Film Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


Peter Jackson’s final instalment of the Tolkien franchise, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies offers similar strengths and weaknesses to the director’s previous concluding film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and his band of dwarves have roused the dragon Smaug, who flies out to destroy Lake Town. Meanwhile, the mountain and its riches attracts various armies…

The third and final part of The Hobbit, The Battle of the Five Armies functions as a prolonged climactic scene. The majority of the duration is filled with this action, allowing for cutaways to other key players in Tolkien’s universe.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies begins in the midst of the action, carrying on straight after the end of The Desolation of Smaug. The opening gambit is an impressive one; viewers are launched immediately into a frantic episode. The sustained nature of the film’s central battle, however, loses the peaks and troughs expected of an adventure such as this. As the fighting lasts for much of the duration, it is difficult for viewers to muster the excitement these sequences usually bring. Battle sequences are finely executed, but the duration does hinder enjoyment.

There is some appealing foreshadowing in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, which should please fans of The Lord of the Rings. The characterisation in the film is decent, although Bilbo’s earnestness  is overplayed at times. Production values are up to the standard expected from director Peter Jackson.

There are some great individual sequences in the film, even though there is a lack of momentum building overall. Cate Blanchett and Christopher Lee reprise their roles with aplomb. The film maintains a sombre atmosphere, with a few breaks for humour.

Whilst An Unexpected Journey moved at a glacial pace in terms of action, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies offers an abundance of action. The Hobbit trilogy may not be as satisfying as The Lord of the Rings, but the films still offer decent entertainment for fantasy fans.

Film Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Middle chapter The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is an improvement on predecessor An Unexpected Journey, capturing the spirit of the original Lord of the Rings films.

Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, wizard Gandalf and the company of dwarves continue on their quest to reclaim Erebor, homeland of Thorin, from dragon Smaug. The group face a perilous journey through Mirkwood Forest and beyond…

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug sets a good pace almost immediately. Much of the scene-setting was taken care of in An Unexpected Journey, which allows for this instalment to brim with action and progression. There is certainly more going on in this film.

Director Peter Jackson has, as ever, created an immersive fantasy world. The locations are quintessential fantasy, as are the characters that inhabit them.

With a running time of two hours and forty minutes, there is ample time for the narrative to unfold. The world that Jackson has created is so removed from reality that it is difficult to know how much time has passed. Nonetheless, The Desolation of Smaug does not rush the journey, nor the screen time of its title character.

The dragon Smaug offers a formidable opponent to Bilbo and company. Even before any encounter takes place, there is sufficient myth-making to build a reputation and sense of apprehension. Elsewhere, Legolas makes a welcome return; his presence is particularly gratifying in the action sequences.

Production values in The Desolation of Smaug are superb. The 3D is utilised seamlessly, and effects appear authentic. The score is also effective and successfully evokes the atmosphere of the earlier Lord of the Rings trilogy. Performances are good throughout, with Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen reprises their roles with energy. Benedict Cumberbatch is a good choice for the voice of Smaug, while Luke Evans is a decent addition to the cast.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is an adventure-filled film that leaves the audience eager for the final chapter.

Film Review: Life of Pi

Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is a sumptuous looking adventure. The director has successfully brought the novel to the big screen.

A writer travels to Canada to meet Pi Patel, who apparently has quite a story to tell. The tale begins when Pi is a young boy in Pondicherry, India. The son of a zoo keeper, Pi is about to embark on an adventure…

Life of Pi seems perfect for a Christmas release. A film suitable for family viewing which mixes fantasy and adventure. It provides perhaps an anecdote to what could be perceived as the overt fantasy offerings of the last decade or so, with Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings and the like. Furthermore, given that it is based on Yann Martel’s best-selling novel, it is likely to have even more of an appeal to adults over younger viewers.

Life of Pi excels in its storytelling. The bookend frame set up allows for the narrator to be present throughout. For those who do not know much about the story, this works doubly well as there is a sense of anticipation of what the adventure entails. The film is a bit too long, but that is the only real negative overall.

The theme of faith and belief runs throughout the film. In the earlier section, the views of Pi’s parents balance out, taking opposite ends of the spectrum. Nonetheless, Life of Pi is unequivocal in its promotion of faith. Rather than this being of a organised religion kind, belief in the film takes on a more spiritual edge.

Lee’s use of colour creates some memorable imagery. Visually, Life of Pi is a treat. The effects are good, particularly with the tiger. Suraj Sharma delivers a strong performance as the adult Pi. He is believable as the protagonist, with his performance indispensible to many scenes.

Although it could have been trimmed a little, Life of Pi is a solid adventure film.

Film Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be exactly what fans of the The Lord of the Rings trilogy expect. This is by no means a bad thing; An Unexpected Journey is an entertaining fantasy adventure.

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit living a peaceful existence in The Shire. When wizard Gandalf attempts to enlist him in an adventure, Bilbo is reluctant. A group of dwarves are determined to reclaim their homeland, and need Bilbo’s help on their journey…

Directed by Lord of the Rings helmer Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has the same look and feel of the trilogy, of which this new film is a prequel to. An Unexpected Journey spends ample time setting the scene; introducing the audience to the locations and developing new characters and reacquainting them with old ones. With a running time of 169 minutes, the film has sufficient time to do so.

Given that the film is the first of a trilogy, the time spent establishing the narrative is understandable. Moreover, the Tolkien world created by Jackson is so immersive. It is rich with mythology and visually lavish. The film has peaks in terms of plot, although the serial nature means the ending is not much of a conclusion. Nevertheless, a suitable portion of the overall story is covered by this installment, and it successfully sets up the next part.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been filmed with a high frame rate (48 frames per second instead of the standard 24 fps). Although the picture instantly appears more crisp. However, this takes some time to get used to. The appearance to begin with is reminiscent of historical reenactment on television, particularly in the daylight scenes. The 3D is seamless and adds depth to the film. Performances are good from the whole cast.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a great sword and sorcery fantasy which should leave viewers eager to watch the two forthcoming chapters.

2012’s Most Anticipated

As 2012 arrives imminently, I thought I would share some of my cinematic picks for next year. Below are the films I am most looking forward to seeing next year. These do not include films that I have already seen that are due for general release in the next few months, such as Shame or Martha Marcy May Marlene.

1. The Muppets

Although The Muppets was released in America months ago, it is not due for UK release until February. It seems that we have reverted back to the 1980s in that the UK is getting such a big movie as this months after the US. I love the Muppets, so cannot wait for the film. I have tried not to read too much about it, but all that I am hearing so far is positive. The Muppets is released on 10th February 2012.

2. The Raven

From the trailer, this film seems to have everything; macabre murder mystery, Edgar Allan Poe and John Cusack. I love Poe’s work and the premise of The Raven sounds great; Poe pursues a serial killer who bases his crimes on the author’s work. Hopefully the execution will do the idea justice. The Raven is released on 9th March 2012.

3. Prometheus

Ridley Scott’s highly anticipated new addition to the Alien franchise, the teaser trailer for Prometheus has recently been released. It does not give too much away, but it looks very interesting. Hopefully with Scott at the helm, Prometheus will return to Alien‘s combination of science fiction and horror. With a cast which boasts Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace, Prometheus is very exciting on paper. The film is released on 1st June 2012.

4. The Dark Knight Rises

The grandaddy of them all, the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy will be one of the biggest movies of the summer. I recently watched the prologue, which was impressive on the Imax screen. Like others, I was concerned that I couldn’t understand Bane properly. The trailer looks magnificent, so as long as Bane’s voice becomes clearer, the film should be a fitting end to a fantastic franchise. The Dark Knight Rises is released 20th July 2012.

5. Frankenweenie

Another remake from Tim Burton, but at least this time he is remaking his own work. Frankenweenie was a live action short from the director’s time at Disney. Stills from the film were recently released; Burton aficionados are likely to find them reminiscent of Vincent, a short directed by the filmmaker around the same time as Frankenweenie. The stop-motion remake tells the story of a boy who tries to bring his dog back to life, a homage to Shelley’s Frankenstein. Frankenweenie is released 5th October 2012.

6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings was a triumphant film series, and fans of the books were no doubt pleased when it was announced that the director would return for The Hobbit. On a personal level, I am excited for the film because I love Gollum. The trailer shows the return of familiar faces; hopefully the film will be of the same quality as the earlier series. The Hobbit is released 14th December 2012.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Trailer

Warner Bros, you little teases! It is only in the last few seconds of the trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey that they give us the goods; that hot piece Gollum. Notwithstanding, the trailer looks good, with the music and lush surroundings highly reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. I haven’t read any of the books, but as The Hobbit is not due for release until 14th December 2012 I have plenty of time.

Film Review: The Resident

The Resident should leave you questioning the safety of your home and who has access to it. Instead, it is more likely to leave you questioning why you spent ninety minutes watching this tripe.

ER doctor Juliet is looking for a new apartment after her husband cheats on her. Finding a spacious but very affordable place in Brooklyn, Juliet can’t believe her luck. Her good fortune is short lived however, as someone is watching her from within her apartment…

The Resident has numerous factors conspiring against it. Most important of these is the fact that the film is not actually frightening at all. There is certainly an air of creepiness to proceedings, but the film fails to generate any genuine scares. Scenes that should cause apprehension fall flat thanks to lacklustre direction from Antti Jokinen. Instead, the film is voyeuristic but lacks a sense of trepidation.

The Resident owes a great debt to Psycho with its plot. The narrative is a lot less credible than Hitchcock’s film, however. There are some standard horror movie set-ups; the phone without reception, for example. The violence is kept to a minimum until the climax. The voyeurism is at best unsettling, though it never crosses over to become genuinely troubling.

The Resident is not exactly what would be expected from Hammer Film Productions. It has the guise of a horror film, but in reality it is a more straightforward thriller (albeit without the thrills). The film stars Christopher Lee in a small role, adding to this horror pedigree. Nonetheless, while Lee seems to bring a certain gravitas to all his films (from Horror Hotel to The Lord of the Rings), even he cannot save The Resident. Moreover, Lee is underused in a role that is pretty pointless except for the exposition that the character supplies.

One of the few positives of The Resident is the cinematography. Guillermo Navarro creates an atmospheric tone for the film with a considered visual style. Most of the film’s creepiness can be attributed to Navarro’s cinematic prowess. The score meanwhile is overused at times, attempting to force anxiety where there is none.

Hilary Swank is as competent as ever in The Resident. The actress is also an executive producer of the film, which may explain her involvement with a picture far from her usual fare. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is decent as landlord Max.

With its extended climax, The Resident ultimately feels a lot longer than ninety minutes. There is an awful long wait for scares that never materialise.

Film Review: Ironclad

Ironclad is an entertaining picture that combines historical drama with violent war movie. What makes the film refreshing is that it tackles a little-known incident in British history, rather than being a yet another take on a more famous event.

In 13th century England, King John is pushed into signing the Magna Carter. Hiring Danish soldiers, King John wants to reclaim power over his country. Only a small group of Knights Templar stands between him and his goal. They must defend Rochester Castle against an immense assault…

Ironclad follows a fairly familiar chain of events. Even though it is based on a minor historical event, it is clear what the outcome will be. The incidents that lead towards this conclusion are similar to those featured in a sword and sorcery or epic film. At the heart there is the requisite quest for the protagonists. It is apparent that not all of the group will survive the onslaught, yet they are committed to the cause. Given that the film is set in the 13th century, the writers only use the basis of the event to build their story on. Therefore, despite its roots in reality, Ironclad functions much like The Lord of the Rings and other quest-heavy narratives.

Ironclad has the style of a war film, despite its largely uneven battle. There are shades of 300 in the violence depicted, as well as the sombreness of more serious fare such as Saving Private Ryan. Marshall is of the silent hero type, and thus very typical of this style of film. Elsewhere the familiar archetypes are present, with the wise old sage character, and the villain unrelenting in his brutality.

Jonathan English’s direction is frenetic when combined with the editing in the action sequences. No doubt this is to illustrate the chaotic nature of the events, as well as to disguise some of the more graphic violence. Nonetheless, at times this a bit too dizzying and detracts from the overall enjoyment.

Ironclad‘s production values are good, particular the production design and costuming. Despite being an independent picture, Ironclad shares many of the features of a big-budget studio production. Effects blend in, and the film has a very particular look with the dank scenery and palette of greys.

Casting in Ironclad is great, with the extras appearing authentic for the period the film is set. Paul Giamatti is solid as King John, seeming every bit the aggrieved monarch. James Purefoy offers a decent performance as Marshall, however the actor is in danger of being typecast with his numerous roles in period films.

Ironclad is fairly standard in what it offers as a action film based on a historical event. The film is worth a watch, however, as it depicts a period of history that is not often featured in mainstream film, as well as an incident that is merely a footnote to a much more significant event.