Tagged: The Lord of the Rings

John Ostrander: A Fair-to-Middling Earth

ostrander-art-140126-150x113-4909151Different media have different demands, and adapting work done in one medium for another can be problematic. Comics, especially super-hero comics, used to be very difficult to make into films. We did not believe a man could fly; we believed he was lying belly down on a table with a fan blowing over him. However, CGI and other technology caught up with films and, today, some might say the superhero film is more faithful to the feel and spirit of the lead character than the comics are.

I think that’s the key, especially when adapting novels into films. Novels are too long to be strictly adapted into movies; Game of Thrones works fairly well, as does The Walking Dead, because they are TV series. The episodic nature allows for the kind of development that mirrors the length and structure of the source material.

It comes down to what do you keep in, what do you cut; what do you omit and what do you add; what plot elements are the most important, what are less important; what’s necessary to tell the story? What choices do you make? These are basic questions for any story but are even more vital when you’re adapting another person’s creation. How true must you be to the source material – to the letter or to the spirit? Who is the primary storyteller?

When it was first announced that The Lord of the Rings was going to be made into movies, I was hesitant, dubious, and worried. I love LotR and I just didn’t see how it could be done. However, director Peter Jackson made a believer out of me. His adaptation is not perfect, no, but the fact that it exists is damn near a miracle.

When The Hobbit was announced, initially I was very psyched. Originally, Peter Jackson was only going to produce, not direct, but due to delays he eventually wound up taking over the director’s reins again. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit initially as a children’s book and, while in the same setting of Middle-Earth as LotR, Tolkien only later amended the book to tie into the later work. Some characters appear in both works.

The Hobbit is a shorter book than LotR so I was only mildly concerned when it was announced it would be made into two films. It’s when Jackson announced it would become three films that I started to become apprehensive once again. Still, Jackson had earned my trust with LotR. I adopted a wait and see attitude.

Well, I’ve seen the first two parts of Jackson’s The Hobbit and I am somewhat less than thrilled. They’re not bad films per se but it’s been made very much into a prequel for Jackson’s LotR and not to the source material’s benefit.

Warning: spoilers of both the movies and the books follow.

The basic story is the same: the titular Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is dragooned into a motley crew of dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, to reclaim their kingdom. Coming along is the wizard Gandalf the Gray. Woven into the story is how Bilbo won/stole the One Ring from Gollum. This, combined with an appendix Tolkien wrote, is the story of how the Great Enemy, Sauron, regrouped at Dol Guldur as the Necromancer until he was driven out by the White Council, including Gandalf (who disappears from The Hobbit’s storyline for a while to do this).

Adding this to the film makes sense and fleshing out that part of the story is fine. I also don’t have a problem with adding Legolas to the story or a new character, Tauriel, or even her possible romance with one of the dwarves. What bothers me is padding and bloating in the storyline. There’s a protracted running, jumping, yelling, fighting scene in the underground kingdom of the Goblins that could have been right out of the Mines of Moria sequence in LotR. It goes on way too long. Richard Armitage, as dwarf leader Thorin, is simply too good looking and something of a stand-in for Aragon in LotR. There’s a battle between the dwarves and the dragon, Smaug, within the mountain kingdom that simply never happened in the book and, again, goes on way too long.

For me, this is now less J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and more Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. It’s less about picking the elements to best tell the original story than what Jackson feels like doing. Some things he gets absolutely right, such as the aforementioned scene between Bilbo and Gollum. In that he keeps very close to the scene as written by Tolkien and it works wonderfully. A later scene, between Bilbo and Smaug, does not stick as closely to Tolkien and it suffers for it.

I will undoubtedly go to the third film when it comes out and I will have all three in DVD or Blu-Ray format as they become available, including the inevitable Director’s Cut versions which may be even more bloated. I understand this is Jackson’s vision of The Hobbit but it’s a lot darker than the book was. I’m very glad these films exist at all; I just would have liked it if they had been a little more Tolkien and a little less Jackson.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell




REVIEW: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition

Hobbit Unexpected Joruney ExtendedJ.R.R. Tolkien wrote a children’s book about a creature called a Hobbit and people in England seemed to like it. His publisher asked for a sequel, expecting something within a year or two, and instead it took fare longer and he received something far bigger and darker. It was worth the wait because the saga is engrossing and enduring. Thankfully, a series of events meant it wasn’t until the last decade or so before Hollywood could serve the words with fidelity. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was groundbreaking in sweep and production, an investment that could have bankrupted New Line Cinema and instead brought it untold millions in profit.

The original tale, though, took a lot longer to come to the screen and Jackson found himself back behind the director’s chair, turning collaboration with Guillermo del Toro into an encore performance. Eyes were raised when we heard this slighter tale was being turned into two films and then fans grew worried when that morphed into a trilogy.

Last December, we cautiously filed into the theater to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which appeared to be only 60% an adaptation of the novel with lots of filler. Jackson indicated all along he intended to bridge the two storylines, hence expanding to multiple films, but did it need the same sweep and grandeur as the Lord of the Rings? Probably not, but he made the creative choice to tonally link the two and as a chapter in a film series, it mostly works.

Now, mere weeks before the second installment, The Desolation of Smaug, arrives, we get to revisit chapter one, in a just-released Extended Edition from Warner Home Video. The 183-minute extended cut has more of the things you like or loathe about the films. Since diehard fans and casual audiences alike are divided between whether this version works or not, the debate continues with thirteen more minutes of evidence to work with. While the previous extended versions added plot, character and more of Howard Shore’s terrific score, this one just adds….more.

the-hobbit-bilbo-bagginsThere’s no question Martin Freeman’s casting as Bilbo Baggins, the reluctant adventurer was excellent. Paired with Ian McKellan’s Gandalf the Gray, they work well together, keeping to closer to the novel. It’s the baker’s dozen of dwarves that hew closer to the Rings trilogy and are far less defined, understandable given the size of the cast. On the other hand, with three films to work with, more should have been done beyond Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage).

Instead, cameos from other players are shoe-horned in so we revisit Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Saruman the White (Christopher Lee). What is welcome is the framing sequence to put this into perspective for the masses, wisely bringing back Ian Holm as the elder Bilbo and Elijah Wood as his cousin Frodo.

For me, it was entertaining but somewhat disappointing because I was not transported in the same way I was when I first visited Middle Earth. I was entertained but it was milder than enthralling.

The film fortunately is fit onto a single disc so you can enjoy it in a single sitting. For those who can’t get enough background material, there are two other discs chockfull of features. These are sumptuous for those who indulge and its interesting listening to Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens’ audio commentary, as they discussed the creative choices, pulling material from the Appendices to flesh out the novel.

imagesOne unconnected featurette is New Zealand: Home to Middle-Earth (6:53) which is Jackson and company extolling the virtues of their homeland.

The bulk of the extras are The Appendices Part 7: A Long Expected Journey and The Appendices Part 8: Return to Middle-Earth. The previous parts can only be found on the standard edition of the film. Part 7 takes up about four and a half hours comprising Introduction by Peter Jackson (1:54), The Journey Back to Middle-Earth (48:19); Riddles in the Dark (17:00); An Unexpected Party (25:28); Roast Mutton (17:12); Bastion of the Greenwood (10:41); A Short Rest (29:12); Over Hill (13:40); Under Hill (19:15); Out of the Frying Pan (16:07); Return to Hobbiton (18:35); The Epic of Scene 88 (8:28); The Battle of Moria (10:57); Edge of the Wilderland (22:37). Along the way we learn how the delays in financing and the near collapse of MGM led to del Toro’s departure than a hasty ramp up to get filming done to make international release schedules. We watch with exhaustive detail how scenes were shot, how cast and crew had to scurry across the island to get certain sequences completed and how Andy Serkis came back as Gollum to perform in what was essentially a one-act play set within the grander tale.

Part 8 is comprised of  The Company of Thorin (1:02:41), a six-part documentary including  “Assembling the Dwarves,” “Thorin, Fili & Kili,” “Balin & Dwalin,” “Oin & Gloin” and “Bifur, Bofur & Bombur”; Mr. Baggins: The 14th Member (16:10); Durin’s Folk: Creating the Dwarves (57:25); The People and Denizens of Middle-Earth (58:09); Realms of the Third Age: From Bag End to Goblin Town (58:59); and, The Songs of The Hobbit (32:32). Here, we learn more about how the cast viewed their dwarf selves and we see more character than is revealed in the final cut and the segment on the music is fascinating.

Ultimately, you have to decide if you love extras or thirteen extra minutes will be worth the investment. The film stands on its own in its first form and this is really for the devotees of Tolkien and all things Middle Earth.

John Ostrander: Late To The Party

OStrander Art 130714I’m not often the firstest with the mostest. Ask Mike Gold. I was resistant to getting a computer despite his urging until, of course, I got a computer. Then I was gung-ho (and remain so). Friends back in the day told me that I had to read Lord of the Rings. My reaction was – no, I don’t. Until, of course, I did read The Lord of the Rings and became a huge fan.

There’s a couple of movies that were like that for me. For whatever reason, I resisted looking at them while they were in the movies theaters. Later, I caught them (or part of them) on TV and then discovered I really liked them. I now own DVDs of these films (yes, I’m resistant also to Blu-Ray so far; we all know how that will end but I remain stubborn at the moment).

The first of these is Disney/Pixar’s Cars. You’d think I’d be first in line because I was (and largely still am) a big Pixar fan. Part of me still prefers 2D animation but Pixar absolutely won me over with its stories and characters and the wit of their scripts. But Cars just struck me as pandering to NASCAR (another cultural phenomenon to which I remain resistant) and I passed . . .until I saw it on TV.

D’oh! (Did I mention I was also resistant to The Simpsons for a long time?)

Cars is every bit as good as any other Pixar film and has a great cast. It has Paul Newman in his last performance, for crying out loud! Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Tony Shaloub, Cheech Marin, and George Freakin’ Carlin all contribute. It even has Tom and Ray Magliozzi from NPR’s Car Talk (highly appropriate but such a nice touch). The animation is first rate with some absolutely stunning backgrounds and a story that involves and tugs at the heart. Love the film and would have loved seeing it on the big screen )if I hadn’t been so danged snobbish and stubborn. That’ll teach me.

No, it won’t.

There’s also The Adjustment Bureau, adapted from the short story “Adjustment Team” by Phillip K. Dick, who has had a stellar record providing grist for Hollywood’s mill – Bladerunner, Minority Report, and Total Recall (twice) among others. It stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt and features Terrence Stamp (a favorite of mine). It’s odd that I missed it – I really like Matt Damon and would usually watch anything with him in it but this got mediocre to tepid reviews for the most part.

I can see why. There’s a cosmic plan involved and guys in dark suits and fedoras who may or may not be working for someone who may or may not be God. Possessing a fedora allows you to travel through certain doors and wind up in a different part of the city. Damon and Bloom play very star-crossed lovers whom the cosmic forces are trying to keep at bay. It all gets a little arcane and hard to swallon.


Damon and Blunt are terrific together. They have such a natural chemistry that, for me, it sells the film. I want these two people to be together no matter what cosmic forces decree they should not. So I bought the DVD.

Which leads me to another Matt Damon film, We Bought A Zoo, directed and co-written by Cameron Crowe. The film also stars Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, and a lovely supporting cast. It’s the story of a widower with two kids who ups and buys a struggling zoo and tries to renovate and re-open it. It sounded a little Hallmark Channel to me, especially the title.

My bad. I’ve gone through the grieving process for a spouse (albeit without children) and the film feels true to me, as does Damon’s performance. Again, great chemistry with his co-star, Scarlett Johansson. I’m leery of films that focus on kids and animals –they can come off cloying and/or annoying – but the children and the beasties come off very well. Again, I think the reviews were tepid and the title probably kept some viewers away (it kept me away). That’s unfortunate; I think many folks – like me – have discovered it since its initial release and enjoyed it.

There are other films that I ignored in their first release – Amelie comes to mind – that I discovered later. Thanks the powers hat be for DVD.

Or Blu-Ray. Which I’ll get around to owning.





John Ostrander: Backwards or Forwards?

Ostrander Art 130324Bought and watched The Hobbit DVD when it came out. My Mary and I had watched the full IMAX version in the theater; it’s one of her favorite books. I’m pretty fond of it as well.

Enjoyed the movie again and look forward to the next installment. However, I had problems with it. Both the way that the story is being divided into three films and from some of the action sequences, it’s playing out as a prequel to the Lord Of The Rings films. The book The Hobbit is not a prequel; it’s a stand alone story that has some story elements in common with LOTR. In the film, however, it’s coming off very definitely as a prequel to the point, IMO, that the story is changed or even twisted a bit to make it fit that mold. Visuals such as the race through the Underground Kingdom of the Goblins was very reminiscent, visually, of the race through the Mines of Moria in LOTR. What was stunning and even surprising in the LOTR movies looks rehashed here.

Generally speaking, when I’m reading or watching a story, I want to know what happens next – if I want to know anything more at all. Some stories, like Casablanca, doesn’t need prequels or sequels (although a sequel was discussed early on for Casablanca and, fortunately, never worked out). With Star Wars, after the original trilogy was done, I was ready to see what happened next but George Lucas decided he wanted to tell what happened previously. I watched but it’s not what I wanted and a lot of the public was less than enthralled as well. It’s only now when Disney has assumed ownership of the whole shebang that Episode 7 – “and then what happened?” — is being prepared.

The prequel trilogy of Star Wars changes the thrust of the story. The original trilogy is about Luke Skywalker and his coming of age, learning who he is, and becoming the hero his father might have been. The prequel trilogy changes the arc of all six films; it becomes about Anakin Solo, his fall and his redemption. I liked it better when it was Luke’s story.

I don’t absolutely hate prequels; I’ve done them myself. The last two GrimJack arcs I’ve done have technically been prequels. I also did a four issue story on The Demon Wars in GJ and, in the back-up space, my late wife Kim Yale and I did a story of young John Gaunt which would also qualify as a prequel. In each case, however, it revealed aspects of Gaunt that helped in understanding who he was and which weren’t going to be told in any other way. Each was also a stand-alone story; you needn’t have read any other GJ story to understand these stories.

There can be problems with sequels as well. Does it add to the story or does it just water it down? Godfather II deepened and expanded on the first film; Godfather III – not so much. The original Rocky is a great film; none of the sequels improved on it and only tarnished the story. OTOH, Toy Story 2 was better than the first film and Toy Story 3 was better still.

I can understand the desire with the studios to go back to the same material; it has a proven track record. There’s more money to be made not only from the movie but from all the ancillary crap. Less risk (in theory) and more money (in theory).

Maybe what it comes down to is this for sequels and prequels – does this story need to be told? When you think about it, that’s the same criteria as every other story, isn’t it? Or should be. Is this story worth telling? Not – will this make more money? Sadly, the reason for too many sequels and prequels is the monetary one.





Scaling Hobbits, Dwarves and Elves

Hobbit_Infographic-UniqueFeaturesWarner Home Video has provided us with a nifty infographic in advance of next week’s release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Here are the official details.

From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of three films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. The second film will be The Hobbit: There and Back Again.

Both films are set in Middle-earth 60 years before The Lord of the Rings, which Jackson and his filmmaking team brought to the big screen in the blockbuster trilogy that culminated with the Oscar®-winning The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers.

Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum. Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities … A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.

Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey, the character he played in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Martin Freeman in the central role of Bilbo Baggins. Also reprising their roles from The Lord of the Rings movies are: Cate Blanchett as Galadriel; Ian Holm as the elder Bilbo; Christopher Lee as Saruman; Hugo Weaving as Elrond; Elijah Wood as Frodo; Orlando Bloom as Legolas; and Andy Serkis as Gollum.

Extras Include

New Zealand: Home of Middle Earth

Video Blogs

  • Start of Production
  • Location Scouting
  • Shooting Block One
  • Filming in 3D
  • Locations Part 1
  • Locations Part 2
  • Stone St. Studios Tour
  • Wrap of Principal Photography
  • Post-production Overview
  • Wellington World Premiere

Theatrical Trailers

  • Dwarves
  • Letter Opener
  • Bilbo Contract
  • Gandalf Wagers
  • Gollum Paths

Game Trailer

  • The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-Earth
  • Guardians of Middle-Earth
  • Lego The Lord of the Rings

Feature Comments: UltraViolet lets you build a digital collection so you can instantly stream and download your movies to compatible devices, including computers, tablets, smartphones, game consoles and IP-connected TVs and Blu-ray players. This UltraViolet copy is a standard definition digital copy of the main feature. UltraViolet service providers may charge for continued cloud access, but no additional charge for continued access to content once downloaded. Consumer must reside in the U.S. and register for a retailer account and an UltraViolet account. Must be 18 years or older to create UltraViolet account.

Marc Alan Fishman: The Anti-Big-Bang Hypothesis

Fishman Art 130119Welcome back everyone. It would seem that last week I ignited the Internet ablaze by admitting I’d not seen “Wrath of Khan” until the week prior. The fine people folks trolls at Fark.com labeled me an ignorant dork. Ignorant of what I don’t know. Dork? Agreed. But then one of the feistier folks in the thread scoffed “I bet this guy loves Big Bang Theory.” And it’s pretty clear that’s an insult.

Well, motherfarkers? I do.

Now, let’s be absolutely clear: I like the show. I don’t profess to say it’s anything more than exactly what it is, a network sitcom. And amongst it’s pre-taped, live audience laugh-track, script-by-way-of-a-writers-room brethren? It’s on par, or maybe slightly better at times, than the rest of the dreck it sits with. No, an episode of BBT will never be regarded as a game-changing piece of television. But when did it ever have those aspirations? Anyone who took time to watch more than five minutes of the show would realize that it’s cut from the same cloth as all other inoffensive PC drivel. To think that it somehow had the ability to rise above that line is a thought shared only by people whose optimism borders on the terrifying.

With all that being said, let me lament again: I like the show. Quite a bit. The show celebrates a culture I myself am very much a part in. The fact that between the traditional tropes, I’m getting legit winks and knowing nods to characters, stories, and knowledge only really appreciated by a subset of society is a boon. Just this past week, the ladies of the cast had a subplot about reading comics and getting into arguments about them. Could anyone here tell me 10 years ago we’d predict we’d have a popular television show that contains characters who argue over the semantic properties of Mjolnir? Moreover, would you then say that said argument would actually be qualified as “nerd-worthy?” Well, if you’re raising your hand, then your pants are on fire.

For those naysayers out there, and I know there is a rising crowd of them, I beg you to truly mull over the gripes you’re bringing to the table. The big one? “Big Bang Theory is offensive to nerds!” OK. Well, guess what, Internet? I must have not received my invitation to the official nerd message board where I would make my vote. I certainly must be amongst your ranks. I own unopened toys. Long boxes. DVD box sets of defunct cartoons. I know the frame count of Ryu’s hadoken and why being several frames shorter than Ken’s makes it a more effective special move in Street Fighter 2 Turbo. Certainly if that doesn’t allow me access to the secret nerd cabal, I don’t know what will. To imply that the show, which again is a mainstream situation comedy, is offensive to nerds is offensive to me.

Is it offensive because the laugh track is cued up to moments that laugh at the main characters’ foibles instead of celebrating them? Perhaps it is. Or perhaps it’s a motherfarking laugh track, meant to usher the masses towards the guffaws. And guess what, internet? The fact that Howard Wolowitz admits to playing D & D is in fact funny to the uninitiated. Did I laugh when he said it? No. But then again, I didn’t get up in arms because the people in the studio audience did.

Nor did I sound the flugelhorn of justice when the same jackanapes chortled over Leonard getting picked on, or Sheldon doing just about anything on the damned show. Simply put, the show is aimed squarely at the lowest common denominator. To bemoan this fact is to hold a mirror up to every other sitcom in existence and shake your fist in anger. You can then join your true brothers in arms – the offended handy men who watched Home Improvement, the spiteful OB-GYN’s and jazz musicians in a murderous rage over The Cosby Show, and of course the bewildered radio psychiatrists aghast over Frasier.

The fact is Big Bang Theory caters to the median pop-culture nerd. The person who is vaguely aware of comics, Lord of the Rings, and perhaps Doctor Who. The show was built around the predictable notes of countless other shows before it; all of which can be explained. To think that we as a counter-culture are owed a TV series that doesn’t laugh at us, but with us… need only look to all the shows we’re already watching. Doctor Who, Toy Hunter, Star Trek, Battlestar: Galactica, Face/Off, Adventure Time, and so forth. Simply put, there’s already a boatload of shows that cater to us as a culture. Stop crying over the one that dares to poke at us for being dorks. As they say: let your freak flag fly. Maybe even laugh once in a while.

The way I see it, Big Bang Theory is plenty nice to the main cast the haters feel are nothing but forever picked on. Over the course of several seasons, Leonard (and Raj) have boinked Penny, Howard has gone to space and found love, and even Sheldon has found a partner. And sure, the audience has had their fair share of yuk-yuks over the boys’ failure, but to imply that the show is anything but loving of their stars is laughable at best. And for those who would say that the show is somehow regressing the nation to hate the geeks, dweebs, nerds, and dorks of the world… I offer a shoulder to cry on. There there, it’s O.K. I know it hurts when the big bad jocks push you into your locker, citing that they wouldn’t do it, had it not been for last night’s episode. Wipe those tears off, nerdlinger!

Because if TV sitcoms have taught me anything? It’s that it’ll all be forgotten next week.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


Emily S. Whitten: Geeklitism – Part I

Whitten Art 130108I think tomorrow I’ll call up Merriam-Webster and suggest a new word for their dictionary. That word? Geeklitism. (Not to be confused with Geekleetist, which posts fun stuff).

It should be in the dictionary, because it certainly is a thing that exists. But how would I suggest they define it? Damned if I know, although I guess the short version could be: “claiming you’re a ‘real geek’ and other people aren’t; claiming you’re the superior geek.” But really, the various aspects of both this attitude and of being a “geek” generally are so broad that I’m not sure they can be encompassed in a dictionary definition.

The reason for this, and the funny thing about “being a geek,” is that it’s a different experience for everyone. For instance, I’ve been a geek probably all of my life; but I don’t know that I ever really knew it until adulthood, when, thanks to the increased ease of finding like-minded people via the internet, it suddenly turned out it wasn’t such a bad thing to be. As far as I recall, no one called me a geek growing up. I had no idea I was part of this mysterious group of people called “geeks.”

“What??” I can hear a geeklitist out there crying out in triumph. “No one called you a geek? That must mean that you didn’t get bullied by the “cool kids” in school! Haha! You can’t understand the suffering and hardships that I went through in my formative years because of my love of stories about hobbits! You are not a real geek like me!” (This is the kind of thing geeklitists say, don’t you know. Sometimes they also add, “And all the girls made fun of me!! I’ve never gotten over that! My life was so hard!”)

But that’s not really what I said, is it? Of course I got picked on. Most kids do. For instance, when I was in first grade and all the cool kids in my new school had moved on to jeans or whatever was in fashion, my mom, bless her, still dressed me in cutesy pastel sweatsuits with big decorative (but pointless) buttons and bows on them. It follows that one of my first memories of my new school is three girls in my class making fun of my clothes on the playground – at which point I probably said something mean.

I was a well-read little child, who could creatively insult other children with words that none of us really knew the meaning of; but they sounded like insults, so it all worked out. For example, at some point in my primary school years, one of the biggest insults I remember using was, “You’re corroded!” (Which makes no sense under the real definition but sounds like maybe you have a gross skin condition?) My favorite of the weird words I personally transmogrified into an insult when young was “You’re a transubstantiationalist!” No one else had any idea what it meant, but I managed to convince the kids I was using it on that it was a really horrible thing to be. Mwahaha. But I digress. Anyway, at that point, we all got in a fight. Like a physical fight, of the kicking and punching and hair and decorative bow-pulling variety. Yowch.

“Whatever!” the geeklitist is saying. “That’s not what I meant. That’s just fashion. You were only a geek if you were ostracized because of your offbeat hobbies and/or love of genre fiction as a child! That’s what makes you a real geek like me.” Well, yes. I was that, too. I used to sit by myself at lunch and read giant books that were too “old” for me, like Clan of the Cave Bear and The Mists of Avalon, propped up in front of me as I ate with painful slowness (something else for which I was occasionally teased, but which turns out to be the healthy way to eat. Take that!). I’d walk down the school halls reading A Swiftly Tilting Planet or maybe The Deed of Paksenarrion without looking up (during which I developed a great sixth sense for not running into people while looking down, which is very handy these days when texting while walking to work).

I was definitely called weird, and often, annoying (because I used big words and talked a lot) more times than I can count. I engaged in some geek activities that probably would have been thought cool by at least the little boys in my class, like watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and X-Men cartoons, but I never realized that, because at that point in my life, boys had cooties. (Of course.) I’m not saying I didn’t have friends; I did, and they were a lot of fun. But I also got made fun of; and as far as I knew, most of my friends were not actually interested in The Lord of the Rings or Batman: The Animated Series. I don’t even know that I ever thought to ask most of them.(Or if I did, and received blank stares, I probably never brought it up again. This is why I’d never make a good Whedonvangelist, another word I’ve decided should be in the dictionary.)

Those were the sorts of things I often enjoyed alone, and didn’t really talk about that much, and that was fine. I knew (from others telling me, repeatedly) that I was a weird child, and I guess I just kind of assumed that was how life was and would continue to be for me – having some interests that nobody around me shared. Of course, that feeling of being alone in one’s interests is often cited as part of the experience of geekdom; and of course, in truth, lots of other people also had those interests; I just hadn’t discovered them yet. But I guess that’s all part of being a geek.

“Ahaha!” an entirely different brand of geeklitist is chortling. “But none of that matters! That’s just kid stuff! You’re not a real geek like me unless you can list, right this minute, in reverse alphabetical order, every superhero who turned out to be a Skrull during Secret Invasion! And until you can name at least three obscure continuity errors in [my favorite comics character’s] ongoing storyline! And unless you can tell me your three favorite fighting tactics for the video game character whose costume you are now wearing!” But, second brand of geeklitist…the water is wide, and the world is large, and I might like a different character than you do, or I might focus on something for different reasons than you do. Are you saying your viewpoint and favorite genre things and factoids are inherently better and geekier than mine, and are the only things that can bestow upon all of us admission into the uber-exclusive society of geekdom, just because they are yours? …Well, yes, yes you are, and that’s pretty self-centered. We can all be geeks in our own ways, with our own specific areas of interest and knowledge. Right?

“No no,” chides another, lone geeklitist, standing apart with one brow raised and pointing a finger at each of us in turn. “You will never, ever be a real geek, because you didn’t watch Firefly until it came out on DVD! You only like the newest Doctor Who! You never participated in the drive to keep Chuck on the air via purchasing mounds of Subway sandwiches. You’ll never be a real geek, not any of you, because (cue dramatic music and Iwo Jima flag-raising reenactment) I was here first, and I claim this geekdom in the name of Geekmoria! It’s mine, all miiiiine!!!!!

…What? No, really, what? That’s just asinine.



“Well…maybe,” says the lone geeklitist doubtfully. “But I was here first.”

How do you know, lone geeklitist? Did you turn on your TV to a new show before anyone else in the entire world? Acquire an ARC of the first book in a now-beloved series? Hold in your excited hands the very first copy of the very first appearance of a comic book character? And even if you did…why does that give you any more claim to an appreciation of it than anyone else? Why does timing somehow make you more passionate about your geekdom than all the other geeks?



So, any other geeklitists out there want to make a stand about how they’re the real geeks? I just ask because I don’t like to exclude people, although I realize the irony of saying that to you, geeklitists.

I’m hearing a lot of silence out there. Guess I’ll just wrap this u–what? I’m sorry? What did you say?

A chorus of low, angry, guttural voices rises from the deep to repeat itself, as one last group of geeklitists has its say:

You can’t be a real geek! You’re a girrrrrrrl!!

Oh, seriously. Shut up already.

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis Rises!



Emily S. Whitten: The Hobbit – There Again, But Not Back Just Yet…

I’m sure it will shock no one to learn that I went to see the midnight showing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey last Thursday. And despite being a tad bit (okay a lot bit) tired at work the next day, it was great fun. I don’t do that many midnight showings (seeing as how many of them land on weekdays) but when I do, I definitely experience that extra little thrill of being amongst the first to see something new, and of sitting in a movie theater with a bunch of friends in the wee small hours when by all rights, we should all be in bed.

Along with the general excitement of it all, I’ve been looking forward to seeing The Hobbit movie for seemingly forever now, ever since it was first announced (and even after they announced that it would now be three movies (!!)). I first read the novel in fourth grade English, where it was one of our assigned reading books. Looking back, I’m pretty impressed that our teacher managed to inject it into the curriculum. At the time, I vaguely recall having the feeling, in that childhood my-spider-sense-is-tingling way of feeling adult tension in the air, that this was some sort of tiny act of rebellion on her part against the mostly very sensible curriculum of books we were reading (many of which were also great, although whoever decided to include Dear Mr. Henshaw will not be getting my thanks anytime soon. Yawn). But my English teacher, bless her, decided that reading a fantasy adventure story, and a probably challenging one for that age group, was an important part of our childhood development; and so it was.

Many moons later, the story – in which the hobbit Bilbo Baggins joins the wizard Gandalf and thirteen dwarves in a quest to reclaim the dwarves’ homeland – is just as fun and full of adventure as it was then; but how does it translate to the big screen? Lucky for us, Peter Jackson has endeavored to find out. Jackson is, if you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, the mastermind behind The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, one of the most amazing and epic motion picture trilogies of all time (as well as the highest grossing worldwide). That trilogy, especially in the extended edition, is both a spectacular adaptation of Tolkien’s story, and a moving and cohesive collection in its own right. It’s also a serious and dark story, and despite the warmth and occasional humor of the character interactions, pretty intense from start to finish. The Hobbit is a slightly different kettle of fish.

Tolkien wrote The Hobbit first, and as more of a children’s story; whereas by the time he penned The Lord of the Rings, he had developed both his world and his style into something more epic and cohesive than his original idea (and, in fact, as he wrote LoTR he went back and added bits to The Hobbit that tied the two together more closely). The story does get darker as it progresses (about when the dwarves arrive in Laketown), but overall, it is still lighter, and smaller in scope, than the trilogy.

(Warning: Possible Movie Spoilers Ahead, although it’s not like most of you don’t know the story already.)

The movie follows the book in that sense. While there is plenty of action and danger, I found myself smiling or laughing a surprising number of times throughout the first act of The Hobbit (i.e. An Unexpected Journey, which is all we shall see of the story until December of next year, when part two of three comes out). In part, that’s thanks to Martin Freeman, who has wonderful comic timing and does an excellent job as the younger Bilbo, who is by times amusingly befuddled or subtly, wryly humorous. There is also a fair bit of humor in some of the dwarf characters and in Ian McKellen’s Gandalf, who is a slightly more whimsical and mischievous wizard than the one we see in Lord of the Rings.

Some of the humor, however, comes from very enjoyable scenes that would not fit snugly in Lord of the Rings but seem perfectly at home here – scenes such as the dwarves “cleaning up” after their party at Bilbo’s house, haphazardly flinging and bouncing Bilbo’s mother’s best china hither and yon throughout the hobbit-hole while Bilbo looks on in distracted despair before walking into the next room and discovering it’s all now neatly stacked away. This scene also gives viewers an important sense of the personality imbued by the dwarves of The Hobbit, which is pretty helpful considering it’s a bit hard to remember which dwarf is which: thirteen is a fair number of small bearded main characters to keep track of.

Another humorous scene I still remember as one of my favorites from my first childhood reading is the one in which Bilbo endeavors to trick a trio of mountain trolls out of eating the whole company; and a fair bit of time and humor is devoted to that scene in the movie, much to my delight. These scenes work wonderfully within the whole. And yet, as my friends and I left the theater, a few of them complained that in places the movie is a bit hokey… and I didn’t disagree. From the best fun scenes, through the more obvious gags that are still funny (such as Bilbo insisting the whole company must go all the way back to Bag End because he forgot his handkerchief, and then one of the dwarves helpfully flinging him a dirty old piece of cloth to use instead), the movie does arrive at a few scenes that are wince-worthy.

The most notable of these is the one with Goblin King. He is fascinatingly grotesque in appearance, and his appearance comes at a dire time for the dwarves, who have been captured and are being held deep underground by what seems like thousands of goblins. The Goblin King is threatening to (and then does) alert the Dwarf King Thorin’s mightiest living enemy, the orc leader Azog, who is on the hunt for Thorin, that the goblins now have him. Logically, it should be a serious moment in the movie. And yet the Goblin King’s demeanor is comical (and not in a good way) and his threats, issued with laughter, are anticlimactically not very menacing at all. (Threats issued with laughter can be super menacing. A good evil laugh can actually make threats more menacing. In the case of the Goblin King, this…is not the case.) Even the bit where he tells another goblin to send word to Azog is off-kilter, with the secretary goblin being a weirdly stunted specimen who apparently gets around the goblin caverns on a zip-line.

This scene and a very few others in the movie are jarring; however, as a whole, the movie is thoroughly enjoyable. Despite the weirdness of the Goblin King, almost without exception the rest of the characters (and actors) are wonderful; and the visuals are just as stunning as those in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And there are some fantastic scenes as well. These include the delightful opening of the movie, which ties The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings by having the elderly Bilbo, in the midst of preparations for his 111th birthday party, writing the narrative and chatting with Frodo (hooray, Elijah Wood cameo!). They also include the scene in which Bilbo and Gollum are having a contest of riddles, all alone in the darkest tunnels of the goblin realm, which was one of the darkest and most ominous scenes, and wouldn’t have been out of place with the tone of The Lord of the Rings.

Overall, despite the dwarves’ very serious quest, this movie feels less serious of purpose than The Lord of the Rings; but that is something I attribute to the original book, rather than the movie’s production. Just as Jackson tried to be faithful to the tone and sense of the trilogy, here he has been faithful to the source material, and I think remembering that as you go in to see the movie (or in thinking of it afterwards) contributes to the enjoyment of it. Going in with the expectation of seeing another Lord of the Rings might leave you feeling surprised, as I was, at the differing tone of this movie; but going in with the mindset that this is an adventure, a romp, and a fun journey will leave you feeling satisfied with the end result. And, of course, it’s important to remember that this is only part one. I suspect that through the second movie and by the end of part three, the tone will shift, as the book’s did, until it arrives in the territory of Lord of the Rings and leaves us with a fairly consistent six movie collection. I personally can’t wait to see what comes next.

Until next time, Servo Lectio!





New Pulp Jack of All Trades, Tommy Hancock stopped by episode 138 of the Earth Station One podcast to discuss the new Nightbeat: Night Stories anthology from Radio Archives along with ESO co-host (and Nightbeat contributor) Bobby Nash.

About Earth Station One Episode 138:
The conclusion to the ESO crew’s journey through The Lord of The Rings epic! Mike Faber, Mike Gordon, Bobby Nash, Jessa Phillips, and special guest Josh Reed review The Return of King and Josh faces something worse than the Eye of Sauron – The Geek Seat! We also review the recent episode of The Walking Dead and chat with Tommy Hancock about the new collection of stories based on the classic radio series Nightbeat. All this, plus the usual Rants, Raves, Khan Report, and Shout Outs!

Join us for yet another episode of The Earth Station One Podcast we like to call: The Lord of the Rings Finally Arrives at Mount Doom at www.esopodcast.com.
Direct link: http://erthstationone.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/earth-station-one-episode-138-the-lord-of-the-rings-finally-arrives-at-mount-doom/

What does the Disney / Lucasfilm purchase really mean?

OK, you’ve already heard the news.  The final selling price…well, more wealth than YOU can imagine!

Slowly but surely, intellectual property is flowing into larger lumps, eerily mimicking the actions of the country’s banks.  The WWE owns the assets of its former major (only) competitor, WCW. Dreamworks owns Classic Media, which means it controls a massive library of classic animation and TV, including Jay Ward and Harveytoons.   Disney now controls its own properties, the Muppets, Marvel Comics and now Lucasfilm.  They also finally got back the rights of one of Walt’s earliest creations, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which he had done for Walter Lantz.  He’s now starring in their [[[Epic Mickey]]] video games, and now that they own him outright, I’m sure there are plans for using him as well.

If there’s one thing Disney is good at, it’s finding innovative ways to use and market its properties.  In addition to the promised new Star Wars film in 2015 (get in line now!) I expect they already have a full list of plans to execute. Here are our predictions… (more…)