“The Battle of the Five Armies” Plus Martin Freeman as THE Hobbit

Azog the Defiler!

“Let’s take this once more from the top! Real actors to the south, CG replicants to the north, and…ACTION! STAB STAB STABBY-STAB STAB!”

The end of the beginning is here! The epilogue of the prologue has arrived! The grand finale that goes in the middle of the story, even though it was hardly there originally, is finally out! And now it’s time for Part 3 of 6: the Final Chapter!

In An Unexpected Journey we watched a disgruntled Tim from The Office saunter through dangerous territories and endure slovenly dwarven hijinks. In The Desolation of Smaug we watched a resourceful Dr. John Watson brave wild carnival rides and face the growly wrath of a super-sized, serpentine Sherlock Holmes. And now, in The Battle of the Five Armies, director Peter Jackson takes us on one last guided tour of Middle-Earth filled with racial politics, emotional turmoil, treasure addiction, star-crossed lovers, all-out war, Revenge of the Sith continuity knot-tying, video game magic, the world’s funniest riding animals, and a few special appearances by frazzled hitchhiker Arthur Dent. Closure is truly ours for the taking.

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Top 10 Worst Additions to “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” Extended Edition

Martin Freeman, The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey

Even Bilbo sleeps through his bonus scenic tour of Rivendell.

With NBC’s Revolution skipping this week and my Wednesdays otherwise free, I spent tonight wading through the extended edition of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey, which was released last November for enthusiasts who wanted to make sure none of the deleted scenes were from the best obscure nooks of Tolkien canon. Although the Extended Edition only includes 7.7% more footage than the theatrical version, the resulting saga feels twice as long.

Other websites have annotated the bonus moments to exhaustion, but I’m pretty sure they missed a few things. I can’t blame them for napping, letting their phones distract them, or immediately forgetting what they just saw. That’s why little guys like me exist: just in case the pros are slacking.

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“The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug” as an Afternoon of Binge-Watching

Bilbo Baggins, Martin Freeman, The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug

Bilbo struggles with temptation. So. Many. CUPS.

Two advance caveats:

1. It’s been years since I read The Hobbit. I remember most of it, but to me it’s not a sacred idol to be treated as holy writ every time it’s adapted into another medium. My impressions of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey were previously documented to this effect.

2. Some of the following will assume you’re familiar with the book and/or already saw The Desolation of Smaug for yourself. As a latecomer to the party once again, I doubt I’ll be treading unfamiliar ground for too many readers.

That being said: I may be one of the few viewers who found The Desolation of Smaug a more satisfying experience than its predecessor, burdened as that one was with cumbersome exposition and morose musical numbers. Faced with a 161-minute running time, I entered the theater this time with despondent expectations, but realized partway through that the movements are so neatly segmented, it was like binge-viewing a TV miniseries at home. Granted, Desolation was the equivalent of a series’ middle and therefore guaranteed to disappoint no matter how it ended, but taken as Disc 2 of 3, its 3½ episodes zoomed along nicely and moved the story forward with only minimal irrelevant detours.

Onward toward Erebor, then…

My 2012 Movies in Retrospect, #15-8

In part one of our three-part miniseries, I reminisced about my least favorite theatrical experiences of 2012, works that other viewers may have liked a lot more than I did. Part two, then, is a veritable middle-ground parade — movies that weren’t a waste of my time, some even eligible for eventual addition to my library, but were a few steps removed from instant-classic status according to my recondite guidelines.

The countdown advances:

Jeremy Renner, The Bourne Legacy15. The Bourne Legacy. The way my mental math works out, this section of my list contains this year’s zestiest popcorn flicks — action yarns that propelled me along despite nagging storytelling flaws. Jeremy Renner’s two-hour overseas vacation video neatly fits that slot. Though the extended chases pale before the emotional stakes and the intricate cat-and-mouse games of the second and third Bourne chapters, Renner is fun to cheer on anyway as a plainspoken everyman upgraded to an outnumbered battle machine. In that sense it’s the spy-genre equivalent of a Rocky movie, albeit without a satisfying Ivan Drago analogue.

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“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”: Thoughts on Old Friends, Orc Stats, and End Credits

The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyOf all the movies I wanted to see most in theaters this year, none required as long a wait as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey did. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to sit quietly and wait until its third whole weekend of American release before all schedules properly aligned. Those of you who wait to catch movies on DVD or via basic-cable hatchet job may roll your eyes at my impatience if you must, but I like keeping current on my movies, especially those that have been pinned on my mental calendar for months.

To place my anticipation in perspective: I was required to read The Hobbit in seventh-grade English class. Our teacher was such a fan, we received extra credit if we completed our assignments in green ink. I also have the Mind’s Eye six-cassette audio adaptation and the Chuck Dixon/David Wenzel graphic-novel adaptation. I read The Fellowship of the Ring for a ninth-grade book report, but didn’t read the other two until after the movie trilogy had commenced twenty-five years later. I abandoned the Return of the King appendices after five pages, and once owned a copy of The Book of Lost Tales, Volume 1 that I don’t recall ever opening.

Regardless, I’ve been pacing back and forth, waiting for the chance to see Martin Freeman win as Bilbo. Freeman met all my expectations with the proper combination of exasperation, humility, whimsy, and plucky determination. For that alone, I received my money’s worth and then some.

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Trailer #2 for “The Hobbit” Starring Dr. Watson and Doctor Who

Longtime fans of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy who’ve been watching last December’s two-minute teaser for The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey on an endless loop every day for the past nine months can finally close that browser and tune in for the new, full-length trailer that was released to the Internet on Wednesday. It’s comforting to see our old friends Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, and Andy Serkis all returned and on point, but I’m personally more interested in the new tidbits:

I’m delighted to see Martin Freeman portraying astounded exasperation with his usual finesse. Whether as Tim from The Office, Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or the average-minded John Watson from Sherlock, Freeman specializes in men who can’t believe what he sees in the other men that surround them. To his credit, his Bilbo Baggins (at least in these scant samples) seems to retain at least a smidgen of confidence in stressful situations, a trait that his adopted nephew struggled to inherit in the trilogy.

New to our eyes this time around: Sylvester McCoy, erstwhile Doctor Who, as Radagast the Brown, a wizard colleague of Gandalf and Saruman who was name-checked in passing in J.R.R. Tolkien’s original novel. I remember reading it in seventh-grade English class, where our teacher Mrs. Price gave us extra credit if we completed our Hobbit homework and quizzes in green ink. I don’t recall Radagast’s name at all, but I’ll take everyone else’s word for it. Here his role has been broadened to compensate for his complete deletion from the LOTR trilogy, and set far apart from those other, mainstream sellout wizards by donning the world’s craziest winter hat and possibly threatening to invoke a divination method certain to make the Middle-Earth Humane Society cry.

Also integral to my seventh-grade Hobbit experience: the three trolls! I was hoping one of my favorite scenes from the book would be included in the first movie, instead of being relegated to The Hobbit Part 7 or however long this series ends up.

I’m especially curious to see more of Richard Armitage’s version of dwarf’s dwarf Thorin Oakenshield, the new face of 21st-century dwarfdom — to say nothing of his dozen companions. Compared to these nimble warriors, in hindsight Gimli son of Gloin looks like Volstagg the Voluminous.

You’ll also note the younger, cleaner Gollum who’s a little less sinister in his threats of hobbit cannibalism. Little does Prequel Gollum know he’s sparring with an opponent who’s a little less highstrung and morose than Frodo was. I don’t look forward to the moment when crafty ol’ Bilbo absconds with his Precious and shatters his heart.

In the grand tradition of The Return of the King and its endless parade of endings, Warner Bros.’ official movie site offers a total of five different versions of this trailer that end with different scenes, each one amusing in its own right, four of them at Bilbo’s expense. Laugh while you can, pesky dwarven bullies. Over the next three years, Bilbo will show you all.

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