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A well-done send-off to a decent film series
So... That was The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The final film in Peter Jackson's six-film Middle-Earth saga.
This may just be Jackson's most ambitious film yet. It has to work as a standalone film, it has to be the final part of a trilogy, and it has to be the bridge between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films. Ambitious?
Let me state for the record that I'm an enormous fan of the Lord of the Rings films. I consider them to be the best trilogy of all time. However, I didn't really have that same vibe with the Hobbit films. I admit, when I heard they would begin making more Middle-Earth films, I was excited. The thought of returning to Middle-Earth was exhilarating.
Then, in December 2012, the first Hobbit film has its release. I was disappointed. It may have been because I didn't know what to expect, but it certainly wasn't what I had hoped it would be. There was too much goofy humor, and it was close to putting me to sleep at times.
Come December 2013, The Desolation of Smaug is released. Looking back, I think that this film was intended to split audiences. This film deviated so much from its source material that, at times, I forgot what I was watching. Suddenly, there was a Dwarf-Elf love story, suddenly Thorin's company of Dwarfs split up, suddenly they're fighting Smaug, and then the film ends.
Now, here we are in 2014, with the conclusion to the Hobbit films, The Battle of the Five Armies. This film literally starts off where Desolation left off, with Smaug destroying Lake- Town. A breathtaking sequence. Beautiful visuals remind us that Thorin's actions will bring some devastating consequences.
However, the sequence loses me a bit by cutting away to the Master of Lake-Town and Alfrid, who I guess were meant to be comic relief, but I ended up wishing they'd die. Not because I didn't like their characters, but because I thought they were so annoying and distracting from the overall experience.
After a very Lord of the Rings-esque recovery scene, we meet Bilbo and Thorin's half company of Dwarfs at Erebor, and you can tell Thorin has changed. He's become sick with the aptly named Dragon Sickness, and Bilbo can tell that something isn't quite right about him. Little do they know that Azog (Who is, like, the evilest thing ever.) is marching towards Erebor, as well as the Elvenking 'Mr. Fabulous' Thranduil, is also moving towards Erebor, resulting in a literal clash of the titans.
What we end up with is an enormous battle, so large in fact, that it shares title with the film. And now is also when Peter Jackson displays his qualities and faults as a film director. He manages to makes his battles very intimate, despite the chaos that you see on the screen. However, he has shown a particular love for goofy stuff, and after three films, he finally almost got it. There still is goofiness for people who crave that, but for the rest of us it comes off as dumb excuses for cheap laughs.
But damn, this film has a lot of CGI. And some of it doesn't even look finished! Some sequences looked like video game cutscenes at best, and at points I had to take off my 3D glasses because I had no idea what was happening. Note to self: Never see a 3D film again.
However, all things must come to an end, and in this film, there are so many cases that are left unsolved, almost to the point where it baffled me. We're introduced to Thorin's cousin, Daín Ironfoot, who I'm pretty sure is a CGI version of Billy Connolly. Suddenly, he's gone, and we're left wondering where he went, and we never see what happens to them again. Same thing happens to Beorn, Tauriel, Bard, and *sigh* Alfrid, just to mention a few.
That's this film's main problem; It opened too many doors without shutting them. Does that analogy make sense? There's almost no resolution to any of the characters except for Bilbo, masterfully portrayed by Martin Freeman, by the way. For a film series called The Hobbit, he doesn't appear nearly enough. I'm looking at you, Tauriel! Get out of the frame!
In conclusion, this is a worthy final installment in The Hobbit Trilogy, and a film I consider to be the best of the three.
Pros: Great acting, well-directed battle sequences, Howard Shore (Need I say more?), good visuals.
Cons: Lack of resolutions, obnoxious characters, too much CGI, some cheesy moments.
All in all a fine holiday film. If you enjoyed the previous Hobbits, you'll like this one.
A visually stunning piece that lacks ... Something?
Interstellar marks the return of director Christopher Nolan, who, in my opinion, has crafted some of the best Hollywood blockbusters in recent years. This seems to me like Nolan truly out of his comfort zone. There is a difference with Interstellar. This isn't main stream science fiction like Star Wars, however it also isn't quite like Stanley Kubrick's 2001. Some are calling it 'The new 2001', which is inaccurate. This film is its own story, a tale of survival, a tale of family.
Matthew McConaughey stars as Coop, a widowed pilot who has been degraded to a mere farmer. The Earth is in dire need of resources, as we have spent them all, meaning that, as professor Brand tells Coop, 'his daughter's generation will be the last to survive on Earth.' This means that Coop will need to embark on a journey with the remnants of NASA, to search for a habitable planet, through a conveniently discovered wormhole close to Saturn. This means that he will have to abandon everything, his daughter, Murph, and his son, Tom, and let me just say that he really shines in this role, accompanied by solid performances from Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, and Mackenzie Foy, among others.
That is as far as I will go without getting into spoiler territory. The beauty is that if you've managed to avoid spoiler-filled reviews, you virtually have no idea what you're in for, meaning that in some way, you go through the journey with the characters. And we can start off by saying that this film looks absolutely incredible. I was fortunate enough to see this in 70mm IMAX, and if there ever was a format to see this film in, that would be it. The Dutch cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, who has replaced Nolan's usual DoP Wally Pfister, has created some truly memorable images with this film. The visual effects were absolutely breathtaking, too. Seeing a little white dot, representing the spacecraft, The Endurance, against the enormity of Saturn literally took my breath away. The wormhole, the black hole, everything looks incredible.
The sound is something I would like to touch on, too. The quietness of space has never been louder, all accompanied by Hans Zimmer's subtle score, which is the best I've heard from him for a long time. You truly feel like you're taking off in a rocket taking off with the thundering roar the engines give away.
The emotional core of Interstellar sets it apart from other sci-fi films, too. It is essentially a story of a father who leaves behind his family for the greater good, and damn, is it heartbreaking to watch! Through Matthew McConaughey's performance, you can really see the struggle of Coop, and with some cheesy moments ("Love is the one thing that transcends time and space") as well as a few script errors and a weirdly annoying performance from Casey Affleck, it all comes together as a very well-thought out, experimental film, that to its core, is about a father's struggle to save his children.
Pros: visually stunning, a technical masterpiece, strong performances, intriguing storytelling, stellar (pun intended) soundtrack.
Cons: Some script errors along the way, a little too cheesy.