Picking at the bloated carcass of geek culture...occasionally!!!

The Preservation of an Untainted Idea

In Comics, Movies, Science Fiction on January 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm

“You should absolutely not see the Hobbit. In fact I’m calling you now.”

This was a text I received from a good friend upon informing him of my Wednesday night plans. I know you may be thinking, “Why hasn’t Scott seen the Hobbit yet?” And that is a good question. Have I lost my obsessive nature in the nearly two years since I posted? Well, maybe? Or maybe I know it’s not going anywhere and I’m not worried about spoiling the story because it’s been around for 70+ years.

But that brings me back to my original point. Why would my friend warn me off of the Hobbit? It’s about spoilage. But not the “Bruce Willis has a dead penis named Rosebud at the end of the Citizen Crying Sense” kind of spoiler. More like, a beloved property or franchise exists in your mind and you cherish it. You may treasure it and cultivate it in your memory. Then, somehow, something new comes out that threatens that memory on a personal level.

It might be like Frank Miller’s return to his 80’s roots in much maligned The Dark Knight Strikes Again that causes you to examine why you loved The Dark Knight Returns in the first place. Or how The Phantom Menance forced you to like the original trilogy slightly less than you did. Or, how the first Hobbit movie threatened the idea of the Hobbit for my friend and he wanted to save me.

And it’s not optional, in some cases. You cannot unsee what you saw. You can rationalize it all you want. Midichlorians? What are those? Josh Brolin’s Jonah Hex? Never heard of it. Crystal Skulls? It’s weird Harrison Ford has an entirely new franchise coincidentally starring a character name Indiana Jones, but whatever. Sometimes you can separate Jaws from Jaws: The Revenge and not have a problem enjoying the original.

I always thought this moment would be so great.  I really did.

I always thought this moment would be so great. (sigh) I really did.

But sometimes you can’t…and it kinda sucks.

For the record, I wasn’t over the moon for the first Hobbit movie but I understand that Peter Jackson is goofy and makes goofy movies. I enjoyed it for what it was and I will see more of them.

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  1. My biggest problem was how distracted I was by the bird turds in that dude’s beard. I seriously blanked out pretty much everything but that whenever he was on screen.

    • I remember you mentioned that before I saw it. I was like: “Yup, there’s Radagast. Yup, there’s some bird turds. Yup, that’s pretty disgustingly distracting.”

  2. the bird turds (agreed an oddly strong design choice compared to the others) i found to be the least of my concerns.

  3. also- glad to see a new entry.

  4. This is the same reason I never saw “Live Free or Die Hard”

  5. I didn’t have a problem with it. I’ve always seen Hobbit as the goofier of the two properties, so I thought the tone fit. And I think Jackson did a good job of making them all seem more like actual characters with motivation and personalities than Tolkien ever bothered with. They also strung together a tighter narrative (if not particular sequences) out of the extra bits and pieces and a story that is otherwise Bilbo and Thorin and a bunch of faceless “characters” wander into trouble, Gandalf or Bilbo save them, repeat. I’m putting it on my best of the year list, that I will be putting up on my blog later today…

    But I see what you’re saying about how the new thing can impugn your love for the original thing.

    Good news though, there’s a new star wars comic out by Dark Horse. Written by Brian Wood, it starts right after New Hope and it’s based off the idea that that is all we know. All that exists is New Hope, the rest is up for grabs and he’s telling the story from there. I’ve got it, haven’t read it yet, but it looks like it might be kind of cool/fun.

  6. I enjoyed the movie and I don’t think it strayed from the original trilogy more than the Hobbit strays from the Lord of the Rings in novel form. But it is a kid’s book, there are no balrogs, no running for a hundred years, no transforming into a demi-god. The Goblin King is not as scary as an Urukai army.

    Have you guys had this experience in re-visiting media you liked as a kid? Part of the phenomenon Scott is talking about is that we aren’t in love with the original source material but rather with our relationship to it or the feeling you remember having when you first engaged with it, and that’s not likely to be reproduced because its personal and contextual. I might not love The Empire Strikes back if it came out today. I would probably still love Dune and Blade Runner. I don’t think Watchmen is as good as it was when I first read it because I hadn’t also read Akira or Love and Rockets. I know this isn’t a popular view, but I think the Watchmen movie was a faithful adaptation of a pretty good comic. It wasn’t great because you watched it in your 20’s instead of reading it when you were a kid.

    I guess what I’m saying is, even if a sequel is (objectively) as good or better than the original it doesn’t mean you’ll like it as much.

  7. I think a point that I failed to emphasize in the original post is that some people are able to have their enjoyment of the original work be affected by subsequent works, and some people can compartmentalize. It’s not as much about if you will like the new more than the old. It’s if the new makes you like the old less. I still like Star Wars as an idea but the prequels have dampened my enthusiasm for the property of Star Wars as a whole.

    Just like the Hobbit movie negatively changed how my friend (let’s call him Jason) enjoyed the Hobbit as a novel and an idea. He wanted to spare me that.

  8. That’s how I feel about the Walking Dead. The TV show is so bad, I don’t like the comic anymore.

  9. I think its a little of both what the post is saying and what noah touched upon.

    The more saturated/exposure/expansion/extension or what have you, a “property” becomes or receives, the more it starts to erode greatness from the first outing. Less is more to some extent. We start to see all of its pores and blemishes.
    But more in response to noah’s “would i like ESB as much today”- to me isnt that is a paradox? You couldn’t have a “ESB” today without having it first in 1980. Its all one big melting pot.
    The real test is to watch/read things like the hobbit,watchman, walking dead,etc for the first time, in a reverse chronological order. Something most of us can never do at this point.
    I.E. Try watching Billy Wilder’s “the Apartment” for the first time after watching years of bad/good romantic comedies, of the same vane. Its a great film, but damn if you are not thinking- i have seen this a hundred times.
    At least there are 4 Indiana jones movies, so that the 4th one is so far from raiders, it will never hurt it.

  10. The prequels have totally killed my star wars boner, which is something I would have thought impossible growing up. I don’t know how TOSB posters feel, but at least there’s a possibility that there will be another cool/potentially redeeming star wars movie in our lifetimes.

  11. jim star wars boners- dah! cmon! hahah. I have hope that someone will make a decent entry. Disney buying lucasfilm is a good thing. The clone wars tv show still is awesome in the meantime.

    • Well I read the book again to try and get the bad taste out of my mouth. And it may have done the trick. I only had a running confirmation checklist of how horribly handled and mangled the story was in the movie for the first 6 or 7 chapters before I was completely immersed and staying up late reading on my apartment floor. But I have to tell you Noah, while it didn’t bring me back to that first time I read it, it was a really great experience. Because it’s a really great book, and so different from the seriousness of the LOTR and the flat historicism of the Silmarilion. It is indeed a kids story told with lighthearted charm and adventure. But reading it now was really good. A different kind of good than before.

      I’m not sure if you all saw it in 3D at 48fps, but that didn’t do it any favors. That being said, what was the most disappointing was Jackdon complete and utter failure at capturing the tone of the book. Yes the dwarves stumble from one mess into another to be saved by bilbo or gandalf, but it’s bilbo’s story and it’s a bit of a ramble. and if pj didn’t have or choose to invent material to stretch out the whole thing and various plot lines it could have been a great two abd a half hour romp. Joy. That’s what I wanted and was robbed of. Joy.

      And what a wonderful tension Jrrt created by slipping in such an important event in this child’s tale that has grave implications to the later more mature serious story. The end of the Hobbit (the book) gets you to that door of weariness and war but takes you home for a cup of tea. But I won’t be watching more of this thing.

      • What do you mean “didn’t have or choose to invent”? Beside some flavoring like bunny-riding Radagast maybe, I didn’t see Jackson add anything that Tolkien didn’t already scribble into the margins during his rewrite, or an appendices, or one of his other Middle Earth books.

  12. really Jon? the whole hook armed orc and co. hunting them outside of the goblin infested mountains. most of the kooky video game chase in the goblin caves. the same orcs appearing again on the other side of the mountains and the battle with them including bilbo putting himself between hook and thorin. the entire tone and meeting at Elton’s house. the fact that the spiders hadnt been in the forest for a long time. encountering radagast. radagast’s visit to the necromancer’s tower. and even if some of this is recounted in another book, it doesn’t belong in this story and in this movie.

    • Yes they did, they were used to create more recognizable character arcs, to fill the gaps in the narrative that Tolkien didn’t bother with, to add some pacing and some motivation and some tension. It’s pretty clear if you try watching the movie without your arms angrily crossed and harumphing the whole time.

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