REVIEW: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

the-hobbit

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro (screenplay), J.R.R. Tolkien (novel)
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage and Andy Serkis

Peter Jackson established himself so well with his take on The Lord of the Rings books that he became indistinguishable from them.  After the ill-received mix bag that was 2009’s The Lovely Bones, he has retreated back to J.R.R. Tolkien’s first Middle Earth novel, The Hobbit.  Jackson’s storytelling confidence has returned to him in spades here, though drawing out one book into three separate movies that clock in at close to three hours seems like a money grab, especially after viewing this somewhat bloated first installment.

Much like the last film in Lord of the Rings, this first Hobbit segment, called An Unexpected Journey, doesn’t quite know when to end, so it just keeps going.  It is full of the scenic New Zealand grandeur and sweeping camera motions that made the earlier movies so visually thrilling, but the tone is much more slapstick.  This is because the dwarves, which were largely comic relief in Lord of the Rings, are front and center here, along with the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen).  Freeman and McKellen are both excellent, but there are few stoic, serious elves or gritty rangers to balance out the obnoxious dwarves.  When contrasted with the brutal fantasy series of HBO’s Game of Thrones, it’s almost child’s play at times.

Continue reading

Advertisements

ARCHIVE REVIEW: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens (screenplay), J.R.R Tolkien (novel)
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, and Andy Serkis

An epic by any standard and a finale to this behemoth of an undertaking, LOTR: Return of the King continues the evolution of Peter Jackson’s vision.  Bigger battles, higher stakes, and a conclusion drenched in emotion wrought the team behind this movie 11 Oscars, including Best Picture.   Does this make it the best one of the trilogy?  Not by a long shot.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to call Return of the King a disappointment, it is the weakest film of the three.  Though it is still excellent in many ways, most notably the battle sequences, it is held back by Jackson’s refusal to end it.  It essentially has an ending for each Oscar it won, also putting it in contention for the longest denouement in film history.  One of the biggest strengths of the Lord of the Rings movies was Jackson’s willingness to skim it down and make it fit a movie.  The last 45 minutes of this one are almost painful even if it is shorter than in the book.

Continue reading

ARCHIVE REVIEW: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens (screenplay), J.R.R Tolkien (novel)
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, and Sean Astin

Empire Strikes BackThe Godfather Part IITerminator II.  These are all great middle entries in a trilogy, either on par or better than the first entry.  Add to that list The Two Towers.  With the quest(s) set up and the characters introduced, it’s time to have some fun.

Though this trilogy is one of the greatest literary adaptations, what really makes Lord of the Rings immortal is how it redefined special effects in movies.  While you may be taken on a largely character driven adventure across beautiful scenery in the first one, in this entry Jackson gets to show us even more of his new toys.  The Battle at Helm’s Deep, the giant Ents of the forest, and, of course, Gollum.

Continue reading

Ten New Movie Icons

As you learn more and more about the movies in America, a few faces stand synonymous with the silver screen.  Darth Vader, James Bond, Dorothy Gale, Dirty Harry- there are countless others I could name, but that’s not the point of this post.  What are the new screen icons, the characters that will join the ranks of those immortal celluloid figures 50 years down the road?  Here are my choices for 10 movie characters who burned their towering images into the silver screen.

1. Gollum- I choose this endearing figure from the Lord of the Rings trilogy not only because of the beguiling performance of Andy Serkis, but because Gollum also marks a transition in filmmaking.  If this is the digital age, it’s only because Serkis and Peter Jackson proved you could do it without sacrificing emotional intensity or credibility.  When Gollum talks to himself as his alter ego Smeagle, you believe in the new power of special effects.

2. The Bride- The blood-splattered angel of Quentin Tarantino’s gory genre exploitations is portrayed by Uma Thurman with both the suave of a genuine action star and the grit of a truly great actress.  The yellow jumpsuit-wearing, samurai sword-wielding incarnation will remain in movie watchers’ minds for years to come.

Continue reading