Thursday, October 9, 2014

Luke Skywalker & the Dark Side? Newest Images From The Hobbit 3

You might want to skip down to The Hobbit: the Battle Of the Five Armies if you do not want any potential spoilers; there is a good reason to sift through all this dirt in hopes of finding a gem: it reminds us that what we see in the final version was the choice of the film makers, they could have done it other ways, they could have included other shots and other scenes, so, when we finally get to the theater, and we are sitting with the popcorn and drink (or, in my case, the notebook and pen) we know that what we see was the final choice out of so many dozens of possibilities because we heard about those possibilities and discussed them. Again, this may contain a major spoiler, so if you don't want to know, skip down to the new poster of Bilbo Baggins standing with his sword facing the audience.
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All these new images from The Hobbit 3 are actually quite daring and highly impressive. The Battle Of the Five Armies will be released mid-December, so we still have a while before the second trailer drops, but just these images are quite informative. Compare this close-up of Gandalf with the back shots of Katniss in Mockingjay and Gray in 50 Shades Of Grey, or Brad Pitt and World War Z: this is quite intimate. dirt and age are all over his face, along with small white circles of blurriness that must be snow flakes. Never has Gandalf looked so "grizzled," and the events of the The Hobbit 3 validate this. There are three distinguishing features of this poster I would like for us to quickly analyze: the closeness, Gandalf's eyes and the snow. First, how often do you get this close to someone outside of your immediate family? We see every wrinkle, dirt-filled pore and strand of hair in this poster; why are we getting so close to him? It's a good question because, with two other images of Bilbo, the one just below with Thorin and the new Bilbo poster, we have Bilbo looking directly at us, but from a distance, we are not allowed to get too close to Bilbo, so why are we brought into the immediate presence of Gandalf? This might lead us to the second problem, where his eyes are looking: to the side. Gandalf probably isn't even aware of how close we are to him because he's looking at something or someone off to the side, and that is more important to him then we are in his immediate space. That leads us to the question of the snow. The snow is the opposite of the fire Smaug brings to Lake Town, which is where the film left-off. Is it ash, rather than snow that we see? That seems far more probable. When we left Gandalf, however, he was in the cage at Dol Guldur, watching Azog the Defiler march off with his legion to the Lonely Mountain, where an unsuspecting Thorin and Bilbo are busy battling Smaug. If we see the ash falling from Smaug's attack on Lake Town, then Gandalf must have been able to escape fairly quickly to return in time to see the fresh destruction. We might even venture that the dark spots on Gandalf's face are from the soot of Smaug's destruction. The worried gaze, then, is probably the watchful look of one expecting the next onslaught from the army of orcs. Let's not be mistaken though, this is a very different kind of poster than what we have seen, and I think it's because we are going to be treated to a very different kind of story the "defining" chapter for all the characters and events.
Well, the latest rumors on the internet regarding Star Wars VII is that the villain is Luke Skywalker himself.  This isn't so far-fetched: he would, after all, be following in his father's footsteps regarding one of the Skywalkers going rogue. So, the question is, what would be the "cultural" benefits of Luke being an enemy of the very galaxy that he once tried to save, and now wants to destroy? Surprisingly, there is a good repercussion for that.
The official synopsis, just released is: "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies brings to an epic conclusion the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and the Company of Dwarfs. Having reclaimed their homeland from the Dragon Smaug, the Company has unwittingly unleashed a deadly force into the world. Enraged, Smaug rains his fiery wrath down upon the defenseless men, women and children of Lake-town. Obsessed above all else with his reclaimed treasure, Thorin sacrifices friendship and honor to hoard it as Bilbo’s frantic attempts to make him see reason drive the Hobbit towards a desperate and dangerous choice. But there are even greater dangers ahead. Unseen by any but the Wizard Gandalf, the great enemy Sauron has sent forth legions of Orcs in a stealth attack upon the Lonely Mountain. As darkness converges on their escalating conflict, the races of Dwarves, Elves and Men must decide – unite or be destroyed. Bilbo finds himself fighting for his life and the lives of his friends in the epic Battle of the Five Armies, as the future of Middle-earth hangs in the balance." This poster isn't actually a poster, but a part of a larger banner, so the tree and outside scene on the right edge of the image belong to a different setting. Thorin sits upon his hard-won throne, looking down as if in a state of contemplation over what he has done. The green hues of the scene make us think that either this is a scene of hope, or something is rotting. That Bilbo doesn't go near Thorin suggests that something is indeed rotting, like Thorin's heart, easily becoming corrupted with the riches of his new kingdom, just as Smaug predicted. Bilbo looks at us helplessly, his sword lowered and his innocent expression not able to understand what is happening to Thorin. Again, this is another rather dramatic break with how posters have looked for the past two years: Bilbo looks directly at us (he's even turned to look at us, as opposed to just facing straight and staring into a void). Why? We are a part of the Company of Dwarfs who have journeyed with them and faced evil, fear, hunger and discomfort with them, and so Bilbo looks to us as if to say, "What is this that has happened to our leader?"  Bilbo, in his full-length blue robe is the model of wisdom (blue symbolizes wisdom and depression), so even though Bilbo has a difficult choice he must face (he certainly had the Arkenstone, he would not have left the vault without it) we can be assured that he will make the best possible choice because of the wisdom he has gained through all he has suffered, unlike Thorin who has not. 
It would kind of be like a minority being elected president of a country that he then sought to destroy, in spite of that country having put that man in the country's highest office. Given that Darth Vader also joined the Dark Side, to prevent his wife from dying, but she died anyway, we might look for some such motivation on Luke's behalf; we know, for example, that Luke did marry and they had one son; I don't know if that is going to be the platform or not, but the more interesting aspect for me is Luke's cybernetic hand.
These two beautiful shots juxtapose the epic scale and conflict of the battle. It's not certain that Bard (Luke Evans, bottom) is in charge of the Elven army in front of him, but we know Sauron has put Azog (top) in control of the orcs. What's the conflict, exactly? Notice, if you will, that in the top picture, they are in a state of nature, whereas, in the bottom picture, they are in a building (perhaps even a temple area) and there is lots of gold, but the orcs in the top picture have only leather and animal skins. We could say that the conflict is a clash between the animal passions within us (the orcs, who are untamed and uncivilized) and our higher good and being (which is represented by the"mystical" elves and Bard, who slays the dragon, the greatest enemy of humankind). These two images convey to us what we have been seeing in posters as of late, namely, the back of the central character turned to the audience. In these two images, it may be applied to force us into a decision: which side are we joining? Which side are we on? This is not so far-fetched, given that, at a Comi-Con event, footage was shown of Gandalf telling someone that the time had come for all "to choose a side," and perfectly executed shots such as these make us choose which side we shall be on, too. Does this seem over-dramatic? No, because whether we accept it or not, each and everyone of us is fighting a great battle, of life and death, for eternity. those who are fighting are winning by the very fact that they are fighting, whereas those who are not fighting are losing by the very fact that they are not fighting. Given how The Hobbit (Tolkien's book) is structured and organized, this is no great leap of the imagination.
The hand, which he lost to his father in a light saber battle, is also the characteristic most like his father; we have it on pretty good authority--but not absolutely--that the film opens with Luke's cybernetic hand falling to a planet where it is found and a young person attempts to return it to him. Now, if Luke has lost the hand, and he turns out to be the villain, then it could be constructed as one of two ways: out of sight, out of mind; that is, having lost that "in-human" part of himself, Luke becomes completely inhuman like his father because the line between human/in-human has become so blurry, he can't consciously see it anymore. The other possibility is the exact opposite: Luke got a cybernetic hand at a time in his life when he was most vulnerable to joining the Dark Side, but now that he has become a true Jedi master, and he is so good, he doesn't need his hand anymore because he has grown so powerful. So, what are the cause of the rumors?
The Wizards. Elrond, in the central background, and Saruman in the background, who, we know, is or will unite with Sauron. Galadriel reaches towards Gandalf in the foreground; why? Those are probably the only two who have the strength and will to fight against Sauron. What is interesting is, that up until this point, Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) has been held in higher esteem than Gandalf, having more power and greater prestige. In this image, we seen Gandalf--granted, he is down--but at the top of a three-tiered step, definitely below Galadriel; why? Maybe in facing the evil by himself, he has advanced more, I don't know what the book will do at this point, or what the film makers will choose to do, but it will be a theme that we will have to explore when the film is released.
J.J. Abrams' crew was seen filming and pre-filming at Skellig Michael, Ireland. Well, that's not much to go off of. Supposedly, there was footage taken with an iPhone, posted on YouTube, then yanked (yes, we all know the sequence of "leaking") and it showed someone with a full beard kneeling inside a stone hut with a figure standing guard outside who cast a shadow. Uh, okay. It appears the comic fans and gurus may have made more out of this than is actually possible, however, and this is a big "however," it does make us consider this possibility which is still possible.
This is interesting indeed. In the posters for Mockingjay Part 1, we didn't see any of the characters pointing their weapons at the audience, did we? There are only two reasons why Bilbo would be pointing "Sting" at us: first, because we were threatening to take the Ring from him, as he killed the giant, albino crab-like creature in The Desolation of Smaug when the others were fighting the spiders, or, two, because we were threatening his life (it doesn't seem likely that Bilbo would hold someone at sword-point to force them to do something, this may be the case, however, Bilbo has grown to wise for that, and if someone has to be forced to do something, it's better to find someone else to do it). This isn't the most inviting posture, is it? Why on earth have a poster where the main character appears to be holding the audience at knife-point? Maybe, as Gandalf said, Bilbo's "not the same hobbit who left the Shire" and this posture reveals the warrior-hobbit who has grown and evolved over the course of the year-long journey and adventures. Bilbo isn't just a hobbit, he is one of the very few who survive. Then again, we could be seeing something altogether different, for example, this doesn't even happen in the film. If you will recall, when Gandalf met with Galadriel at Rivendell, Galadriel asked Gandalf, "Why the halfling?" and Gandalf responded that Saruman thought only a great power could hold off great evil, but Gandalf felt that wasn't true, that it was the little things that hold off evil, and Bilbo gives him courage. Bilbo, then, might be holding off the evil, and not in the form of us, the audience, but--like Gandalf--we are meant to be inspired by the halfling's courage and bravery, that even though he is only a hobbit, he is holding off all this evil by himself, as when he stepped in-between Azog and Thorin when they had been run up the trees. 
On a last note, I am going to see Dracula Untold Friday, and then The Judge on like Sunday. There is an interesting aspect of the Dracula Untold narrative that has come to light: Dracula makes the deal with the "master vampire" that, he will be given strength and speed for three days to defeat his enemy and, in that time, if he can manage to not drink the blood of a human, he will return to normal; if he gives into temptation, he will become a monster for eternity. There is a planned sequel, and even more confirmations that Universal Studios are re-making all their classic monster films. I am seeing it Friday afternoon and I will post here what my initial reaction to the film is; if you are going to see it tomorrow, be looking for references to Caligula, the Roman Emperor, and the film 300.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner