The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

 

Let’s get this out of the way up front. The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies is not at good as the first 2 Hobbit films. But it provides much to enjoy and, as it’s the end of the trilogy, it delivers resolution.

2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey had a wonderful bit of light-hearted fun as the dwarves engaged Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) to be their burglar. The mix of hilarity and peril was in perfect balance. The scene with Bilbo and Gollum (Andy Serkis) trading riddles is classic. Director Peter Jackson created a film that was beautiful to look at and set the table for further adventures.

2013’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ramped up the peril and introduced new characters, including the fearsome dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Legolas (Oliver Bloom) are brought aboard to provide eye candy. And the Laketown village was visually stunning.

The start of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies brings Smaug out of his cave to attack the Laketown village with fire and taunts. Without spoiling, I’ll just say that the dragon is decisively neutralized.

The film’s main course is battles aplenty. But there’s a problem: when all the various factions face off, you can’t always tell who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. It’s like in Syria, where so many factions are trying to gain traction. But, as in Syria where everybody opposes ISIS, so too in Hobbit III, everybody hates this one particular group of Orcs.

The final showdown up on the mountain involves several fierce one-on-one hand-to-hand battles. It’s classic, violent, enthralling stuff that provides the film’s real soul.

Afterward, Bilbo and Gandolph (Ian McKellan) hoof it back home where the locals are busy auctioning off Bilbo’s goods, presuming him dead. A brief coda flashes forward and provides a satisfying conclusion for the hobbit, setting him up for what’s to come in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

One could argue that lengthy battle scenes with director Jackson’s terrific effects are what the audience wants. And one could reasonably argue that it’s appropriate for the Hobbit films to get progressively darker. But I still like the first 2 better.

 

 

 

 

X-Men: DayS of Future Past

Remember when Nixon killed the Sentinel program that would’ve rid the world of mutants? No? I guess that got lost amongst coverage of Watergate, Vietnam, etc.

Time travel is such a gimmicky plot device. But without it, we wouldn’t have X-Men: Days of Future Past, a film with incredibly good special effects. X-Men: Days of Future Past has its flaws, but I’m guessing most X-Men fans will forgive director Bryan Singer for those sins (as well as for his alleged personal sins).

After robotic Sentinels threaten to wipe out all mutants—even those with strong supernatural abilities—as well as normal humans, desperate measures must be taken. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) sends Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 derail the program.

Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) guides Logan in his time travel, conjuring up memories of Inception. After arriving back in the day and gracing the screen with his naked backside, Logan meets up with Xavier’s younger self (James McAvoy). They work to spring the younger Magneto (Michael Fassbender) from his prison beneath the Pentagon.

The facts that McAvoy does not look a bit like Patrick Stewart and Fassbender only vaguely resembles the present day Magneto (Ian McKellan) must be overlooked. Also, if the Sentinel program had been authorized in 1973, wouldn’t it have decimated the mutant population way before now?

Meanwhile, Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) pushes to have the US produce Sentinels to eliminate the world’s mutants. In a ceremony on the White House lawn, Tricky Dick is about to give thumbs up to the program. When Magneto uses his powers to move RFK Stadium and set it down surrounding the White House, the ceremony is halted and the climactic battle ensues. (Apparently, RFK was moved back in time for the Redskins’ 1973 season.)

While certain of the mutants get limited screen time, here are key players among those featured. As Mystique/Raven, Jennifer Lawrence shows that she is without a doubt the most versatile actor/actress in movies today. And as Hank/Beast, Nicholas Hoult shows his fine acting range. As Peter/Quicksilver, Evan Peters thrills with incredible speed (and a sense of humor).

Also worth mentioning is the mutant Blink, if only because of the actress’s wonderful name, Bingbing Fan. President Nixon is played by Mark Comacho, who actually resembles the Trickster, but is a bit heavier.

With a good balance of exposition/character development versus battles/awesome effects, X-Men: Days of Future Past, adds another winner to the Marvel movie list. Grab your 3-D glasses and get in line now!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The visual effects in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug are incredible. The movie looks great from first frame to last. But the movie lacks the perfect mix of peril and playfulness that made last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey one of my top ten movies of 2012.

The second movie of any planned trilogy has a primary function: to set up the concluding episode. TH: TDOS does that. And it entertains along the way.

The dwarves and their hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continue on their journey to reclaim their homeland, addressing dangers along the way. The Orcs pursue the dwarves on a river chase that is one of the all-time great movie chase scenes. A bit of welcome help comes from new character Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) who has excellent battle skills and looks gorgeous.

Tauriel adds tastefully sexy eye candy for the guys and offers real girl power for female fans. The appearance of Legolas (Orlando Bloom), a Lord of the Rings character, may be another ploy to make The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug more appealing to women.

Following a visit to the village of Laketown, the clever Bilbo manages to find his way into the mountain lair of Smaug. The dragon Smaug is frighteningly menacing in appearance and, importantly, in sound. (That’s Benedict Cumberbatch providing the Smaug voice.) While Bilbo deals with the dragon, the wizard Gandolf (Ian McKellan) is off on a different mysterious path, leaving the dwarves behind.

As with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, much is accomplished in this second segment, but plenty more is left unresolved. To be continued, as they say, in 2014.

I mentioned to a movie promotion person that, while I did not enjoy The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug as much as last year’s Hobbit film, I can’t wait to see this new one again. Last year’s film felt somehow fresher, yet TH: TDOS has much to offer. See it and make your own comparison.

 

 

The Hobbit

The Hobbit has many great things going for it. Especially thrilling is the 48 frames per second technology, which provides images that are incredibly real looking.

Of course, what we see onscreen is unreal: Dwarves with huge feet. Creatures that are figments of creative imaginations. Settings that are other-worldly. And, our old weird little friend Gollum.

Unlike the three Lord of the Rings movies, The Hobbit is funny. Small chuckles and big laughs abound in a story that is also filled with peril and adventure. Yes, there were small bits of humor in the LOTR films, but The Hobbit is (as its director Peter Jackson has said in interviews) whimsical.

Martin Freeman is Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit. He brings an air of complete bemusement to the role. He vaguely resembles Martin Short, but Freeman appears frequently dumbfounded by plot developments. (Short would, I think, always be on the verge of a snicker, I must say.)

The entire movie has moments to savor, but a favorite is the scene where Bilbo falls into an impossibly deep hole and meets Gollum. It’s a case of “Finders Keepers” when Bilbo picks up a certain ring that has fallen from Gollum’s keep. As the two trade riddles, both the character Gollum and the actor playing him (the talented Andy Sorkis) are revealed to be strong enough to carry an entire movie. (Maybe after the three Hobbit movies are done?)

The great Ian McKellan is back as Gandalf and even he seems a bit less severe than in the LOTR triology.

Here’s one where real parental guidance comes into play. It’s PG-13, but okay for most 9, 10, 11 & 12 year olds, in my opinion. If your kids have enjoyed the later Harry Potter movies with no ill effects, they should be able to handle The Hobbit.

As for its length, that may be another issue. While the movie flew by for me, its 2:45 run time may be a problem for the more restless among us.

I liked the LOTR movies, but I love The Hobbit. Yep, it’s a “must see!”