What happened to the chubby, jolly Jackson from ten years ago? He looks on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His hair seems to have gone grey in a very short space of time. It must be dizzying--his last film was a failure both commercially and critically, and now he's in the middle of this mess. He seems to be slipping from his Next Spielberg status to Flash in the Pan, at least to the Eye of the Studio Sauron.
But I like the looks of the cast so far. Martin Freeman seems like an ideal Bilbo Baggins, though I'd have pegged Aidan Turner as more of an elf than a dwarf. He is appropriately hairy, though.
And I have to say I'm very glad legal and bureaucratic machinations inevitably forced out Guillermo del Toro. I think del Toro could've made perfectly fine Hobbit movies--he'd have been less compelled to tamper with it the way he did Hellboy 2 by inserting lame sitcom family drama and violence that lacked any sense of impact. It wouldn't be as daring and not as good a del Toro style film as Pan's Labyrinth, but it would've been decently shot. Jackson, though, is better at making fantasy violence and suspense meaningful without inserting explicitly adult subject matter. Del Toro can either do cartoon or horror, Jackson has a talent for bringing to life something in between.
I took a break from The Satanic Verses for a couple days to read "The Contract" by Margaret Cavendish. As I said to Marty last week, The Satanic Verses feels often like it's holding me at arm's length because its characters tend to be more concept than character, which I find tedious. The underlying thematic structure of "The Contract", written in the seventeenth century, is composed of some of the prominent social ideas of the time, and as the characters are almost never referred to by name, and the tension in the story comes from a sort of loophole in the fabric of tradition, the story feels almost more like a hypothetical case in a text book. And yet, character seems to come out almost by accident, as the protagonist, Lady Deletia, interacts with the constricting obstacles of her world. The importance and nature of virtue is impressed upon her through a rigorous education, but she finds herself having to negotiate with respecting her uncle's feelings as he almost unconsciously tries to force her to marry a Viceroy. Meanwhile, she's fallen in love with a Duke she was betrothed to marry before he skipped out on the contract only to fall for her when meeting her after she's come of age. The drama here is teased out of paradoxes inherent in the contemporary sense of propriety. The story feels like it's in the DNA of Jane Austen novels.