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Hibbs' criticism of Hobbit movie

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  • dale nelson
    [excerpt] With the amped-up 3D technology, the action scenes have the look and feel of a high-speed Disney theme-park ride. Now, that experience can be
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 16, 2012
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      With the amped-up 3D technology, the action scenes have the look and feel of a high-speed Disney theme-park ride. Now, that experience can be enjoyable so far as it goes, and so long as it does not last nearly three hours. But here it is a distraction from the action itself, as the viewer’s vision gets tugged — occasionally startled — this way and that by the sharply defined and rapidly moving images.

      There is a certain irony here, one that would not be lost on Tolkien himself, who was a dissenter from the modern belief that technological development was always to the good. In his letters, he likened technology to magic, in both of which the basic motive is“immediacy: speed, reduction of labour, and reduction also to a minimum (or vanishing point) of the gap between the idea or desire and the result or effect.” With the ease and alacrity of production comes the capacity to satisfy human wishes instantaneously. Magic or technology thus comes to serve the ends of human fantasy, whether these fantasies be noble or base, good or evil, healthy or unhealthy. It also has the effect of shifting our attention from the natural and the ordinary to the artificial.

      As Tolkien scholar Ralph Wood observes, “True fantasy, Tolkien declared in his 1939 essay On Fairy-Stories, is escapist in the good sense: it enables us to flee into reality. The strange new world of hobbits and elves and ents frees us from bondage to the pseudo-reality that most of us inhabit: a world deadened by bleary familiarity. Fantasy helps us recover an enlivened sense of wonder, Tolkien observed in this same essay, about such ordinary things ‘as stone, and wood, and iron; tree and grass; house and fire; bread and wine.’” But the effect of the new 3D technology is not to return us to an appreciation of the ordinary and natural as wonderful but to get us gawking at, and jabbering about, how slick and alive the artificial images are. More real than reality, one is tempted to say.

      After the success of the LOTR trilogy, for the final installment of which Jackson won both Best Picture and Best Director Oscars, one can understand the temptation to try to repeat the performance — to create something as vast as LOTR and to present it in an even more dramatic fashion through the use of the latest technology. Like the wearing of the ring of power, it is a temptation he should have resisted.

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