The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Review

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies movie posterSynopsis
After dealing with the dragon, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)), who had been living in the dwarf home of Erebor, Thorin (Richard Armitage), and his soldiers must now protect it from those who wish to take the vast treasure for themselves.

Review
I think it is interesting how much The Hobbit films have mirrored the Lord of the Rings films.  Each movie did a great job of building the characters and tension from the last. The second entry of the two series leaves each Baggins and their respective groups in interesting places for the third one to pick up.  Then the third film offers the biggest and best action sequences of the trilogies.

The Battle of the Five Armies picks up exactly where The Desolation of Smaug leaves off, with Smaug heading off the destroy Laketown.  I’ve compared The Hobbit series to the Star Wars prequel trilogy before and I’m about to do it again.  Slight spoiler warning.  Smaug’s treatment in this film was like Count Dooku’s in The Revenge of the Sith.  They were both the big bad from the second film in their respective series, and then they don’t last past the first scene of the third film of their series. It’s slightly disappointing because he was the best part from the previous movie.  For Smaug to appear for such a short amount of time made him feel out of place. I almost wish they would have finished his portion of the story in his film.  I know that The Desolation of Smaug was already long enough but with the power of editing it could have worked.

Like many modern blockbusters with heavy action sequences, this movie piles on the CGI.  When dealing with something like five large armies, it is to be expected, but some things that could have been done practically (and would have looked better if done so) weren’t.  For example, the leader of the large dwarf army, Dain, is completely animated and it is very easy to tell.  There are several close up shots of him that would have looked several times better if Billy Connolly had been in a costume.

One scene I found particularly interesting was not even one of the many action scenes.  After Smaug is defeated and Thorin is consumed by the large treasure, he walks into a great hall where a vision-like sequence begins.  My friend was telling me that this scene seemed to divide fans but I thought it fascinating.  The symbolism of him being consumed by the gold and him falling victim to the same greed that befell his grandfather, something Thorin swore to never do, was apparent without saying a single word.

Just like The Return of the King, the action sequences are on a much larger scale than the previous two movies.  There is also little time for the characters, or the audience, to catch their breath.  After the short Smaug sequence, there is a little breather where we see Thorin and how he and his relationship with his friends have changed since they started on their journey.  But before two long, the titular battle starts and it consumes the rest of the film.  The sheer scale of the battle is impressive, and very action packed.

I thought The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was GOOD :-).  Like The Return of the King, it gave the trilogy some of its biggest and best action scenes.  Although I think Smaug should have been confined to one movie rather than feeling stuck into this one and the CGI was overused.  But all in all, it gave a very epic and exciting conclusion to the series.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Hobbit trilogy: An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Guillermo del Toro – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Martin Freeman – Bilbo
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
Richard Armitage – Thorin
Ken Stott – Balin
Graham McTavish – Dwalin
William Kircher – Bifur
James Nesbitt – Bofur
Stephen Hunter – Bombur
Dean O’Gorman – Fili
Aidan Turner – Kili
John Callen – Oin
Peter Hambleton – Gloin
Jed Brophy – Nori
Mark Madlow – Dori
Adam Brown – Ori
Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Evangeline Lilly – Tauriel
Lee Pace – Thranduil
Cate Blanchett – Galandriel
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Ian Holm – Old Bilbo
Mikael Persbrandt – Beorn
Sylvester McCoy – Radagast
Luke Evans – Bard
Stephen Fry – Master of Laketown
Ryan Gage – Alfrid
Manu Bennett – Azog
Lawrence Makoare – Bolg
Billy Connolly – Dain
Benedict Cumberbatch – Smaug (voice) / Necromancer (voice)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug movie posterSynopsis
Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen),  Thorin (Richard Armitage), and the rest of the dwarfs, continue their journey to Erebor, the dwarf homeland. Bilbo and the dwarfs come face to face with its protector, the dreaded dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)).  Meanwhile, Gandalf looks for the source of a mysterious, rising evil.

Review
In The Lord of the Rings series, The Two Towers is where the series really began to take off so I was interested to see if The Desolation of Smaug had the same affect for the Hobbit films.  I’d say it did a pretty good job.  Again, with all the set up out of the way in the first film, this one is able to keep up the pace. Outside of the elves, not many new characters are introduced.  One of the hurdles The Two Towers faced was introducing so many new characters throughout the movie. Since The Desolation of Smaug had very few characters they had to bring into the mix, it was able to keep the focus on Bilbo, Thorin and the rest of the dwarfs, as well as keep it moving.

Since the dwarfs were introduced last movie, this movie was spent building their relationship.  Their camaraderie was really fun to watch. The way they joke together, fight together, it was easy to tell that they are a family.  Since there are a lot of them, they don’t all get a ton of development, but they get enough that you can feel out the rest.

One thing this franchise hasn’t lacked is action.  And Desolation of Smaug is no exception.  This movie offered some of the most unique of the series so far.  One of my favorite scenes was the river fight sequence.  The dwarfs escape their capture buy going down a river in barrels.  As they go down the river, they are chased by both orcs and elves.  The way that the three parties were fighting is unlike anything I can think of in another film.  I had a smile on my face the entire scene.

Smaug was hands down the best part of this film.  Everything from the animation of his sheer size to Benedict Cumberbatch voicing him was just spectacular.  I’m not overly familiar with Cumberbatch’s work, so I wasn’t sure what to expect out of him as Smaug.  He nailed it.  I want to see him voice villains more often.  The character himself was pretty interesting, too. He knew his strength so he wasn’t afraid to toy with Bilbo.  He took up a good portion of the film so it was a good thing he was done so well.

I thought The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was GOOD :-).  Like any good sequel, it ups the stakes and keeps moving.  The action is some of the most unique of the series and Smaug offers a significant threat to the characters.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Hobbit trilogy: An Unexpected Journey and The Battle of the Five Armies.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Guillermo del Toro – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Martin Freeman – Bilbo
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
Richard Armitage – Thorin
Ken Stott – Balin
Graham McTavish – Dwalin
William Kircher – Bifur
James Nesbitt – Bofur
Stephen Hunter – Bombur
Dean O’Gorman – Fili
Aidan Turner – Kili
John Callen – Oin
Peter Hambleton – Gloin
Jed Brophy – Nori
Mark Madlow – Dori
Adam Brown – Ori
Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Evangeline Lilly – Tauriel
Lee Pace Thranduil
Cate Blanchett – Galandriel
Benedict Cumberbatch – Smaug (voice) / Necromancer (voice)
Mikael Persbrandt – Beorn
Sylvester McCoy – Radagast
Luke Evans – Bard
Stephen Fry – Master of Laketown
Ryan Gage – Alfrid
Manu Bennett – Azog
Lawrence Makoare – Bolg

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Review

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey movie posterSynopsis
When the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) shows up unexpectedly at the door of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Bilbo’s life is changed forever. Bilbo sets out on a journey with Thorin (Richard Armitage) and the rest of his dwarf crew to retake the dwarf homeland.

Review
The Hobbit films are to The Lord of the Rings as the Star Wars prequel trilogy is to the original trilogy so naturally I immediately began The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey after finishing The Return of the King.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, whether it was going to be exactly like the last trilogy but with different characters or a similar story but different. Thankfully, it was the latter.

Right off the bat, I was happy that this is a very dwarf-centered story.  Other than Gimli in the previous films, there weren’t any other dwarfs.  With such a large group, there was a wide range of personalities among them. There was the quiet leader, the old councils, the experienced warriors, and the younger fighters.  Watching the early scene with them all at the table in Bilbo’s house really gives you a feel for who each of them are.

In The Fellowship of the Ring, there was a lot of set up before the group set out on their journey.  After the aforementioned scene at Bilbo’s house, which was relatively early in the film, the group’s purpose was given and they were off on their journey.  This made the movie move quicker and didn’t feel like the beginning was dragging like in Fellowship.

One thing The Lord of the Rings series have done consistently well is casting.  Martin Freeman did a great job as the young Bilbo Baggins.  I really liked him in the first season of Fargo and the little mannerisms he brought to his character.  He does the same thing here, bringing that extra nuances to Bilbo that not many actors can do.

Earlier, I compared the Hobbit series to the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Other than the similarity of taking place before the trilogy that came before, The Hobbit also uses much more CGI that The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Many of the characters, especially the orcs, are CGI this time.  I liked the makeup and costumes for the orc soldiers particularly in The Return of the King, so to see every single orc animated here was a little bit of a let down.

I thought The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was GOOD :-). Compared to The Fellowship of the Ring, it gets the heroes on their journey much faster and with less set up and exposition.  Other than seeing the orcs go from physical costumes to computer animation, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a good start to the trilogy.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Hobbit trilogy: The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Guillermo del Tory – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Martin Freeman – Bilbo
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
Richard Armitage – Thorin
Ken Stott – Balin
Graham McTavish – Dwalin
William Kircher – Bifur /  Tom Troll
James Nesbitt – Bofur
Stephen Hunter – Bombur
Dean O’Gorman – Fili
Aidan Turner – Kili
John Callen – Oin
Peter Hambleton – Gloin / William Troll
Jed Brophy – Nori
Mark Madlow – Dori / Bert Troll
Adam Brown – Ori
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Cate Blanchett – Galandriel
Lee Pace – Thranduil
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Andy Serkis – Gollum
Sylvester McCoy – Radagast
Barry Humphries – Great Goblin
Manu Bennett – Azog
Benedict Cumberbatch – Necromancer

Lightning Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the KingSynopsis
Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) finally reach Mordor. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) leads the World of Men against Sauron’s army in order to give Frodo and Sam an opening to take the One Ring to Mt. Doom.

Review
Now this, this is what I have been expecting out of this series. After two movies of moving pieces, everything finally all comes together. This movie hits the ground running, and it needs to because of the many threads it needs to tie up. I can’t think of many new things to say that I haven’t already in my reviews of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. I do wish there was more Gimli because I absolutely loved all of his scenes in the previous movies and always enjoy watching him, especially with Legolas. The character makeup and costumes from the previous films were some of the best I have seen but wow does The Return of the King blow them both out of the water! My only complaint is the long run time. It’s nearly four hours long and has like five endings. Every time it would fade to black, it felt like a clean ending… then another scene would happen. It is great to see everyone’s stories wrapped up so it’s not too terrible, but it made a long film feel even longer.

I thought The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was GREAT :-D. The action was the best of the trilogy, the costumes were the best of any recent movie I’ve seen, and every story thread gets wrapped up. I can see why this trilogy is well beloved. It may have even found its way to the top of some of my lists.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Elijah Wood – Frodo
Sean Astin – Sam
Viggo Mortensen – Aragorn
Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
John Rhys-Davies – Gimli
Billy Boyd – Pippin
Dominic Monaghan – Merry
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Andy Serkis – Gollum (voice) / Smeagol
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Liv Tyler – Arwem
Cate Blanchett – Galandrie
Marron Csokas – Celeborn
Bernard Hill – Theoden
David Wenham – Faramir
Miranda Otto – Eowyn
Karl Urban – Eomer
John Bach – Madril
Sean Bean – Boromir
Ian Holm – Bilbo

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers movie posterSynopsis
The Fellowship of the Ring has been separated. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) slowly make their way towards Mordor with the assistance of Gollum (Andy Serkis (voice)). Meanwhile, the rest of the fellowship helps defend the kingdom of Rohan from Sarumon (Christopher Lee) and his orc army.

Review
In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, most of the movie was spent introducing the characters, the conflict, and the world of Middle Earth itself. Having much of that out of the way, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers begins to shift into more of what I was expecting out of this series.

There is still a lot of time spent with the characters on their journey, but the action isn’t saved until the very end (although the best action scenes are) like the previous film. The Battle of Helm’s Deep is absolutely stunning. It was big, it was bold, and it was beautifully chaotic. As thrilling as it was, it was even more exciting when the attack on Isengard begins and there are parallels between the two. Despite jumping back and forth amidst all the pandemonium of either battle, it was surprisingly smooth and not that jarring like I would have expected. Maybe because I was so enthralled by what was going on I didn’t care.

The cast is just as large as the previous movie and even grows. They are split into groups so there is a lot of jumping back and forth between everybody. This is where the run time begins to really grow. Trying to fit development for each of these characters’ story arcs is time consuming. Although it made the movie seem long, it was probably a good thing because then several characters would have gotten short changed and not developed very well.

One such relationship was the relationship between Gimli and Legolas. Dwarfs and elves have a shaky relationship in Middle Earth and it was clear in the beginning they were more reluctant partners than friends. By the end, they had this playful bond that was fun to watch bloom. The best moments were when they were competing to see who could defeat the most enemies.

Out of all the characters, Gimli is quickly becoming my favorite. I mentioned this in my review of Fellowship, but he is extremely funny. I’m not sure why but it took me by surprise. Maybe because I wasn’t expecting much in terms of comedy from this series. Regardless, the laughs are most welcome to take my mind away from the length of the film.

As this series goes on, I’m beginning to appreciate Sam more and more. He is Frodo’s rock. Where relationships like Gimli’s and Legolas’ were built during this epic journey, Sam’s and Frodo’s relationship is strengthened by it. Despite the darker tone, there is still a lot to feel good about in this movie.

I thought The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was GOOD :-). Although it ran long, the time was necessary to continue building the characters and didn’t feel like it dragged on. The stakes were higher and the action was better. In most trilogies, the middle chapter usually is the one that stumbles the most but The Two Towers doesn’t and even stands taller than in predecessor.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Stephen Sinclair – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Elijah Wood – Frodo
Sean Astin – Sam
Viggo Mortensen – Aragorn
Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
John Rhys-Davies – Gimli / Treebeard (voice)
Billy Boyd – Pippin
Dominic Monaghan – Merry
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Andy Serkis – Gollum (voice)
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Liv Tyler – Arwem
Cate Blanchett – Galandrie
Bernard Hill – Theoden
David Wenham – Faramir
Miranda Otto – Eowyn
Karl Urban – Eomer
John Bach – Madril
Bruce Allpress – Aldor
Sala Baker – Man Flesh Uruk
Jed Brophy – Sharku / Snaga
Sam Comery – Eothain
Brad Dourif – Wormtongue

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring movie posterSynopsis
The hobbit Frodo (Elijah Woods) is tasked with heading to Mordor to destroy the One Ring, a powerful relic, so it cannot be used by the evil Sauron to conquer Middle Earth.

Review
I can still picture the looks on people’s faces when I told them I hadn’t seen The Lord of the Rings films. I feel like it was the same look I gave people when they said they hadn’t seen Star Wars. But with the insistence of my buddy, I finally sat down and watched The Lord of the Rings series, and no longer have to worry about receiving those looks again. We of course started with The Fellowship of the Ring.

Right off the bat the film put a smile on my face. The opening was so much fun! Knowing that the characters are going to have a long journey ahead of them, Gandalf and the hobbits are introduced in a large celebration. This made it clear that although the scale of these films are grand, there is going to be some fun along the way. I especially liked Pippin and Merry’s introduction as mischievous hobbits when they took some of Gandalf’s magic fireworks.

Many of the core characters were well cast. Ian McKellen was particularly perfect as the wizard Gandalf. His experience added a lot of weight to the film, and you know that Peter Jackson wants to do the source material right. I liked Orlando Bloom as the elf Legolas. I’m not familiar with Viggo Mortensen but he was good as Aragorn. However, the most surprising to me was John Rhys-Davies as the dwarf Gimli. He was funnier than I was expecting and was great as the comedic relief.

There is only one way to describe the score composed by Howard Shore: epic. I’m not very familiar with his works but I loved his score for The Fellowship of the Ring. Shore’s score is so dynamic and moving. This is up there with John William’s Star Wars score or Jurassic Park score in terms of building emotion.

It seems more and more today that movies opt for CGI for their sets and characters instead of make-up or physical sets. When a film minimizes its use of CGI and goes with more practical effects, it is such a breath of fresh air. All the sets, from the Shire to Mordor, were absolutely beautiful. Each facet of the set design was breathtaking. Even more impressive were the costumes and make-up. The details given to the orcs especially was wonderful. It is tough to find that much attention to detail in costume design.

Now with all that praise I just gave the film, there were still several things I didn’t like about it. For one, there is a lot of set up for the over-arching narrative of the series. A great deal of time is spent bringing all the members of the fellowship together, as well as setting up the supporting characters that will be seen throughout the trilogy. These characters spent a lot of time giving the audience the information they need through exposition. They also spent time traveling between meeting each major character. Things didn’t really get exciting until towards the end.

It is easy to tell this is part of a larger series. Like I said above, there is a lot of character set up. Also, despite feeling like an epic story, the scale was also kind of small. Normally I don’t like when films aren’t very self contained, even if they are part of a series. However, since it is an adaptation of such a beloved series, I’m willing to loosen up a bit.

I thought The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was OK :-|. Much of the movie is spent getting to know the characters, which is good because a lot is learned about them. But this means that the movie only picks up near the end. Hopefully this means that the next film will hit the ground running.

Also check out my reviews for the rest of The Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peter Jackson – Director / Screenplay
Fran Walsh – Screenplay
Philippa Boyens – Screenplay
Howard Shore – Composer

Elijah Wood – Frodo
Sean Astin – Sam
Viggo Mortensen – Aragorn
Orlando Bloom – Legolas
Ian McKellen – Gandalf
John Rhys-Davies – Gimli
Billy Boyd – Pippin
Dominic Monaghan – Merry
Sean Bean – Boromir
Christopher Lee – Saruman
Andy Serkis – Gollum (voice)
Hugo Weaving – Elrond
Liv Tyler – Arwem
Marron Csokas – Celeborn
Cate Blanchett – Galandrie
Ian Holm – Bilbo
Sala baker – Sauron
Alan Howard – Voice of the Ring (voice)
Brent McIntyre – Witch-king
Mark Ferguson – Gil-galad
Lawrence Makoare – Lurtz
Peter McKenzie – Elendil