Yesterday I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure. Sigh. I don’t know why I am surprised at my disappointment. It was almost an inevitable outcome. But I dearly love Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and I’m still foolish enough to hope.
Before the movie started, my 12 year-old son and I were feted with the new obligatory fare (“First Looks”) of entertainment “brainwashing” (a.k.a., marketing) for 15 minutes. This included terrifying demos of video games which almost depleted my neurotransmitters trying to process them. THEN, we got 10 minutes of actual previews of coming attractions (finishing off my brain juices).
Finally, after a brief filmed interlude to warn of the dire consequences of texting /phoning during the movie (What a world!)–during which small refractory period, a couple of drops of serotonin managed to frantically reset a few dazed brain synapses–An Unexpected (not really) Adventure was upon us. Thus began almost three hours of Troll snot, sophomoric banter, largely-unrecognizable Tolkien (especially Bilbo and Thorin) characters, and the cornucopia of violent computer-generated (CG) fireworks (Rivendell, I must admit, was lovely as usual).
Technology used to be the means of bringing a story to life; now it seems story (or the surviving recognizable bits) sub-serves technology, and the rush it seeks to elicit. I remember when I wanted certain movies to never end. Sadly, this was not one of those. But then I’m still in therapy over what they did to the The Chronicles of Narnia, so you’ll have to show me a little mercy.
Enough snark. To really experience J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, I still highly recommend the Rob Inglis audiobook version– and of course read the book–to give your own imagination a chance to create a Middle Earth closer to what Tolkien probably intended. Too much “Hollywood” is like too much spice…one loses the ability to taste and enjoy the nuances of subtler flavors.
C. S. Lewis once wisely said, “Death is in the eye of the camera.” The death, of course is to imagination–a faculty we have outsourced to the entertainment industry, in all of its CG hubris. In the newer version of the film, “Sabrina,” there’s a line of classic wisdom for our day: “More is not always better, Linus; sometimes more is just more.”
If you have never read The Hobbit, but have seen the movie first, give your poor, overheated brain a while to cool down, and then give it a go–trying to hold Peter Jackson’s images at bay and to reboot the imaginative gift within. If you still can’t connect with words on a page alone (even when back-lit), get the aforementioned audiobook version narrated by Rob Inglis and either listen to it, or for a multi-stimulus approach, read the book along with the audiobook.
There is hope for us. But the sanity of true imagination lies somewhere behind many of us, I fear. We must retrace our steps to re-fit our minds for one of God’s greatest gifts. Otherwise “the law of diminishing returns”–the inevitable outcome of over-stimulation–will keep us marching like Stepford Wives into a maelstrom of stimuli where we’re incapable of responding to “still, small, voices” which are very much worth hearing. -MOW