I first started this blog nearly seven years ago after spending a couple months (on and off) window-shopping for a place to host my essays about Tolkien purism. I ended up posting about other topics as well, though never as much as I thought I might. It’s been many years since I posted regularly here and most of the content was written when I was 15 years old, though I did return to add my thoughts about The Hobbit films and kept an eye on the comments thread of the Eagle page. However, some of the older pages are honestly a little embarrassing to re-read now. After rewriting the Tolkien’s books about Arda page this spring, I decided that a fresh start to coincide with my renewed focus on lore would be best. Towards that end, I have set up a new blog called Nolondil: Friend of Lore, which began with rewritten and (in some cases greatly) expanded versions of the essays from the old Lore section here. I won’t take this site down, though the old domain name (Eldorion.com) will expire in about a year. Until then it will redirect to the WordPress subdomain you’re reading this on. While I do occasionally cringe at things I posted here in years past, there are a lot of good memories tied up in this site as well and I’m grateful to have had it. 🙂
With the Extended Edition of The Battle of the Five Armies now releasing on DVD and Blu-ray in most markets (about a month after the digital release and some six weeks or so after its one-night theatrical release Stateside), Peter Jackson’s second Middle-earth trilogy is at long last complete in (what is likely to be) it’s final form. The event has been more whimper than bang, as they say, for most of the fandom. I personally have all but exhausted my store of things to say about The Hobbit, but I did find a few final words to mark this occasion and fill in the last gap of the last section of the old purist essays that were the original core of this site.
While the responses I wrote to each film are unpolished, I have found that I still agree with the criticisms I laid out in them. Of course, they do not reflect the changes in the Extended Editions, and to be fair, I do think that the first two films in the trilogy were improved by those edits, although I would have cut out much that was included in the theatrical edits in order to bring the overall running time of the trilogy down. (The Battle of the Five Armies, on the other hand, I did not think was notably improved by its EE.) My initial predictions essay, while almost four years older than anything else in this section, is also something I still stand behind. I believe the basic flaw I saw then – of trying to warp The Hobbit to make it more like LOTR – ended up being one of the biggest problems with the finished trilogy, alongside the then-unforeseen decision to make it a trilogy at all. What I did not foresee in 2009 was that, besides being an unfaithful adaptation (something that not even PJ really bothers to dispute anymore), the films were also disappointments as entertainment, in my opinion.
Read more at the Hobbit Changes page, under the “Analysis” header near the bottom of the page.
…And with that, I can finally repeat the “I’m done” message I posted (and almost immediately edited) back in October 2009. Although this time I know better than to promise anything regarding this site, I do plan to continue to be active on Forumshire, the Tolkien forum I’ve run for the past five years, though talking mainly about things other than The Hobbit. 😛
I haven’t been as active in the Tolkien Purist debates for years, but I went to see The Hobbit with everyone else and felt compelled to share my thoughts on it. I initially posted this review on a couple of different forums, but I felt like posting it here as well for posterity.
Did any of this happen? Well, the film certainly got off to a quicker start, but I’m not sure that was such a good thing the way they handled it. The core characters were stable and they handled the dragon-sickness thing better than I thought they would, so there is that. But the rest of the Dwarvish cast has faded even further into the background with the addition of new characters. The only exception is Fili and Kili, who had a little bit of characterization in the first film and have enlarged roles here. The three film split continues to be a terrible fucking idea, and DOS is a hundred times worse at being a “middle movie” than TTT was. On the other hand, Evangeline Lilly gave one of the better performances in the film, but she was given atrocious material to work with. Other PJ additions were uniformly poorly thought out, but that’s to be expected. Bolg the Azog clone (it’s never mentioned or even implied that they were father and son) is pretty dull. The way they handle the Necromancer is beyond bad. Benedict Cumberbatch is good as Smaug, but he really needs to start picking better roles if he wants to be remembered as anything but Sherlock.
A little over three years ago I decided to write an essay in response to one of the questions I most often saw on Tolkien forums: why didn’t the Eagles fly the Ring to Mount Doom? That essay sat quietly on the site for several years while slowly gathering hits and climbing up the Google results for searches about Eagles and The Lord of the Rings. In the past year, however, that one page has accounted for over three-quarters of all traffic to this site, being viewed nearly 14,000 times.
A great deal of this traffic came as a result of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first film in Peter Jackson’s second Middle-earth trilogy (it still feels weird to say that). The film’s climax prominently features Eagles without presenting any context or explanation for their appearance, which has confused and frustrated many casual viewers who are not familiar with the pedantic ins and outs of Tolkien lore.
I’ve discussed this scene on a couple different forums and in the comments section for the essay, but yesterday I took the opportunity to flesh out my explanation of the scene slightly. Basically, Tolkien provided us with a very reasonable explanation, but this was obscured in the film (which had different and probably better priorities than satisfying nerdy nit-pickers).
A commenter has asked why the Eagles in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey did not simply fly the Company of Dwarves all the way to the Lonely Mountain, particularly since the mountain was visible at the end of the film. The situation in The Hobbit is complicated by certain fairly minor changes made by Peter Jackson to the story. In the original novel, the Eagles agree to help Gandalf as a favor, in return for him having saved the life of their chief before the events of the story. However, they were afraid of the men of the Vales of Anduin, who shot arrows at the Eagles (including the chief whom Gandalf saved) to keep them from stealing livestock. Therefore, the Eagles took the Company only a short distance.
The situation is muddled in the film because the Eagles do not speak at all, which removes the explanation of their motives. (It is possible this will change in the Extended Edition.) The final shot of the Company looking towards the Lonely Mountain is also misleading in its depiction of the distance left before them. The Eagles drop the Dwarves off on top of the Carrock, a large rock in the middle of the River Anduin. The Anduin flowed through a broad valley to the east of the Misty Mountains, placing the Carrock nearly 200 miles away from the Lonely Mountain: a far longer distance than the Eagles were willing to fly simply to repay a favor. The Lonely Mountain would not realistically have been visible from the Carrock, but Peter Jackson chose to show it for dramatic reasons.
Hopefully this brief explanation is able to clear up some confusion about a minor but near-to-my-heart question. Check out the full Eagle page for a discussion of the more famous Mount Doom issue. It’s been fun doing even minor updates to the site again, and knowing how many people read the essay makes the annual domain fee I pay to WordPress seem more than worth it. 🙂
The Raid: Redemption (2012)
Sony Pictures Classics, R, 101 minutes
U.S. Release: 23 March 2012 (limited)
The Indonesian action movie The Raid (subtitled Redemption in its U.S. release to avoid conflicting with an older film) is a movie that I have been anticipating since the trailer and reviews from last year’s Toronto International Film Festival were made public. The hype for “the best action movie in decades”, as the official poster proclaims the film, was immense. This both excited and worried me; I didn’t want to go into the film with overly-inflated expectations and leave disappointed as a result. Also, as someone who is only a casual fan of the action genre, I wasn’t entirely sure how to assess an Indonesian martial arts film.
The Raid is about a highly-trained squad of police officers raiding (duh) a high-rise building in the slums, ruled by a brutal drug lord. The cops are spotted by a lookout and have to fight their way up and through fifteen floors occupied by countless thugs under the protection of the drug lord. After the initial slaughter there are betrayals and reunions, but the focus stays on the fighting. As the body count rises and bullets run out, the action becomes almost exclusively bare-knuckle martial arts brawling.
If you see this movie looking for breathtaking action and fight choreography, you will not leave disappointed. Lead actor Iko Uwais, who was also one of the fight choreographers gives the stand-out performance of martial arts skills. The movie is full of clearly talented fighters, however, and all of the fights have a rampant energy. The action set pieces are great and the range of fighting styles and weapons in this film is impressive. The cinematography and lighting are very good and the camera doesn’t shy away from showing the violence. The action is punctuated by quieter but more suspenseful moments, but all in all this movie is about violence. A few of the individual fights dragged a little bit too much for my taste, but I was never bored.
I haven’t talked much about the story of The Raid because, quite frankly, there isn’t much of one. Beyond the initial premise and a few later twist there’s not much you can say about the plot. Most of the police team dies in the first half of the movie, and while the survivors get some characterization, I hesitate to describe it as development. Few of the villains are even named; if you stay for the credits you will see a lengthy cast list, most of whom have roles like “Mad Dog’s Man #1” or “Through the Hole Fighter #5”. However, the elite fighters on both sides have distinctive styles and can be remembered by that.
There are two reveals in this movie: one about an estranged pair of brothers and the other about the reason why the police were ordered to raid the building. The reveal about the brothers could be seen a mile away and the motive for the raid doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you think about it, but these are insignificant flaws. The Raid knows what it wants to be and it achieves that brilliantly. There are some truly shocking moments of violence and the energy throughout the film is infectious. The electronic musical score (co-composed by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park) complements the action but stays in the background until the end credits.
I give The Raid: Redemption four stars out of a possible five. This movie is not driven by plot nor character, but by a constant sense of energy from the fighting onscreen. If you’re squeamish about violence, you will probably not enjoy The Raid. On the other hand, if you enjoy action movies, you will probably love it. Some character development would have been nice, but this is still an intense and memorable action spectacle.
Everyone who has visited the site in the past year or so has probably noticed the near-complete lack of new content. I didn’t exactly drop off the face of the earth, but I must admit that I pretty much abandoned this site. This was in large part due to a lot of my time being taken up as I tried to learn the ropes of being a forum administrator at Forumshire: The Hobbit Movie Forum. Having to deal with a lot of ups, downs, twists, turns and other assorted craziness in my real life didn’t help either.
While I wouldn’t say that things have settled down, per se, a lot has gotten better over the past few months and I’ve had more time to devote to various projects, including stuff for fun. I’ve been trying to write more, both with fiction and non-fiction, which is part of the reason I turned here again. I thought I’d try writing movie reviews, something I’ve wanted to do for some time, as a writing exercise and also just for fun. Thus was the brand-new Movie Reviews page born. It may expand to cover more than just movies, but I can’t say for sure yet. It’s still under construction, after all.
In another site-related news, I condensed the old Lore and Humor pages into a single Tolkien General page. This keeps all of the non-Purism stuff that I’ve written about Tolkien in one easy-to-navigate page. It also opens up space in the main navigation bar for more non-Tolkien stuff as I add it. I look forward to getting back into the site and continuing to write. It’s always more fun when you can share it with people!
21 Jump Street
Columbia, R, 109 minutes
U.S. Release: 16 March 2012
Conventional wisdom holds that Hollywood has run out of all originality and has been reduced to rehashing old ideas, often from the 1980s. 21 Jump Street is a film that, on its surface, appears to confirm this idea. However, the film plays more as a subversion of its source material than a straight adaptation or a rip-off, in part through its cheerful acknowledgment of its own roots as an adaptation of a late-’80s TV show (starring a young Johnny Depp) about cops going undercover as high school students. In the film, when the main characters are informed that the police department is reviving the undercover program, they are told it is because the people in charge are all out of new ideas and have been reduced to recycling old programs.
While poking fun at Hollywood’s all-too-frequent unoriginality is neither edgy nor new, this scene encapsulates several of the elements that elevated 21 Jump Street beyond the constraints of ’80s adaptations. In addition to moving the setting to the present day, the film addresses the earlier story on its own terms, even bringing back Johnny Depp for a cameo as his old character, decades after the events of the TV show. Devoted fans of the original show might not appreciate the story being turned into a comedy, but it’s hard to see the preposterous premise playing any other way, at least not in this decade. By winking at the audience, 21 Jump Street is able to transform a pedigree that would normally count against a film into the basis for some of its funniest moments.
The film makes effective use of its brief prologue, quickly establishing the characters of Schmidt (Jonah Hill) as a nerdy, socially awkward teen and Jenko (Channing Tatum) as a handsome, popular jock who is baffled by schoolwork. The real comedy of the film occurs after a time-skip to the present day, where Schmidt and Jenko have both grown up, but still struggle to escape the bounds of the social roles they inhabited in high school. The two meet for the first time in years when they both enroll in the police academy, and while Schmidt is an academic whiz who struggles with all things physical, Jenko is still the superb athlete who fails at book-learning. Both need help and so they gravitate towards each other in a surprisingly believable manner, not despite, but because they are opposites.
After graduating from the academy, the two botch the arrest of a drug dealer in a public park when they fail to read the dealer his Miranda rights. The two are transferred to 21 Jump Street, the headquarters of the department’s undercover high school program, where they are assigned to investigate a new synthetic drug that is spreading through the local school. Once in school the two struggle to adapt to the changes in high school culture since they graduated, which is made worse when they mix up their false identities and become enrolled in each others’ classes.
The film creates great laughs in nearly every scene, never missing an opportunity to poke fun at the idea of two grown men attempting to pass themselves off as high school students. Despite arousing suspicions, Schmidt and Jenko find themselves immersed in high school culture, only in opposite cliques from their first time in high school. Both embrace their new roles – to the point of losing sight of their overall mission – while drifting apart from each other. The film finds comedy in its premise, setting, and characters, so the jokes feels very natural. Moments of pathos are often forced in comedies such as this, but 21 Jump Street avoids playing things too seriously so that the character moments and the jokes often coexist simultaneously instead of infringing on one another.
Both Hill and Tatum excel in their roles and the the supporting cast is very solid as well, although the focus remains on the two main characters throughout the film. The most important supporting characters are the ones involved in romantic and bromantic relationships with the two leads, and these roles are some of the strongest, particularly Schmidt’s theatre partner and love interest (Brie Larson). The funniest supporting characters, however, are Ice Cube as the self-described “angry black Captain” in charge of the undercover operation and Johnny Depp in a late reveal that is too good to spoil.
21 Jump Street earns its R rating, but none of its language, sexuality, violence, or drug use (being integral to the plot of the film) is overdone. The movie constantly sees opportunities for comedy and avoids being too direct with its more mature elements. The few serious scenes generally reflect a theme of not letting yourself become permanently stuck in your high school years, which is a commendable message, although it never takes center stage. The movie keeps its momentum going throughout its two-hour running time, and while it flirts with drama and action, it remains focused on its comedic goals.
I give 21 Jump Street four-and-a-half stars out of a possible five. The entire audience in my theatre was laughing nearly constantly, and for good reason: this is easily the funniest movie I’ve seen since The Hangover. If you enjoy R-rated comedies, I cannot recommend this movie enough.