thanks! … In my mind, it only makes sense to describe the film that’s there, not the film one is imagining. I didn’t really like The Hobbit or LOTR, but I think it still makes sense to describe the ways in which they differ from one another. Cheers, A

  45. Ultra VGA


      My quibbles regarding Moon (which can be read -Moon- as an impressive mash-up of quite a few SF classic films) come down to how, in the middle of the movie, the two characters’ behaviour (man and robot) starts not making any sense as in being totally incongruous with how the characters are portrayed in the first half of the movie. That and some weird Solaris moment in the beginning that I can’t remember now. So it’s not exactly “hocus-pocus”, I’m being a little nit-picky here.

      ‘Gamer’ was surprisingly watchable for an action testoterone-fueled movie. Here Stephen Shaviro rapshodizes at length about it:

  46. Ultra VGA

      “I guess what disappointed me so much about the trailers I saw (…) was that they all looked like the same movie: using CGI to show people fighting one another and/or monsters in strange worlds”.

      That sums it up perfectly.

  47. deadgod

      Wait… that happens in Moon?! I’ve got to quit running for more Goobers in the middle of these movies.

      (The technology in Moon can be put in one word–it’s just that the word would be too much of a hint – you might guess what’s happening before Rockwell acts it out just because you’d been told what’s happening. Like “I see dead people.”: as with many, I guessed Sixth Sense because the ad tag clicked in place before the kid and Willis get it. Before I saw Moon, I’d only seen a poster (with its blurbs), and thought it was a 2001-style trippy thing.)

      Also agree about action conventions overwhelming the science/society exploration (and any, you know, acting or narrative tension) in sci fi movies. You could add detective and gangster flicks — hell, even romantic comedies seem to feature wild chases and fist-fights where a punch sounds like a car accident. Discouraging that this one entertaining but narrow bundle of conventions – “action” – has metastasized into and colonized so much film story-telling.

      I’ll look for The Cube, thanks.

  48. deadgod

      I don’t remember mid-film behavioral incongruity in Moon, but I only watched it once and maybe a re-run would feel more clumsily patched-together to me. Sure, Solaris, maybe Pandorum (which I enjoyed)–though that was made later?

      Not sure if these movies form chains of direct influence, or if the story-telling units – like coming out of suspended animation or somebody being stashed in a cabinet – are memes that no one really deserves credit for anymore.

      I haven’t seen Gamer–or, indeed, some of the movies Adam suggests. [unsmiley-face] Something to look forward to! [smiley-face]

  49. Taylor Napolsky

      “I am a huge fan of the two Matrix sequels. Sometimes I feel like the only person on planet Earth who likes them.”

      You’re not. Reloaded is incredible. I found it far superior to the first. It’s like the first one on steroids. I’d need to watch Revolutions again to know how I feel about it. I don’t remember it as well.

  50. Islington Comic Forum

      Have been sharing your articles with all my friends (think they might be starting to get a little annoyed actually…). Your Dark Knight Rises thing managed to sum up everything I’d been saying since I saw it at the IMAX (hands down my worse cinematic experience of 2012).

      Plus – I’ve gotta say (sorry): Moon? Really?? I really really wanted to like it – but it’s not a patch on all the great 1970s sci-fi films that it was supposedly based on (Phase IV, The Andromeda Strain, Silent Running etc). I do have a massive man-crush on Sam Rockwell tho – so at least there was that.






  53. Marcus Speh

      You’ve won my respect, Thorin Jameson. No. 28 is my favorite, I am going to see this film on my birthday in six days and I admire how much love you managed to cram into this review. Enjoyed, muchly.

  54. Pascoe Foxell

      Danny Boyle’s Sunshine! Gets silly towards the end, but the madness and building tension before that are absolutely wonderful (and the last few shots/scenes are lovely too, after the silly bit). Also, the effects are very beautiful and restrained.

  55. JordeeVee
  56. Ultra VGA
  57. Michael Martin

      Moon was more predictable to me. I immediately, from the trailers even, could lay out the story. Doesn’t mean it was entirely bad. I just mean in comparison to say, Source Code, it had more of an impact, philosophically. We’ve seen the “if you are a clone, does that mean you are you” trope before. But Source Code took that idea and pushed it — are You you down to your subatomic particles? It dealt with nonlocality — the big questions like life after death — but without answering it head on, which is good, because that makes it meaty, I can think on it.

      [ the flashes Colter see’s as he is brought back and forth through the veiled precipice of reality — it means he is nonlocal, and if so, what does that mean for the energy these scientists are manipulating, what happens to it after it is released? ]

      Big stuff, no?

      And Carruth worked on Looper in the sense Carruth provided his “verification” of the time-loop. You can listen to an interview Rian did with Jeff Goldsmith for Backstory Magazine. He explains Carruth’s involvement.

  58. tao lin


  59. alan

      I recommend, if you haven’t read it, Christine Brooke-Rose’s “A Rhetoric of the Unreal.” There’s a chapter on narrative flaws in LOTR.

  60. A D Jameson

      Taylor, I’m so happy to meet someone else who likes the Matrix sequels! You’re seriously the first person I’ve ever met/encountered besides myself who said he likes them.

      The reason why I like them so much is that the films, I’d argue, are primarily about cosplaying. And it’s in the two sequels that the Wachowskis most proudly display their clothes fetishes, which I really admire. The sequels have the most expensive, most beautiful clothes whipping around onscreen in slow motion (the true content of the film), and I adore that.

      Plus the action sequences are astonishing, especially in Reloaded.

  61. A D Jameson

      I didn’t mind any plotholes or plot inconsistencies in Moon, or even really notice them, because I was won over more by the mood than anything. I was impressed by how somber and sad a film it was.

      I liked Gamer all right, just wish it had been even crazier. The part where Dexter leads the other choreographed inmates in a song number was by far my favorite part.

  62. A D Jameson

      Thanks! … What I liked best about Moon was that it was so depressing. I find that a rare quality in contemporary US/UK movies, where happy endings seem mandatory.

  63. A D Jameson

      Thanks so much! I have not read that, despite being a huge CBR fan. OK, I’m off to find a copy…

  64. A D Jameson

      Thanks! … Some friends told me the entire plot of Moon before I finally saw it, so I guess I focused mainly on the atmosphere / production design. Although, honestly, that + the cinematography/editing is primarily what I watch whenever I see a film. Like, when I saw Lincoln, I couldn’t stop staring at how clean everyone’s clothing was, as well as all the fixtures in all of the rooms (which were very beautiful). I really love/want the white waistcoat Abe Lincoln wore at his inaugural ball.

  65. A D Jameson
  66. A D Jameson

      My hobbit name is Sabo Long Horn Norcross, Ring-bearer.
      My elven name is Dira, Hidden King.
      My human name is Ranry Dwimmerlaik.
      My wizard name is Valaraukar Kindler.

      Who knew?

  67. Marcus Speh

      Glad to meet you. I just found a name generator, too. In the spirit of swapping our Middle Earth business cards,

      My hobbit name is Sarry Noakes, Mayor of the Shire.
      My elven name is Nwrka Strongbow.
      My dwarf name is Fofur of Erebor.
      My human name is Taemyr Ruling King of Númenor (!).
      My wizard name is Balrogs the Sorcerer.


  68. Taylor Napolsky

      I don’t know about the cosplay but—the action scenes and drama in Reloaded are so intense. Even the opening scene, when they go through the club back to back to back with guns drawn, the whole thing is so sick.

      It’s also rich with philosophy. Oh the part where Neo fights the thousand agents is also amazing. The stuff with the architect kicks ass. It’s been so long since I’ve seen it and I still remember much of it. I remember some scene on a freeway that is awesome.

      It’s beyond me why people revile that movie!

      The Wachowski’s—I’d say they were geniuses except I recently saw v for Vendetta (for the first time) and didn’t like it much. Haven’t seen Speed Racer, but I loved C.A. I actually don’t love the Wachowski’s that much at this point, I think because of my disappointment in V, but if Jupiter Ascending is good, then I’ll become a huge fan. Really I have low expectations for Jupiter Ascending.

  69. Taylor Napolsky

      It’s true though, nobody likes the Matrix sequels. I also adore Godfather III, another movie people despise.

  70. Islington Comic Forum

      Was it that depressing tho really? I mean – ok – yeah – compared to every other contemporary US/UK movie it’s the bleakest thing ever: but that was one of the things that left me feeling a bit – blurgh – was that (for me anyway) it felt like it had a bit of uplifting – everything’s going to be ok feeling to it – sam rockwell heading to earth: this time he can make a difference yay (or something: i’ve only seen it once (back when it first came out) and have no real wish to see it again): but compare it to – say – Cube (the Vincenzo Natali one as opposed to the Jim Henson) and – well…. yeah.

  71. A D Jameson

      I found it depressing enough. I mean, just think of all those dead Sam Rockwells! The saddest bit is how the escape pod was really an incinerator—that’s a dismal thought, isn’t it? And sure the voiceover at the end gives some hope that the corporation will be held accountable, somehow—but that doesn’t do the previous Sams any good. Or reunite him with his long-dead wife.

      I mean, it’s not Salo, but still—pretty depressing for a mainstream indy film?

  72. deadgod

      Brooke-Rose quite dislikes Lord of the Rings, which she finds tiresomely self-distracted, and, in my view, she rationalizes her hostility to the book by finding it to be an impermissibly infelicitous mix of “realism” and “the marvellous”, which unhappiness Tolkien chiefly produces by an “excessive circulation of information”.

      Here’s what I refer to:

      [I]t is not only Gandalf’s delays that are provoked by the need to convey information about the megatext, but delays in general, either incarnated in the minor characters or unincarnated and straight from the narrator as long chunks of description of this or that world, at which the information given is basically irrelevant to the main quest, over-visibly fulfilling the mere role of l’effet du reel and, on the whole, for those reasons failing to make this or that world ‘real’.

      And this:

      LR, although belonging to the marvellous, amply illustrates this tendency of realistic discourse [namely, defocalisation of the hero]. Frodo as Ring-Bearer and quester is ‘clearly’ the hero, and yet the narrative constantly reduces him, even annihilates him through absence while we follow the tedious adventures of Aragorn, Gandalf, Merry and Pippin (then Merry or Pippin), Theoden and all the innumerable others. [. . .]

      The mechanism of treating the hero prominently but not too prominently belongs to realistic discourse, and its inappropriateness to the marvellous is all the more patent in that narrative interest is only sustained when we rejoin Frodo and his faithful Sam. […] The hero, in fact, is remarkably absent, and the beneficiary of many negative values.

      So, ‘LOTR is boring because it’s diffuse and it wanders.’ You might well wonder if Brooke-Rose realizes that what she resists and condemns–the world-building detail, the many diffractive episodes–are exactly what many readers love about their reading experience of LOTR. –as with Austen, and Proust, and Hemingway… and anything: appeals to misfitting a formal typology will convince no pleasure-takers that their pleasure is not legitimate.

      (She’s borderline-enraged by the book’s popularity, which might shine a light on her commitment to debunking its acting ‘marvelously’ on its fans: “Nor are the histories and genealogies in the least necessary to the narrative, but they have given much infantile happiness to the Tolkien clubs and societies, whose members apparently write to each other in Elvish.” Take that!)

      BUT: the narrative flaws that Brooke-Rose claims to find in the book are not functions of the book’s alleged inconsistencies. For example:

      The arbitrariness of character is more evident when features are inconsistent e.g. the fallibility of Gandalf and Aragorn (realism) serves to create the errors and delays that provoke more adventures (marvellous), but is all the more unconvincing in Gandalf in that he so readily uses magic in battles and similar occasions, and unconvincing even in Aragorn who, after all his errors, appears to win the battle of Gondor by his mere presence, transfigures, as it were, by his passage through the Paths of the Dead.

      These quibbles are not accurate. Gandalf husbands his power so as to use it wisely and achieve goals consonant with wisdom. There are ‘world’ reasons why he doesn’t just use the eagles to fly Frodo to Orodruin right from the Shire, for example, and the ‘world’ pressures that force his hand in the direction of goodness are made clear when they’re relevant. And saying that ‘Gandalf has only some power when he should be omnipotent’ is foolish enough hardly to be an objection.

      And that is not how Aragorn, sailing up the river in the black pirate ships and joining the battle to defend Minas Tirith, actually helps to win that battle; Tolkien’s description of that episode beggars at the level of fact Brooke-Rose’s sneering reduction of it.

      Whatever structural analysis she chooses to force onto the book, what happens in the story is not what she says happens, which makes her debunking of the story’s narrative unity and coherence unreliable.

  73. Islington Comic Forum

      Yeah. Point taken. But there’s this – erm – thing with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg when they’re talking about how they’re gonna make the first Indy film (or as they called it back then: “Indiana Smith.”) and they make a point about: “However, I think there might be some screenwriting nuggets here. What happens in the past, off screen, good or bad, does not affect sympathy. It’s what we see the character do in the present that determines how much we will or will not care about that character.” And I think the same thing applies to Moon: yes there’s loads of things that – if you think about them are kinda depressing and cool but the movie never really DOES anything with them. I mean (just off the top of my head) it would have been much better (well – I would have enjoyed it more at least) if Sam Rockwell DIDN’T break the cycle at the end and it ended with a “new” Sam popping up at the end – ready to go through all the same motions (kinda like the thing that was implied in the (crappy) Matrix sequels). No? What do you think?

      Indiana Smith thing is here if you’re interested:

  74. Rookie » Saturday Links: Year's Best Edition

      […] I loved the Lord of the Rings movies, on account being a giant nerd and all. However, here is a list of 250 reasons not to see The Hobbit. It’s […]

  75. A D Jameson

      Thanks for all that, deadgod. I’m still looking forward to reading the essay. I always find it fascinating when artists I like dislike other artists I like. Have you seen Gilbert Sorrentino’s diss of Leonard Cohen?

  76. A D Jameson

      No elven surfing, though there are pine cone grenades.

  77. A D Jameson

      Thanks for the link—I’ve actually read that transcript. And you’re right, of course, that Moon could have been much more depressing, and bleaker. It is true that the filmmakers chose to tell the story of the Sam who broke the cycle, rather than a Sam who was simply stuck in the cycle. But I still found the thoughts it provoked in me pretty depressing. But I also think I’m sensitive to those kinds of things. I found the similar mistreatment of the clones in Cloud Atlas similarly depressing, although I didn’t find the depiction of it anywhere near as provocative as Moon.

      It’s like the scene in The Sea Wolf where the captain gives the speech about life being cheap. Hollywood today so rarely proffers that sentiment, I find any instance of it remarkable.

  78. A D Jameson

      I guess he read LOTR, then read The Silmarillion. But never went back and read The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.

  79. Islington Comic Forum

      The two worst things about living in England is that 1. Our economy is tanking and that living conditions are getting worse and no one can find a job and blah blah blah. 2. Is that Cloud Atlas STILL isn’t out here yet and we have to wait until FEBRUARY in order to feel – you know – bitterly disappointed (or whatever). But yeah – sorry: this has basically just been you going “Moon is really bleak and provocative ” and me whining that it wasn’t bleak and provocative ENOUGH! I guess that’s really the only way to be able to properly enjoy – well – all the mainstream-Hollywood-blah films nowadays – it’s all a question of how much you’re prepared to forgive. Eg: I’m a bit of a Prometheus-apologist (yeah ok ok) in that – I know it has it’s flaws (which can be best summed up as: the characters doing things that don’t make sense: taking their helmets off and treating dangerous looking alien creatures like cute puppy dogs) but when it works – well – it really fucking works (basically all the fucked-up crazy shit: i won’t go into more detail because otherwises I’ll be here more day – but I guess the best way to explain it is that it feels like the 7th draft of film that needed 12 drafts to get right).

      Back to Moon: another problem/issue/niggle/whatever: I was really looking forward to watching a sci-fiction film where not a lot happened. Like – I could have done with 20 minutes of Sam Rockwell doing nothing and getting a better feel of the space (this was a problem with Prometheus too: why did they have to find the alien base STRAIGHT AWAY? why did everything go wrong AS SOON as they got there? couldn’t they have let things just relax a little more before all the shit started hitting the fan? No?).

      Depictions of human life being cheap you say? In that case what do you think of this: ?

      Also – sorry – I haven’t seen (or read) The Sea Wolf. Is it worth checking out?

  80. mimi

      I’m Miklathloualwla, Queen of the Sandheavers of Saltyslap Shores

  81. A D Jameson

      Our economy isn’t the greatest here, either. And we had less than a month to wring whatever enjoyment we could out of Cloud Atlas.

      Prometheus and Cloud Atlas are indeed better than a lot of other movies out there, and I enjoyed various aspects of them. I suppose my problem with them stems from the fact that their directors have all made better movies, and I expected more from them. With Moon, I was more surprised than anything, Duncan Jones being (artistically) an unknown quantity. That may have given it a boost. Also, here in the States, Moon remains a fairly unknown film, especially compared to works like Prometheus and Cloud Atlas. So I think I prefer to praise it, more than criticize it. (The fact that Cloud Atlas tanked at the box office leaves me feeling inclined to support it. And believe me: it doesn’t give me much pleasure to say negative things about Ridley Scott and the Wachowskis.)

      Moon definitely has problems. While I understand why it’s there, I thought the closing voiceover something of a cop-out. And I agree with your script criticisms: the film’s pacing and revelations are really off, and could have been handled much, much better.

      When I saw the movie, I liked it all right. It’s been more in the time since then, as I’ve started comparing it to other films, that my appreciation has grown. I guess all of this is to say that while I have quibbles with the film, I enjoyed its overall effect, whereas with Prometheus and Cloud Atlas, I liked moments, but the wholes didn’t work for me.

      When I’m watching a film that I find mixed, I often feel as though the project’s rolling a ball up an incline. If it makes it over that incline to the other side, then I’ll come down on the film’s side, too. If it doesn’t make it over the top, and the ball rolls back to where it started, then I’ll praise those things that I liked, but won’t get behind the whole production. … This is vague, I know, but it’s how I intuitively rationalize what I think are a lot of subtler, and sometimes subconscious, observations and analyses. (And I do sometimes change my opinion on films, after revisiting them. Like I said, I found Moon more mixed than not the first time I saw it.)

      I’ve not seen 2012! I’ve been waiting for the year to finish first. Sooner or later I have to catch up on disaster porn. I can’t believe I still haven’t watched The Happening

      The book version of The Sea-Wolf is a great read. It’s been a while since I looked at the film version, but Michael Curtiz directed it, and it stars Edward G. Robinson, so it must be worth the time? I remember Robinson being pretty convincing/chilling.


  82. A D Jameson
  83. There And Back Again « The Card Catalog

      […] AD Jameson at HTML Giant made a great point: with all the added weight to Thorin’s story, the dwarves now have a lot in common with Palestinians. That’s a compelling addition, but I didn’t see why it should be a part of My […]

  84. mimi

      aw sweet

      “Aren’t you a little insane?” LOL

      “You don’t exist either, you’re a dream.”

      to me you are and always will be Mister Lister, ADJ

      : )

  85. A D Jameson
  86. mimi

      then i’ll…

      See you at the Punishment Poll

  87. A D Jameson

      We’re already there. Why else did you think we were here?

      VOTE THIS COMMENT UP…if you want to show me mercy!

      VOTE THIS COMMENT DOWN…if you’d rather I…be punished!

  88. mimi

      seeing as how mimi is not one to easily show mercy, ADJ, consider yourself Lucky – no, Wise, Successful, Smart – by having Earned my Mercy in the Punishment Poll by Composing a Comment that i Actually LIKE and VOTE UP

      : )

  89. Islington Comic Forum

      In my head (for some reason) I’m mixing up The Sea-Wolf with Billy Budd – but that’s just because of this: (sorry: a bit random maybe I know).

      Watching Prometheus was like a rollercoaster – not in the traditional meaning of “omg – it was so thrilling – like a rollercoaster ride!” but more in the sense of the amazing highs (that abortion scene!) and the despairing highs (whenever anyone did any talking): I used to be very much a “the film has got to be a whole” school of thought (which is why I’ve never been able to love Apocalypse Now in the same way as – well – everyone else: because as awesome as it is – the ending just seemed like such a damp squib that it taints the whole journey: for me anyway): but now – it’s like the only way to get enjoyment for them is just to concentrate on the scenes rather than the movies: good example (maybe): M.I.4.Ghost Whatsitcalled: that whole climbing the tower bit in the middle (especially in IMAX) was totally fucking mind-blowing – and then the end (oh god the end) was just a… I dunno: a let-down. When I came out I mainly just felt disappointed but no I realise that I should have been concentrating on the good parts instead of thinking of it as a whole film (or is that silly? I dunno).

      In fact – actually – thinking about it more: maybe the reason that I’m a Prometheus fanboy is that the good bits and the bad bits were so close together? With most of the Hollywood-blah-blah – it is ALWAYS the first two thirds = amazing and the ending = letdown while Prometheus kinda pic and mixed it’s highs and lows together – so when those two dudes see the alien snake in the black goo and act – well – in a very “non-scientist” way (lets say) it’s very distracting and – urg! – this is rubbish – and then – BLAM! – it’s breaking his arm – it’s in his suit – it’s acid in the face – it’s GOOD! (is this making sense?)

      How does this relate to your “ball over the incline”? And where or what (?) is the “top”? In Moon is it the healthy disrespect for human life? Or what?

      (How am I doing so far? This is fun!)

  90. A D Jameson

      Melville might have been an influence on London, but I don’t know for sure. Billy Budd, though, came out long after The Sea-Wolf did. Later filmmakers might have felt the influence of both?

      I agree with your assessment of Prometheus. I think Lindhoff’s script is terrible, and Scott lazily adapted it. And I agree that aesthetic unity is best. But that’s no reason to ignore good bits in less coherent works.

      I think the ball goes over the incline when I like the overall effect of the work, or sense a unity to the material. It would take a pretty impressive single element for me to think well of the whole work, if the rest of it were wretched. In fact, I doubt there could be such a thing. In such cases I tend to say more things like, “That one section is brilliant; I wish the rest were that good.” No need to throw out the baby Xenomorph with the black-goo infested groundwater!

  91. My Favorite New Movies of 2012 | HTMLGIANT

      […] 5. The Hobbit: An Uneventful Journey (2012, Peter Jackson, your entire lifetime): I really did honestly like this more than I liked the LOTR movies, mainly because Jackson and his team of one bazillion special effects artists have finally figured out how to resize the actors and composite them in single shots. That means the movie isn’t an endless parade of close-ups, like LOTR was. The movie remains, however, an endless parade of false CGI peril. Once the dwarven dinner party was over, I pretty much checked out, as evidenced by my lengthy post about viewing it, here. […]

  92. Michael Nagy

      J D Jameson, you are a fucking idiotic moron who has far too much time on your sad little hands. Your opinions are ones of a sniffling child that has no concept of literature or film. You should do the world a favour and just shoot yourself in the head.

  93. Seventeen Ways of Criticizing Inception | BIG OTHER

      […] movie reviews by me: The Dark Knight Rises | The Hobbit | Scott Pilgrim vs. the World | Drive | Lifeforce | Cloud […]


      […] movies I’ve reviewed: Inception | The Dark Knight Rises | The Hobbit | Scott Pilgrim vs. the World | Lifeforce | Cloud […]

  95. An inventory of all my writing on cinema | A D Jameson's Blahg

      […] The Hobbit (+ a Ryan Gosling-meme bonus) […]

  96. 250 Points: The Hobbit pt 2: The Desolation of the Hobbit | HTMLGIANT

      […] missed The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in theaters. Obviously since I wrote so much about the last one, I considered seeing its follow-up on more than one occasion, but just couldn’t summon the […]

  97. A D Jameson
  98. 250 Points: The Hobbit pt 2: The Desolation of the Hobbit | GIANT READER

      […] missed The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in theaters. Obviously since I wrote so much about the last one, I considered seeing its follow-up on more than one occasion, but just couldn’t summon the […]