The Hobbit: An Unexpected Review

I don’t frequent midnight premiers; in fact the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was only my second time ever attending one. Of course, it is impossible to go into a movie based on a source text with which you are familiar in a completely objective manner, especially when someone who has already ventured into the cinematographic realm of Middle Earth directs the movie. I went in expecting greatness; the possibility that this movie could be anything other than epic did not for an instant cross my mind. I was a tad bit under-whelmed by the crowd outside the theater. I went in expecting droves of Istari-bearded individuals toting staffs and long stem pipes. To be sure there were a few, but for the most part I thought the crowd was dismal for a midnight premier, especially of the movie adaption of such a beloved and iconic book.

I hadn’t read the book the Hobbit since I was nine, and so a few of the details were a bit fuzzy in my mind. The opening sequences were beautifully rendered, the Dwarf realm under the mountain was jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and felt very reminiscent of the halls of Moria from the first Lord of the Rings film, had the darkened halls been shown in their full glory. The first forty-five minutes of the film, although it differed in some regards to the book, felt very Tolkien-esque, conveyed a distinctly Middle Earthian feel to it, and were spectacular. The unexpected party sequence at Bag End was delightful, and excited substantial amounts of anticipation for the rest of the movie.

However, this is where problems began to enter into the movie for me. The first problem, Radaghast the Brown. This character is mentioned in the book, but only in passing. I had no problem with the initial inclusion of the character, until he began to play out his role on screen. The nods to naturism were nice, but the sleigh drawn by rabbits? First of all, no rabbits can draw sleighs, and I don’t think there were any people in the theater who would have missed the unabashed allusion to Father Christmas. I was not amused; it wasn’t Tolkien. Not only was it not Tolkien, it was also so fantastic and outside the realm of plausibility that it was laughable, and not in a good way.

This continued to be a theme throughout the movie, and I began to understand the film as a Jekyll and Hyde type operation. When Jackson stuck to Tolkien, it was brilliant, but when it deviated into purely Jackson narrative, laced with over the top special effects, and skull numbing frame rates, the film plunged into a Hyde-like menace. I found myself holding my breath through these sequences, not from any sense of suspense or some kind of emotional attachment to what was taking place on screen, but merely holding out for the movie to get back to Tolkien. Jackson had no doubt attempted to distinguish this film from his previous trilogy as a standalone work, but in many ways, his digital rendering of the characters and locales made this film feel more like watching a restaging of the movie 300 in a Harry Potter world. Frankly, it felt wrong.

The special effects were stunning; I had never seen a movie with that level of effects. I had no problem with the use of effects, what I had a problem with was instead of relying on well crafted worlds and human-acting talent, this movie relied heavily on CGI crafted locales, characters, and ultimately, created a very video game feel, versus something believable, something in which the viewer would be invested. At first, I was slightly angered at what I felt was the cardinal sin in moviemaking: the overreliance on technology in the place of real, on screen talent. No doubt the people who worked on effects for this movie are highly talented people, but CGI characters, particularly villains, with no soul in them, end up feeling boring. An anecdote of this is the pale orc.

First off, he looked nothing like any orc we had seen before, which in a world with the scope of Middle Earth, is unforgiveable. One thing that made the Lord of the Rings such a triumph to watch is that each character had a sense that he had a life beyond the screen, and we were invited along to see only a small part of it. This new villain had no sense of that. He felt inserted into the already established narrative, as indeed he was. There was nothing in my mind while he was on screen except hoping he would go away, and not bother me any more.

I tried to root for this movie throughout my time watching it, and I really did try as much as I could to give it as much objectivity as was possible to lend. Overall, I would say that the movie was not un-enjoyable and by no means insufferable. It just wasn’t the film I was expecting. Perhaps An Unexpected Journey was a fitting moniker

Ethan Mullenax: A Muse For Every Stage

Music is a powerful medium; able to capture the spectrum of human emotion like nothing else that exists. Music is as old as man himself, and it exists in some form in every culture that inhabits the earth. There is much speculation as to what makes music so powerful. Some would say that it is the mind behind the music, referring to the creator of the music itself, and some would say that the power is, in contrast, inherent in the music itself. The question boils down to whether music has intrinsic value.

Ethan Mullenax, a piano major, has been on a journey of musical discovery, to the end of discovering whether he believes that music has objective value beyond the scope of just the music itself. According to Mullenax, he has some certainty that music must have intrinsic value, even though it can be difficult to measure at times, since listening to music can be quite a subjective endeavor.

Music is a passion of Mullenax’s that has been seeded within him from an early age of learning to play the violin, when “staying at home playing violin wasn’t the cool thing to do.” Thankfully for those who are familiar with Mullenax’s music, he stuck with it despite it not being the cool thing to do, and despite the frustration of those around him when he banged on his first electric guitar as a kid.

Those power chords and “loud obnoxious open chords,” which “should never be played on an electric guitar,” have come a long way from those days to the release of Mullenax’s first solo project album, “The Primary Stages.” The album has a lot of raw emotional power, dealing with the ebb and flow of love, admittedly in a somewhat childish fashion. Mullenax makes it clear that he is not championing this album as the ideal picture of love, but rather the album “tells a story,” of love through it’s various stages of anger, pain, giddy happiness, and all of the other emotions in between. In short, it is a muse for the stage of life that Mullenax was in when he wrote these songs.

They tell a story that is an emotional roller coaster, fun in places, in your face in others, and still in others sad and melancholy. Despite its 6 song length, the album plays like a much longer story, even though each song is crafted in such a way to be a story in and of itself. While the songs could very well stand on their own, it should definitely be listened to from start to finish. The songs are not in chronological order in terms of when they were written, but it is a logical progression.

Mullenax invites you along to explore the stages of love, in this case the primary stages. His album is available for free download on Noisetrade. You can find a link to this on Mullenax’s blog at Don’t merely listen to the music, because listening can be a passive experience, and there is so much behind the music. It is a muse for every stage of life; be it wisdom or folly, it is a journey, as life is a journey.

What I Didn’t Know about Being in a Relationship

Being in love, in a relationship that honors God, is one of the greatest things a person can encounter in his or her short life this side of heaven. Admittedly, I wake up a little happier in the morning, as if something miraculous is waiting for me. There’s more pep in my step. The growth I have seen in my walk with the Lord has been incredible, as I have learned more about His character, and how to trust Him more wholly and deeply. But at one time, I was single.  And now, even as I am engaged, I wonder why there is so much anxiety among single people regarding their love lives.

We all know people who trade significant others every time they get an oil change or buy new shampoo,  the people who seem to think their lives would be complete if they could just find… the one. I have known some people to mope around their lives simply because they are single. And honestly, being at a college that is known for its “ring by spring” mentality doesn’t make that any easier, but the problem isn’t just taking place here. Its taking place in churches and schools and social groups everywhere. Its the idea that you are less of a person without a significant other.

I had a roommate once who was adamantly against dating, and for the life of me, I could never understand why she would limit herself, why she would insist on keeping what could be fun and healthy relationships at arm’s length. This is not an article about the benefits of kissing dating goodbye, or adopting the idea of a perfect courtship. Its not about playing the field to find just the right person for you. Honestly, I can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, because it can vary from person to person. What I can tell you is what I wish I knew as a single person, and that I strongly believe that relationships should be treated with intention and a keen sense of reverence.

I went on dates, but never really seriously dated anyone in high school, and the only person I ever dated in college is now my fiancee. That being said, I wasted a lot of time chasing relationships — maybe not because of social pressure, but because I really did desire intimacy, and I assumed that dating was the only way to have it.

Now that I am in a committed relationship, I see the error in those thought patterns. I see so many of my peers hurting because they have bought into that lie that they are less if they are single. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with dating, but there’s a lot that goes into a relationship that I was unaware of before.

Here are some things I wish I knew back then:

1. Being in a relationship is hard work. Perhaps the problem with these revolving door relationships is that they lack perspective and purpose. We were created to be in relationships, not for our own happiness, but so that we can take on the image of Love itself. And believe me, there are definitely days when I don’t want to be all of those things that 1 Corinthians 13 says love is. I often have to ask for forgiveness, and offer it, when things go awry. I’m in prayer daily, asking God to help us communicate better, to strengthen us as we protect our purity, to give us patience when we’re frustrated.

2. Being single is just as much a gift as the longed for relationship. There is so much satisfaction in finding who you are as a single person. And believe it or not, there are just as many awesome opportunities for single people as there are for people who are in relationships. If you are single, take this time to celebrate yourself. Try new things, go new places. Don’t overthink things with the opposite sex or about yourself. Spend time with mixed company, free from the pressure to impress anyone. Also, spend time with people of your own gender who have qualities that you aspire to have in your own life or walk with God. Don’t limit yourself or waste what time you have now wishing for things to be different.

3. Being in a relationship doesn’t fix everything. You will still get pimples and have bad hair days. There will still be times when you may feel lonely or depressed. Being in a relationship is great, but only Christ can truly give life meaning and purpose. Finding your identity in him should always reign supreme to finding it in other people.

4. There is no formula for finding someone. Your husband or wife could end up being your roommate’s cousin’s best friend. He or she could be a friend from high school that you have totally lost touch with at this point. There is no way to tell when God will bring that person into your life. In the meantime, work on figuring out what it means to be someone who is worthy of that person’s affection.

5. Your husband or wife is totally worth the wait. Yes, being in a relationship is hard work. No, it doesn’t fix everything you view as being wrong in your life. But when God does choose to bring that person into your life, it is nothing short of amazing. You will see yourself assuming more and more the attributes of Christ as you seek to honor him first within that relationship. There’s nothing quite like the rewarding feeling you get from growing together with your best friend. And its so great to not have to take a lot of baggage from previous relationships into this. So for the sake of your husband or wife, take your time. Also, you are worth your husband or wife’s wait.

Do you have other advice about singleness or dating? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below, or email us at

Finding God in our Friendships

There are many ways God reaches down to us and teaches us how much He loves His children, but one of the best examples he shows is through his friendship with us and our friendships with others. What makes it evident is based on experience. God showed His love for me is through the love that few of my friends had that I had not experienced truly until that day when I went to go snowboarding for the first time.

It was on a Saturday and we had a few friends that went skiing and snowboarding up in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. This was for sure my first time snowboarding and it was a scary experience. I was practicing in the bunny slope so I could get better at it until my group of friends pushed me to come up with them to the bigger hill. I did not want to go up there because I feared that I would be seriously injured. I did not want to come out with an injury and still have to possibly drive my car because I was one of the drivers at the trip.

They convinced me to go up the first time and it was a scary experience. There were a few times I would wipeout and struggled to get back up due to how steep the hill was and my board would automatically want to slide down before I could get to standing up fully. My friends helped keep my snowboard in place until I was ready so I could stand up straight again.

After the first time going down, I really did not want to go again. My two friends, once again, convinced me to go up and try again for a second time. This time, when I went down, I had a whole different experience. I probably fell down more than I did the first time. I was scared as can be and even though I was continuously falling, my friends would continue to help me get up and stayed with me on my way down. They never went ahead of me or left me there to do it myself. They were always helping me and never pushed me to go if I really did not want to go. They knew I could do it even though I doubted myself.

After going down the second time, I was hit with emotion and had tears running down from my eyes. It was not because I was hurt nor from me being upset. It was an unexplainable emotion of joy. The realization that two friends of mine went far and beyond to help me and were by my side the whole way was what really got to me. Reason why is because I never had anyone do that for me and they showed the great love that Christ calls us to give to others. It reminds me of John 15:13 which state this: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This is a verse I always have a passion to live by for the friends that I have. I got a complete new concept of it after all I experienced over the weekend snowboarding.

This is also in relation to how God’s love is for us. Jesus calls us his friends and went as far as dying for us on a cross. The verse before verse thirteen tells us to “love one another as I have loved you.” If Christ loved us that much, laying His life down for us, we should be just as able to do the same for our friends and fellow believers in Christ. I pray and hope this testimony and devotion speaks thorough many who read it. It was the greatest experience in my life and not only did it make my friendship with them stronger, it also made me stronger in my relationship with God.


Student Missions Fellowship

If you haven’t heard of the Student Missions Fellowship (aka SMF), you’ve missed excellent opportunities to learn about what God is doing throughout the world with our own TFC students. I have attended meetings for SMF semi -consistently over the past few semesters, only to be blown away by the fact that reaching across cultures to other people in order to bear witness to the truth is actually a “doable” and realistic thing that actually does result in disciples of Christ—(yeah, a late and overdue realization, I know). The reason this realization came to me is that every week, SMF meets in order to have a speaking student intern (usually) give testimony to their overseas mission trips in which they spend a large part of their summer overseas in order to work with schools, orphanages, churches, families, etc., loving people and spreading the gospel where possible. These testimonies have opened my eyes to the fact that my experience of the world is very limited and ignorant (as if a philosophy major wasn’t enough).  As a result of my experience at SMF, I am excited to seize opportunities to participate in missionary work whenever I reasonably can during my life.

Alba Garrigo, the Vice President of SMF, was kind enough to answer a few questions I had, so I’m going to include some important information about SMF for those of you who want to know more. According to Garrigo, SMF is a club that has been around for over a hundred years at TFC. The purpose of SMF is to connect TFC students with what God is doing around the globe through weekly meetings, intern training,  praise and worship (which is sometimes in other languages, I might add), and inspiration from the intern testimonies.  Garrigo told me that SMF’s history at TFC has included sending student interns to basically every country for missions work, including countries with closed access (where missionaries aren’t exactly welcome, to say the least).

So, if you’re interested, you probably want to know how to get involved. Garrigo informed me of multiple ways that students can become involved in SMF: First, the club hosts weekly meetings every Wednesday night from 6:30 to 7:30 at the Woerner Missions Building. There is worship, prayer for missionaries and non-believers in foreign countries, and then a speaker (usually an intern testimony).  You should come. Second, SMF has a variety of leadership positions for students who want to be involved, such as President, Vice president, Treasurer, Worship Band Leader, and things of the sort. Third, you can become a student intern with SMF by having served at least six weeks overseas or by having plans to. Interns receive training sessions for their mission work plans that include education in fund-raising, languages, passport/visa work, spiritual warfare, teamwork, and other important topics.

Lastly, if you ever want to know what SMF is up to on Wednesdays, there are posters in the Woerner Missions Building and the Student center that will let you know which country is being represented by the weekly speaker. Come check it out!