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Archive for the ‘Media Reviews’ Category

‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ Will Keep Fans Talking For Years

Desolation of SmaugOur third staff review comes from Sarumann, host of our LIVE Weekly Program ‘TORn Book Club.’ He will be hosting a special early discussion at 11am PST today (all timezones) at our LIVE event page as a follow-up to this review. Please note, the LIVE event will be spoiler-free and allow participants to ask those burning questions about the film. As for the review, he notes clearly where spoilers begin in the review:

Let me state for the record right away that I thoroughly enjoyed The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I found it to be a fun thrill ride with tons of spectacular visual and technical feats that go beyond anything we have seen thus far from these films. While there certainly are things I wish were done a little differently, my overall feeling as I left the theater was one of genuine satisfaction and excitement for the next film.

Having said that, I also feel that I fall within one of two “camps” that are likely going to arise among fans: Those who love it and accept the myriad alterations within it, and those who can’t stand it and feel that Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have finally gone too far with their artistic license. I fully expect to meet as many fans who agree with my assessment of the film as I will fans who believe I am crazy and delusional. Hard lines will be drawn in the sand, and many a heated debate will rage for months and perhaps even years following the release.

I was asked, on a scale of 1-10, how much did Jackson and Company diverge from the text, and I can best put it this way. If the more controversial divergences from The Lord of the Rings (Faramir taking Frodo and Sam to Osgiliath, Frodo sending Sam away, etc.) were to rate a 5 or 6 on this scale, then The Desolation of Smaug clocks in at about an 8 or a 9. There are alterations, expansions, completely new plot threads and, of course, an entirely new main character. How fans react to this is going to be varied and loud. I can’t discuss those too much without getting into heavy spoilers, so I’ll save that for later. For now, I’ll focus on my general feelings without getting too specific.

Let’s begin with the few things that I didn’t care for. While An Unexpected Journey felt perhaps a bit bloated and padded at times, The Desolation of Smaug suffers most to me from the exact opposite problem. I felt that there were many pieces missing here. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t able to follow what was happening, but there were definitely a number of moments where I got the distinct impression that something that would have helped contextualize or round out a scene was cut.

Another thing that I felt was a drawback was a number of foreshadowing of moments in The Lord of the Rings that felt like very heavy-handed fan-service callbacks. While some were definitely there as actual plot points, there were more than a few that felt unnecessary, and may have been better suited for the Extended Edition. They never felt as overblown or pandering as moments like these felt in, say, the Star Wars prequels or Star Trek Into Darkness, but I wasn’t a huge fan of them overall.

The film did excel for me in many places, and in a few others, exceeded some already very high expectations. Smaug in particular is a wonder to behold, and will no doubt be one of the crowning achievements of this trilogy. There are amazing action sequences that are true thrill-ride quality, and many insights into the characters and the overall story that I never would have seen otherwise. Ultimately, this movie worked for me on many more levels than it didn’t, and next December can’t come soon enough.

From here on out, I’ll be going into mild spoiler territory. Consider yourself warned.

We’ll start with the barrel-riding sequence. While some may feel that this sequence is overdone, and feels more like a video game, I still enjoyed it immensely. It is action-packed and full of great visual comedy moments right along with some truly impressive stuntwork. Keeping spoilers to a minimum here, I will give a little tease and state for the record that Bombur is now my hero.

TaurielThe big controversy among fans from the outset was the addition of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), a Sylvan Elf character who was not in the book or any of Tolkien’s ancillary work. It seemed to me that fans warmed to her once we started to see her in action in the trailers, and continued to warm when Lilly spoke publicly about being a big Tolkien fan herself. Now that I’ve seen her fully realized and integrated into the story, I am 100% on board with her inclusion. Tauriel is a forward-thinking character who is able to see the bigger picture of what is happening more than her own King, and she is willing to put words into action without hesitation. Lilly’s performance is also some of the best I’ve seen from her (and this is coming from somebody who watched Lost all the way to the bitter end).

On the subject of her King, Lee Pace is pitch perfect as Thranduil, the King of the Greenwood. He is intimidating, regal and clearly stuck in his old ways. His conversation with Thorin brings some fantastic insight into why he abandoned the Dwarves of Erebor in their time of need. His cool elegance may be the best Elf performance I’ve seen since Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel in Fellowship.

The last Elf I will talk about is, of course, Legolas. While not specifically in the book himself, his inclusion is not something that feels wholly outside of the realm of possibility. Having said that, Orlando Bloom’s performance here felt somewhat lacking to me. Even though he is Thranduil’s son and a Prince of the Woodland Realm, he comes off feeling more like just another soldier in his army, albeit a high-ranking one. He is still able to pull off some incredible stunts, and he handles a bow and sword as well as he ever did in The Lord of the Rings, but this is also a very different Legolas from what we saw before. He is just as closed-minded as his father, and it seems to me that Tauriel will play a crucial role in his transformation from what he is now to what he will become in the future (or the past – it’s all wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey prequel stuff).

While I would love to go through all of the performances of the main characters in this, there just isn’t time. I’ll simply focus on some of the stand-outs for me. Richard Armitage and Martin Freeman both turn in exceptional performances as Thorin and Bilbo. The big theme with both of them in this movie is corruption – Thorin by the Arkenstone and Bilbo by the Ring. As the Company gets closer and closer to the Lonely Mountain, we see Thorin’s growing desperation to claim the Arkenstone. We also see Bilbo starting to slowly lose control of himself as he uses the Ring more and more. Both of them portray their individual slides with exceptional subtlety.

Gandalf-the-GreyIan McKellan, as always, is just the perfect Gandalf. This film dedicates more time to him and Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) investigating the possible dark power that was uncovered in the first movie. Without giving away too much, it does build up to a very intense and powerful reveal.

There is also the introduction of Luke Evans as Bard, and this movie does a fantastic job of fleshing out his character beyond what we see in the book. He is a man who holds the protection and preservation of Lake-town above all things. He also has an excellent backstory that helps emphasize why he is the way he is, and how his own family history is tied to Smaug.

Two characters that I felt received some short shrift in this movie were the Master of Lake-town (Stephen Fry) and Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt). Neither of them have as much screen time as I was hoping, especially when they both are portrayed so compellingly. I do hope that we see more of both of them in the Extended Edition.

Lastly, and most importantly, we come to the dragon Smaug. With nearly two full movies building up to his encounter with Bilbo, expectations for this character were undoubtedly very high. For me, these expectations were exceeded in the most glorious way. Smaug is so wonderfully designed and animated that he more than lives up to his reputation. Add to that the amazing voice of Benedict Cumberbatch, and you have a villain who is truly worthy of all the buildup. Smaug may be the best CG character I’ve seen in these movies since Gollum. His conversation with Bilbo is so breathtaking and sinister that I didn’t want it to end.

While this movie does diverge from the source more so than any other Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movie to date, I personally did not feel that it detracted from the story in any way. None of the movies have ever been slavishly faithful to Tolkien’s written word, but they have all made for compelling and entertaining movies that tell tremendous stories masterfully, and The Desolation of Smaug is no exception.

I can see, however, many fans walking away from this movie feeling that this franchise has gone off the rails and into the world of self-indulgence. We all have our opinions and expectations, but I personally do not hold to the idea that Jackson, Walsh and Boyens have gone too far. One thing that must be remembered overall is that this is just one interpretation of a 75-year-old story. Do I think it is a good interpretation? Absolutely! Can I see how others may not see it that way? Of course. Seeing another’s interpretation of a story is fascinating, and can oftentimes provide insight into the text you may never have seen yourself despite multiple readings. Interpretations can also provide insights that you may personally feel are incorrect, and I have no doubt that fans will discuss their own personal reactions to them at great length. And that’s as it should be. I’m much more pleased by a movie that sparks heated debate than I am one that just paints by numbers and leaves the audience shrugging in apathy.

Desolation of Smaug PosterFor my part, I see the passion the filmmakers have for this project exploding off of every frame of these movies, and it draws me in every time. While we have a glut of movies that seem to be made by people who almost resent that they have to do it in first place – either through studio mandate or the promise of a big payout and reputation boost – it’s refreshing to see a big budget film made with love. Whatever else may be said about the cast and crew of these movies, their love for Tolkien and this world cannot be denied. And to those who will ultimately take to the internet decrying that this movie has ruined the book, I say this: Nobody is going to the publisher and forcing them to pulp all existing copies of The Hobbit and replace them with a new version based on these movies. The book is still there, and will always be there. Our imaginations create our own vision of what we read, and no movie is ever going to be the perfect match to that – unless you’re making it yourself, of course.

I won’t say how far into the story this film takes us by the end, but I will say that the year-long wait between this and the third installment, There and Back Again, is going to be interminable. Most second-part installments in trilogies have the problem of starting in mid-stream and ending on a particularly dark cliffhanger. While The Desolation of Smaug certainly does both, it is ultimately a thrilling ride that left me walking out of the theater fully satisfied and eager for more.

 

Posted in Film Screenings, Hobbit Movie, Media Reviews, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Quickbeam’s Desolation of Smaug Film Review: Splendid Smaug Splits Fandom?

hobbit_the_desolation_of_smaug_ver16_xlg[Editor’s Note: Fear not, dear readers, TORn staffer Quickbeam presents our first official review of DOS *spoiler-free* until loudly noted in the later section (with plenty of buffer space) where inquisitive minds may read further with spoiler-iffic abandon.]

The Great Schism: Splendid Smaug Splits Fandom?
or
Hobbit Version 2.0: Jackson Does it Differently

I know it’s been a long year to wait. Ringer fans are going into ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ with high hopes for another thrilling chapter in the ongoing saga adapted by our fellow fan, Peter Jackson. Indeed it is thrilling. And indeed it bears all the hallmarks of a P.J. film, replete with energetic action set pieces and gorgeously realized creatures and places that only cinema can properly provide to our senses.

Be forewarned Book Fans, because of the extent DOS deviates from J.R.R. Tolkien’s original, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be a very vocal fan reaction, if not an outright scream of frustration from one or two up in the balcony. The filmmakers have certainly delivered the goods; it is a very enjoyable movie that pretty much blows the audience away with well-crafted storytelling. It is by turns breathlessly paced and frightening and funny and gorgeous (Smaug especially has much of his “muchness”). But by the end credits, it no longer resembles the book you read as a kid, not by a long shot.
Which is something I must mention up front because of the laborious efforts towards fidelity in ‘An Unexpected Journey.’ In fact, much of the LOTR Trilogy was a concentrated effort to (mostly) honor the source material. True, there were odd bits that didn’t ring true to Tolkien; like Faramir dragging the hobbits to Osgiliath and Frodo sending Sam home (piffle) but what happens in DOS is just completely off the rails, especially in the third act.

(more…)

Posted in Headlines, Hobbit Movie, Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, Media Reviews, Miscellaneous, Out on a Limb, Premieres, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, TheOneRing.net Announcements, TORn TUESDAYS Live!

First ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ reviews released as embargo lifts

Bilbo in The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugAs some of you may have noticed – something rather unexpected happened today.
While reviews for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug were expected to
begin getting published this coming Sunday – the embargo was lifted early and we began getting reviews today! TORN staffers, who have been lucky enough to see the film already, will be reviewing the film soon enough. First up will be our own Quickbeam, who is currently finalizing his thoughts. In the meantime, however, we thought we’d post a couple of the early reviews for your reading pleasure. (more…)

Posted in Benedict Cumberbatch, Headlines, Hobbit Movie, J.R.R. Tolkien, LotR Movies, Martin Freeman, Media Reviews, MGM, Miscellaneous, New Line Cinema, Peter Jackson, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Tolkien, Warner Bros.

The most unflattering review of the Extended Edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey you will read today (and why it’s rubbish)

HobbitEE_1400x2100_US I’m certainly no poster child for the Peter Jackson fan club, but a hatchet job review of the Extended Edition by Fred Topel over at CraveOnline is full of such over-the-top hyperbole that I cannot let it pass. It reeks of clickbait. And, as someone who makes a living working in advertising, I know clickbait pretty well. Yet its headline, and conclusion, is so at odds with the calibre of the evidence in support that I simply cannot let it pass without comment.

(In the spirit of not rewarding clickbait, I’m not even linking the article here. I know that’s a bit fraught, but if you do really want to read it, here’s Google search. It’s not hard to find.)

Let’s take Toper’s conclusion, and ultimate claim about the EE (and The Hobbit film trilogy as a whole):

“We are witnessing the dawn of a cinematic train wreck.”

(more…)

Posted in Blu-Ray, DVDs, Hobbit Movie, Media Reviews, Merchandise, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hobbit: There and Back Again

Our Own Documentary RINGERS: Lord of the Fans Now on iTunes!

finalopeningtitleIn 2005 we premiered our very own documentary feature film RINGERS: Lord of the Fans at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, where  it was quickly snapped up by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment for worldwide distribution on DVD and cable! It is finally available on iTunes after 7 years of hopeful waiting… you can also find it on Amazon Instant and on VUDU.

What a fun movie! Dominic Monaghan (Meriadoc Brandybuck) came on board to be our wonderful narrator! Actually this film is a time capsule of many decades of pop culture history — giving us the full story on how the world has embraced Tolkien’s masterpiece THE LORD OF THE RINGS over 50 years and more!

Winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Newport Beach Film Festival, RINGERS was produced in association with TheOneRing.net — this remarkable little film was forged BY fans and FOR fans, just like our website, with the production/writing talent of Clifford “Quickbeam” Broadway (who hosts TORn TUESDAY every week), Jeff Marchelletta, and supercool director Carlene Cordova. It was executive produced by X-Men/Transformers guru Tom DeSanto.

With a wonderful rock-driven score and detailing all the outpouring of love bestowed on Tolkien over many generations, this film is a must-have for your digital collection! Get it on iTunes now for only $9.99!

From the original Sony Press Release:

RINGERS is comprehensive, entertaining and informative pop culture history.”
The Toronto Star

 

“…Will always be a salient part of ‘LORD OF THE RINGS’ history…
See it, absorb it, love it.”
FilmThreat

 

RINGERSonesheetWinner of “Outstanding Achievement” Award at the
Newport Beach Film Festival

 

RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS

 

FASCINATING DOCUMENTARY CAPTURES THE HISTORY, INFLUENCE AND PHENOMENON THAT IS LORD OF THE RINGS

 

CULVER CITY, Calif. (September 12, 2005) – Sony invites you to return to the Shire with the release of the feature-length documentary RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS, direct to DVD.  In association with the popular fan-site TheOneRing.net, Carlene Cordova produced, directed and wrote this award-winning film with executive producer Tom DeSanto(X-Men, X2: X-Men United and Transformers), which charts the incredible influence and ripple-effect that Lord of the Rings has had on worldwide pop culture over the past five decades.  Whether you are a fan or first timer, critics agree, RINGERS, stands as the most comprehensive film documenting the ongoing impact of J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary achievement.

Dominic Monaghan (star of ABC’s Lost and the Academy Award® winning Lord of the Rings trilogy) narrates the documentary as it looks behind the curtain between Lord of the Rings and how it inspired so many artists of different mediums.  The film moves beyond “cult classic” and through different generations unearthing the way legendary rock musicians, filmmakers, professors, actors and authors all unite under the banner of ‘Ringer.’  Interviewees included in the film are Lord of the Rings trilogy filmmaker Peter Jackson as well as Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin and David Carradine.  Infused with a dynamic rock-driven score, irreverent cut-out animation (á la Terry Gilliam), and a centerpiece audience sing-a-long, RINGERS is a genre-busting documentary that shows how a single literary work continues to spark the minds and hearts of millions.

RINGERS continues the momentum of the motion picture trilogy Lord of the Rings, a winner of 17 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director for Peter Jackson, who made history as the first person to direct three major feature films simultaneously. 

 

From the official synopsis:

 

Ringers: Lord of the Fans is a feature-length documentary that reveals the ongoing cultural phenomenon created by The Lord of the Rings.  Very funny and often moving, Ringers shows the hidden power behind Tolkien’s books — and how after 50 years a single literary work continues to spark the minds and hearts of millions, across cultures and across time.

 

6919cliffsalamorganShot with groundbreaking new digital technology in 24P, Ringers explores the real foundations of Middle-earth; a community of true fans who share a common bond.  Moving beyond “cult classic” and over several different generations, the film unearths academics, musicians, authors, filmmakers, and a plethora of pop junkies — the people gathered under the banner of ‘Ringer.’  From the hippie counter-culture to the electronic age; from the Bakshi animated film to Jackson’s epic trilogy; this documentary brings together extensive footage from across the globe.  With units in Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Bonn, Germany, Wellington, New Zealand, and Oxford, England, our cameras capture the most fascinating “Ringers” and Lord of the Rings events.

 

What began as the private amusement of a tweedy Oxford professor has now become a new mythology for the 21st century. Ringers: Lord of the Fans shows how an adventure story published in 1954 has had dynamic ripple-effects through Western pop-culture.  Ringers carefully pulls away the veil between Tolkien’s book and the creations of art, music, and community that have been inspired by it.

 

Check out the official trailer here:

Posted in Andy Serkis, Barrie Osborne, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, DVDs, Elijah Wood, Fans, Headlines, Ian McKellen, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Noble, John Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, Locations Sets, Lord of the Rings, LotR Movies, Media Reviews, Merchandise, Miscellaneous, Movie Fellowship of the Ring, Movie Return of the King, Movie The Two Towers, New Zealand, Orlando Bloom, Other Merchandise, Other Tolkien books, Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Sean Astin, TheOneRing.net Announcements, TheOneRing.net Community, Tolkien, Viggo Mortensen

NZ Chance to watch Hobbit Sneak Peak with pre-order

Attention NZ fans! You can now get a chance of watching theTHE HOBBIT_ AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY-1 30 minute live webcast sneak peek at ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,’ hosted by Peter Jackson, if you pre-order The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from these stores The Warehouse or The Mighty Ape.

There are a limited number of access passes from both websites, with The Warehouse ending this offer at 12pm on 22/03/13. There are  a limited number of 500, so pre-order soon.

The webcast will be held on Monday, March 25th at 8am! NZTime.

 

 

Posted in Contests, Director Rumors, Events, Fans, Film Screenings, Hobbit Movie, Media Reviews, Other Events, Press Conferences, The Hobbit

FXguide.com: Weta returns to Middle-earth

Jackson and Lesnie with the RED EPICs and 3Ality stereo rig. (Courtesy: FXguide.com)“Weta Digital has grown to now define state of the art in visual effects worldwide. Its dedication to storytelling and realizing director’s visions has lead to the company working with some of the best directors in the world. For The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Weta Digital continued to employ its exquisite attention to detail into helping to tell the story of the fantastical world of Middle-earth.” [Read More]

Posted in Hobbit Movie, Media Reviews, Production, The Hobbit, WETA Digital, WETA Workshop

Washington Post: Is ‘The Hobbit’ a ‘Christian’ film? Yes and no.

“Travel along, if you dare, with Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit” — either in J.R.R.Tolkien’s beloved 1937 novel, or through the first installment of Peter Jackson’s film trilogy based on the book. If you do, you will, essentially, be traveling in a world constructed on Christian principles, says Devin Brown, a professor of English at Asbury University, a Christian liberal arts college near Lexington, Ky.” [Read More]

Posted in Hobbit Movie, Media Reviews, The Hobbit