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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

And now the end is near…finally! One children’s book has been spread out across three films and now the last installment is here. Can Jackson prove his critics wrong (i.e me) and show us that splitting the The Hobbit into three films was worth it?

After Smaug cause chaos and destruction over the Laketown, the aftermath has potential to cause just as much carnage. With the Dwarfs held up in the Lonely Mountain and keeping all the gold for themselves they find themselves up against armies determined to have their share of the gold. But with Thorin going mad from the gold can he come to his senses in time to stop all out war?

When The Lord of The Rings Trilogy came to an end in 2003 I was excited and sad to see the franchise come to an end. With The Hobbit it’s more a sense of relief that it’s finally over. That’s not to say this last installment is bad or that the trilogy as a whole has been bad. It’s just that, as with the other two movies, there is a lot of filler and padding in this film that feels like it’s there for no reason. When it’s released on DVD I would like to see-rather than the deleted scenes we normally get-an edit of all three movies into one lean movie, cutting out the hours of filler and make it the one movie it should have been in the first place.

As ever the cast gamely give their all. Martin Freeman often feels like he’s being sidelined in a movie where he’s the title character but he’s still as effective as ever as Bilbo. Richard Armitage seems to be enjoying going full on gold mad as Thorin. While not essential its nicely nostalgic to see Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett and Christopher Lee reprise their roles again, and it will be sad to see the last of Ian McKellen as the always excellent Gandalf. While I don’t always buy the relationship with Turiel (Evangeline Lily) and Kili (Aidan Turner)- considering they are declaring their love after spending about a day in total together-they at least bring some emotion to the proceedings, Lily in particular promoting her anguish well.

Rating 3/5 – a good if not particularly outstanding farewell to Middle Earth

P.S Merry Christmas everyone, hope you all have a lovely holiday!

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

So we come to the second part of the trilogy that no one asked for –The Hobbit!

Following on from the events of An Unexpected Journey, Bilbo and the dwarves fall foul of Orcs, Elves and giant spiders as they prepare to meet their most dangerous foe yet-Smaug the dragon.

Ok first the positives. There are some great set pieces in this film, such a very scary-especiallly for arachnophobes like me-encounter with some giant spiders, and the part where the dwarves and Bilbo escape from elves and Orcs in wine barrels down a river. The fight scenes are good. Although he may have been shoehorned into The Hobbit films it was still good to see Legolas again and I remembered how much I enjoyed seeing Orlando Bloom fighting Orcs with a bow and arrow in a blonde wig. Martin Freeman again is brilliant as Bilbo and when he is the centre of the action the film really shine. Newcomers Evangeline Lily (Elf Turiel) and Luke Evans (Bard the Bowman) fare well enough in the mix of all the action and Lily in particular is great in her fight scenes. And as you expect from Peter Jackson Middle Earth looks as beautiful as ever.

On the downside it’s soooooo long. There is so much padding in this film you could easily have cut out several scenes and it would make no difference to the overall film. Freeman’s Bilbo is a great central character but it sometimes feels like Peter Jackson has forgotten this film is called The Hobbit as there are so many characters vying for attention. I have no problem with the adding of some much-needed estrogen with the inclusion of Turiel but I do have a problem with her being saddled with such a lame love triangle with Legolas and hot dwarf Kili (even if it does mean we get to more screen time for the lovely Adian Turner).

Although I love Jackson’s take on Tolkien I can’t help but think during this film that it would have been good to see another filmmaker’s take on Middle Earth. Everything just feels so familiar here. It was always going to be tough to follow The Lord of The Rings films but its a constant shadow over The Hobbit films that I think it would have been better if another director had given us his version of The Hobbit. Imagine what the Guillermo del Toro version would have been like.

Luckily there were enough good parts to keep me interested in the film and the Smaug (excellently voiced by Freeman’s Sherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch) and Bilbo encounter was worth the long wait. I shall still be looking forward to the final part of the trilogy, but with lower expectations this time.

Rating 3/5-a mixed bag but it’s worth a another visit to Middle Earth

(PS. As I’m mentioning Freeman and Cumberbatch, I have to just say that I saw the new episode of Sherlock last night and although a few bits annoyed me, generally I thought it was a great episode. Cumberbatch and Freeman play against each other so well. The opening was especially brilliant-and I bursted into uncontrollable laughter when Derren Brown appeared on the scene.)

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The World’s End

So it’s here the third film in the Cornetto Trilogy (this one is mint by the way). Edgar Wright has a big job on his hand following the massive success of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. So will this film measure up?

The World’s End is about five friends who’ve grown apart since their teenage years. Gary (Simon Pegg) tries to reunite the gang (Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan) to complete their mammoth pub crawl from their youth which they failed to finish all twelve stops. Old tensions between the group and Gary start to resurface just as they realise the town from their childhood has something strange going on.

I made a big mistake before watching this film. I watched Hot Fuzz only a few hours earlier. Spurred on by the brilliance of that film I perhaps raised my expectations too high. The World’s End is not a bad film, but it’s not a classic like Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead.

I admire the film for allowing it to be different. There are darker, grown up themes throughout the film as Gary tries to relive his teenage glory days as things have never gotten better since those days. Gary is not a likeable character-and he’s not meant to be either. He’s selfish, manipulative and doesn’t think about what he’s saying. His character is more outlandish than the rest of the gang. It’s good to see Pegg in this type of role and I like the way they have switched around Pegg and Frost’s characters. Frost’s Andrew playing the straight man to Pegg’s obnoxious Gary.

It does seem to take its time getting to the laughs. Whereas Shaun and Hot Fuzz delivers plenty of laughs and quotable lines, The World’s End takes its time setting up the characters and their backstories as the meet up again. Which is fine, but the start is mostly laughter free as you’re waiting for the jokes to begin. This becomes a bit of a drag until the action arrives. When Gary and co realise what they are up against, then the film begins to up the pace and the laughs come more freely.

It’s a talented cast they’ve got together, fans of the previous films will recognise many faces. As the main gang, Pegg and Frost are good as always, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan round out the group perfectly. the five do convince as old friends who haven’t seen each other for a while and are a bit suspicious as to why Gary has arranged this. Considine in particular is strong as Steven, fighting Gary for love interest Sam played by Rosamund Pike. Pike does well in her role and is more of a rounded character then Liz in Shaun of the Dead. She perhaps is more underused towards the end but then this is a film, in essence about the main five friends and their relationship with each other,

There is much to enjoy in this film. The fight scenes are well executed and funny. I enjoyed the darker moments the film occasionally touch upon. And I thought the ending was great, not a cop-out like most films. However if you do see this film, do yourself a favour and not watch the other two Cornetto films hours beforehand. Otherwise you draw comparisons which the film can’t help but come up short. Try and see the film with a fresh mind on its own terms.

Rating 3.5/5-fun and different, but not up to the standard of previous instalments

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I enjoyed The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (especially The Fellowship of the Ring) but I didn’t feel a big rush to return to Middle Earth. I was preparing to give The Hobbit a chance when I first heard it was being released, but felt my interest waver when I heard about it being split into two films. That was pushing it. Then came the news that The Hobbit was to become a trilogy. My reaction:

I give up.

I’ve never read the book but I’ve seen the size of it, how would there possibly be enough content to fill up three films. This is just film studios trying to take more money out of us surely? I was determined not to succumb to it.

Then a friend of mine came up to visit and wanted to go to the cinema. We’d both already seen Skyfall and I couldn’t bring myself to watch Twilight so the only film that sparked a little interest from both of us was The Hobbit. So I brought my popcorn and made sure I was sat comfortably as I was sure to be in for a long, somewhat repetitive journey back into Middle Earth.

To my surprise it was worth revisiting the Shire. Despite being nearly three hours long there was only a few moments where my attention wavered and even then I amused myself by playing-guess the British actor under the dwarf beards. The fact that this film succeeds is mostly down to the ever reliable direction by Peter Jackson, making sure Middle Earth looks outstanding as always (I especially like the stone giants), and leading man Martin Freeman as Bilbo. Freeman has already had great roles in tv shows like The Office and Sherlock (if you haven’t seen the tv series please do so-it’s fabulous!) and he continues his trade in likeable, exasperated characters. Here he is the calm, not naturally heroic hobbit who decided to take the journey even if he doesn’t know if he has what it takes to make it. His scenes with Gollum (Andy Serkis)being the highlight.

There are flaws. I’m not sure if the film really needed much of the opening narration or if the cameo from Elijah Wood really added much to the film. The main issue was that with so many dwarves (thirteen in the end I think) it was hard to remember them all and only a few really stood out, James Nesbit as Bofur and Aidan Turner as Kili (mostly because he’s sexy Mitchell from Being Human).

But as someone who didn’t think they’d make the journey to Middle Earth again, I’m now excited to see where the next two films will take me, although I still don’t know if they have enough material to cover another 6 hours of adventures.

 

Rating

3/5- maybe not quite the classic like The Lord of The Rings but it has the potential to be part of a series that can become one.

 

 

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