Monday, December 17, 2012

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey": Jackson's talents can be put to more original use; How about "Imajica"?

Well, MGM (even with Oprah’s help) and New Line Cinema don’t stand on their own anymore, but they teamed up, along with Warner Brothers, and director Peter Jackson, to start a “franchise within a franchise”, that is the Christmas season extravaganza (not high school style), “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”.
The new “prequel” franchise is fashioned after J.R.R. Tolkien’s early 1936 novel “The Hobbitt”, some simple English literature that preceded “The Lord of the Rings”.
The concept, as MGM-New Line want to do it, seems bloated.  The subtitle is dippy.  Many of the effects are familiar (especially from “The Two Towers”) and one of the Orc creatures looks like a recreation of Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars.  So was the idea to make a 3-D triology?  True, the gangplank scene was fascinating to look at. 
Technically, it looks good at 48 frames per second.   The 3-D was natural, not exaggerated. (I didn’t get the point of the sepia out-of-focus shots near the end.)  I saw the film in a smaller auditorium at the AMC Courthouse in Arlington VA, a 44-seat auditorium with luxury leatherette bucket seats (everywhere in the theater) that recline.  The show nearly sold out on a Monday night, and many of the people (especially dating couples) seem to be into Tolkien and comics and fantasy movies.  For the first time, AMC skipped its own introduction showing an outdoor AMC Theater on another planet (one of the best trademarked theater chain intros in the industry).
The journey, of course, is seen through the eyes of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) sixty years before, looking middle aged, and Frodo (Elijah Wood) is introduced as a devoted youth early.  Because we know how all of this turns out in the LOTR trilogy (“The ring is mine!”) , the storyline here seems less compelling.  Prequels can be interesting as flashback material, or when they take place in a world that looks substantially different than the world of the main movie.  I do that in my own “Do Ask Do Tell” screenplay.  Alfred Hitchcock was very good with this, shifting environments to set up backstories.   The characters don’t seem original.  If hobbits have hairy feet, they still don’t have teenage shag carpet gams when they reach middle age, at least in this movie.
As for the fantasy world itself, with the spectacular mountain cliffs, waterfalls, Pueblo houses and hobbit huts – I sort of take it as, not so much a parallel universe (Middle Earth) of pre-history, but a speculation about what another civilization 20 light years away could look like (maybe around Gliese).  The hobbits and “people” live well, even without electricity:  magic replaces technology as we know it.  At one point, Bilbo admits that he spends a lot of his life “on the road”, but so did my own father!  The “Middle Earth” planet has “humanoids” of about the same intelligence but with biological capabilities more differentiated than among our own races.  That’s likely to create social and political problems that we have more or less resolved on Earth (not completely).   There is a “Fort Knox” gold cave and a Goldfinger-like villain, which suggests that the economy on Middle Earth is backed by hard currency, not fiat.  But would the economy have business cycles like ours?  Almost certainly, yes.  Economic depression is likely to occur in any intelligent civilization in the universe.  Economics is just math. You can’t change it.

 Here’s the official site blog for The Hobbit from the studios.
I’d like to ask whether Peter Jackson (or perhaps Christopher Nolan) has considered filming Clive Barker’s 1991 fantasy “Imajica”.  The book (see Book reviews, March 28, 2006) would require two movies (it’s in two long parts), and takes place on five dominions: One is Earth, one is Heaven (sort of), and the other three are more or less other planets with “people” (often sexually ambiguous) who sometimes look and act like us and sometimes present fascinating “diversity” (which is one of Barker’s themes).  There was a rumor that Lionsgate or Summit  was looking at it, and that New Zealand could be a filming location.  This film should get made.  It is needed more than a LOTR prequel, and it will  (or would) generate a cult following.  One problem: at the end, Man defeats God and Heaven (for all its hundreds of miles of Dubai-like condos) becomes like another place.  The scenery will sometimes be more worldly (gay bar scenes, but there is one in “Star Wars”  -- what would a gay bar be like on Gliese 581G anyway?).  If someone knows if there is an effort going on to finance it, please comment.  The religious concept could be a hurdle, as would a probable R rating, a problem for big budget projects.  But "Imajica" can generate Oscar Best Picture material. 

There are no trains or choo-choos in Tolkien as as far as I recall.  People fly by being picked up by birds (eagles).  In "Imajica" there's a very important train (n Dominion 3), and bizarre ways of instantaneous travel according to the theory of "Reconciliation".  And, yes, "Imajica" would be a great concept for a resort in Las Vegas.  But so would Middle Earth.
Pictures are mine (not from movie), but illustrate visual concepts of the movie. 

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