The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

The-Hobbit-Battle-of-the-Five-Armies-poster-9-691x1024Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ryan Gage, Billy Connolly, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Sylvester McCoy, Stephen Fry, Manu Bennett, John Tui

Directed by Peter Jackson

Expectations: The highest of high.

fourstar


The Hobbit, as a whole, is hands down one of the most entertaining fantasy films out there, and The Battle of the Five Armies is perhaps the most entertaining piece of the trilogy. The idea that the films are bloated and stretched too thin remains somewhat incomprehensible to me. I can understand if you think the Tauriel/Kili love story is unnecessary — because it totally is — but it also allows for elves to hang around and do a bunch of slick elf stuff, so I don’t really see a problem. In any case, the richness that three films brings to this adaptation is exceptional. I can’t even imagine a one-film version, or even two films. If that was the case, so many of my favorite “unnecessary” moments would be left unseen.

This film picks up immediately after the events in Desolation of Smaug, as Smaug flies towards Laketown to burn it a new one. This is one hell of a thrilling opening, and it whets the appetite for what’s to come… basically two solid hours absolutely bursting at the seems with thrills. I can’t really think of a film quite like it. It’s nothing like either of the previous Hobbit films because the adventure the party set out on is essentially complete. The dragon has been slain, Erebor has been re-taken, what’s left but to dive headfirst into the gold like an unkempt, bearded Scrooge McDuck? Apparently a lot! The Battle of the Five Armies is also nothing like the Lord of the Rings films, so don’t expect anything with the weight of Return of the King just because this is the third film of a trilogy. The Hobbit is and always will be a lighter tale that happens before everything in Middle Earth went to hell in a handbasket, so it’s just wrong to expect it to hit the same way as Lord of the Rings.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Hobbit2_1Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O’Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mikael Persbrandt, Sylvester McCoy, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, Manu Bennett, Lawrence Makoare

Directed by Peter Jackson

Expectations: The highest of high.

threehalfstar


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is both better and worse than its predecessor. While An Unexpected Journey focused on Bilbo and his character arc, The Desolation of Smaug is more about the action and the adventurous journey. Even though we find ourselves exploring previously unseen regions of Middle Earth, there isn’t the same sense of wonder draped over The Desolation of Smaug. We’re no longer just seeing this world through Bilbo’s eyes, and while this leads to some incredible set-pieces and a lot of fun, without the wonder it’s much harder to be dazzled by this film in the same way.

But like how An Unexpected Journey did not dazzle in exactly the same way as Jackson’s previous Lord of the Rings films, The Desolation of Smaug is its own beast and should be allowed to flourish in its own way. And it does. Rather well, actually. This is a much darker, almost purely adventure section of the journey, which the film’s muted color palette helps to convey, but coincidentally this is also Jackson’s funniest Middle Earth film. Well… as long as you are on-board with Jackson’s dark sense of humor, where the biggest chuckles come from creative decapitations and other grisly treats. (Is this a record for decapitations in a PG-13 movie? I should think so.)

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The Three Musketeers (2011)

The_Three_MusketeersStarring Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Milla Jovovich, Christoph Waltz, Mads Mikkelsen, Orlando Bloom, Gabriella Wilde, James Corden, Freddie Fox, Juno Temple

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Expectations: Low, but I’m fairly excited.

On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


I won’t even try to pretend that I knew what was going on throughout most of The Three Musketeers, but I never really cared. The movie is chock full — and I mean CHOCK FULL — of imaginative, wild shit, so something as mundane and boring as an understandable plot just simply had to fall by the wayside. Sure, this is sure to add fuel to the detractors’ fire, but those who accept what the film is trying to do will enjoy it rather well. And those who stumble in looking for a traditional re-telling of the classic story will be absolutely crushed.

But I’m honestly not deeply familiar with the original tale, so really I don’t know how good of an adaptation this is. I’m pretty sure there weren’t any airships in the Dumas original, though. 🙂 What I can comment on was how much this particular adaptation reminded me of a Shaw Brothers wuxia film. I don’t know if it was the swords, or maybe the over-the-top fantasy of the character’s actions in the action sequences, or the complicated plot involving various factions all jockeying for supremacy, or the exaggerated villains typified by broad strokes of melodrama, but all throughout the film I kept coming back to how much it felt like a Western version of an old-school wuxia film. It’s not nearly as entertaining as one of those, but seeing as there aren’t a lot of Western-made wuxia films, I have to give this one some slack, just like I did the same for some of the really early Shaw films.

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