'Previously on The Hobbit...'
A friend of mine who usually writes of loftier matters has written a short review of “The Hobbit.” He's obviously a fan of Tolkien but not so much of Peter Jackson's new movie. Even so, this is the last line:
Let’s hope Jackson regains his footing in the next installment.
It made me think of this.
When we went to “Star Wars” in 1977, we went to see a movie. The movie began and it ended. It felt whole, and even gave us a symbol for wholeness: the Force.
When we went to “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980, we were given a movie that was to be continued. I was actually shocked when I saw it in the theater. That's it? “To be continued” on TV meant next week; “to be continued” in a galaxy far, far away meant three years. Whenever anyone says “The Empire Strikes Back” was the best of the “Star Wars” movies, I generally respond, when I care enough to respond, “So how did you like the ending?”
When we went to see “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” in 2001, we knew we were going to see the first of a trilogy, based on a trilogy of books. That may be part of why it never interested me. I knew it would be continued. But at least it was based on a “To be continued” book.
“The Hobbit”? Based on a single book. But three movies. Because there's money in fragmentation.
We're not going to see movies anymore. We're going to see fragments of movies, fragments of narratives, that fit our fragmented times. Maybe we prefer it this way. Wholeness is so exhausting. Endings are so tyrannical. Fragments let us imagine any kind of escape from the narrative ... but hopefully an escape that leads us right back here, telling the same story, with a few variations. We want comfort and familiarity, with merely a chance of escape. We want to hear that story over again, Daddy.