Saturday, December 29, 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit- An Unexpected Journey

Last night, I saw this movie with my family. I also recently read the entire novel, so I will add some comparisons between the movie and Tolkien's work.


This movie is the start of a trilogy that is loosely based off of Tolkien's child novel "The Hobbit," a prequel to the entire "Lord of the Rings" novels. Bilbo Baggins is living in Bag End, content to live a simple life filled with comfort and security. However, the wizard Gandalf has other plans. He ropes Bilbo into going on "an adventure" with thirteen dwarves, led by Thorn Oakenshield, who want to regain their homeland Erebor from the dragon Smaug. Along the way, Bilbo will face trolls, goblins, wizards, wargs, and even Gollum, who possesses a magical ring that makes Bilbo invisible when he puts it on, and he will need plenty of courage to go onwards.

The movie's plot is about the first six chapters of "The Hobbit," but Jackson has added more to the story, like the White Council's doings and the rise of the Necromancer in Mirkwood (which were briefly mentioned in "The Hobbit" but were given in more detail in appendices of "Lord of the Rings"). Not only that, but Jackson has added extra things not in the books at all, such as the grudge between Azog and Thorin (which would have never happened because in the book Azog was dead long before the company set out for Erebor; but that's beside the point). Even though I thought the White Council sub-plot was a good addition to the story, the other additions like the Azog/ Thorin grudge did not fit in well because it was not in the original works. Other parts of the plot were deviations from the original that I was not overly fond of, like Bilbo being the one who keeps the trolls arguing until daylight, Bilbo's encounter with Gollum happening concurrently with the dwarves facing the Goblin King instead of at separate times, or even certain twistings of Middle Earth's history, like the whole thing with the Necromancer resurrecting the Witch-King of Angmar; however, I do admit I am a stickler for details when it comes to book/ movie adaptations, so some people might not care about that.

The movie is a rather long one, being far longer than any of the "Lord of the Rings" movies, and it can get tiring after a while. By the time the White Council was finishing up their meeting, I was beginning to feel restless in the theater, and I've heard other people saying the same thing. It did not help that certain scenes were either added or drawn out. For example, I thought the whole chase scene with Radagast, the company, and the goblins was unnecessary, and I thought the affair with the goblins and the Goblin King seemed too long in comparison to the shorter confrontation in the book. I'm still wondering how on earth Jackson is going to release extended version of already long movie, but I suspect it is more of a moneymaking opportunity than anything else.

One final thing about the movie's general plot. I've read complaints from other reviewers about the amount of humor in "The Hobbit" and how it seems unbalanced compared to some of the darker aspects of the story, like the Necromancer and Dol Guldur. I did enjoy the dwarves being comic at times because that was pretty much the tone of the original book. Even though I understand that "The Hobbit" is a much lighter-hearted story than "Lord of the Rings," the movie is still darker than the original. Because of this, there were a few scenes that, to me, seemed almost silly, a little too light-hearted even for the book, like the scenes with the Goblin King and Bilbo's encounter with Gollum.

In general, the characters were pretty good. Martin Freeman did a very good Bilbo; he just looks like he could be a hobbit who loves his comfortable life in his comfortable hole. I had previously seen Richard Armitage in "North and South" (not counting his brief role in "Captain America: The First Avenger"), and originally I was a bit hesitant at the news that "Mr. Thornton is playing Thorin." However, Armitage did a very good job at capturing Thorin's prideful, stubborn self. I also liked the characters of Balin, Fili, and Kili, and the other dwarves were well-picked. Radagast was an interesting character, and I admit I'm not fully sure what I think of his addition to the movie. There are also old characters like older Bilbo, Frodo, Elrond, Gandalf, Saruman, and Galadriel who show up in the movie, and you can tell that a few of them have definitely aged/ grown up ever since the Trilogy was released.

To this day, the "Lord of the Rings" soundtrack remains one of my favorite soundtracks to listen to and be inspired by. However, I was a bit disappointed in the soundtrack for "The Hobbit." There are some of the old familiar themes, but there are a couple of new ones that I'm still getting used to. One thing I was very disappointed in was the use of the "Nazgul theme" when Thorin challenged Azog; it completely did not fit, and I've heard complaints about that from other people, especially since Howard Shore did such a good job with the themes on the Trilogy's soundtrack. I wasn't impressed either by the song that was played over the credits. However, for a pro, I did enjoy the songs from the book that were added into the movie, like the dwarves singing when they throw Bilbo's dishes around or in their other song about Erebor (that song sends shivers up my spine every time I hear it).

As for special effects, I'm not sure. I'm not sure if it was because of the way the movie was filmed or if it was because it was on a large screen, but the effects looked a little fake, especially in comparison to the Trilogy's. I did like, however, the brief glances into Erebor at the height of its glory and the town of Dale before Smaug's arrival; it was nice to see both the cultures of dwarves and elves, especially since we didn't get to see much of either in the original Trilogy, and I was impressed with the sets for those.

It is hard to put "The Hobbit" on the same level as "Lord of the Rings" because the two stories are so different in their tone and content, and so I admit that I probably should not compare the two. However, to me, there is a difference between two related stories who are of equal quality; it sort of reminds of me of the comparison between "Alien" and "Aliens," which are different but both are still enjoyable for their own separate reasons. For me, "The Hobbit" was a step below the quality of original Trilogy (which had its own issues), and so was not as memorable. I was glad I saw it, and there were parts that I did enjoy, but overall it was only an ok movie to me.

I give it three out of five stars.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I saw this movie back when it was first released, but I opted not to do a review of it until I had seen the movie a few more times and understood it better.


The movie is Christopher Nolan's final film in his "Batman" trilogy that he has worked on for the past seven or so years. This movie takes place eight years after the events of "The Dark Knight" and, although it references a few events like Harvey Dent's corruption and Rachel's death, it actually has more in common and more references to "Batman Begins." Bruce Wayne has become a recluse inside Wayne Manor while Gotham is at peace, but things quickly change when the masked former League of Shadows member Bane shows up on the scene with his plan to restore justice to Gotham. Bruce must come out of hiding and use manipulative jewel thief and young cop John Blake (who admires Batman) to bring Bane down.

The movie's plot is a bit twisted, and it takes several viewings to understand it fully and to catch all the little details. However, there were some parts that were weak, left unexplained, or did not make a lot of sense. One thing, for example, was why Bruce became a recluse for eight years; it could have been because of the events of "The Dark Knight," but it was never explained and so seemed a little odd. Another was Bane's connection to Talia al Ghul and how their exact partnership worked. The movie's ending was also a bit unsatisfactory, with the rather uneventful deaths of both Bane and Talia and with the discovery that Bruce is alive; to me, it was a bit of a letdown, especially knowing Nolan's talent for storytelling. I did like the whole "Robin" revelation at the end; it ties up things very nicely and would enable for the story to continue (if put into the right hands). Despite the movie's length, it does not seem that long.

The movie had some pretty good characters. It had the usual old ones of Bruce, Alfred (who actually plays a much smaller role than in previous films), Gordon, and Fox, but there are new ones too. Tom Hardy plays an excellent Bane, physically being a big beast of a guy but also being highly intelligent; the only thing that I wished they changed was that it is difficult to understand him because of the mask. Anne Hathaway also did a good job as Selina Kyle/ Catwoman, though I wish that there had been more of a chance to develop her character; and I think they should have developed her relationship with Batman a little more because them getting together at the end seemed a little rushed. Marion Cotillard plays Miranda Tate, a woman with her own agenda who becomes Bruce's girlfriend, and I think they could have emphasized her more manipulative, villainous nature better. Joseph Gordon- Levitt did a good job as well as John Blake, and I wonder if he will have any involvement in future Batman movies.

The movie had good effects and stunts (I'm still scratching my head over Catwoman's acrobatic movements in heels), and I really like Batman's bike. Hans Zimmer did an excellent job, as usual, on the soundtrack, using both themes from previous Batman films and, and I recommend his song "Aurora," which he composed in honor of the victims of the Aurora, Colorado shooting.

This movie, to me, is not the best out of the trilogy ("Batman Begins" is still my favorite out of the three), but it was a good conclusion to the trilogy. Despite its various plot holes and weak spots, I still think it is an enjoyable film.

I give it four out of five stars.