The close proximity of this post to my last one reminds one of the proverbial London bus: you wait a long time for one, then two come at once. You’ll be glad to know that you don’t need an Oyster card to read this. The topic may seem rather trivial to those who have read my previous posts; well, it is, at least on the surface. These aren’t traditional film reviews: rather, it is an exposition of some of the general issues surrounding the two films I’ve watched recently.
The first is the recently released Bollywood film PK. The plot centres around an alien named PK (meaning ‘tipsy’ here), played by Aamir Khan, who has arrived on Earth for research, has lost his remote which will allow him to return to his own planet, and eventually turns to God for help. Rather like 3 Idiots, another film starring Aamir Khan and with the same directors as PK, it is full of humour and tries to impart a message. The message itself is that religious leaders such as gurus are dialling ‘Wrong Numbers’; PK cannot believe that any benevolent God would bring the suffering he has seen upon His children, so takes the view that the gurus are being misled by a ‘false God’. Philosophically, this is an interesting message: it opens up the idea of misguided faith.
Beyond that, I have big problems with this film, foremost amongst which is this: the vast majority of this ‘Wrong Numbering’ seems to centre around Hinduism. Are we therefore to believe that Hinduism is the only religion that suffers from this problem? I’m certainly not prepared to believe that. We must ask why the spotlight has fallen on Hinduism in this film. Clearly, the directors are trying to make some sort of point here; whatever it is, it hasn’t worked in my opinion, because this film comes across more as Hindu bashing than an attempt to convey an important message, with the comedy making the whole thing sit much more nicely on the palate. To make matters worse, there is a scene in which PK chases a young man dressed as Lord Shiva in preparation for a didactic play in a festival around Delhi. This is obviously supposed to be pure comedy. But ask yourselves this: where is the humour in seeing the image of a god chased around like a misbehaving schoolboy? I’m not an avid watcher of films, either Hollywood or Bollywood or other types, but even I’m sure that this sort of thing does not crop up regularly.
Overall, I’m definitely in the #BoycottPK camp. The sentiment of the directors and Aamir Khan himself may be noble, but the execution has been so poor that the message shouldn’t really be broadcast. Films can have great influence on people, and the way in which Hinduism is put down in this film cannot be allowed to influence the general conception of Hinduism across the world.
I can now move onto a less problematic film, but still one that irritates me a little: the last ever film to be set in Middle-earth (to our knowledge, anyway): The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. This is the final part of The Hobbit trilogy, centred around the battle for the control of the Lonely Mountain between dwarves, elves, computer-generated Orcs, and the people of Lake-town, which at the start of the film is razed by the dragon Smaug. As a film, Battle of the Five Armies is fantastic: it’s a brilliant way of ending the trilogy, it involves some fantastic scenery, and the musical score is as always with Howard Shore, first-rate.
In my opinion, the major weakness of this film is in how the material from Tolkein’s The Hobbit is rendered. There are very few quotes from the book, as far as I can tell. The romance between the dwarf Kili and Silvan elf Tauriel was generated by Peter Jackson to increase female representation in an otherwise male-dominated cast. I don’t have a problem with that at all: it makes the film more emotional, so is definitely an improvement. The side-effect of this is what concerns me: I worry about the fact that very many people watching the film have no idea that Tauriel does not exist in Tolkein’s world, that Azog is not alive at the time of the battle, that Alfrid is not mentioned by name in Tolkein’s great work.
Increasingly, as more and more film adaptations of books are released, I feel as if the books are becoming ignored. Why read a book when you can watch a film in a shorter amount of time? Personally, I find books much more interesting: films put a lot of things on a plate for you, whereas reading a book stretches the imagination and provides for greater mental interaction with the characters. Reading from an early age also has its academic benefits, since reading material that is far more dense than fiction doesn’t become a chore. As Tolkein’s elves drift away in Lord of the Rings, I feel as if the same is happening with children and reading books as the lure of services such as Netflix and LoveFilm increases. That would indeed be a travesty.