The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review (or, On Cinema)

Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Peter Jackson & Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Guillermo Del Toro
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian Mckellan, Richard Armitage, Graham MacTavish and Ken Stott
Run Time: 169 minutes
Release Date: December 14th
Rating: N/A

There’s an inherent problem with reviewing films for a living. I mean, naturally it is mostly a great way to spend your time, but it can force you to think in, at times, irritable ways. Obviously in order to do the job you have to really love cinema, you can’t go to the movies 5 times a week, sometimes more (often less, it depends on the season) unless you really love it. But it is a job, you have to think about these films professionally, with a critical eye. You do that for long enough and you can lose sight of what cinema really is.

Cinema is escapism, it’s about disappearing into an entirely different world and gaining all kinds of experiences that aren’t usually open to you. It’s about hearing fascinating tales well told. Getting to know new characters, falling in love, falling in hate. Experiencing emotion not just due to the tale but through the artistry in the visuals, through music which moves you. It’s about being transported somewhere else, for better or worse, just for the opportunity to explore something new.

The skills and talents of so many people go into this process. The instincts of many help mold the experiences of a (hopefully) massive audience. As reviewers we look at these people, we look at what they’ve done before, we look at what other people in their field have done, we break down what decisions they have made, where their instincts have taken them, and if those instincts worked. If enough “right” decisions were made to let their film be immersive. In many ways the marks of a good film are both in how much you want to immerse yourself in it, and how easy the makers have made that for you.

Last night I went to see The Hobbit. My mind, tuned as it is, began taking notes. I was looking at how jarring the crispness of the image was in the early sequences, I was looking at how the film referenced The Lord of The Rings trilogy, how it attempted to connect the two stylistically and also depart. I took note of how well delivered some of the monologues were. And then something interesting happened.

I got lost.

I got lost in this fantasy world full of trolls and dwarves and goblins and scurrying little hobbits. I didn’t see the images, I didn’t watch the performances, I just got lost in a world which for two hours of my life at least, was very real.

There was adventure and song, rolling vistas and hideous creatures. There was Middle Earth and not a darkened room filled with a few hundred other people.

As a film it’s not perfect, there were jarring little moments and a few nits to pick, but none of that matters, because last night I got to go to Middle Earth. I haven’t had a cinemagoing experience so pure since I was a child. No doubt you’ll see plenty of reviews of The Hobbit elsewhere, there will be good points made and bad. Just remember that after all that analysis, after all the deconstruction is done, underneath all of that lies a film. A film that takes you somewhere else. Somewhere exciting.


Boycott Hit & Run

Next month Hit & Run opens in Irish cinemas. I urge you to boycott this movie. Trust me, you won’t be missing out on much. It’s an action-comedy starring Dax Shaepard and Kristen Bell. He plays a guy in witness protection, she plays his girlfriend. When Bell gets a job offer in LA, he ignores his witness protection and drives her to LA. This leads to the bad guys he testified against tracking him down.

It’s a nice little set up and the film pulls it off reasonably well. It’s a little slapdash and uneven in tone. Overall it’s a grand movie that’s also very forgettable. Under normal circumstances I’d give it three stars, though I’ve been told that’s a little generous given how very forgettable the whole affair is.

There is one aspect of this film however, which is not forgettable. It is downright disgraceful and writer/co-director/star Dax Shepard should be ashamed of himself. This film does not deserve to make money.

This film features the worst taste rape jokes I have ever seen.

I’m not an easy person to offend, normally you’ll hear me arguing that either everything’s fair game for comedy, or nothing is. I myself have made rape jokes. But I believe how those jokes are constructed is incredibly important. You can make rape jokes where you ridicule the rapist. You can make rape jokes where the act of rape is mocked. You can use the word in a context that is just outlandish and ridiculous. I know plenty of people will disagree with me, they will say that there is no circumstance where rape jokes are acceptable. But that doesn’t matter here. I think it’s safe to say that Hit & Run shows the worst possible way to make rape jokes.

The first example is in a conversation between Annie (Bell) and Debbie (Kristen Chenoweth). Debbie is talking about the shitty jobs they have in a small town college, and that Annie deserves better things. Debbie is trying to convince Annie to go for a nice job in the University of California because she deserves the nice job. Debbie believes she doesn’t deserve a nice job, she’s where she’s supposed to be. Debbie believes that she’s lived an irresponsible life and the crap job is her penance. Debbie in no way feels bitter about this, she’s quite chirpy in recognising this fact, but her exact words to characterise her irresponsible past are: “You know, I got date raped, I’ve had the abortions. I got what I deserved.”

At first this seems merely horrific. Nobody deserves to get date raped. Nobody deserves to have an abortion. But fortunately, that’s not exactly what’s meant. The real meaning is far, far worse. She’s not saying that rape and abortion are what she deserves, she’s saying that her shitty job in a shitty college in a shitty small town is her punishment for the sin of getting date raped and having an abortion in the first place.

This speech is comedy. This speech is mined for laughs. This woman cheerily accepts her punishment for the sin of being raped in a manner designed to elicit laughter. What the hell is wrong with the makers of this film that they thought that this was okay?

Later on in the film there is another joke involving rape. This time Annie tries to come up with an example of awful human beings. She picks “rapists”. That’s fine, that’s acceptable. But given the awful joke from earlier, this still made me uncomfortable.

There is then, near the end of the film, another awful joke. A joke where the punchline is “I got raped.” To be fair the exact words are “I got buttfucked.” But given the context, it is rape being referred too. Shepard obviously just decided that “buttfucked” was a funnier sounding word.

At first I thought this was just another example of the tone in this film being remarkably uneven. That the line wasn’t supposed to be a joke, but more of a dramatic moment. But then the joke was repeated. And then the film spent at least five minutes wringing as many “jokes” as possible out of this man’s admission that he was raped. The concept of this guy being raped is apparently hilarious. All the characters in this scene with the exception of Shepard’s character seem to get that this is a serious issue. So there is an argument to be made that the humour comes from one guy not being able to process the gravity of the situation. But that one guy is the hero of the movie, the guy we’re supposed to be rooting for and who we’re supposed to feel a connection to. All this scene does is alienate the lead. So realistically this scene isn’t designed to tell us more about the hero, it’s purely there to make an admission of rape seem hilarious.

So first this film makes being the victim of date rape a punishable offense, it then uses “I got raped” as a punchline before milking the joke for all they can. This is not acceptable.

It’s a pretty average and forgettable film apart from these incidences, so you’re really not missing out on anything by not seeing it. But this film does not deserve to make money. Do not let this film make any money. Boycott it. Send a message that this kind of joke is not acceptable. It’s probably not a bad idea to boycott anything Dax Shepard ever produces.

If you’re really curious about the movie, at the very least download a pirate copy, so that nobody involved makes any money.