I don’t think that anyone would argue with you if you were to suggest that Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a masterpiece, but his recent adaptations of Tolkien’s predecessor to LOTR, The Hobbit, is a bit more controversial. The main argument against Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy of films is just that – it’s a trilogy, three films based on one 300-page book in contrast to the three films based on three 400-600-page books. Regardless of your opinions on this new trilogy, it’s happening, and though the first film, An Unexpected Journey, wasn’t anything spectacular (my review), The Desolation of Smaug certainly steps up the game and brings to the table a better film.
The second film in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film trilogy picks up where the first left off, with the dwarves of Erebor, Gandalf the Grey, and the eponymous hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, rapidly approaching the dark forest Mirkwood, with the orc company led by Azog the Defiler hot on their tail. They seek solace with Beorn, a skin-changer with the ability to transform into a large bear, who houses them and sends them off into Mirkwood. Along the way, the company of Thorin Oakenshield comes across terrifying giant spiders, the Wood-Elves of Mirkwood (including a certain familiar face from the LOTR…), Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) and the people of Lake-Town, and, finally, the dragon of Erebor itself – Smaug.
Martin Freeman continues to be the perfect Bilbo Baggins, from the way he reacts under stress to the way he communicates with the rest of the company. His energy on-screen surpasses that of any other actor in the film, though Richard Armitage as Thorin is also pretty great here. The character of Thorin is developed better than it was in the first film, with his conflict between his desire for gold and his dedication to his friends being brought into question. The other truly noteworthy performance here is Benedict Cumberbatch’s depiction of Smaug. Cumberbatch provided both voice and motion capture for the dragon, and his work is nothing short of amazing. Aside from the fact that the CGI is beautiful and as realistic as it could possibly be for a giant dragon, his voice is an excellent mix of both creepy and charming, and his whole conversation with Bilbo in the hall of gold is every bit as clever and entertaining as the “Riddles in the Dark” scene with Gollum in the first film.
Other characters were not so great. While it was admittedly nice having a familiar face pop up, Orlando Bloom’s return as the elf Legolas feels shoe-horned in, as his character serves no real purpose other than for some cool action scenes and to be a member of the poorly setup (and thoroughly awkward) love triangle between him, Tauriel (an elf character created for the film, played by actress Evangeline Lilly), and Kili (Aidan Turner), one of Thorin’s nephews. The explanation behind the inclusion of Tauriel is to provide a strong female character for audiences to look up to, and, yes, she does have a couple of good action scenes, but the insistence of the filmmakers to create this romantic side-plot makes my feelings toward her and Legolas to be ambivalent at best. I’m also sick of the side-plots involving the orcs hunting down Thorin for his head – more stuff made up for the films that weren’t present in the book. I’m not a book purist, meaning that I don’t think that filmmakers have to follow the book exactly, and, hey, if the filmmakers come up with something that adds to the book’s story in a good way, cool for them, but that is not the case here, at least not in regards to the elf characters.
An addition that I did enjoy this time around is Gandalf’s (Sir Ian McKellen) quest to find out more about this “Necromancer” that we only briefly glimpse in the first film. In the book, Gandalf leaves for chapters at a time, but Tolkien doesn’t expound on what he might be off doing…at least, not in The Hobbit. Jackson has graciously given us a glimpse into those adventures, which are quite entertaining. The Hobbit as written by Tolkien is not a prequel to The Lord of the Rings so much as it is simply a predecessor that takes place in the same universe; you don’t have to read one to understand the other. However, Jackson is turning his trilogy into a prequel for his earlier trilogy, and it’s scenes like Gandalf’s visit to Dol Guldur and the impending rise of Sauron that fulfill this purpose nicely. Also worth noting is the expansion of the role of the Ring in this film; in the book, it is simply a magic ring that turns the wearer invisible, but, as we learn in LOTR, it is actually much more than that. We start to see Bilbo’s fascination and obsession with the ring in this film, watching him slash something to bits to protect his possession of it – or, rather, its possession of him.
I enjoyed the first film in this trilogy well enough, but I can’t deny that our second outing with Thorin and company is much better overall. The feel of The Desolation of Smaug is more natural and (thankfully) less expository, and the higher stakes of this part of the journey bring more action to the table and make the film more enjoyable as a whole. The run-time is about the same as the first film, but it doesn’t feel that way because it does a better job of keeping you on your toes and engaged throughout. Sure, it has its problems – the HFR is still a bit cartoon-y at times – but it’s on-the-whole a superior film, with an ending that will leave you thirsting for more. Howard Shore has composed another great, although more forgettable, score for the film, and Ed Sheeran’s outstanding song “I See Fire” is worth sitting through the credits for. I can only hope that Jackson doesn’t disappoint with the third and final film later this year.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
Leave a comment | tags: aidan turner, an unexpected journey, andy serkis, azog, azog the defiler, bard the bowman, Benedict Cumberbatch, bilbo baggins, cgi, erebor, evangeline lilly, gandalf, gandalf the grey, gollum, hfr, Howard Shore, ian mckellen, j. r. r. tolkien, jrr tolkien, kili, lake-town, lee pace, legolas, lotr, love triangle, luke evans, martin freeman, mirkwood, necromancer, orc, orlando bloom, pale orc, peter jackson, richard armitage, riddles in the dark, sauron, the desolation of smaug, the hobbit, the hobbit: an unexpected journey, the hobbit: the desolation of smaug, the lord of the rings, thorin oakenshield, thranduil, tuariel, wood-elves | posted in 4, Books, Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies, Music, Scores
2012 was a good year for movies. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see everything – films like Moonrise Kingdom, The Master, Argo, Les Misérables, Django Unchained, etc. are all films released in 2012 that I haven’t seen yet – but I DID manage to see quite a few. Here is my personal list of the best films of 2012 (click on the titles to view my full review):
10. Wreck-It Ralph
This was another film that I had been looking forward to for months on end. I’m not as into video games as some other people, but watching this film was still like revisiting my childhood. The heart of this movie is in the right place, with the main message being “accept who you are because you’re a wonderful person just as you are.” A talented voice cast, a sweet story, candy puns out the wazoo, and a fun score by Henry Jackman make this film everything I wanted it to be…and the animated short shown before the film, Paperman, was just as fantastic.
9. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I was late to the whole “Lord of the Rings/J. R. R. Tolkien” party, having only seen Peter Jackson’s film trilogy in the past two years, but I was keen to read The Hobbit and see the movie as soon as I possibly could. While I was disappointed on my first viewing, mainly due to the cartoony special effects that resulted from the higher frame rate (48fps HFR), this film was a faithful adaptation to Tolkien’s original novel, and the return of familiar faces such as Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum is refreshing. The real highlight of the film, though, aside from Howard Shore’s beautiful score, is Martin Freeman, who plays the perfect Bilbo Baggins. While some may find the run time to feel a little stretched, I found it to be justified by the attention to detail to the original novel.
8. The Hunger Games
I read Suzanne Collins’ acclaimed Hunger Games trilogy just a few weeks before I saw the film, and I was hooked from the get-go. The film did a wonderful job of adapting the novel, perfectly capturing the dystopian society introduced in Collins’ literary world. Jennifer Lawrence did a particularly outstanding job as Katniss, and the scenes added by the filmmakers to show the control that the Capitol has over the people of Panem and over the Hunger Games do nothing but add to the story in a great way.
Robert Zemeckis, director of Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, released his first live action film in more than a decade this year. Flight was something I had anticipated for months, and it quite lived up to what I had in mind for it. Denzel Washington gives a powerful performance as a pilot struggling with drug and alcohol addictions, and the film explores topics such as love, recovery, lies, and responsibility. Zemeckis proves that he still has what it takes to direct a top-notch film that focuses on character and story just as much as it does on visual effects.
6. Life of Pi
This is a film that I sort of went to see just on a whim, and I’m glad I did. With gorgeous visuals that looked fantastic in 3D (something I don’t say often), Life of Pi excels the most in its storytelling. While the ambiguity of the ending may not appeal to some people, I found the film to be a thoughtful exploration of faith and of religion in general, leading me to look at my own relationship with God. It sort of melds the biblical Book of Job with Robert Zemeckis’ 2000 film Cast Away, and it definitely sparked my interest in reading the book it was based on.
In anticipation of this film, I first watched Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale, which was entertaining in its more muted kind of way, and Quantum of Solace, which was pretty disappointing. I still had high hopes for Skyfall, though, and it exceeded every expectation I had set for it. The action was fun, Javier Bardem as the villain sent chills up my spine (and also brought a couple of laughs), and Daniel Craig and Judi Dench both gave outstanding performances in their respective roles. The length wasn’t an issue to me because I was too caught up in the entertainment of the film to care.
Does Spielberg make bad films? I’d answer that with a “no” (I have an argument in favor of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). With 2011’s War Horse and his newest film, Lincoln, he has taken a step back from the typical sci-fi/action/fantasy films he is known for and has focused more on period dramas – both of which were fantastic. If Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln doesn’t win the Academy Award for Best Actor, I won’t know what to think. Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones also deliver standout performances in a film that is just as engrossing and fascinating in its exploration of politics as a good action film is in its exploration of shooting and blowing things up. Spielberg is a true master.
3. The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan set the bar high with 2008’s The Dark Knight, and this conclusion to the acclaimed trilogy did not disappoint. Tom Hardy as Bane was sinister and terrifying, Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were both welcome new presences, and the return of the familiar faces – i.e. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman – was satisfying and well-done. The Dark Knight Rises perfectly concluded Nolan’s trilogy.
2. The Avengers
There are so many ways that this film could have gone wrong. I mean, think about it – they took four characters from four separate films and brought them together into one super-film. In the hands of a less-capable director, it could have easily been one of the worst movies of the year, but with Joss Whedon at the helm, it ended up being one of the best. Smart dialogue with exciting action and a great story, The Avengers proved that an ensemble cast like this could work just as well in a film as it does on television.
Well-choreographed action sequences meet a smart script in this film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. As a time travel movie, it explores the consequences of our actions and the true cause of evil, and it spends just as much time in contemplation as it does making you sit on the edge of your seat.
Well, there you have it. My top ten films of 2012. What were your favorites of 2012?
7 Comments | tags: 3D, 48fps, Academy Awards, andy serkis, anne hathaway, Back to the Future, bane, bilbo, bilbo baggins, book of job, bruce willis, BTTF, casino royale, cast away, christian bale, Christopher Nolan, daniel craig, daniel day-lewis, denzel washington, flight, gandalf, gandalf the grey, gary oldman, gollum, henry jackman, hfr, Howard Shore, Hunger Games, ian mckellen, Indiana Jones, indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull, j. r. r. tolkien, javier bardem, jennifer lawrence, job, joseph gordon-levitt, joss whedon, jrr tolkien, judi dench, katniss, katniss everdeen, life of pi, Lincoln, looper, Lord of the Rings, lotr, martin freeman, michael caine, morgan freeman, oscar, Panem, paperman, peter jackson, quantum of solace, Robert Zemeckis, Sally Field, skyfall, Suzanne Collins, The Avengers, the dark knight rises, the hobbit, the hobbit: an unexpected journey, The Hunger Games, time travel, Tolkien, tom hardy, tommy lee jones, top 10, top ten, top ten films, War Horse, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, wreck it ralph | posted in Entertainment, Film, Film Reviews, Movies
For a long time, I had a sort of self-imposed boycott on Patrick Doyle’s music. Why? Because I despise his score to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Why? Well, you’ll have to wait for a review of that one for the answer to that. The point is, I only purchased Doyle’s score to Rise of the Planet of the Apes because I had to admit to myself that, Goblet of Fire aside, he did a fantastic job with this film’s score.
*mild film spoilers*
The opening track of the album, “The Beginning”, is mysterious and fascinating; Caesar’s theme is heard in its beginning stages as a soft sort of ethereal vocal melody, but it doesn’t stay that way forever. By the end of the film, however, in the track “Caesar’s Home”, we hear the big, in-charge, brassy fanfare that his melody has grown into, showing his growth in terms of intelligence and leadership. This theme is also heard several times in-between these two tracks in just about every form imaginable: aggressive, emotional, haunting, etc.
In fact, there are a few tracks that are highly emotional, conveying what Caesar, with his…err…limited vocabulary, can not, tracks such as in “Who Am I?”, when Caesar questions whether he’s part of the family or just a household pet, and in “Visiting Time”, when Caesar decides that he doesn’t want to be either of those things.
Much of this score manages to be both aggressive and brooding which is fitting of the tone of the film. Throughout the film, we see Caesar’s thirst for justice for his fellow apes grow into discontent and eventually into a revolution against the human oppressors. This tone can be heard in tracks like “‘Caesing’ the Knife”, which features an aggressive sixteenth-note string motif, and in “Cookies”, in which Caesar begins taking command of the other apes in the facility.
Despite the fact that these emotionally violent tracks dominate the album, it is not without its beauty; tracks like the frivolous “Lofty Swing” and the soaring “Off You Go” bring a bit of balance and light to a dark and depressing (though fantastic) film.
My favorite track? The final track, “Caesar’s Home”, is a perfect mix of emotional melodies and the brassy theme for Caesar that I mentioned above. We hear the theme from the sweeping string buildup heard in the earlier track “Off You Go” that represents freedom, and the final French horn fanfare is permeating, managing to send a chill up my spine every single time I hear it.
Overall, Patrick Doyle’s score to Rise of the Planet of the Apes put me on the path to becoming a fan in spite of my reservations. His aggressive, often tribal, music blends in perfectly to a film that depends largely on the music to convey thoughts and emotion; after all, apes can’t talk (…ha), so the score often acts as dialogue and is very successful at it. Definitely worth a listen!
Rating: 5 (out of 5)
- “The Beginning” 2:48
- “Bright Eyes Escapes” 3:38
- “Lofty Swing” 1:36
- “Stealing the 112” 1:52
- “Muir Woods” 1:20
- “Off You Go” 2:17
- “Who Am I?” 2:21
- “Caesar Protects Charles” 3:58
- “The Primate Facility” 2:45
- “Dodge Hoses Caesar” 1:40
- “Rocket Attacks Caesar” 1:24
- “Visiting Time” 2:17
- “‘Caesing’ the Knife” 2:04
- “Buck is Released” 1:52
- “Charles Slips Away” 1:16
- “Cookies” 1:15
- “Inhaling the Virus” 2:45
- “Caesar’s Stand” 4:23
- “Gen-Sys Freedom” 4:57
- “Zoo Breakout” 2:41
- “Golden Gate Bridge” 5:21
- “The Apes Attack” 2:10
- “Caesar and Buck” 1:58
- “Caesar’s Home” 2:40
Total Length: app. 62 min.
iTunes Album Link
3 Comments | tags: andy serkis, caesar, Chad Likes Movies, chadadada, chadlikesmovies, james franco, patrick doyle, rise of the planet of the apes, Soundtrack of the Day, soundtrackoftheday, the planet of the apes | posted in Entertainment, Film, Movies, Music, Scores, Soundtrack Reviews