Saturday, December 15, 2012

Quick Thought After Seeing "The Hobbit"

I just saw the new Hobbit movie.

I liked it.  It was good and enjoyable and done very well.  The story was wonderful, the animation was wonderful, and most thankfully of all the hobbit protagonist was an actual masculine hero and not a mincing whiner crying all over himself for three solid hours.  You should go see it, too.  It's well worth the ticket price.

But then after you've seen it and gotten over how awesome it is, come back and I have to ask a question.

The question deals with something they added in from the books.

The character of Radagast receives slight mention in the original books and never appears explicitly.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had been given his own scenes and even speaking lines.  I think they did him very well, right down to his apparent ambivalence to bird droppings streaking down his face.  That's just how Radagast should look, and the kind of house he should live in, and the kind of potion he should feed to adorable hedgehog friends.  He was perfect.

And it was good to include his discovery of the Necromancer.

But then he hopped on his sled pulled by rabbits and went to find Gandalf, and by the time I got back from the refrigerator I was really confused.

My first question was where the heck does he go after he exits the film?  He's last seen being chased by orcs as a diversion.  Does he make it to safety?  Do the orcs eat him?  Where does he go?  After being established as a character, he just vanishes.  He doesn't even check back later to see that Gandalf and co. made it to safety.  He just "peace"es out, long gone from the film and our concern.

Since I know that 20-some years later in the LotR films he isn't there anymore, I can really only assume that after he exits stage right, that he is eaten by orcs.

But that isn't even an impotant question compared to how the heck he got there in the first place.

Radagast lives near the eastern edge of Mirkwood.  When he runs in to Gandalf, he is somewhere between the Trollshaws and Rivendell.

According to my map of Middle Earth, that is a journey of some 300 miles and includes both a bridge-less river and a mountain range.  Or, according to the movie, that is twice the distance traveled from the time this character vanishes to the end credits.  Alternatively, in the Lord of the Rings, this rabbit-sled run of Radagast's is a longer journey than what happens between forming the fellowship and Boromir being killed by orcs.  The goblin-infested Misty Mountains and the low-lands crawling with warg riders that pose such a mortal threat to our heroes is the exact same terrain traversed by a crazy old man on a sled pulled by rabbits.
Blue: the Fellowship up to Boromir's death
Red: Radagast's journey on a bunny-sled
Forget how he knew Gandalf was even on the journey at all (they've barely spoken since Sauron fell hundreds of years ago), much less to look for him  in the specific spot outside Rivendell.

How did he make the journey on his rabbit sled?

As the movie shows us, it's a really dangerous trip.  And he's on a wooden platform pulled by bunny rabbits.

Do rabbits even have the metabolism to pull a weighted load up a mountain?  Or cross country?  What did he do with his sled during the narrow mountain passes we see the dwarven company traversing?  The journey he is making on rabbit sled took the dwarves over a month to make on horseback, and that's after they were carried by the Eagles.  On-screen, maybe five minutes elapses between Radagast escaping the Necromancer's fortress and crashing in to Gandalf, but in reality it was several weeks at the least.

It's just so implausible.  Thinking about it for even a minute - this batty lunatic on a sleigh pulled by CGI rabbits in harnesses crossing hundreds of miles and running over mountains and through goblin caves - overpowers me with its absurdity.

Merely imagining him riding that rabbit sled for longer than five minutes at a time is already laughably comical.

The only reason Jackson gets away with it is that we just forget.  It's peekaboo.  Radagast pops on screen and might as well pop in to existence; then before we can ask question he pops off screen and back out of existence.

There's plenty to say about the Hobbit.  Mostly, Jackson produced a great movie that mostly stayed true to Tolkien's genius.  I'd see it again, and I can't wait for the next two films in the "trilogy".  But I really had to bring this up.  It was bothering me.

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