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Ringer Reviews - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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A. FilmicWonder3

Date Posted: 2013-01-01
Tolkien Fan Level: 0
Film Format Seen? 2D 24 fps
Will view again in a different format? Yes

What finally can be said of Peter Jackson's renewed 'Tolkien World'-capturing brilliance? Certainly this: that he and his band of 'Looking Ahead' and 'Looking Behind' WIZARDS have done it again.

For if there's anything PJ understands so fully or so well in all his Middle-earth film-making cycles, it is finally THIS (seeing as he does — à la Joseph Campbell, 'Myth-master' — what virtually all his film critics MISS): that Myth is cyclical, repetitive. All myth takes part in the same monomythic structure, and if one lives long enough (as at least some in Middle-earth do) one can spot the repetitions, even predict them for the future (as Campbell's 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces' confirms again and again).

This is why poet Seth Abramson (Dartmouth College, Harvard) in his recent article for the Huffington Post believes Jackson — whom he calls a 'mercurial director' — eminently succeeds in his latest film adaptation. For JACKSON UNDERSTANDS MYTH: that is, that history whether 'true or feigned' continually repeats itself in its major thematic (courage, duty, loyalty, friendship, love) and behavioral concourses. Hence, in both trilogies by the famous Kiwi director we see several common themes and repetitions that create wonderfully unifying connections — and, hence, expansive amplifications (or in Tolkienian parlance, 'applicabilities') to our every-day human experience. Sam's 'great stories' thus come alive for us as never before when we see (fantastically unveiled on 'the silver screen') various 'mythic cycles' of behavior and action.

Certainly, it is not due to failed creativity or imagination on the NZ director's part that IN BOTH TRILOGIES we see multiple re-cycled variations of similar themes, objects, settings, character roles and actions:

Epically 'mythic', pre-shadowing prologues involving armies, devastation, and a ruthless, power- (wealth-)hungry arch-villain (Sauron/Smaug); an innocent, unbesmirched hobbit-filled Shire (with heroes-in-the-making Bilbo and Frodo; smoke-rings and fireworks); Gandalf (that wise, fallible Wizard) hitting his head on the same light fixture, using also time-space magic to intimidate smaller folk in the same hobbit-hole; Bilbo running past the same pumpkin-growing hobbit as Frodo and his fellow hobbits are upstaged by upon their return to The Shire decades later; Bilbo mounting a pony just as humorously as Gimli does; Gandalf and Company stuck in a mountain pass (with perilous hurling masses: snow/boulders) as is the later Fellowship because of Saruman's magic; the sinister Ring, of its own will, 'quietly slip[ping] on to [Bilbo's] groping forefinger' just as it will Frodo's, plunging its wearer into that living band of gold's ethereal world of invisibility and power; the Company spilling out of an east Misty Mountainside gate pursued by goblins in a shot reminiscent of the Fellowship escaping from the orcs of Moria; Gandalf escaping from heights of entrapment (a great pinetree) using the same emissarial technique he later employs to escape from Orthanc tower; the deus-ex-machina Eagles sending Wargs to their deaths using the same tactics the Nazgûl use to send Gondorians to theirs; and many of the same musical motifs and themes playing throughout the trilogies.

In fact, both trilogies share the same basic journey: they begin in Hobbiton, take their characters through the Trollshaws, pause in Elrond's Rivendell for a Council (from which, having focused wisdom-guided attention upon a 'key' object — the One Ring/Thror's Map — on a roundish centerpiece plinth, the fate of many is determined), and then scale the (stormy) Misty Mountains, before descending beneath them (where Goblins — and a more horrific creature, a post-goblin mountain intruder with fiery or 'lamp-like' eyes that kills its unwary prey — are encountered: Balrog/Gollum), only to climax in a forest-battle with large orcs. The trilogies then go on to have their characters flee from 'Great Orc' antagonists (Lurtz/Azog) through great forests, on rivers (in elven boats/barrels) and over rough terrain, to do battle with giant arachnids (Shelob/Mirkwood spiders) and more orcs, before reaching their quests' end: a climactic battle (Pelennor Fields/Five Armies), and business involving a precious circular object (One Ring/Arkenstone) within a legendary volcanic mountain (Mount Doom/Erebor), before their final journeys back to peaceful lands and homes (in stark contrast to the violent lands and loss of friends to war that went before). These threads of commonality have Myth written all over and through them. Abramson concludes:

"More than that, Peter Jackson seems to argue, in his Tolkien screenplays, that to be convincingly alive we must spot the repetitions. In a meta-narrative entirely appropriate to Tolkien's arch writing-style in 'The Hobbit', Jackson implies that one can, indeed, live long enough to remark openly and wisely on the cycles that define one's times...

CONTINUED in A. FilmicWonder4

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