Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Lord of the Wrongs, Part II

After yesterday's post about Peter Jackson and his cinematic missteps, a friend recommended I check out the documentary about the making of the Hobbit movies, an account of creative upheaval and actors just trying to make do. It sounded like a great dose of schadenfreude. And lo and behold, the library had the third Hobbit movie (Battle of Five Armies) in the stacks, so I sent my daughter down to check it out, and we all settled down in the living room to enjoy the special features.

You must understand that we'd had a series of disappointments over the course of the evening, because a) I'd made cabbage and potato soup, which no one wanted, and b) I have been reading The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, which promised me excellent and easy ricotta cheese through the application of Science, and we'd planned to have warm ricotta and toast for dinner, except one doubled recipe later, we had two teaspoons of fresh ricotta and eight cups of vinegar whey that refused to curdle. I followed the recipe to the letter, I even used a thermometer, but no dice. So, when we pulled up the special features to find only a documentary about New Zealand, and that wouldn't even play on the library disc, and I had a couchful of expectant children, I pivoted.

Friends, we watched the first half of Fellowship together.

I felt this was fairly harmless. For one thing, the kids have heard this on audiobook, however little they may have been paying attention. For another, the imagery of the Shire is lovely and not far off Tolkien's own drawings. Jackson makes the Hobbits sillier than they need to be, but it's hard for me to disapprove too much of the glorious curls of Hobbiton. I skipped through the Isengard scenes as having too many ugly orcs for small children late in the evening, and we stopped after the Council of Elrond, which the kids are mostly familiar with in this incarnation.

It was just getting too late at night to watch any more. But also, Arwen had just showed up. And it's here that Jackson starts getting silly. Sure, you have the Wizard Battle in Isengard, which my kids laughed their way through. But at least there's the faintest textual basis for this strife. But Jackson's dopey Arwen, with her dopey dialog, just did me in. I had to pontificate on the omission of Glorfindel, and my 11yo son, who knows about Glorfindel because of the Project Elrond scene in The Martian, nodded knowingly. I'd also forgotten how cheap some of Jackson's effects are -- Frodo being carried to Rivendell, with the floating head of Elrond speaking Elvish, was a real lowlight.

After driving sleepy children upstairs as the Orcs drove Merry and Pippin, after the long slog of getting the 2yo to settle down and shut his eyes, I settled down to read The Return of the King, with which I'm nearly done. The Ring destroyed, Faramir and Eowyn in the Houses of Healing, the Hobbits awakening on the Field of Cormallen, the crowning of the King. I was just drifting off to sleep when I received a text.

At 8:15 AM Dubai time, Darwin, jetlagged, woke up and realized that his alarm had not gone off, and that the presentation that he had traveled halfway around the world to give was starting in 15 minutes. Could I pray?

And so, at 11:15 pm Ohio time, I got up, and I sat on the edge of my bed, and I prayed. I was the proper person to do it; who should pray for a husband but a wife? All I could do was love, and so that's what I did. I sat with Darwin in spirit and was calm and peaceful in his stead while he had to rush frantically, and I started my rosary.

As I prayed, I got up and went around the house, locking doors, moving the laundry, turning off the lights. When I poked my head in the library to see why the light was still on, I found my two big girls were up, sitting on top of each other in the library couch. So I roped them in and made them pray a rosary with me for Dad. And then we needed to stay awake and find out how things had gone, so there was only one option for both waiting and offering up some suffering.

The library DVD of The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies beckoned.

And so, my friends, I attest that I have now viewed the last Hobbit movie, and it's a visually spectacular dog. Some of the scenery was neato, like the Lost Mountain and the halls of the Dwarves, but the story was just bizarre, especially since I hadn't seen the second movie. Any scene with the lady elf just brought everything to a clunking halt, and I really had no idea what was going on with Gandalf in the stronghold of the necromancer, or why Galadriel could lift him up like he was made of balsawood. My daughters and I attended to the important things. I maintained that Aiden Turner as Fili (or was it Kili?) was hot; my 16yo, bored to snoozing, couldn't see it, but knew and approved of Richard Armitage because he played John Thornton in the BBC's North and South.

Just before Thorin's prolonged death scene, my 11yo appeared in the room, holding the baby who'd woken up, so by this time I had five kids in the living room, gawking at the absurdity of the character of Alfred, the bad guy from Laketown, stuffing his bosom with gold and sneaking off. Where was he going to go? Everyone in town knows he was a coward during the battle. Where is he going to take that gold? Where will he spend it? Did the filmmakers think about the fact that there are no other human settlements within leagues and leagues of Laketown? It just makes no sense.

Finally, at 2 AM, I was in bed. Darwin had texted to say his presentation had gone well and been praised. The kids were down. The 2yo was snuggled against me, with his pink cheeks and damp curls. And I was reading Return of the King, because I couldn't get to sleep. The hobbits journeyed back to the Shire, and instead of well-deserved rest they had to clean up everyone else's mess. The evil they faced was small, internal, insignificant compared to the epochal events they'd just participated in, but fully capable of harming generations if not stopped. And it was their responsibility to take charge, because they were Home.

At 3 AM, drifting off, I laid down my book, said a final prayer of thanksgiving, and I went to sleep my last thought was:

I'm totally going to the library tomorrow to get The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, just to complete my hatewatching binge.

1 comment:

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

What an awful evening you had. But it ended well, and was strangely moving.

(Thank you for the parody link. I needed that more than you can know.)