17 December 2012

Why I didn't like The Hobbit movie

"A book is a book, and a movie is a movie." I completely agree with this statement. When movies are adapted from books, lots of details are omitted, because books are much more complex. Sometimes minor additions are made, to add to the movie's plot, or to make it easier for the audience. But rarely sometimes characters are invented or random battles added. Unfortunately, this happened in The Hobbit movie, released a  few days ago.

I have always been very critical with Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy movies, especially because of some changes in the story, for example: Arwen rescuing Frodo and Elves appearing at Helm's Deep, but mostly Frodo dismissing Samwise and trusting Gollum instead. Despite these and some other changes (if they made a literal transcription of the Book into movies, it would take around 10 films or so!), the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy are wonderful and somewhat follow the plot. So when "The Hobbit" movies were announced, I already feared Peter Jackson and his team would change some things that I would dislike, and then when I saw a beardless Dwarf, a fictional feminine Elf and the sudden division of the movies into three parts (which by the way, a decision  made because monetary reasons, in my opinion), my fears were strengthened. Nevertheless, I was eager but emotionally prepared when I went to watch it, especially after reading some reviews which stated that although the movie had some differences with the book, it was fully enjoyable.

The prologue I found remarkable, I loved it! Lots of Dwarves, the Kingdom under the Mountain in its splendour, they only showing Smaug's shadow .... fantastic! Afterwards,  when Bilbo appeared, the problems commenced. In the Book, Bilbo invites Gandalf to tea after his sudden appearance, action which Bilbo regrets. In the movie, Bilbo simply dismisses him (or so I believe, I've only watched it once). So in the movie this element of Bilbo's own blunder (as he himself sees it) of inviting Gandalf into his house is missing. The Dwarves arrival I found hilarious, though I missed their long, coloured beards and hooded cloakes, and Thorin doesn't arrive separately: a small detail, though. And the Misty Mountains song is simply fabulous.

Then one of the biggest alterations from the Book to the movie takes place: while in the Book it is Gandalf who persuades and almost forces Bilbo to follow the Dwarves, in the movie Bilbo takes the decision entirely by himself! One of the key points in The Hobbit is Bilbo's transformation from a normal, comfortable hobbit into an adventurous one, and the movie completely ignores it in this section! He should of left Bag-end without anything, not with his huge backpack!

Then comes the Troll scene. Gandalf mysteriously disappears, and all Dwarves see a light at the distance, and send Bilbo to investigate, is captured, and confesses his companions are near. Later,  the Dwarves are captured in pairs and unawares, they don't suddenly charge at the Trolls, except for Thorin, who is soon captured. Then Gandalf comes and saves the day. But not in the movie, where it's Bilbo who outwits the Trolls and has them discuss cooking issues until daylight! Another meaningful change, in my opinion, since Bilbo has not yet matured, as it's depicted in the movie.

Next,  an utterly crazy, unneeded and ridiculous series of events happen, starting with the inclusion of Azog. Azog indeed killed Thrór, though not in the battle of Azanulbizar (Nanduhirion), in 2799 T.A., but nine years before! In fact, that battle was fought because of his decapitation! Thorin is indeed wounded, but not by Azog (as in the movie), who beheads Náin, Thorin's relative, not Thrór! Azog is slain in battle by Dáin Ironfoot, though strangely enough, this great Orc is included as Thorin's mortal enemy! In fact, as Britta points out in her outstanding movie review (be sure to check it out!), it seems the main conflict in this first movie is Thorin's dispute with Azog and not his quest on reclaiming Erebor! 

Radagast is also included in the movie, where he supposedly discovers Sauron has returned to Dol Guldur (which by the way, is pronounced Dol GUldur, not Dol GuldUr, as the Istari and Elven Lords pronouce incorrectly, go figure!), and travels all the way from Mirkwood to the west of the Misty Mountains to warn Gandalf. Well, in the Book of course this meeting never happened: it's in 2941 T.A. the Dwarves' and Bilbo's journey takes place, although in 2850, ninety-one years before, that Gandalf himself discovers that Sauron is the Necromancer of Dol Guldur, and this is when precisely he recovers Thrór's map and key from Thráin, who was held captive in this fortress. Funny enough, in the movie Gandalf doesn't explain how he got the map and key, for of course it would contradict this change in the plot they mistakenly created. Radagast's bizarre presence is followed by an attack of Orcs and Wargs to the west of Rivendell, who in turn were destroyed by a small Elven company, the Dwarves' coming to Rivendell by some mysterious rock passage and not by crossing the Bruinen, their hatred and mistrust towards the Elves, I think all this was completely uncalled for! In the Book, right after the Trolls' episode, they gladly head to Rivendell, although more because of the thought of rest and food, and not because of meeting the Elves per se. Thorin receives the Elrond's counsels willingly, not in a reluctact fashion as Peter Jackson showed. During  this sequence I really doubted if I was watching an adaptation of Professor Tolkien's The Hobbit, because the story took so many turns and twists I could not believe what I was seeing. Adapting a book is something, but then adding lots of scenes and characters really bothered me!

The Dwarves in the Book are delighted to have Gandalf with them, something that is completely altered in the movie, when they leave him behind! They abandoned their mightiest member! Nonesense! Then they get captured by Orcs (I always thought as the Great Goblin as a mighty warrior, not as a fat, dum one with this weird thing under his chin!), and again, the story changes: while Bilbo gets captured and is dropped accidentally by Dori, becomes unconscious, is missed by the Orcs and while he is crawling in complete darkness is that he finds the Ring (the most relevant and fascinating scene in the whole Book), in the movie he escapes from the Orcs because of his cleverness, falls into the abyss, hides, watches Gollum kill an orc and sees the Ring slip from him, and retrieves it. If there's one scene that should remain truth to Master Tolkien's story, it's this one! It is a key event that changed the destiny of Arda forever! But well, the moviemakers didn't seem to care much about it.

The Riddles in the Dark scene is great! Gollum is fantastic, and though the Bilbo's luck element is ignored, important as it is (as Britta points out), some riddles are left out, such as the Dark one, the Sun and daisies one and the fish one.

And to end this mini-essay, the scene of the Thorin's Company escape from the Wargs is modificated too (I was not surprised at all by when this moment arrived): Azog showing up, Thorin confronting him, Bilbo saving him (really? come on!), just supported my negative opinion of the movie I had by that time, and that I still have. 

Summarizing, the movie itself is greatly made, with a catchy score, beautiful landscapes, etc, but with too many additions, omissions and changes from the Book, way too many to ignore. I feel Peter Jackson abused of his power of adapting the movie from the original story. I really feel sad for Christopher Tolkien, seeing how his father's works are once more (and this time much more deeply) turned into a commercial issue, greatly altered against his will. Citing an interview  he made to "Le Monde": "Invited to meet Peter Jackson, the Tolkien family preferred not to. Why? “They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people 15 to 25,” Christopher says regretfully. “And it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.” "He was correct. It is.

I'm really scared of how the movies' plot will be in the next two films, and honestly I'm sure I'll feel sadder than I feel now, if the rumours about the plot of Desolation of Smaug are true.  

03 December 2012

Tolkien in Outer Space

Last August 6th 2012, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) approved nine new names for craters in the planet Mercury, and among those artists immortalized was J. R. R. Tolkien himself! What a great honour indeed! 

According to the original press release, "in keeping with the established naming theme for craters on Mercury, all of the newly designated features are named after famous deceased artists, musicians, or authors or other contributors to the humanities." The craters named are in the north polar region, since it "is of high scientific interest because of the shadowed craters there that host radar-bright deposits that may consist of water ice. All of the nine newly named craters host such deposits", says Nancy Chabbot, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, United States, and she states that "MESSENGER team members and collaborators who are researching this area contributed the proposed names".  Additional information on Tolkien Crater can be found in the Planetary Names site.

Besides Tolkien, the other eight artists who have their names on Mercury's craters, are: Antonio Gaudí (Catalonian Architect), Titos Petronius (Roman courtier, author of the Satyricon), Uzo Egenu (Nigerian painter), Wassily Kandinsky (Russian painter), Sergei Prokofiev (Russian composer and pianist), Nina Tryggvadóttir (Icelandic artist), Shifu Qiu Ying (Chinese painter) and Eiji Yoshikawa (Japanese novelist).

Regarding why the craters are named after famous artists, the original press release tells us: "These latest names for major craters on Mercury are important for two reasons," adds MESSENGER Principal Investigator Sean Solomon of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "The first is that formal names make it easier to communicate scientific findings about specific regions and features. The second, equally important reason is that these designations expand the opportunities to recognize the contributions to the arts by the most creative individuals from many cultures and eras. The names of those individuals are now linked in perpetuity to the innermost planet." 

Just let me remind you Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, so according to Kepler's Third Law, it's the planet with shortest year, hence its name!

But Tolkien's crater isn't the only object outside our Earth that's Middle-earth related!! 

Two Main-belt asteroids (asteroids with orbital elements constrained by 2.0 AU < a < 3.2 AU; q > 1.666 AU, where a is Semi-major axis and q is the Perihelion distance, and AU is an Astronomical Unit, the mean distance from the Earth to the Sun, around 149,60 x 10 ^ 9 m ), discovered April 14th, 1982 by M. Watt at the Anderson Mesa station  in Lowell Observatory, Arizona, were named after the author himself and one of the most beloved characters of his stories:

  • Asteroid 2675 was named Tolkien. It has an absolute magnitude of 12.5 and a perihelion distance of 1.99 UA. The JPL site has more specific information regarding this asteroid.
  • Asteroid 2991: was named BilboIt has an absolute magnitude of 13.5 and a perihelion distance of 1.83 UA. You can also find more specific information about Mr. Baggins' asteroid in the JPL site.
Finally, galaxy NGC 4151 is dubbed The Eye of Sauron because of it's resemblance to Sauron's evil eye. 43 million light years away, it's located in the in the Canes Venatici (Hunting Dogs) constellation, and it was first observed in March 27-29 2008. 

Quoting from NASA's website: "In the "pupil" of the eye, X-rays (blue) from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are combined with optical data (yellow) showing positively charged hydrogen ("H II") from observations with the 1-meter Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope on La Palma. The red around the pupil shows neutral hydrogen detected by radio observations with the NSF's Very Large Array. This neutral hydrogen is part of a structure near the center of NGC 4151 that has been distorted by gravitational interactions with the rest of the galaxy, and includes material falling towards the center of the galaxy. The yellow blobs around the red ellipse are regions where star formation has recently occurred."

More information regarding this galaxy can be found at the telescope Chandra's website.

So as you see,  not only pubs, restaurants or even streets are named after the Professor's works, but astronomical objects as well!