Tag Archives: middle earth

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Review

30 Dec

Well, this is it, ladies and gentlemen. Since 2001, I’ve enjoyed taking my theatrical trips to Middle Earth and seeing some of the most amazing fantasy adventures ever brought to life onscreen. That may seem cheesy, but it’s true. Now we have the last film of the entire saga of Middle Earth, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. This is the big one. This is what everything in the last two movies has been leading up to, and this is also the bridge that takes us into the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so this movie has some pretty big boots to fill, Hobbit feet sizes to be exact.

The-Hobbit-Battle-of-the-Five-Armies-poster-9-691x1024

Picking up right where The Desolation of Smaug left off, the movie begins with the evil dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) attacking Lake-town, but upon his defeat the kingdom under the mountain, Erebor, and all of its riches are up for grabs. Thorin (Richard Armitage) claims it, and commands the dwarves and Bilbo (Martin Freeman) to obsessively search for the Arkenstone that he and Smaug so coveted. Meanwhile, Bard (Luke Evans) and the elf king Thranduil (Lee Pace) begins moving on Erebor to get their share of the treasure, while Azog (Manu Bennet) and his army of goblins, orcs, and trolls get ever closer to attacking the mountain, themselves, and ending Thorin’s bloodline once and for all.

What’s great about the title of this movie is that it really is one of the more accurate titles to a movie I’ve ever seen. It’s called The Battle of the Five Armies, and that’s pretty much exactly what the movie is: one enormous battle. You can kind of see similarities with The Return of the King, that movie also pretty much being one huge battle, but that one did it far better. There are a lot of small problems that find their way into The Battle of the Five Armies that don’t quite ruin the experience, but they really stand out when I think about the movie. Still, this is a superb fantasy film that was a satisfying last trip into Middle Earth.

The-Hobbit-The-Battle-of-The-Five-Armies

 

Here’s the thing. This movie is almost non stop and at times, that began to wear on me. At a point it is just a battle with scene after scene after scene of fighting. Now, don’t get me wrong, this movie is epic and the battle scenes are great, but there seems to be so much going on that the special effects go completely haywire. There’s one character in particular who looks like Jackson grabbed him from The Polar Express, put dwarf armor on him and just threw him into the movie. It was distracting as all hell and pulled me out of the movie on more than one occasion. Another issue is that this movie feels like a log flume with no splash. The entire movie, hell the entire trilogy, is building up to that big splash at the end, and it just isn’t as impactful as it should have been. Now, I’m sick of being negative here. Let’s look at the positives.

As always, everyone in this movie is great. Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage (playing an almost Shakespearean character), and Benedict Cumberbatch all knock it out of the park. They’re characters we love, or characters we love to hate so it’s always a blast seeing them all again. I said before that the fighting started to wear on me, sure, but it is an epic battle nonetheless. Seeing dwarves and elves working together against orcs is just breathtaking to see, but add a hobbit with a ring of power and a wizard with amazing abilities, and it all equals exactly what I want to see when the lights in the theater go down and I’m transported to Middle Earth.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies may not be the best in the entire saga, but after some thought, I think it might be my favorite of the Hobbit trilogy, with The Desolation of Smaug giving it a run for its money. Hell, they might even be tied. There are flaws with the special effects, a boring love triangle, and some odd pacing (and I don’t mean Lee Pace and his elk), but that’s not to say that this isn’t a great experience. To see how these movies and the Lord of the Rings movies come together and all of the battles that went on before the real Battle for Middle Earth began is just awesome. These movies, this one included, will never be as recognized or appreciated as Jackson’s previous Middle Earth films, but this is still a really great movie, nonetheless.

Advertisements

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Review

30 Dec

Last year, I was thrilled beyond belief to return to Middle Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Upon leaving the theater, I was pleased with the film, but was kind of disappointed with some of the pacing issues. It felt way too long and dragged in too many scenes. The Desolation of Smaug, however, is a huge improvement over its predecessor and is packed to the brim with excitement, action, adventure, and a dragon that will go down as one of the best villains in the history of cinema.

The-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-Smaug-Advance-Theatrical-Poster-Courtesy-of-New-Line-Cinema

Picking up directly after the events of An Unexpected Journey, Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Thorin (Richard Armitage), and the brave band of dwarves are being chased by a group of orcs led by Azog (Manu Bennett). Sensing a dark trouble, Gandalf separates from the group and moves to investigate Dol Guldor which may house the evil spirit of the Necromancer (Benedict Cumberbatch). Meanwhile, the dwarves encounter the Elves of Mirkwood, two of them being Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), both of whom begin hunting the orcs who are hunting the dwarves. Finally reaching the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo and the dwarves meet Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch again!) the dragon who has been sleeping on an immense pile of gold for many years, and the fight is on to kill Smaug and win back the kingdom of Erebor.

So much happens in this movie, it’s almost ridiculous. This film is dense with characters, action set pieces, battle sequences, villains, returning characters, references to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, etc., etc. This makes for a lot of awesome moments in The Desolation of Smaug, but it also is the cause of a run time that made me fidget a lot more than it should. I remember when I saw Return of the King when it first came out. I was still in grade school when I saw it, which is hard enough to believe, but I also never got fidgety. That’s because that movie, for as long as it was, was covering the content of an entire book. The Desolation of Smaug is covering about five chapters. I never read Tolkien’s book, but I know that a lot was added in, and despite all of the awesome adventure, there are a lot of really boring scenes that didn’t need to exist, thereby trimming the movie down a great deal.

desolation-of-smaug-dragon

 

And that is where the problems with The Desolation of Smaug end. The rest is an outstanding adventure through Middle Earth that Peter Jackson has brought to life in such vivid detail. Jackson and his entire team have brought a fantasy world to life in a way that no one has ever done before. Mirkwood Forest, Erebor, and Lake-Town all have very distinct personalities and are a marvel to look at with so much happening on screen at one time. Even the all of the Middle Earth creatures look fantastic. The CGI created orcs, wargs, and, of course, Smaug look better than ever. Still though, Smaug steals the show in this department as well. He is huge and moves like you would expect a psychotic dragon to. Cumberbatch studied the movements of different kinds of lizards in order to perform the motion capture as well as he can.

As if just being in Middle Earth again wasn’t enough, seeing Bilbo and the rest of them all again feels like a great, big reunion. We’ve come to care about these characters, especially the ones that we already know from the Lord of the Rings. Jackson couldn’t have found a better young Bilbo Baggins than Martin Freeman, but I think I said that in my review for An Unexpected Journey. Ian McKellen and Richard Armitage play their roles great as always, and I was surprised with how much I enjoyed Lee Pace’s performance, even though he wasn’t in the movie all that much. My two favorite characters, however, were Smaug (obviously) and Legolas! Orlando Bloom is back again and even though he’s pretty shoehorned into the movie, he provided some of the coolest parts of the movie that made the whole auditorium give “oohs” and “ahs” of appreciation.

The-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-Smaug-t1

 

I feel like The Hobbit movies are never going to live up to the excellence of the Lord of the Rings, but The Desolation of Smaug sure has come close. I stick by my opinion that these films might have worked better if there were only two of them. The fact that this is meant to be a trilogy based off of a book that really isn’t all that long makes for some really bad pacing problems that hurt this movie in ways that I wish didn’t. Still, despite some fidgeting, The Desolation of Smaug is a major improvement over An Unexpected Journey, complete with an ending that robbed me of any breath and makes me demand a quick 2014 so I can return to the theater once again for the final installment of this trilogy.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Review

31 Dec

J.R.R. Tolkien has created a world unlike anything anyone has seen when he wrote The Hobbit and the follow up trilogy, Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson finally brought the trilogy to life in 2001, but there’s more to the story than was shown. Now, Jackson returns to Middle Earth with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first film of a new trilogy.

The_Hobbit-_An_Unexpected_Journey

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is a hobbit who loves his books, his garden, good food, and peace. Adventure comes looking for Bilbo in the form of the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen). Gandalf recruits Bilbo to join in an adventure with a group of dwarves, led by Thorin (Richard Armitage), to travel to the Lonely Mountain and retake the dwarves’ lost kingdom of Erebor from the dragon, Smaug. Along the way they encounter other wizards, trolls, orcs, elves, goblins, and a very familiar ring.

When I first heard that The Hobbit was going to be three movies, I wasn’t too thrilled to hear it. I automatically assumed that it was all a cash grab and that the movie was going to be so strung out and thin that it was going to be not as enjoyable. In the beginning of the movie, I believed my suspicions to be true because it took so long for the story to get started. I really enjoyed the scenes with Bilbo trying to stop the dwarves from destroying his house, but I also ready for the actual adventure to start. As the movie progressed, however, I realized that there is so much to tell in this story that three movies actually seems appropriate. Once the adventure got started, I was completely sucked in.

reg_1024.hobbit.king.ls.121212

Middle Earth and its various creatures look better than they ever have. Every effect is detailed to what seems like the point of obsession. This makes the experience of seeing this movie so much better than it could have been if time and effort weren’t spent making these creatures look the way they do. Gollum, played by Andy Serkis, has the best scene of the movie where he engages in a battle of wits with Bilbo. His facial expressions and movement look as clean as ever. A lot of tho might have to with the movie being shot in 48 fps. I did notice the difference between the typical 24 fps and the quicker 48. There are scenes that are so crisp, I couldn’t help but notice. Some people are complaining about this, but I was quite pleased.

The tie in with the Lord of the Rings made me giddy. I loved seeing Elrond, Galadriel, and even Saruman interact with these characters 60 years before the events of the trilogy I have grown so familiar with. I loved putting the connections together and thinking about their characters now as opposed to how they are in the other films. There was a lot more references and cameos than I thought there was going to be, and I really appreciated all of the actors getting back together to travel once again to Middle Earth (or New Zealand).

The-Hobbit-Gollum

To me, it’s too early to compare The Hobbit with Lord of the Rings because one is a trilogy and the other just has one film out. I will say that I was nervous I wasn’t going to be too impressed by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but I was blown away once again by Peter Jackson. He has recreated Middle Earth and it looks better than it ever has before. While the movie is a little slow out of the starting gate, it soon picks up and becomes an excellent adventure/fantasy. I can’t wait until next December to continue the story, but for now, I’m very happy with this movie.