The Hobbit HFR 3D Review

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So, I was fortunate enough to get a preview ticket to see The Hobbit in very sexy HFR 3D. This luxurious new 3D format actually delivers what it promises: increased depth (which sometimes creates a weird soap opera feel) and no more blurriness. Thankfully, it is also much, much easier on the eyes. I was pleased that I didn’t have a headache after nearly three hours of 3D. For that alone, the new format is worth your time, especially for epic battle scenes.

The-HobbitNow, onto the movie itself. I read The Hobbit a long time ago, like most people, and haven’t reread it since for a number of reasons. Mostly because a) I very rarely reread books when there’s so much out there that should be read and b) I find fantasy the most boring genre in the world. So, the movie should ideally be a distillation of the best parts of the book to encourage people to explore the book further while making the movie a manageable, digestible experience.

Does the movie deliver? The action scenes are sublime in their direction and excitement. The post-production clearly cost a great number of millions. Gollum made an excellent appearance and his facial rendering now severely dates the Lord of the Rings trilogy in comparison. Martin Freeman, while a bit stilted initially, (basically Watson with no shoes on) still makes a great action hero. The dwarfs are fun, and of course Gandalf can save the movie by himself. The art direction is outstanding, the clothes are most beautiful. Taken on the value of those things, the movie is worth watching just for how it looks.

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But you knew that I was going to find something, and I hear the nitpick train coming into the station. The Hobbit is a product of the 50s, and it is going to be inherently problematic. Like Game of Thrones, it too is about a bunch of white men running around having adventures. (Thankfully, less rapey, gratuitious sex.) There is ONE speaking role for a woman in three hours. She mostly glides around like a lost bride and doesn’t really inspire much awe or even interest. As you can imagine, everyone is pretty much lily-white. Men are brave and manly and smoke a lot. It could have been mistaken for a tobacco ad, at times. I don’t see how problematic it would have been to have the dwarves being of different skin colours. (But you only have to look at the backlash about Hunger Games having a few black actors to see where the problem comes in).

The-Hobbit-550x281So, that’s the BA part of me speaking up. Now for the writer part. Dear god, did this one average-sized book have to be split into three movies? There’s still too much walking. There are goddamn musical numbers, which should have been left in the book. They were as trite and folksy as they were in the 50s; they have no right being in a movie now. (Also, sometimes sound editing dropped the ball and the lyrics weren’t very clear.) They jar with the whole movie and should really have been left out. There’s a lot of scenes that could have been left out to make a more coherent, interesting whole. Peter Jackson, like James Cameron, is dragging the viewer into his special circle-jerk. Sure, I can imagine the hardcore fans appreciate the thousands of details in Orc costumes that are only on screen for a few minutes. But what about those of us who want a better version of the books? With less walking and tedious descriptions and complicated family trees that make reading the books like chewing concrete?

My opinion of The Lord of the Rings trilogy has always been an unpopular one, but I stand by it. And unfortunately, the problematic things about the books have made their way into the films, the one chance the books had to get better. The movies are interminably long, as are the books. More writing is not necessarily good writing. Just because I want cheesecake, it does not mean I want to eat one the size of a dustbin lid. The racism and elision of women could have been addressed. After all, the idea of some races being better or smarter qua race is at the very foundation of this. Hobbits are lazy, Elves are smart, Dwaves are drunken and strong, etc.

Sherlock 2 Specials

The best example of a canon evolving is Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes the character (as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the 1880s) was a racist, misogynist asshole, for all of his smartness. But the two most recent iterations of this phenomenon have changed Holmes for the better. BBC’s Sherlock has kept the asshole tendencies but at least he isn’t hardcore racist. I’m ambivalent on the sexism issue. Sherlock-Holmes-A-Game-of-Shadows-Poster-007Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes works with women and has lost the general dickishness of the character as developed in the 1960s and onwards. I don’t think this has harmed the character: if people can change and grow, why can’t characters?

The inherent problem with Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit is that it has one of the most puritanical fanbases (just like Jane Austen fans). They don’t like change, and they don’t like upgrades. Surely the core message can survive a little updating? Ultimately, the books are about being good, doing good and being brave regardless of size or strength. What difference does it really make if Sam had been a female hobbit? Or black? And if Tolkien couldn’t have done it then, surely Jackson could have done it now? If the characters are really defined by their personalities, there’s no reason race or gender could be an issue. Unfortunately, it is still edgy to to have a female lead. Or a gay one. Or a black one.

Alright, so segue aside, do you need to see the movie? If you can see it in HFR 3D (the Nu-Metro rep said that only four screens will have it nationally), then go see it just to enjoy the new tech and experience. If you’re a Hobbit/Lord of the Rings/fantasy fan, nothing I say here will dissuade you. The problems I have are not the ones everyone else will have. It is the holidays, and it isn’t the worst movie you will ever watch (because that movie is Sex and the City).

Read what others thought here:

Slashfilm.com – ‘Rousing, yet Repetitive’

Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread: Robbie Collins

Variety.com – No kinder on small bladders or impressionable eyes

The Trilogy Will Test the Stamina of Non-Believers: The Guardian.co.uk 

Misty Mountain Out of a Molehill – The Daily Mail

Feels Twice As Long as Half a Movie Should – Film School Rejects

Bad Humour

While I might not agree with Ivo Vegter at times, he is the closest thing we will get to a PJ O’Rourke in this beautiful and tormented country. In this article he discusses the potential blowback we may get as a result of Juju Fridays.

I understand the frustration that Malema arises in the best and worst of us, and while I still find him as puerile and insultingly bourgeois as the next person, doesn’t it seem a bit ridiculous to everyone to launch an entire day dedicated to making jokes? As Ivo pointed out, those who contributed to Juju fridays have handed him all the ammo he needs to mislead those who are unfortunate enough to follow him because they lack the education and tools.

Of course only the rich in this country can really afford and contribute to the Twitter campaign. Of course its not going to look good that an elite group is taking the piss out of someone who still holds some thrall over less-educated South Africans. We know that it was just satire and frustration and maybe a little meanness coming through. While I’m not calling for the policing of Twitter or any kind of social media, a little common sense would have been welcome.

Unforutnately, we still live in an age where white people think its funny to tell black jokes with that particular accent, and say ‘its harmless’. Of course, being a white, straight English-speaking male means that there are very few jokes directed towards that group, so it is easy to take the piss. Let’s consider the following joke types:

Stupid Afrikaner (Van Der Merwe), dumb female blondes, gay jokes, lesbian jokes, Muslim jokes, fundamentalist jokes, poor/ignorant black jokes (Philemon/Sixpence), disaster jokes (based on the suffering of others in natural disasters or others) and the list goes on.

So, when my white friends tell Philemon jokes, or dumb blonde jokes, then wonder why they’re just not that funny after standard 6, maybe they will understand how unfair it seems when its your gender or group that’s always having the piss taken. I don’t really like that the blonde jokes are always about women. I also really don’t find gay/lesbian jokes funny, as I am sure that they don’t either.

Of course there’s always place for humour, but some jokes are just downright mean. And while I myself am partial to a great joke that takes the piss out of something as indefensible as Shariah law or a sex joke, making fun out of someone for their hair colour seems a bit retarded. Especially since its always a woman.

Likewise, we should all just have the maturity to just ignore Malema. Like the child he is (calling other adults ‘cockroaches’ is not the most fabulous sign of maturity), he should just be ignored. He’ll eventually realise that there are better ways of getting attention. Speaking nicely to people is a start.

It’s all turned into petty name-calling, and a lot of people fail to see the danger of handing a child more sharp sticks to poke back with. Malema’s danger is that his wealth is not an insult to all of us. There are people who see him as successful, not corrupt, and there are enough people who are still ignorant enough to believe the tripe that comes out of his mouth. South Africa is one of the least literate countries in Africa. We are ranked 107th in the world for literacy rates, which is pretty fucking pathetic. Without going on a sidetrack about the failure of the education system, one of the by-products of failed education is the susceptibility of those who don’t have adequate education to the manipulation of politicos. There are some people who think raping babies and virgins cures AIDS because their traditional healers tell them so, and they unfailingly trust their authority. In the absence of education, structures like authority and tradition still hold sway. Churches and elders still have an influence regardless of their superstitious and backward ways. For the love of biscuits, we still allow polygamy. The fact that no one is marching in the streets to protest that our taxes support the president, his wives and 22 children is proof that, for some people, there’s nothing wrong with it.

So, let’s consider how Malema might use the ammo given to him by Juju fridays to show his following (shrinking but still enough to be worried about) that people use the internet to be racist. Because that is what it will be reduced to, and the intricasices of the argument will never go across. Could you sit and explain to people who don’t even have a standard six the full implications of free speech, the vivacity and turbulance of social media, as well as the signs of Malema’s aspirations to start something disturbingly like the SA or SS? We know there’s enough hatred rolling around in his oddly shiny head to make anyone worry. While we shouldn’t have the same approach to him as Chamberlain did with Hitler, there needs to be an informed, mature and firm response to Malema. I don’t promise to have all the answers, but I think that it would be more effective to organise a march to raise awareness around his ill-gained wealth, or launch an education campaign.

There has to be a better way to do this than name-calling on Twitter.

Feminist Cartoon

When I read this, I felt absolved, and like someone finally understood me.

That the cartoonist is a man is even more gratifying, as it shows that some progress is being made, and that some people ‘get it’ when I talk about what it is like to be a feminist in a misogynist world.

His blog is now on my blogroll at Gabby’s Playhouse. Please support this great writer/cartoonist!