Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hobbits and Compasses

Wow, I've been neglecting this site. Since I got the day job as a reporter, the "writing for fun" seem to happen less. Not 'cause I don't enjoy writing, but mostly because I have less free time.
In any case...

I just read the good news that Peter Jackson (you know, the guy who did the Lord of the Rings movies) will be in charge of the film adaptation of the Hobbit.
This is a good thing, he shouldn't piss off the fans as much as some others.

Now, the Golden Compass. I went to see it last weekend, it was good. I've read Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series, and enjoyed it very much.
Yes, in case you were wondering, there is a strong element of dissastisfaction with organized religion in there, as well as a general disrespect for (most) authority.
I'm really not too upset about it, personally, I've got a bit of a subversive streak myself.
Will reading the books upset Christian Fundamentalists? Oh yeah. Will it upset people who may or not be devoted to a particular system of beliefs, but who have a strong, personal spirituality that they are comfortable and at home with? No, they'll love it. Atheists and agnostics will also enjoy, I think.

So about the movie, it's pretty good. It's not perfect, it's very rushed and it tries to cover a lot of plot in far too short a time (a movie that's too short? can it be?) If you've read the books you'll have an easier time keeping up.
But on the upside: it was visually amazing. I mean, really, really amazing to look at. And the casting was pretty much perfect, especially in the case of Sam Neill as Lee Scoresby. Not enough cowboys in the Sci-fi/fantasy films these days (three Star Wars movies and no Han Solo, why bother?)

As an avid reader of fantasy books, and books in general, I'm happy to see so many of them being made into movies, but it's a little worrying to me as well.
Two things in particular:
One- why does every hero in fantasy stories need to be some lost king or pawn of destiny or something like that? Does only royalty get a happy ending? And by "royalty" I also mean "heir to some magical inheritance/ secret/ spectacular destiny." What about the poor schmuck who just happens to be standing in the wrong place and gets sucked into some crazy adventure and just keeps trying to do the best he can? You know, someone I can identify with us. As much as I'd love to think that I'm the rightful heir of some ancient Irish lord or Italian prince or something, I'm pretty sure I'm descended from a long line of farm-hands.
So why, in an already escapist medium, do we have go and alienate anyone who actually stops and thinks about what their place really would be in that other world?
Two- yes, fantasy is fun,escapism is fun, it's all great fun, and we want to see wonders, but here I am sitting in my tiny little room with a tiny little box on my lap putting down words that, while they have no more physical presence than a thought, you may be reading from across town, or the other side of the world.
Isn't that a wonder? How about space travel? How the hell does it become a matter of routine, back-of-the-paper news that we have work going on at the space station?
For that matter, have you ever thought about the centuries of scientific advancement and vast organization of resources that have gone into a simple jar of peanut butter?
Or how about this? In an infinite universe, full of empty space and nearly absolute cold, interspersed with clouds of deadly gas, speeding rocks, places hot enough to vaporize diamond, unimaginably crushing gravity, seas of ammonia, whatever else you can imagine, and many, many things you cannot, we two exist. In this vast, hostile universe, dear reader, you happen to be sheltered by the same onion-skin atmosphere on the same mid-size ball of rock that I am, and you coincidentally have a close enough view of the world that you can understand the symbols on this page (which, as I mentioned before, isn't really a "page" or really anything at all except for some blips of electricity).
How does something dull as a magic ring stack up to that? Do we really need a bunch of CGI tricks to feel any sense of wonder, or can we stop and actually look at the world around us and feel the same way?

OK, rant off, Peace, Love and Joy to each and every one of you.

1 comment:

emf said...

Actually, there are a lot of heroes who aren't predestined heroes. I can think of five right off the top of my head...

Pug, Raymond Feist's Riftwar series.
Karl Cullinane, Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series.
Rodney d'Armand, Christopher Stasheff's Warlock series.
Skeeve, Robert Asprin's MYTH series.
.... and ....
Arthur Dent, Douglas Adams, HHGTTG.