Sunday, December 15, 2013

An Audience of Orcs

So "The Hobbit: Part Deux" came out this week. I don't doubt that at some point in the hurly burly of this Getmas season I and the wife and the boys will see it, chunking down our contribution towards the second payment on Peter Jackson's new orbital yacht.

I will confess, though, that the front end reviews have me a little worried.  The first film had some significant flaws, which for me were rather different than the flaws that seemed to bug the rest of the filmgoing universe.

For most reviewers, the issue was pacing.  Meaning, it began too slowly, drawing out the opening arrival of the dwarves as painfully as a babalao winding a guinea worm.  Trust me, that's painful. 

For me, the most painful part of the first movie was the pacing of the action once the film got going on all eight cylinders, air howling through the intakes of its twin sequential intercooled turbochargers.  So much of the first movie felt absurdly hyperkinetic, over-violent and visually aggressive.

And Lord, but do I weary of the sameness of that meal, served up every time I go to the Circus.

Bam! Zow! Sockie!  Look at little Bilbo, bustin' open a can o' whupass on that orc!  Yeah, it wasn't in the book, and those orcs are obviously just bosses put in for when the whole thing gets turned into a game franchise, and it totally destroys Bilbo's character development, but we're too juiced on adrenaline to care.  Freakin' Hoooah!

Oh, sure, there are battles in Tolkien, battles aplenty.  And the Hobbit, as a book, does leap from one thrilling moment to the next.  That's what makes it such a hoot to read aloud to your children.

But as this story is being retold in film, it is being retold for a particular audience, cast to appeal to their expectations.  And what I'm hearing is that "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Benefit Cumbersplat" is even more relentlessly action-packed than the first film.

What I fear, as I go into what sounds like another groaning table of hack-n-slash, is what that says about us.  Where does this sort of storytelling place us, in the world of Middle Earth?

This does not appear to be a film made to appeal to the aesthetics of hobbits.  It is also not made for elves, who almost exclusively watch obscure French films in little art house cinemas.  Neither does it appeal to dwarves, who are far too practically minded.

It seems to me that a film that is relentlessly, endlessly violent and hyper-aggressive would only appeal to a select few of the races of Middle Earth.

Men, of course, who above all else desire power.

And Orcs.  Orcs, from what I have been told, would love this film.

Which are we, I wonder?