The first Hobbit movie broke the Law of Fantasy

wizard-moths
The new Hobbit movie, the second in the trilogy called ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ is due out soon in London. I am a big Tolkien fan and I adored ‘The Lord of the Rings’, particularly the DVD version with its longer and more authentic cut. But I’m not looking forward to this second movie in the Hobbit trilogy. I did watch the first instalment in the trilogy last year, at the cinema, with popcorn, but something went badly wrong in that movie, something awful. They made an impossible fantasy movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect fantasy movies to be technically accurate. No one’s going to do ‘the science of Labyrinth’ any time soon, but what happens in a fantasy movie still has to be possible. A wizard can fly, okay, that’s fine. People can talk over hundreds of miles with a crystal ball, okay, no problem. Dwarves can spend centuries inside mountains and not look like cave fish, fine, I’ll believe it, their beards probably release melanin or maybe it’s all that iron but when Gandalf summoned those eagles by talking to a moth in that first Hobbit movie last year, they went too far!

I know where the film-makers got that whole ‘talk to a moth, summon an eagle’ idea. The wizard Gandalf summoned a giant eagle via some moth small-talk in the Lord of the Rings. That was perfectly okay. While imprisoned on the top of Orthanc, Gandalf talked to a moth who fluttered off. About two days later, a giant eagle turned up and carried him off before Saruman the White chucked him off Orthanc, or fried him, or possibly attached his head to a spindle and wove his white hair into a thick jumper before his very eyes; it’s not made clear what terrible fate was awaiting Gandalf. Whatever the impending peril was, I was happy with the scenario. Gandalf can talk ‘moth’. That seems reasonable for a wizard, although you have to wonder why he bothered learning it, as moths don’t lead exciting lives. What was even more beneficial for Gandalf that night was that the moth he grabbed could also talk ‘eagle’, or knew a giant eagle that talked ‘moth’, both of which seem very unlikely, as what would they talk about? Where’s the common ground? Anyway, to complete Gandalf’s stroke of luck, the moth he grabbed was sufficiently motivated to flutter over to a mountain and persuade a giant eagle to fly off and rescue him, rather than, say, leaving the bird alone and letting it eat a goat instead or maybe a shepherd.

All that is still possible, though incredibly unlikely. As long as it’s a fantasy movie and the acts are barely possible, I’m okay. No one wants to watch ‘Hawk the Slayer’, ‘Labyrinth’ and ‘Krull’ with a sceptical mind, otherwise all sorts of frustration and pain ensue. It’s bad enough with James Bond. I still smart at the scene in ‘Goldeneye’ when Bond somehow teleports from the train tunnel to a hundred yards down the track in one second, just to avoid an explosion. For goodness sake, he’s quick on his feet like Bruce Lee, not the Greek God Mercury!

But when Gandalf summoned the eagles in that scene in the first Hobbit movie, things went very badly wrong. The film-makers had crossed a boundary. Here’s the scene: the dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf are trapped in trees on the edge of a cliff, with ogres or goblins on the ground below. Gandalf saves the day by having another chat with a moth and then, only five minutes later, the lot of them are rescued by a veritable squad of giant eagles!

No! No way! You’ve gone to far! There is NO WAY that a moth could travel from those trees to the nearest mountains where the eagles hang out, or possibly to the tops of trees where they’re nesting! IT’S TOO FAR IN FIVE MINUTES FOR A MOTH!!

Someone might play Devil’s Advocate here and suggest that the party in peril got lucky and there was some kind of group eagle picnic going on around the next hill. Even if that were true, how on Earth did the moth know? How would a random moth know the social itinerary of the giant eagles of Middle Earth?? For Pity’s sake, what did Gandalf say to the moth; ‘Hi matey, forget your nectar gathering and flutter at two hundred and forty mile an hour to that crag in the Northwest, talk in eagle and persuade the entire set of top predators living there to fly here at a hundred and sixty mile an hour to rescue a dozen short miners and a man who’s never shaved?’ The moth might have thought Gandalf was Pollen on a Stick but that wouldn’t have diddly-squat difference. That moth didn’t need motivation, it needed a jet engine!

After that scene, the movie’s spell was broken for me, which is a disaster, especially in a fantasy saga. I sat in that cinema seat and watched rock giants fight and mountain goblins fall off shoddily built platforms with a sense of detachment, a wariness, a fear of being fooled with. I yearned for the gritty realism of ‘Hawk the Slayer’, with its focus on branding irons, various coloured smoke and the odd floating sword. The magic had gone, killed by a wizard. The irony was almost too hard to bear.

But, then again, maybe the second one will be better...