Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Reviews are In

Some commentary on the new Hobbit film directed by Peter Jackson. I have not yet seen it but plan to do so soon. There are also some articles about Tolkien and his works in general.

To quote from "Knight of Middle Earth" by Stratford Caldecott:
After all, Tolkien wove the idea of "nobility of soul" very deeply into his mythology.  This concept is represented partly in the Elves.  The human beings and hobbits who are closest to the Elves by influence or nature are the noblest: Frodo (named "Elf-friend") among the hobbits, Aragorn and Imrahil and Faramir among the men.  The "elvish" tendency in man is always towards physical beauty, artistic ability and respect for creation.  It is associated with a love for God's creation that seeks to improve, protect, celebrate and adorn.

The "chivalry" that reveals this nobility is shown in behavior towards others, such as kindness and mercy, the refusal to mistreat even prisoners of war, and the showing of honor to the bodies of the dead.  We see this, for instance, when Aragorn, heir to the throne of Gondor and leader of the fellowship of the Ring, insists on a proper funeral for Boromir before they continue with their quest.  The knights of Middle-earth defend the weak from their oppressors and remain faithful to friends and liege-lord.  Such behavior outwardly signifies the presence of heroic virtue within the soul, especially the cardinal virtues of prudence, fortitude, temperance and justice. (Read entire article.)

From "The Hobbit and Virtue" by Joseph Pearce:
 At its deepest level of meaning, The Hobbit is a pilgrimage of grace in which its protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, becomes grown-up in the most important sense. Throughout the course of his adventure, the hobbit develops the habit of virtue and grows in sanctity, illustrating the priceless truth that we only become wise men (homo sapiens) when we realize that we are pilgrims on a purposeful journey through life (homo viator).

Bilbo’s journey from the homely comfort of the Shire to the uncomfortable lessons learned en route to the Lonely Mountain, in parallel with Frodo’s journey from the Shire to Mount Doom in the Rings trilogy, is a mirror of every man’s journey through life. It is in this sense that Tolkien wrote in his celebrated and cerebral essay "On Fairy Stories" that "the fairy story … may be used as a mirour de l’omme" (the mirror of scorn and pity towards man).

In short, we are meant to see ourselves reflected in the character of Bilbo and our lives reflected in his journey from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain.

Indeed, and perhaps surprisingly, Bilbo bears a remarkable resemblance to many of us, his diminutive size and furry feet notwithstanding. He likes tea and toast and jam and pickles; he has wardrobes full of clothes and lots of pantries full of food; he likes the view from his own window and has little desire to see the view from distant windows. He is a creature of comfort dedicated to the creature comforts.

In Christian terms, Bilbo Baggins is dedicated to the easy life and would find the prospect of taking up his cross and following the heroic path of self-sacrifice utterly anathema.

The unexpected party at the beginning of the story, in which the hobbit’s daily habits are disrupted by the arrival of unexpected and unwelcome guests, is, therefore, a necessary disruption. It is the intervention into his cozy life of an element of inconvenience or suffering, which serves as a wake-up call and a call to action.

A review of the new film from
Liked: The scenery, as always, New Zealand made a beautiful Middle Earth and the care that went into the costumes and settings was beyond reproach. The orcs are as hideous as ever; their lair in the mountain is reminiscent of the scenes in the mines of Moria in The Lord of the Rings. The swooping scenes underground can be a bit disorienting but the visuals were incredible. Ian McKellan. The man can do no wrong and kills it as Gandalf. He is always a pleasure to watch and reprises the wizard’s role perfectly. Martin Freeman (Love Actually, Sherlock) as Bilbo Baggins did a great job and saved the film from losing ground in many parts. Richard Armitage (North and South, Robin Hood) as Thorin Oakenshield. He is quite a presence onscreen.

Disliked: Most of the dwarves became caricatures of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and fell prey to over acting and poor writing with some of the humour coming off as trying too hard. The Dwarves lost their mystique and coolness and became campy. The fight scenes. The movie was plagued with too many unnecessary fight scenes for the sake of seeing how far they could go with CGI. I’m very glad I did not watch this in 3D because I would’ve needed a barf bag. It was jarring at some points. Radagast the Brown played by Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who). I disliked his scenes. Why? Not only were they a bad departure from the book, they seemed to be inserted for cheap laughs and filler. Corny, and cringe worthy, I don’t know why Radagast (who is only mentioned briefly in the book) suddenly became a major character. Speaking of filler – there was a lot of it. Jackson seemed to want to force 3 hours on his unsuspecting audience by inserting many things that were not part of the book for the sake of drawing the storyline out. So many scenes should have been left on the cutting room floor. The additions, (I won’t mention them all here), were just not needed to make this a great film. Lastly, the length. I actually checked my watch because it dragged on forever. I even mentally checked out after what seemed to be the 85th fight scene. I could feel myself losing interest after two hours thinking, “There’s more!?”. It could’ve been condensed. Period. Instead of offering an “extended” version when the DVD comes out, I’d love to see Jackson offer a reverse short version that’s two hours long and it would probably be much, much better. (Read entire post.)

A review from The Integrated Catholic Life:
The film begins in the peaceful Shire of Bilbo Baggins—Frodo’s uncle—sixty years prior to the events of The Lord of the Rings take place. When Bilbo leaves the comfort of his home, it’s one battle after another as Bilbo accompanies Gandalf the Wizard and a company of dwarfs, led by the outcast King Thorin, traveling to reclaim their lost homeland, the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor in the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, from the treasure-coveting dragon, Smaug.

Bilbo and company must navigate through a dangerous world where internal and external evil forces are at work to sabotage their virtuous intentions.

“Can you promise me I will come back?”  Bilbo asks Gandalf.  “No,” Gandalf responds, “and if you do, you will not be the same.”

Fear and hopelessness begin to take hold as their fight against dark forces loses it’s footing. The courage to overcome these dark forces, Gandalf teaches, is not about an absence of fear, but trust in the higher virtue of hope and practicing mercy. (Read entire post.)

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