The Hobbit: More Restrictions on Art!
As everyone knows, the director's cut of a film is never anywhere near as good as the cut released to theaters. You may think you know of an exception, but you're in error. No shame; we all make mistakes. In some cases — Blade Runner comes to mind — the director's cut can actually turn a great film into a crashing, solipsistic bore.
And this is not really surprising. Restrictions on art — whether it's the rigors of the sonnet form or some idiot studio executive screaming, "Make it shorter or you're fired!" — force artists to use all their skill to say what they can in the space and manner provided. There is a reason no one reads new poetry; a reason paintings, which once served to express the deepest levels of the human experience, can now do little more than decorate bank lobbies. No restrictions. Poems are free form; paintings are abstract. And they suck. Restrictions make artists better, more resourceful, more clever, more artistic. Without them, art becomes free — and dull and meaningless.
Which brings me to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. When director Peter Jackson made the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I understand the studio forbid him to go over three hours on any one of the three films. The result is a nine hour masterpiece. Unfortunately the success of that film seems to have made Jackson more or less untouchable. Now every movie he makes is essentially a director's cut. And they've suffered for it. Everybody hates Jackson's King Kong, but watch it again: King Kong would be a terrific movie about manhood and femininity — if you cut twenty seconds to a minute out of every single scene... and then cut some of the scenes.
As for The Hobbit — well, the first seven hours are a little slow, but it picks up in the final third. I mean, really, it's one book, make one film. Use some skill, make some choices. Be an artist.
That said, the picture, though endless, looks lovely. The final hour really is exciting. And Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo, is so incredibly good he almost kept me awake through the opening hours. Or days. Or whatever.
Now what they should do is release "The Studio Cut." Let some executives into the editing room to pare the thing down to the entertaining bits. One hour long and brilliant. Can't wait.
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