Okay, so now I’ve seen the final installment in the Peter Jackson The Hobbit Trilogy. In a word, Meh! (And that high because I didn’t expect more.) One bit of common praise I’ve heard suggests, “Thank God! It’s over! At least there won’t be any more of them!” These days that may be rather wishful thinking. Never underestimate Hollywood’s ability to return to a lucrative well.
I also watched Lucy, the latest from Luc Besson. I usually like Besson’s work. He’s written many good ones, and directed some as well. I’m leaning towards my lowest Ugh! rating here. I can’t decide if Lucy is so bad it’s deliberate self-parody, or if it’s genuinely, earnestly… just that bad. Or maybe just doesn’t care.
As far as I’m concerned, two big duds and I don’t mean milk!
Movies have closed the circle. Many are indistinguishable from toys, video games, and amusement park rides. Rightly so; many movies are based on toys, video games, and amusement park rides.
Not that toys, video games, or amusement park rides are bad. They’re just… shallow and, well… hello, childish (again, not that there’s anything wrong with adults occasionally indulging in childish fun).
Even shallow isn’t always a bad thing. A lot of entertainment is. Many forms are noted for their exciting fun, not their ability to engage or grow your mind.
When it comes to movies, think of them as cinematic fast food: easy to enjoy, appealing to the gut, but not the acme of fine dining (and not good for you in large amounts).
That said, some chow is just too cheap. You get the feeling the chef didn’t even try to make it taste good (let alone provide actual nutrition). You get the feeling they’re so sure you’ll flock to the feed that all they have to do it make it look pretty.
There may be no more of a cynical, naked money grab than to stretch the Tolkien novel into three super-sized high-fat, high-sugar cinematic confectionery nothings. Each one is more pointless and appalling than the last.
The tragedy is that Peter Jackson did so well with Tolkien’s Trilogy (what some call simply “The Trilogy”).
I’ve heard many remark — and have said so myself — that Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth and its inhabitants comes pretty close to what we’ve had in our heads all these years. That’s an impressive bulls-eye to hit.
My buddy is convinced (and I think he’s right) that you could take all three of the Hobbit movies and cut them down to one good movie that honors the book. What Jackson should have done and then gone on to do new things.
I have a hardback copy of The Hobbit, it weighs in at 255 pages. I also have a hardback copy of Lord of the Rings. It weighs in at 1008 pages plus 104 pages of appendices and a 24-page index. The type size is about the same, maybe a little smaller in The Hobbit. On just story page count, The Hobbit is almost exactly 25% the size of Lord of the Rings.
Jackson’s first trilogy clocks in at 558 minutes (9:18) and his second at 474 minutes (7:54). By rights a Hobbit movie should be two or three hours. I’d like to see that cut-down version!
In fairness, one thing I’ve heard people complain about is the title, Battle of the Five Armies. That actually does come from the book. Some have wondered exactly what five armies are meant. According to Tolkien: “Upon one side were the Goblins and the wild Wolves, and upon the other were Elves and Men and Dwarves.”
In retrospect, the truth is, there’s only one Peter Jackson movie that stands out for me: The Frighteners. The thing is, I really liked that one. I was excited about the LotR Trilogy and glad he did good. But I’m not liking this!
There is a parallel here with George Lucas and the Star Wars Trilogy. Now we have two visionary directors who created important The Trilogy movies and then went on to create second trilogies guaranteed to offend many fans (and which are arguably cinematic crap, movie popcorn at best). I would say Lucas changed the face of SF movies, so he’s more god-like than Jackson and thus his fall from grace is all the more Luciferian.
I knew what to expect with the The Hobbit movies. I had hoped for better from Luc Besson. Admittedly, I haven’t liked everything, but here again, there are some I really liked. Nikita. Leon. The Fifth Element. District 13. The Transporter. Even Taken was a good ride (I’m not so sure about the sequels).
A key difference is that the films I’ve liked that he directed came earlier, whereas the films I’ve liked that came later he only wrote and produced. That might be an important difference here. He directed Lucy.
There is also that, especially in the later films, there is a common thread of being off the chain, over the top, preposterous. Lucy is no exception.
It revolves around a meme that should be thoroughly discredited by now: The idea that we use only 10% of our brain. It’s not true! Not even 10% true! We use all of our brain. So the movie is either really dumb or signaling that it knows it’s really dumb (which is smart). Or it just doesn’t care (which is back to dumb again).
The thing is, the only signal I read is the one involving how utterly preposterous and dumb — even within its own contexts — the movie is. Judged on its own terms, it’s still a dumb movie that makes little sense.
To top it off, there is Morgan Freeman spouting some of the most outrageous pseudo-science I’ve heard in a good long time. And not just gibberish, but seriously wrong gibberish. No, it’s so bad it’s “not even wrong.”
From Besson I hoped for a movie I could at least enjoy, but when I’m moved to yell invective at my TV, that’s not a good sign. It’s not just that I’m out of the movie; it’s that I’m out of the movie and pissed!
And that, as I said long ago, is the cardinal sin.
To end on a bit more upbeat note, I’ve mentioned before that Dracula 2000 is watchable whereas Dracula 3000,… not so much. In fact, I’d never been able to sit through more than the first 20 minutes of the latter.
The former has some interesting twists regarding who Dracula actually is and why silver and wooden stakes (and to some extent, beheading) are a problem for vampires. Plus it stars Johnny Lee Miller who’s now doing Sherlock Holmes on CBS, so there’s that.
The other day I was channel surfing and came upon Dracula 3000 shortly after the point I’d switched it off previously. I thought I’d watch just a little more to see if it got any better (it didn’t) and ended up watching the whole thing.
It’s bad. The plotting, writing and acting are porn movie bad. Really, you can only watch it in a kind of horrified fascination. And, yet, still better than Lucy.