Oh my Cthulhu, what a quarter. I am never teaching for two schools at once again... until January. All right, then.
So this quarter I kept my gig at the online school while taking on some adjunct work at Northwest Indian College. This was tough but really rewarding, as it gave me the chance to dive further into the relations of the US and Natives in history, law and present culture, a topic I've always been interested in but never had the motivation to really study. However, it turned out to be way more work than I anticipated for just adjunct.
The blessing was that I could work at the online school anywhere. Even their approved "use-me-even though-I'm deadly-slow" computer is a laptop. So in some ways I had less distractions in the office at the tribal college. There, the only other things I think about are my other classes. At home, I was sharing a room with a drum set and had kids pounding down my door...
Didn't get much writing done. My band got an album out, and a great, poetic, somewhat grammatically incorrect review in the local music scene rag. Among other memorable phrases, we are "churning guitar soup," "sibilant gothic-glam vocal" and "slinky romantic modality."
But you don't care about that.
What do you care about?
There are some bigger Tolkien geeks than me. Christopher Lee spoke Elvish before he ever imagined playing Saruman. Stephen Colbert can sing Tom Bombadil's ditties off the top of his head.
But I'm close. I can tell you off the top of my had, for instance, that Thorin was named after a previous Thorin, the first dwarf king of Erebor, and he got his honorific "Oakenshield" by using a wooden log as a yes, shield. I can tell you Bombadil's name in Elvish (Iarwain).
I can tell you that Smaug wasn't a patch on the fearsome dragon Angalacon the Black.
(Okay, I caved and googled and I got that one wrong--I initially wrote Angorbad the Cruel).
I first read The Hobbit when I was six, on summer vacation between first and second grade. I got through it mostly relying on my memory of the TV adaptation, which I will still defend to any detractor. Arthur Rackham-esque animation! Catlike, cranky Smaug! Glenn Yarbrough! Actually, scratch the last one.
I went on to read the LotR trilogy in second and eighth grade, although I skipped most scenes that didn't have Frodo in them. And of course I fangasmed over Peter Jackson's trilogy. There were bits I didn't like--Metal Galadriel, for instance, or that insipid addition where Sam and Frodo have a spat over missing lembas bread.
But oh man, I have never felt anything quite like what I felt during Pippin's song while Faramir went to his death to please his father. I still can't hear "All you have to decide..." without tearing up.
I've been pumped for The Hobbit. Until I heard it would be split into a trilogy.
It's a short book! And it's also a very neat arc. Bilbo starts out a shut-in homebody, progresses to being an active adventurer who actually saves the dwarves' lives, and eventually his burgling is a kind of protest activism for peace between quarreling races.
Not the stuff of THREE movies!
Reviews agree with me. I am sadly vindicated. I didn't wanna be vindicated. Rotten Tomatoes has the film at 73% and plunging.
The original two-film treatment almost had me won over. Yes, two films is long for a 300-page book, but if they were going to also film the scenes at Dol Guldur and with the White Council, it could work. Especially since the first movie was set to end at "Barrels Out of Bond." At that point, Bilbo has progressed to dashing hero status, but has not yet encountered the horror of Smaug's lair or the moral test of the Arkenstone and Thorin's wrath. End the first movie with Gandalf in the dungeons of Dol Guldur and Bilbo cruising along on his barrel.
But three films? How much extra stuff would go in there? Okay, PJ, if you have to make it three films, then at least make them short films. No? An Unexpected Journey has a running time of three hours! At least make it easier for me to find a babysitter on the day I go wait in line to see your movie.
I know people liked King Kong, but man, I could already foresee the problems with The Hobbit in that one. Jackson expanded the original 90-minute film into three massive hours. It was still a movie about a freaking huge monkey. You could knock forty minutes off King Kong and no one would have complained.
Guillermo Del Toro's departure was really the footstep of doom for The Hobbit. He was too involved in other work to do three movies, and he makes shorter, neater movies than PJ. In my head, I'll be watching Del Toro's film this Friday.
It's obvious now that the three movie studios involved were pushing for three movies from the beginning. Three guaranteed moneymakers, keeping these studios afloat for another three years so they could take risks on other movies.
In fact, when you put it that way, perhaps The Hobbit's collective profits will bring us better movies overall. There will be an edited version floating around the Internet eventually anyway, similar to the Purist Cut of the Two Towers.
We true Tolkien geeks, though, know that you can have the cake and second breakfast too. Tolkien wrote plenty of other material that could easily fill an epic trilogy. Do you want three more Middle-Earth movies from PJ, studios? Why not mine the massive history of Middle-Earth, published by Tolkien's son, the weight of which would smash a puppy flat? Movie 1: Beren and Luthien. Movie 2: The Downfall of Numenór. Movie 3: Now we get to Bilbo.
The Beren/Luthien story could be retold by a narrating Arwen. Numenór by an elder Aragorn.
Which is probably what will happen. Middle-Earth will become a neverending franchise the way Star Wars is set to. Sadly, like Star Wars, I'm guessing it will learn from the mistakes of the prequels.
Maybe not. Maybe I'll love every languorous second of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey when I see it this Friday. Maybe I will rue the day I complained on the Internet.