In older, darker days I had occasion to watch Peter Jackson’s King Kong on DVD with a pal who was familiar with neither the 1933 version, nor the arch, sneery 1976 John Guillermin remake, of both of which I am quite fond. I had been encouraged in my evening’s viewing choice by two facts: a) I knew Jackson was a fan of Kong and was therefore unlikely to tit about with it too much, and b) it is a story, I thought at the time, with an unkillable structure.
The original is a great three acts. Half an hour getting to Skull Island, half an hour poncing around with the natives, half an hour of climactic NY carnage.
Well… After two hours of Jackson’s oceanic scene-setting and purposeless penisaurus-fighting my friend turned to me in a state of what sounded like suicidal ennui and said, “Has it nearly finished?”
Yes, I assured her. We are in New York now. The end is nigh. All Kong has to do is climb the Empire State Building and get shot off. It was beauty killed the beast. Blah, blah, blah. End credits, and we will say no more about this.
At which point there was a shot of the Manhattan skyline with the Empire State Building a teeny, tiny feature in the far distance.
God’s tentacles, I thought. There could be at least another hour of this. And indeed there was. Another bus-pushing, monkey-sliding, patience-pummelling hour.
I was reminded of this at the end of Jackson’s most recent movie The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey when, after almost three hours of wandering around, our vast ensemble cast looked from the top of a mountain towards the distant object of their quest.
It was really, really far away.
And I had already become quite vague about what it was and why they were going there. Probably I will find out over the next two years.
If I’m spared.
What happens in the Hobbit is this: Tim from The Office pulls his funny faces and does a series of double-and-a-half takes whilst enduring a home invasion instigated by Gandalf the Great Intelligence. The interlopers are fifty-seven gnomes, each of them brilliantly characterised. There is Irish gnome, Scottish gnome, fat gnome, ugly gnome, comparatively normal-looking gnome, twofold gnome and all the other gnomes.
They are planning on, oh I dunno, fighting a dragon who has stolen all their gold, for some reason. They do some comedy business with the eating and the burping and the singing of their little gnome song and doing a little gnome dance about the washing-up.
Having tidied up they trot off on their quest taking Tim from The Office along as their burglar. Despite his not being a burglar. For some reason.
It turns out that there are Klingons who are cross with the gnomes. Everyone fights each other for a bit with a sword named after their favourite album track by Wolfstone, and the gnomes escape through a hole in the ground. Or something.
I was asleep for parts of this film. Perhaps I should make that clear.
Anyway the hole in the ground leads to a magical pixie palace, home to the actor Kevin Elrond.
Also, and this is quite exciting, the magical pixie palace is where you will find the only female character in the whole film. Actually there may have been a buxom female Hobbit briefly, and there was definitely a pixie flautist, but this is the only female character to actually have a name and a purposeful place in the narrative, making Middle Earth a place of tokenism even more embarrassing than the Star Wars universe.
Her name is Gladys and there she is all glowing and ladylike on a literal pedestal.
“Ne-Ne Na-Na Na-Na Nu-Nu,” she explains, and off our gnomes fuck on the next bit of their pilgrimage.
There is a lengthy stop off at Mola Ram’s mining and shouting enterprise. Things pick up here momentarily as Hare from Burke And Hare turns up to do his epic 3-2-1, Ted Rogers-style riddle business.
“I am useful for driving. In me you’ll go far. I have wheels and an engine. In fact I’m a car.”
“Are you a car?
“No. I’m a bin. And here’s Norman Collier to explain why…”
Thinking about it, this might have been one of the bits I was asleep for.
During another bit of sleeping I had an idea for a movie involving the two blue wizards that are mentioned, and whom I have assumed to be Betty Blue and Blue Emmanuelle. Also instead of them being wizards one is a nun and the other is a nurse. And instead of being set in a fantasy feudal land it is set in a women’s prison. It’d be a great film.
Back in the real movie there is another fight with some Klingons and, as with every other fight in the film it looks like the gnomes will win because they have a tactical nuclear wizard in their arsenal. And indeed this comes to pass since what is even more invincible than a tactical nuclear wizard is a tactical nuclear wizard with the out-of-office number for the emergency flock of giant eagles.
Really? Eagles again?
So our brave gnomes are bravely, randomly rescued, and now there are only twelve short months to wait for the middle bit of this, what we might as well call, story.
It’s beautiful to look at is The Hobbit, in that nothing-is-real, Captain Zep Super Space Detective/Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow kind of way, but is that all we get now? Gnomeo & Juliet versus God Of War III? Is that the best we deserve? Pretty lights shining on a wall?
I just can’t find anything interesting enough in this to think or write about.
It is fabulous that Jackson has managed to smuggle some eccentric bits into a product-shifter movie this trans-global (Doctor Who’s hedgehog hospital, for instance, is a fleeting joy), but it is a sign of how numb we have become, how utterly harrowed and broken, that this fraction of a film is looked on as some sort of high watermark of legitimate adult entertainment.
It is for children. Not particularly inquisitive children at that.
If you want a three-hour movie about characters changing over the duration of a journey why not try Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker? Not only is it a brilliant film but it also has the twin advantages of an actual ending and a fascinating, insistent line of philosophical enquiry. You will not find a PS3 game of Lego Tarkovsky’s Stalker and that is indicative of something.