"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", whether in 2D or 3D, on screen or on the pages of Tolkien's novels, is an epic for boys. The film opens in San Francisco this week. If you are a girl sitting in the audience it's an alienating experience. Most of the 13 dwarves are grotesque looking but the makers threw in a few attractive younger ones to soften the blow. The dwarves have all the excesses of ugly manhood: warts, unattractive bald spots, running snot, pot bellies, and all the horrible behaviors: grunting, overeating, drinking to excess and spilling liquids and crumbs on scraggly beards.
This is a long film with lots of chase scenes and fight scenes given the age requirement of 21. Vengeance is on the minds of the dwarves. They have had their home stolen from them, and Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), the Hobbit from Middle Earth who truly loves his home, is going to help get it back for them. This is a good deed, and Bilbo makes up for the hideousness of all the CGI dwarves, trolls, necromancers, goblins and fat snarling wargs.
There is one woman with a speaking part, and we are used to her by now in so many films that without even blinking you know it's going to be ...Cate Blanchett as the elf royal Galadriel who can communicate telepathically with Gandolf (Ian McKellen). Otherwise there are a few women who are mute flute players and of course servers and some frumpy hobbit women in long shots. If you lack anything to identify with you can at least take in the beautiful scenery of the film made in New Zealand - the green valleys, rugged foothills, dark mountains capped by snow and the elements. Mother Nature is there after all.
After yet another nearly all male cast of inflated spectacular claim, the only "unexpected journey" was an epic that doesn't speak to women because there is not much to identify with.The latest Middle Earth epic is a 21st century adaptation of 'The Hobbit' (1937), as are the two other planned sequels or rather prequels to 'The Lord of the Rings'. Tolkien's hobbit and dwarf women may be marginal, but far worse are the moviemakers of today who consider women in the audience invisible, or inseparable from the mass.This new 'adaptation' from Tolkien novels does not attract young girls today unless you are willing to identify with dwarf men, a giant wizard and all the largely male foes.
Don't blame this on the book. Hobbits are related to 'men', the younger children of Ilúvatar together with the elves, and dwarves are the older children of Ilúvatar. There were mothers, and sisters, aunts and grandmothers. There is the elf queen Galadriel who was the only woman make it into Jackson's adaptation. The dwarf 'men' wanted their women to be hidden in the mountain halls in order to protect them. When dwarf women did travel, they were disguised as 'men'. Moreover, as dwarves, the women had beards. Were any of the scriptwriters interested in this queer connection for today's audiences?
There were also Hobbit women. Bilbo's parents were Belladonna Took and Bungo Baggins, One of the well-known Hobbit women is Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and there is Dís, named for the Norse goddess Hjrodis, goddess of the sword. Dís was the daughter of King Thráin II and sister of Thorin and Frerin. There is also Rose Cotton, wife of Samwise Gamgee. Together they had a daughter named Elanor, who after Samwise's death became the "keeper" of the "Red Book of March", the story of Middle Earth written by Bilbo Baggins. There are far more women in Middle Earth than we realize, but Jackson made them invisible.
According to Kristy Guevara-Flanagan who looks at this phenomena in WONDERWOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, only 3% of the decisions to cast women in film are made by women. So a film that does not feature any women is planned for a specific target audience that won't mind that. Tolkien's novels have been criticized for their clearly insignificant women characters, but given the time period of the late 1930's this is certainly more understandable than why today's producers would make a blockbuster largely targeted for 21+ men.
Director Peter Jackson has made a testosterone roller coaster ride. It does feel like three hours, since there is one obstacle after another and little time to recover in between. For the uninitiated it seems like there is just one obstacle left after so many. But that is not the case. Alas, there will two more epic installments through 2014.
Will they get their gold back? Is it worth two more films to find out?