Tag Archives: The Hobbit

“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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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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“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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The Hobbit threatened with closure…

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The Hobbit Pub in Southampton, UK, that is.

In a move destined to backfire on them and make them look like money-grubbing, mean-spirited, Hollywood d-bags, the notably litigious Saul Zaentz company has instructed lawyers to serve a small British pub with a cease-and-desist order and threatened legal action if they don’t change the name of their hostelry.

This is such an important case, obviously, as many patrons of the Hobbit pub in Southampton will go into it expecting a Peter Jackson film and be nonplussed when they find that they’re actually in a watering hole and have to buy a pint and a packet of crisps, missing out on Bilbo’s early adventures  and have to enjoy an evening’s convivial drinking instead.  Publicans, eh?  What an utter herd of Shelobs…

It’s helping the consumer, clearly, to force the pub to close and is in no way a demonstration of bullying or intellectual property trollling.

Just so we get that clear – it’s definitely NOT trolling.  Not in the slightest.

National treasure (and “Hobbit” movie cast member) Stephen Fry has lent his support to the Save the  Hobbit Pub’s Facebook campaign – I wouldn’t disagree with his assertion that the Zaentz Company’s campaign is ‘pointless, self-defeating bullying’.

If the Zaentz Company had a worldwide franchise of Prancing Pony Theme Pubs ready to roll out worldwide and regarded the Southampton boozer as a threat to its livelihood then you might grudgingly concede that their desire to remove competing outlets had some basis in reality.  As things are, a very rich American producer is trying to shut down a student pub which does ‘Gandalf’ cocktails and has live bands on.

Not exactly a matched battle of equals, is it?  Have they actually read the books, and did they think that Saruman was a misunderstood good guy?

 

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Tolkien’s 60’s Nobel snub or ‘Why awards don’t matter’…

Can't write. No good at story. Can smoke pipe a little.

Declassified new documents from Nobel judging in the 1960’s reveal that learned Swedes knew then what we could only guess at today – that J.R.R. Tolkien, author of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy was a crap storyteller and wrote terrible prose.

I mean, it’s obvious when you look at how few copies his novels sell today and how they had no cultural impact at all beyond his death.  He may as well have packed in the writing lark as nobody today gives a fig for the universes he created.  Furthermore, if you were to type ‘Lord of the Rings’ into Google, you wouldn’t return anything like 172, 000, 000 websites  – such a result is pure flim-flam and no mistake.

Thank goodness that the completely memorable Ivo Andric won the Nobel prize for literature in 1961 and made such an earth-shattering impact on the world with his wholly celebrated work,  “The Vizier’s Elephant”.  If not for him, people might still remember this Tolkien amateur and his silly little books which nobody reads (or films) any more.

Me? Chip on my shoulder about how sci-fi, fantasy and horror are treated by the cultural establishment? Surely some mistake.

It’s not as if genre fiction in all forms of media is arguably the most popular entertainment amongst readers and viewers and actually underwrites the literary and art house loss-makers which the taste makers so adore, allowing publishers and studios to function in the first place, by making a profit which the more respected art types can then leech off…

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The Best and Worst SF Movies of 2011.

Sucker, Punched.

My very favourite blog in the world (clue: irony is being employed here), i09.com today breaks down their list of the best and worst SF movies of the year, because it’s the law to make these kinds of lists at the end of the year.

It’s illustrative to me personally that I’ve seen one of their top ten best films – the Marvel adaptation, “Thor”, and have a bunch of the other titles on my DVD rental list: Do I share a taste in films with my enemies?

The year's most underrated movie?

It’s a bummer that they couldn’t find a place on their list for “Source Code“, Duncan Jones’ follow-up to “Moon”, as I felt it did a lot to confirm that Jones could make mainstream, science fiction-inflected adventures as well as occupying the more art house territory of his debut – is “Limitless” really that much better?  “Source Code” had provocative ideas about the notion of the self, our Western responses to terrorism, personal freedom and found time to balance intellectual concerns with pulse-racing action, a romantic sub-plot which didn’t make you want to gnaw off your limbs in annoyance and some great acting work from Jake Gyllenhaal and Vera Farmiga, amongst others.

Tell me if I’m off-beam here, other viewers of this film – it was as good as I remembered it being, wasn’t it?

Meanwhile, in the realm of terrible films, io9’s blogger really didn’t like Zack Snyder’s fetish farrago, “Sucker Punch” and I can see where they’re coming from.  It’s a difficult flick to recommend to anybody as it shoots for the moon and misses primarily because it makes some utterly inexplicable, divisive choices in the process of doing so.

We’ve got a cast of young actresses playing young girls who are essentially imprisoned in a 1950’s reform school/mental home only to find that they’re now victims of what we might call people trafficking.  Yeah, I know – Friday night fun for your multiplex demographic!  In order to escape the very real horror of their surroundings, each girl escapes into a fantasy world which sees them transformed into super-cool, uber-skilled warriors battling all manner of sci-fi/high fantasy bad guys in order to retrieve dream world totems which become real world items which will allow them to escape.

Sounds like trashy fun – but it really isn’t.

The major problem for most thinking viewers of this film will be the way that it spends a lot of time getting leery over these young women, dressing them up in lingerie (not exactly practical for the battlefield, last time that I looked) and then photographing them in a way which makes Michael Bay’s soft-porn “Victoria’s Secret” adverts look like a Jane Campion film.

It’s that old chestnut – when does empowerment become exploitation?  If you answered “When a film director old enough to know better has his cast inexplicably dressed up like anime schoolgirl hookers”, that’s probably the correct answer.

Elsewhere on the list, you’ve got your usual candidates for terri-bad viewing during the year.  “Green Lantern” gets a nod, for mostly eschewing the cosmos-spanning comics lore in favour of a desperately dull, earthbound adventure with supremely dull characters.  “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is cited, mostly for being shrill and still persisting with the idea that Shia LaBeouf is an actual leading man.  For the record, I could do without the human beings in the film (noted exception, the glorious Alan Tudyk) and felt that the action sequences were frequently extraordinary – it’s just a shame that the movie they appeared in was so unlikeable.

I would have to say that “Green Lantern” was my pick for the worst film of the year – as much of a missed opportunity as “Sucker Punch” was, it at least managed to provoke you to object to sections of it and had some bravura action (Baby Doll’s fight against the Giant Robot Samurai, the steampunk WWI Nazi Zombies, the dragon battle) to distract the audience momentarily from it’s profoundly misguided sexual politics.

They're letting anybody be a member of the Green Lantern Corps nowadays...

“Green Lantern” was chuffing terrible.  Sexless, character-free, action-light, played broadly by a cast who seem alternately bored, uncertain as to their role or believe that they’re in a pantomime and that mugging is therefore perfectly acceptable (For shame, Tim Robbins, for shame!).

It’s not entirely the fault of the actors – the script is wretched, the cinematography bathes the on-screen action with a murky green tinge that makes on-screen action hard to see and Martin Campbell shows so little interest in the character that he flashes back to the hero’s father’s death a matter of minutes after we initially saw it, apparently in the belief that the audience has nodded off in the intervening moments.  Of this film – which is apparently getting a sequel – I can say only ‘Ugh!’ by way of summing up.

Let’s hope that 2012 offers a few more things to look forward to – on the evidence of trailers for “Prometheus”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, dark superhero ‘found footage’ tale “Chronicle”, part one of  “The Hobbit” and even Greek Mythology sequel to “Wrath of the Titans”, things are already looking a lot better.

 

 

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