The Hobbit 2: The Elves of Mirkwood

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There be Spoilers, Most Calamitous Spoilers, Ahead.

Last night, I went with a couple of friends to watch the latest installment of the Hobbit trilogy. Two of these friends were die-hard fans, one of the movies and resultant fanfiction (her ‘Muse’ is the Elf she fondly dubs ‘Legsie’) and the other, like me, would most likely classify herself as a ‘purist’, one who frequently turned to me and asked ‘Does that happen in the book? I don’t remember!’. The fourth member of our happy gang was a ‘fan but not a super fan’, one who had watched the previous Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies and liked them.

Funnily enough, given the all the tweaks and quirks in the film, it was the ‘purists’ who walked away happier. Maybe we weren’t expecting as much as the others? Maybe we were just able to see the movie as ‘entertainment’ and naught else? Or maybe we saw glimpses of more Middle-Earth history than we expected? The last, I think, to be substantiated soon.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is, primarily, a fun movie. It’s filled with silly jokes, improbable action sequences, Middle Earth/New Zealand beauty and some truly stunning visual effects. It’s also got its fair share of inane dialogue (as any franchise movie, especially in the superhero or fantasy genre, has these days), repetitive chase sequences and one fairly trippy scene with the (spoiler) Eye of Sauron. The last caused both me and said ‘purist’ friend to sputter ‘What was THAT?’

Seriously, what was that?

Besides the fairly heretical and foolhardy decision (I think it’s appropriate, given that Tolkien himself apparently said his name means ‘foolhardy’) to split the children’s book into three big-budget, two and a two third hour long films, Peter Jackson has—gasp—introduced romance into this boys’ club of a novel. And that was a big divider in our little group. Funnily enough, it was, again, the purists who loved it and melted into sentimental puddles of goop.

In this post I’m going to talk about what, for me, formed the meat of the movie: the Elves, and detail what I thought about their roles. I’m leaving my absolute favourite addition to the Jackson-Tolkien-verse for a separate post, because the stuff I have to say about him is actually sort of semi-serious. Yes, Thranduil will get a space all to himself. I think he deserves it.

Tauriel

From the moment it was announced that Evangeline Lilly would be playing a female Elf named Tauriel (‘maiden of the forest’), fans were riled. Of course the introduction of a female character meant romance, and who is there for her to romance besides dear darling Legolas, heart throb of Middle Earth? My own worry was that, like many before her, that would be all Tauriel would represent—a love interest.

Thankfully, my fears were pretty unfounded. Not only was Tauriel more kick-ass than Legolas in battle, but she fell for, of all beings, a Dwarf.

Now that is sure to spark many an angry note among the purists. Is it possible? How can a Dwarf ‘love’ an Elf? How can said Elf even contemplate reciprocating? But there’s already a basis for this in Tolkien’s world: remember how smitten Gimli was by Galadriel? Kili’s response to Tauriel seems exactly like Gimli’s; he sees her as full of ‘light’, ‘walking among the stars’. And how does Tauriel see him? Evidently as someone worthy of her act of busting the King’s trust and favour and running off into the wild to find.

It was my fanfic-loving friend who called the Tauriel-Kili romance angle ‘unnecessary’, oddly enough. On the other hand, I found it very compelling. It had its corny moments, yes, but which franchise movie doesn’t? And besides, it was so utterly unconventional in Middle Earth pairings. Of course Tauriel is expected to fall in love with the dashing Prince Legolas, but instead she chooses a Dwarf. A Dwarf! Those most unglamorous of Middle Earth denizens, hated by Elves, distrusted and distrusting of most and a race that wasn’t even part of the Divine Plan in the first place (ref: The Silmarillion). I thought it was a brave stroke, and one that didn’t fall entirely amiss. Not only does is foreshadow the races uniting at the (spoiler) close, but it was a breath of fresh air in movie-romance/Middle Earth romance terms as well.

A Dwarf, for Eru’s sake.

Legolas

It must have been odd for Orlando Bloom to reprise his role as Legolas ten years after the LOTR movies, and play him at least 60 years younger. Legolas, in The Hobbit 2, is mostly a killing machine, something of a video game character. He rips off Orc heads, he does more skateboarding stunts, he seems to face somewhat of a moral  dilemma (or pretends he does so he can follow Tauriel around). He is obviously struggling with some Daddy issues, but he just didn’t…convince me. Tauriel and Thranduil are much stronger characters. Evidently Jackson is trying to posit them as two ends of a spectrum that Legolas has to choose between: will he follow his heart and tread the unconventional, brazen path of the much younger Tauriel, or listen to his far more ruthless and seemingly cold-hearted, ‘ill tempered’ father?

Frankly, I didn’t care.

 The Woodland Elves

It’s obvious that Jackson has taken material from The Silmarillion and for that alone, the Mirkwood Elves were a success in my eyes. There’s references to ‘lowly Silvan Elf’ (which is what Tauriel is), reminding us that these seemingly perfect beings have their own hierarchies and class system, and that history has turned on these distinctions for them. Even outsiders know that the ‘Woodland Elves’ are different from their brethren outside of Mirkwood. ‘They are less wise and more dangerous’.

I would dispute that, though. I don’t think Thranduil is ‘less wise’ than his fellow Elf rulers, but more on that later.

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Patrick, Perks and Section 377

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L-R: Patrick (Ezra Miller), Sam (Emma Watson) and Charlie (Logan Lerman)

I’ve been reading Stephen Chbosky’s beautiful coming-of-age book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In this case, I don’t think watching the movie beforehand was a bad decision. It was a great movie, and the characters were visualized so perfectly. I don’t think I could have done it any better on my own.

Hence, when I’m reading and seeing the movie play out in my head, I don’t resent it at all.

Usually, I wait until I finish the book before I begin writing the review (except when it came to the last book of The Wheel of Time series, but that was a special case). But today, two things came together, and that’s sort of spurred me to write.

Warning: there are spoilers for Perks ahead, so if you don’t want to know any more about the book besides the fact that it’s bloody brilliant, you should probably stop reading.

This morning, I got in late to work. There’s a reason for this, namely, that I had reached a very difficult point in Perks. Patrick, the effervescent, quirky boy played so wonderfully by Ezra Miller, has been wrenched from his secret boyfriend, the quarterback Brad. Brad’s father catches them together and proceeds to belt his son, who screams at Patrick to get out of the house. Patrick does.

And after that everything sort of goes to hell for Patrick. Brad ignores him in school, and when Patrick finally does get the gumption to go up and talk to him during lunch in the cafeteria, he gets called a ‘faggot’ by his erstwhile boyfriend, in a ‘nasty’ way.

So there I am, reading this section of the book, and then I come into work, switch on to my Twitter feed to find out what’s happening in the wider world, and find that the Supreme Court of India has overruled an earlier (2009) judgment of the Delhi High Court, which had decriminalized homosexual relationships. In other words, if you’re engaging in consensual sexual relations with a person from your own sex, you’re a criminal.

It’s a huge step back for a burgeoning movement, and of course, I can’t expect to convey the sort of outrage that’s gripped a segment of the population. For me, it seems like a strange, twisted joke. For something to be decriminalized and then reinstated to its former ‘hallowed by the Constitution’ position seems exceedingly stupid. It’s taking the ‘we make laws and hence we can unmake them’ to a whole new level. Of stupidity.

I guess I’m lucky in that I was brought up without being told that loving certain people was ‘wrong’. My parents have always been among the most accepting people in my world, so I never understood what the big deal was about loving someone of your own gender. I never got the feeling that they would be supremely hurt or angry if I, say, brought home a girl. Surprised, maybe, but they would deal with it.

As, I believe, the rest of the world should learn to do.

I think, today, Patrick gave a face to all those people who have really, really been hurt by this decree. Of being open to great hurt and humiliation for loving who they choose to love, of being emotionally scarred in more traumatic ways than those traditionally associated with the scary high school experience. Of standing alone outside in the yard and crying, ‘really crying hard’, and knowing that you can’t even talk about what’s hurting you.

I don’t think I will ever understand the fear that this decree speaks of, what it says about the mindsets of the people issuing it. I don’t think I want to.

But I do want them to know that they have not had the last word.

After all, Oscar Wilde is remembered. The man who testified against him? Not so much.

Five Reasons Tom Hiddleston should be cast as Theon Greyjoy

Image I decided, after the terrible earnestness of my last post, to do something fun and light (if not any less earnest). So I’m going to present you five reasons why my favourite actor in the world should have played my favourite character in Westeros. If you agree with me by the end of this post, join me in writing a strongly-worded letter to David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the showrunners of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Alternately, you could recommend me to Buzzfeed. Kthanx.

Tom Hiddleston is on his way to becoming a household name, thanks to his stint as Loki in the Marvel franchise. The beauty of Tom lies not only in his flawless portrayal of a malcontent demi-god, but his ability to quote Shakespeare on demand and bring to life quasi-historical figures like Henry V. And have you heard him read poetry?

Basically, I think Tom could play anyone. And the idea of him playing Theon? Exquisite.

1)      He knows how to be annoyingly sassy

 This was one of the first things that I liked about Theon. He’s smart and good looking and he knows it, and that drives people crazy. He takes risks and gets berated for it; recall how he shot the wildling holding Bran in A Game of Thrones and got yelled at by Robb for his hasty action. And his ever-present smirk-smile gives Jon and Ramsay both the heebie-jeebies. Ramsay retaliates by smashing his teeth, ensuring that Theon isn’t going to be smiling prettily anymore.

 And we all know that Tom can do a damn good smirk.

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Oh, yeah.

 

2)      He knows his way with a weapon

 Having played Shakespeare’s Henry V and Captain Nicholls in War Horse, Tom presumably knows his way around a battlefield. He’s done some swordplay and can swing a blade as well as Alfie Allen, I would assume, if not better. And yes, I know Theon uses a bow and arrow. Can’t you just see Tom drawing one as imperiously as he commands a crowd to kneel?

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That is a whole lot of regal.

 

3)      He’s played characters with Daddy issues.

 Read: Loki. And he does it so well. That perfect blend of defiance and vulnerability. He knows how to act abandoned and how to lash back. Admitted, Theon does it a lot less gracefully than Loki, but oh well, one’s a god.

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Heartbreak.

 

4)      He can do the bromance

 

Oh come now, we all know Theon and Robb have the greatest bromance in ASoIaF, not Jon and Robb. ‘Am I your brother, now and always?’ Theon demands when he swears loyalty to Robb, and with one curt nod, Robb affirms it.

Too bad things get so messed up later.

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That is an actual poster. There was no morphing.

 

Loki and Thor have a good relationship too, or did. This deleted scene from the first movie certainly seems to indicate that Loki bears his older brother no ill will. If only those other feelings hadn’t swum up…

 

5)      Because I really, really want to hear what he’d make of that epic line.

 ‘I wanted to be one of them.’

 I feel teary already.

Oh Tom. If only you’d been hanging around that studio. I will console myself with the idea that in a perfect, parallel universe, you are doing a great job as poor, misunderstood Theon Greyjoy.

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We will always have our dreams.