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Movie Review – The Hobbit Battle of the Five Armies – Probably a few armies too many

Battle of the 5 armies

 

Movie Review – The Hobbit Battle of the 5 Armies

Summary

There once was a little story of a little Hobbit in a little house…. Then it was mutated, added-on to, stretched and expanded until it was barely recognizable as relating to the original story. A bit like Hulk vs Bruce Banner. Yeah, hulk is humanoid in form, and has dark hair, but that’s where the similarity ends. In my analogy, the movie is the Hulk and the little story is Bruce Banner, just to be clear.

The Hobbit Battle of the 5 Armies is the third installment of the movies based off of the beloved book called The Hobbit. This book serves as sort of a prelude to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, also made into three films. Note the subtlety here – Lord of the Rings was three books made into three movies. The Hobbit was one book made into three movies. This is the single biggest problems with these movies. They are augmented with things that add only time. Not depth, not character, not interest, only time. This complaint has been voiced by the Geekaverse and the mundane world, so this is the last I will mention of it.

The Good

Smaug is pretty freaking cool. He is powerful, smart, selfish, and cunning. More Smaug, less everything else would have made this a better movie.

The dwarven castle under the mountain was cool. Layered, complex, art-deco meets gothic stone, and moody.

King Thorin was good. A king with more than a little chip on his shoulder develops a world class case of paranoia (a mash up of his performance in clips from the Shining would be great) and causes a horrific loss of life. He was a good character.

Bilbo was great. He is the best character, his is our stand in. He is the outsider, like us, taken along on a grand adventure. He has a strong sense of loyalty and right vs wrong that is unwavering in the face of circumstances. He is clever, likeable, and funny. Every scene with Bilbo was a joy.

The Bad

Deaths. Death should have meaning in a story. Without meaning, we don’t know what to feel when the character dies. Is it funny, as when the bad town leader was squished during Smaug’s attack, or is it tragic as when we see the bodies washing up on the shore afterwards. There are two deaths that are supposed to have meaning in this story, but they fall far short – Thorin, and Filli/Killi

Thorin’s death comes after a long, long fight sequence set up by a ridiculous set of events and assumptions (riding mountain goats? It’s a trap, but the trap is never sprung? Let’s split up when we faced with a likely overwhelming force waiting for us… ugh). So, by the time Thorin get skewered, your disbelief has been stretched beyond suspension until it is a limp, flaccid thing unfit for use. I will talk more about Thorin later.

Filli/Killi. They are brothers/cousins. The point is that they are inseparable. And they idolize and are utterly devoted to Thorin. They are his ersatz children. So, rather than keeping these devoted warriors close, he sends them to scout the likely ambush. They, having the combined IQ of a fine shire grown gourd, split up to scout the tower. These two dipshits seem to be auditioning for a teen slasher film – as victim 1 and 2. Killi get caught, gets steel poisoning, and then gets dropped a few stories off of a tower and lands right in front of Filli. Filli flips and storms up the tower. Then he has an extended fight, saves and is saved by his forbidden love, and then gets stuck with a pointy thing and dies. Wait, you say. He fights with his forbidden love? How can that charged situation be meaning less? Well, I’ll tell you.

These two star crossed lovers, a dwarf and an elf, have as much chemistry as raw liver and a pile of lukewarm rice pudding. The lumpy kind of rice pudding. They are utterly unbelievable as romantic partners. Interestingly, when they are fighting together, it’s kind of fun, but that quickly is over and it’s back to their incredulous yearning. His death ends up being a relief.

Last problem – not enough Bilbo. He has scenes, but in this ensemble story that includes no less than 5 armies, 5 wizards, 3 kings, and a guest appearance by the sandworms from Dune, there just is not much room for our little likeable hobbit.

The Other

The biggest problem is structure. Bilbo is telling this story, so the book is from his point of view, but it is not really his story. At the core, this is Thorin’s story. He is the character that wants something and it is his need that drives the plot. But our view of him is all from the 3rd person point of view. We don’t get to like him enough to have his turn to the crazy side then his eventual demi-redemption, be the emotional closure that is necessary. There are several other stories going on, but none of them get enough air time for us to be vested in the outcome enough to care. Brand and his people – will they get a new city? Will he lead them? Will the uni-brow weasel get his come uppence? We never know. Will the other dwarf king take over the mountain kingdom? We never know. Will the elven king get his people’s artifacts back? We never know. All we know is that Bilbo and Gandalf ride home – but then Bilbo’s house is getting auctioned off because he was gone too long. He stops the auction, but we don’t’ learn anything else. Who was behind the auction? How is Bilbo regarded in the shire now? We never know. There is not closure for anybody but the dead in this movie. The endings are completely open. This movie is a flimsy hospital gown in a drafty hall.

Final Verdict

I’m a sucker for these films, and for these books. I’m not a purist. I don’t think that Arawen was an affront to the legacy, so I’m realistic here about the sausage that has to be made when adapting a book for the screen. This was worth watching for me simply because I needed to see the last film. I accomplished that. What was not accomplished was the ending of a story.

 

Desolation of smaug

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug – Movie Review

Desolation of smaug

The Desolation of Smaug – Movie Review

Summary

The Desolation of Smaug is the second movie in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. Yeah, I know “The Hobbit” wasn’t a trilogy when it was written. It was a longer novel-type thing that meandered about an imaginary countryside and assaulted the reader with Hobbit travelling poetry. The book is actually better than I just described it, but I was scarred by the poetry. Anyway, Mr. Jackson has seen fit, or seen enough profit, to warrant stretching this one book into something close to 9 hours of cinema. This movie is the middle section, the “Return of the Jedi”, the morose middle child of the series. In the first movie, our hero, Bilbo Baggins, is talked into going on an adventure as a burglar to assist a group of dwarves to regain their ancestral home. Adventures ensue: escape from Ogres, escape from Goblin King, and escape from Gollum. Plot is layed: The vengeful orc, the Necromancer, Big Dragon in the mountain. Character is established: Bilbo has inner strength, Thorin is a bit of a dick, Radagast is a shroomer. So in this movie our party continues their journey towards and reaching the Lonely Mountain on the one day when they can find the keyhole to the secret passage. Along the way they meet up with the Slyvan/Wild Elf King (it doesn’t go well for the short dudes), get chased by Orcs, get smuggled into Laketown, meddle in local politics, get inside the mountain, and, finally, antagonize the dragon with dire consequences.

The Good

This is a heck of an adventure. There nothing left out, in fact most of this movie was not in the book. There are fights with orcs, fights with spiders, and a cat and mouse game in a treasure strewn dwarven citadel with a dragon. You get your money’s worth in this film. The scenery is lush, the settings are magnificent. The Elven king’s stronghold is only bested by the depth and scope of the dwarven home under the mountain. There is enough geeky eye-candy here to give you ocular cavities big enough to park a cave troll in.

The Bad

Two elves cut through about one-hundred and fifty orcs with minimal effort. I’m not so sure why anybody is scared of orcs being around. Maybe they move in to the neighborhood, never cut their grass and leave junk cars in their yard. The point is, they are not a threat to anybody or anything, except maybe property values.

The elf girl-dwarf boy romance  – I don’t buy it. I can see how she would be interested in him and his stories of the outside world since she has rarely ventured out and has a wider view than the elves around her. I don’t think they played up this part of her enough to make her seem like someone who would fall for the dwarf. As for the dwarf, well, they each have so little character that it’s hard to tell what they would or wouldn’t do.

The Other

This is a nearly 3 hour movie. A lot happens. In most movies, the narrative arc clues you into when the story takes turns, when it starts the middle section where things are difficult, when it starts the final battle, and when it starts the ending. There is so much going on in this film that I lost track of the narrative arc. I didn’t have any feeling, other than that from my bladder, as to when the movie should end.

I don’t get dragons. Something that huge would need a considerable amount of nourishment. Yet he simply sleeps under a pile of gold rather than heading out periodically to roast an Oliphant with his fire breath or raze a village and snack on the inhabitants like at atapas bar, or demand human tribute from the idiots who built Laketown right next to his home when they knew he was there. And the gold…why? He cannot spend it, he can’t buy a new Ipad with it, he didn’t do any dragon sized redecorating to his home which was built on a dwarf scale. He just wants to sleep in it? Hell, at least Scrooge McDuck invested his money as well as swam in it.

How did Bilbo keep a hold of his sword all through the barrel ride and getting captured in Laketown? And, I think that the ring keep hopping from pocket to pocket.

I saw this movie in 3D. The 3D is done quite well, but didn’t add much to the movie and I thought is made the movie feel a big small, like I was watching it through a window. I cannot recommend it.

Final Verdict

Yeah, I enjoyed this movie. Being a geek who first got hooked on the Tolkien thing in his teen years I really cannot help but enjoy this movie. I even liked the cartoon versions from way back when. It’s not art, it’s not great cinema. But it is a lot of fun. If you go, see it on a big screen, and avoid the big fountain drink. It’s a long movie so bladder management will be key.