Tag Archives: Peter Jackson

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” film review

Make mine Bag End...

Some pertinent business to deal with before I start my review proper:

1) The much-ballyhooed 48 frames per second process, which makes its debut with “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is more or less unnoticeable.  Advanced reports of the film looking like a TV soap opera, or as though it was shot on digital video, are utter piffle.

2) If you can see “The Hobbit” in traditional 2D, feel free to do so.  I saw it in a 3D ‘LieMax’ screening and felt that the 3D frequently detracted from the experience – several action sequences were rendered impossible to watch comfortably, thanks to our old friend, Mr Irritating Motion Blur.  Mrs Rolling Eyeballs, who saw the film with me, currently rates the film as a 5 out of 10 as she saw roughly half of it – IMAX 3D and people with glasses apparently don’t mix too well.  A 2D viewing may be required for our actual full enjoyment of the film.

3) That 9 minute “Star Trek Into Darkness” prologue?  The “Man of Steel” and “Pacific Rim” trailers?  Conspicuous by their wholesale absence.  Thanks, Cineworld, for screwing your UK consumers and having the nerve to charge a premium for an experience which is decidedly lacking.

Minor, nerd-entitlement caveats aside, did I actually enjoy the film?

Well, yes.  Yes.  Yes, yes, YES!  It’s Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and a prodigiously talented ensemble in front of the camera and behind it delivering epic fantasy on the kind of scale that fans always dreamed of seeing but rarely experienced before Jackson’s initial “Lord of the Rings” trilogy expanded the possibility of cinematic adventure in the early part of the 2000’s.

Getting over the fact that these movies are inherently episodic and tell their story in a serial fashion – don’t count on getting much in the way of closure until the summer of 2014 – going back to Jackson’s Middle Earth is like visiting a much-loved holiday get away destination and finding everything much as you left it.

Breathtaking New Zealand vistas, Hobbit holes, craggy old wizards and Howard Shore‘s delightfully evocative musical score are very much present and correct – thankfully Mr Jackson has resisted the urge to cast Justin Bieber, pump up the dubstep and ‘fix’ that which isn’t broken.  As I mentioned before, the major add-ons this time around – 3D and 48 FPS – are either a waste of time (3D) or imperceptible (48 FPS), so it does feel very much like business as usual.

The changes to the plot don’t really offer up anything particularly problematic – we get a fantastic prologue which deftly underlines lead dwarven warrior-in-exile Thorin Oakenshield‘s motivations and show us more of Middle Earth than we saw in the “LOTR” trilogy, and the climax imagines the events of ‘Out of the Frying Pan Into The Fire’ quite a bit differently, and really shows how Jackson and his team have rendered three films from a fairly slender piece of source material.

Where Tolkien’s classic tale for children of all ages alludes to action occurring off-screen or dispenses with blood and thunder battles in a sentence or two, Jackson’s film goes to town by mounting elaborate, bravura sequences which pile on the Orcs, Goblins and Warg enemies for our band to face off against.  It’s probably a bit too intense for younger kids, I would guess – this iteration particularly amps up the ass-kicking whilst not exactly down-playing the whimsical nature of Tolkien’s book but emphasizing the heroics in an appropriately cinematic fashion.

On the performance side, Martin Freeman is superb as Bilbo the Younger.  He’s not doing an Ian Holm impersonation, but instead gives a turn which is funny, touching, quietly decent and layered – I’m going to enjoy following him on his burglary mission and I predict that you will too.  He’s perhaps at his best during the “Riddles in the Dark” sequence, which brings back Gollum for a spell and reminds you how utterly brilliant Andy Serkis is.  New addition Richard Armitage makes a commanding appearance as Thorin, quietly dominating scenes and neatly filling the noticeable, Viggo Mortensen-shaped hole for a heroic, smouldering lead.

I really enjoyed this movie – tech qualms be damned.  And I look forward to seeing more of Smaug, how Jackson stages the battle of the Five Armies and how the extended lore of Tolkien’s epic fantasy cycle is added to what is at heart a fairly simple and linear tale.

A qualified thumbs up for “The Hobbit” part the first it is, then.  Try and find time in your Christmas celebration to see it and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too.

Related Arcana:

 

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An Unexpected Journey through “Hobbit” art

I’m a big fan of Tor Books‘ blog – there’s always something interesting to read there, be it from their own publishing list or from the wider world of speculative fiction and nerd culture.  Their annual “Steampunk Week” being a particular favourite, which will come as no surprise to anybody who knows me.

As we count down to our eagerly awaited return to Middle Earth, Tor Books’ Irene Gallo examines the work of various artists inspired by Tolkien‘s work over the years…

 

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New “Hobbit” video blog online – post-production…and beyond!

The world premiere of Peter Jackson‘s “The Hobbit” is in New Zealand on Wednesday and you’ll be delighted to know that the film is almost finished.

“Trust me – I know what I’m doing.”

Which is…nice?

Judging by the latest (#9) production blog uploaded by His Awesomeness, it’s a relief that the movie is this far along – these are phenomenally complex enterprises, undertaken by a brilliant collective of artisans, technicians and inspiringly creative individuals all united by delivering Jackson’s singular vision.  Just from watching the production blog, the thought is impossible to escape that just one person has to ultimately bring together multiple departments, disciplines and skill sets in a cohesive whole to  deliver three films.  I just don’t know if I could keep on top of that level of mind-smushing difficulty for as long as Jackson will have to.

There’s the usual jocular, collegiate, ‘man, this stuff is fun!’ tone running throughout the blog, but I’d hate to have to be the guy steering the ship.  But, at the same time, I love that he’s devoted himself to taking regular movie goers, genre nerds and devoted Tolkien fans alike back to Middle Earth for another couple of slices of prime fantasy fun.

Glowing blue swords? Nerdery? Does want!

There’s another blog due after the premiere this week – and those all-important first reviews to boot…

 

 

 

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“Star Trek Into Darkness” with “The Hobbit”

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Yes, I did use this picture because Simon Pegg’s wearing a kilt. Like a boss…

In a bold effort to monopolise the attentions of Chez Fluffrick on December 14th, IMAX have announced that screenings of “The Hobbit” on that day will be preceded by nine minutes of “Star Trek Into Darkness” prologue footage.

Just. Take. My. Money. Now.

This footage will be available in 500 IMAX 3D screens worldwide, and I’m hoping that my local Sheffield cinema will be amongst the lucky havens of nerdery receiving such an early Festivus gift – it’ll make up for my local IMAX not being one of the locations with projection capable of displaying “The Hobbit” in Peter Jackson’s much-discussed High Frame Rate presentation.

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A Plucky Dwarf writes…

I’m The Tallest Dwarf In Middle Earth!

In a stunning development matched nowhere else in recorded history, Warner Brothers have really begun to push the Gollum piloted boat out for their December Tolkien release, “The Hobbit“.

Hence the screen grab above – a neat little game which allows you to blatantly rig answers and cheat your way to your favourite Middle Earth character answer fun quiz questions and arrive at a nifty downloadable/Tweetable/BookFace-type digital thing to share with your fellow nerds.

You can book your tickets for Peter Jackson’s latest slice of Hobbit based awesome now, which is nice.  And if you’re sufficiently tech-obsessed and live near a big IMAX screen, you can check out whether they’ll be showing “The Hobbitin super-48FPS-3D-space-vision.

Oh yes, waiting until December 14th is going to be so easy…

 

 

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“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” – new trailer unspools the awesome

I want to go to there…

Happy Wednesday, fellow nerds, geeks and devotees of pop cultural badassery – there’s a new “Hobbit” trailer online.  Fire up the download accelerator of your choice and get stuck in.

“Quick – look enigmatic, the camera’s on…”

I’m not sure that it will quell the grumpy dismissal of hardcore Tolkien scholars, but for those of us who just want to get lost in Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth for a few more hours, this two minutes and 31 second trailer will fill your face with fantasy eye candy quite agreeably.

So, when do I get to on holiday to Rivendell, then?

Action, comedy, spectacle, short people, trolls, orc-type dudes, Andy Serkis‘ famous alter-ego and New Zealand will enthrall your eyes and make you count the days until the middle of December, when this first salvo in the new trilogy opens (and hopefully answers some questions about which sofa they’ve found the rest of the story down the back of…).

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Power Metal Artwork of the Day – Blind Guardian

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And to finish out the week, an arguable classic slice of European Power Metal – with sleeve art almost precision designed to irk the irksome, traumatise tiresome hipsters and cause kvlt elitists to kvetch.

Germany’s Blind Guardian are perhaps best described as occupying a space somewhere between Iron Maiden, Helloween and – I guess – Dream Theater.  We’re talking songs directly inspired by double-bass drums played at a hundred miles an hour, proggy time signatures and lyrics directly referencing fantasy literature, as amply demonstrated by an album which many fans would claim as their favourite – the J.R.R. Tolkien/”Silmarillion“-inspired Nightfall in Middle-Earth.

To the artwork – it’s a painting of Luthien dancing in front of Morgoth, painted by Andreas Marshall.  I confess to having something a blind spot for Tolkien’s novels, something which I propose to address in the near future via the medium of a series on the blog – is it ambitious to read “The Hobbit” and the whole “Lord of the Rings” cycle before part one of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” opens at the end of the year?  I like to think not, but I’m ever one for taking on challenges which ask more than I can reasonably cope with.  It’s an epic fantasy thing, people – realise…

What the cover doesn’t capture is just how delightfully cheesy the spoken word portions of the album are – for viewers used to the earnest storytelling of the Jackson cinematic trilogy, this album’s (let’s be honest) amateur dramatic performance of the Tolkien material is a splendid thing.

 And it’s a killer record – if you like your heavy metal to be bold, powerful, driving and unabashedly unfashionable, Blind Guardian do this kind of stuff better than anybody else.  If your new D&D campaign needs a stirring musical accompaniment to really get those 20-sided die flying, you need this record on your iPod/stereo pronto…

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Trailered: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Not going to lie, I'm indecently excited to see this next December...

In what has apparently become the week of the year when the movie studios unleash all of their biggest movie trailers at once – Bam! “The Dark Knight Rises”! Bam! “Prometheus”! Bam! “Wrath of the Titans”! – New Line, MGM and Warner Brothers have now thrown the first teaser trailer for the first part of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of “The Hobbit” into the mix.

So, small fry, then.

It's Ash - run away! Sorry, wrong returning, nerd-bait, 2012 franchise entry...

Though it would have been intriguing to see what once-incumbent director Guillermo Del Toro did with the Tolkien source material (he does get a credit, per the contractuals at the end of the trailer), this first look does a lot to establish that it’s poetic that Jackson gets to return to the worlds he so convincingly realised on film in partnership with Phillipa Boyens and Fran Walsh – it just looks and feels right.

Anybody else want to up sticks and move to Hobbiton?

There’s just the right balance in this teaser between story and visual candy – much of it is scene-setting stuff with Gandalf assembling his collection of Dwarves and other Middle Earthians (amazingly, the WordPress browser spell-check informs that ‘Earthian’ isn’t a word.  Who’d’ve thunk it?) with the odd blink-and-miss-it battle with trolls chucked into the mix.

I'm no scholar of the "Rings", but that looks like Sting to me.

The first film opens on December 14th 2012 with part two, “There and Back Again” following a whole bloody year later.   Give them to me, now – project them directly into my waiting eye holes!

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“The Hobbit” – behind the scenes video

By now you’ll probably be aware that Peter Jackson is making “The Hobbit” in New Zealand, with the story split into two parts, for release in 2012 and 2013.

A gathering of Hobbits, yesterday.

Another one of the production’s behind-the-scenes diaries is now online, featuring the challenges of shooting a film in 3D – which is every bit as fascinating (and slightly mind-boggling) as the exhaustive material for the making of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was.

I loved the bit with Angus, the production’s ‘stereographer’ – these folk are my kind of nerds.

 

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“The Adventures of Tintin – the Secret of the Unicorn” – a highly enthusiastic quick review

It's an awesome film. And a harbinger of the future?

Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish.  And that’s the talent behind the camera.

To say that this latest adaptation of Herge’s “Tintin” adventures arrives with a burden of expectation is to understate things.  There’s every chance, if you’re a nerd, that this is your most eagerly awaited film of the year, mixing as it does the talents of the film-makers above, the likes of Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in performance capture form and James Cameron’s revolutionary ‘Volume’ tech to knit things together.

First things first – watching this film makes you think that you’re watching a game changer.  The fluidity of the performances, animation, cinematography and editing combine and make “Tintin” something of a revolution. It’s hard to see why you wouldn’t want to work with this technology if you’re making a large-scale action adventure film, if the action sequences in this film are any indicator.

Go and see “Tintin” and then imagine what merry hell James Cameron’s going to come up with if he gets to make “Battle Angel Alita”.  During the extended action sequence set in Morocco, my jaw hit the floor not once but twice – I couldn’t believe the visceral and exhilarating nature of the adventure Spielberg was delivering.  It’s hard to put into words as you’re aware that stunt people didn’t have to get into vehicles, camera cars didn’t have to follow a route and nobody was in any danger of being injured by the nature of the activity that eventually ended up on screen but nonetheless you’re watching Spielberg stage, realise and deliver some of the most astonishing on-screen mayhem that he’s ever come up with.

And that’s one sequence – there are around five huge set-pieces which boggle the mind equally, whether it’s the staging, the astonishing attention-to-detail in the animation, the quality of the performance capture, John Williams’ best scoring work in an age or the cumulative effect of Spielberg, Peter Jackson and co. dreaming up this adaptation and keeping everything cohesive up until its final realisation on-screen.

It’s a mind-boggling piece of work – and it feels like the future of this kind of blockbuster cinema.  It flows so well, with match-cuts becoming utterly poetic given the ability of the computer to blend seamlessly between the present, the past, the imagined and almost inventing a whole new vocabulary for directors to play with.

Blimey, imagine if Spielberg made the next “Indiana Jones” movie with this kind of tech…

That’s not to say that the hardware and software are the only thing to be interested in with this movie.  It’s a great adventure, full of daring escapes, mystery, puzzles, traps, pirates, pitched sea battles, desert wandering, a singularly plucky terrier, opera singers and a million and one other cool things.

The performances are wonderful, alchemic marriages between the raw theatrical performances of actors on set and what the animators deliver with that data and with the crucial idea that these characters have had a long life in comics which are beloved by an entire continent – you’re watching Tintin, played by Jamie Bell, animated by stupendously talented people and the end result is just dizzying.  It’s real, but comic book and utterly contemporary but somehow warm and old-fashioned.

Watching the end film, you can’t help but be won over by the sheer talent at play here, by the craft and wit and skill which went into this utterly distinctive and exciting film – it’s a popcorn blockbuster to treasure, an adaptation to appreciate and a film to utterly enchant you if you give yourself over to it.

 

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