Also known as: Hell House (Philippines English title), Terror Fatal (Brazil English title) Release Date: April 30th, 1982 (Australia) Directed by: Tony Williams Written by: Michael Heath, Tony Williams Music by: Klaus Schulze Cast: Jackie Kerin, John Jarratt, Gerda Nicolson, Alex Scott
Filmco Limited, The Film House, SIS, 89 Minutes
I had never heard of this ’80s Australian horror flick but Joe Bob Briggs did me a solid when he featured it on the most recent season of The Last Drive-In. Man, what a neat treat it was.
The film is basically a haunted house story but then, is it really? We’re never actually sure whether or not the house is full of vengeful spirits or if it’s all being orchestrated by someone sinister.
The house is an old folks home and the main character inherits this place and is left to run it. Upon her arrival there, old people start dropping like flies, as they’re murdered in strange and brutal ways. The woman is obviously in fear of what’s happening and while it appears like the threat is possibly supernatural in origin, we never see evidence of actual ghosts or demons.
What might be a turnoff for some viewers is that this picture is a real slow burn. But as Joe Bob pointed out while hosting this movie, the slow burn movies usually have the best pay offs. In regards to this one, he wasn’t wrong.
The climax is pretty incredible, actually. And it was made even better by how incredible some of the shots were. The scene where the woman is fleeing the house is cinematic perfection. Additionally, the general cinematography is impressive, especially during the final sequence in the house.
After exiting the house, there is the real climax, which takes place in a diner. This whole part of the film is also well shot and greatly executed.
Overall, Next of Kin was a pleasant surprise and immediately moved up near the top of my list of favorite Australian films.
Plus, it also features a young John Jarratt, who would later go on to be the killer in the Wolf Creek films and television series.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other Australian horror films.
Release Date: December 5th, 2018 (Belgium, Egypt, Indonesia, South Korea, Philippines) Directed by: Christian Rivers Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson Based on:Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve Music by: Tom Holkenborg Cast: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang, Frankie Adams
Media Rights Capital, Scholastic Productions, Silvertongue Films, WingNut Films, Universal Pictures, 128 Minutes
“I was eight years old when my mother died. She loved traveling the world and digging up the past. He used to visit all the time, and then one day everything changed. She’d found something, something he wanted.” – Hester Shaw
Mortal Engines seemed to have a lot of fanfare when it was being made. But once it was about to come out, that fanfare had died down and ultimately, it bombed at the box office.
I did have an interest in this because Peter Jackson was behind it. But once I found out that he wasn’t directing this, my interest died down and I figured I’d see what the public’s consensus was before jumping in, headfirst.
This is a pretty weak film. Now it isn’t bad but it completely lacks the spirit of Jackson’s most famous films: the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Maybe that’s because he didn’t direct it or because the story itself just wasn’t strong enough.
Now the idea behind the story is cool. This is a really neat concept as it is about massive cities that move around and steal the resources of smaller settlements. At least, that’s what the film was sold to me as. This picture really just showcases one city: London. Maybe the sequels would have shown more moving cities, which could have been badass had this film succeeded and its sequels weren’t cancelled.
Moving cities battling other moving cities almost sounds like the makings of a kaiju movie where the giant monsters are the cities themselves. That could have been cool but now we’ll probably never see it, unless someone steals the idea for another film or if there is another attempt at this young adult novel series several years in the future. But really, this would probably work better as a television series.
I thought that the acting was pretty good and Hugo Weaving really owned the scenes he was in. However, Stephen Lang’s performance, as the cyborg Shrike, was actually chilling to the bone. He was the best, most complex character in the film and even though you initially see him as an unstoppable force of evil, the more you learn about him, the more you understand what his motivations are and how there is a tortured human being’s soul buried under his metal shell and wires.
By comparison though, a lot of the other characters besides Weaving and Lang, felt a bit flat.
The special effects were impressive but this is a Peter Jackson produced motion picture with his effects studio Weta providing those effects. That being said, you can expect to be as impressed by the visuals of this film as you were with Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations.
It’s a shame that this wasn’t a better motion picture and that it ultimately flatlined upon arrival because it would have been really cool to see another epic fantasy trilogy by Peter Jackson. Also, the video games could have been incredible. But alas, I guess we’ll have to wait to see Jackson wow us once again. But hopefully, the next big fantasy or sci-fi film he’s a part of will see him once again in the director’s chair.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: other YA novel adaptations of recent years: The Maze Runner, Divergent, etc.
Also known as: Heavy Metal Apocalypse (US video box title) Release Date: March 14th, 2015 (SXSW) Directed by: Jason Lei Howden Written by: Jason Lei Howden Music by: Chris van de Geer, Joost Langeveld, various Cast: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell
Metalheads, MPI Media Group, New Zealand Film Commission, Timpson Films, Dark Sky Films, 86 Minutes
“My Uncle Albert was balls-deep into Jesus. He thought Ricky Martin was heavy. He heard me cranking some Disemboweled Corpse and he hasn’t slept for days.” – Brodie
There aren’t enough heavy metal horror movies, which is a shame as the style of both of these great art forms seem like a perfect pairing. This is one of the few that aren’t terrible but at the same time, this isn’t fantastic either.
Still, it’s an enjoyable watch and most of the characters are likable and have good chemistry. The film also has some funny lines sprinkled throughout and the girl is super hot, which is important in metal and horror.
The downside to this New Zealand movie though, is that it borrows so heavily from its influences that it’s a bit too blatant. While many directors do this sort of thing (Zombie and Tarantino), it’s just never been a creative choice that plays to the strength of filmmaking. Homages are cool and a hat tip to your influences is nice but I prefer films that stand on their own and can be their own thing. This is sort of just a mish mash of its influences with the gore turned up to 11 (but not quite a 12 like Dead-Alive). At least when Tarantino does the same sort of thing, he still creates a film that has enough of its own identity. Rob Zombie, not so much.
But as far as the borrowing being too blatant, as I stated last paragraph, it might not be noticeable at all to younger film fans that haven’t watched 1986’s Trick or Treat a half dozen times. And maybe the writer/director Jason Lei Howden was banking on that. But old school horror fans will probably notice.
Anyway, I don’t want to sound like I’m shitting on the movie but it is worth a watch, once. Well, maybe a second time if you really liked it but I don’t see anyone calling Deathgasm a modern horror classic. That being said, it is still a better horror movie at its core than what is the norm for the genre over the past decade or two.
I didn’t have much urge to watch this and it actually floated around in my Netflix queue for a really long time until the service pulled it down after more than a year. But since this was featured on Joe Bob Brigg’s The Last Drive-In, I figured now was as good of a time as any to check it out.
Rating: 5.75/10 Pairs well with: 1986’s Trick or Treat, The Gate, The Gate II: Trespassers, Brainscan and Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare.
Release Date: December 1st, 2003 (Wellington, New Zealand premiere) Directed by: Peter Jackson Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson Based on:The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien Music by: Howard Shore Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis, David Wenham, Karl Urban, Miranda Otto, Bernard Hill, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee (Extended Edition only), Brad Dourif (Extended Edition only), Bruce Spence (Extended Edition only), Sean Bean (Extended Edition only)
New Line Cinema, WingNut Films, The Saul Zaentz Company, 201 Minutes, 254 Minutes (DVD Extended Edition), 263 Minutes (Blu-ray Extended Edition), 192 Minutes (DVD Widescreen Edition)
“Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!” – Aragorn
Having taken a break from seeing this for several years helped me look at this film, and the two before it, much more objectively. I loved this film when it came out and I watched the Extended Editions of all three films almost monthly for a few years. But I actually haven’t seen this now since before the first Hobbit movie came out in 2012.
My biggest takeaway from seeing it now is that this is a perfect film, at least in the form of the Extended Edition. There’s nothing I would change, add or take away from it. It is a great adaptation that took a few liberties but all those liberties worked and made this a richer story in a cinematic sense.
The acting is superb and everyone in this film was at the top of their game. But really, there are two actors who carried this film, Viggo Mortensen and Sean Astin. Mortensen was the perfect choice for Aragorn and if you aren’t willing to follow him into battle after watching this movie, you might be dead inside.
However, Sean Astin is the real star of this chapter in the franchise. As Samwise Gamgee, he is the true hero that sees things through. When Frodo, the one chosen to bear the burden of the ring is emotionally and physically drained, it is Sam who carries on, getting Frodo to the finish line by literally carrying him on his back up a flaming volcano. It’s one of the most badass and touching moments in motion picture history and really, all the credit has to go to Astin for just how damn good he was in this film. Where the hell was the Oscar nomination? I know that this was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won all eleven but it was short one for Astin’s performance.
I also can’t deny the greatness that was Ian McKellen’s Gandalf in this chapter.
The special effects are still top notch and at the time that this came out, this film had the best effects of all-time. Everything was great over the course of all three movies but the grandiose scale of this epic picture called for a massive amount of effects work. Everything was executed masterfully and it’s almost unbelievable to think that these movies came out just a year apart from each other.
This is a story about friendship, honor and loyalty and it’s hard to think of a better example of these things in any other film. The Return of the King knocks it out of the park in that regard and is pretty inspirational because of it. It taps into the best qualities of human nature, overcomes immense adversity and sees hope and goodness succeed in the face of enormous and seemingly unconquerable darkness.
Again, The Return of the King is a pillar of perfection. It’s so good that I wish I could give it an 11 out of 10 rating.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: the other two Lord of the Rings films, as well as The Hobbit trilogy.
Release Date: December 5th, 2002 (New York City premiere) Directed by: Peter Jackson Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, Peter Jackson Based on:The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien Music by: Howard Shore Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean (Extended Edition), Andy Serkis, David Wenham, Brad Dourif, Karl Urban, Miranda Otto, Bernard Hill
New Line Cinema, WingNut Films, The Saul Zaentz Company, 179 Minutes, 235 Minutes (DVD Extended Edition), 228 Minutes (Blu-ray Extended Edition), 171 Minutes (DVD Widescreen Edition)
“From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak I fought with the Balrog of Morgoth… Until at last I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountain side… Darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time… The stars wheeled overhead, and every day was as long as a life age of the earth… But it was not the end. I felt life in me again. I’ve been sent back until my task is done.” – Gandalf
I have seen all of these movies probably a dozen times but it has been several years now since revisiting them. From memory, I always thought of The Two Towers as the weakest of the trilogy but it is still a masterpiece and a perfect film for what it is: a bridge between the beginning and the end.
It also ups the ante quite a bit and is more epic in scale, as the two final battles alone are bigger than anything we saw in the first film, apart from the intro that showed the fall of Sauron millennia earlier.
But, really, the climax to this motion picture is absolutely amazing. If you are a fan of epic battles, this does not disappoint. If you are a fan of fantasy, this should definitely satisfy your palate.
All the key players are back and that includes Sean Bean’s Boromir, who died in the previous movie. Granted, he is only in a couple of flashbacks in the Extended Edition but it’s great to see him and to get more context in regards to how Gondor is run and the relationship between Boromir, Faramir and their father.
The return of Gandalf and the shift in power away from Saruman and to him is a really great moment that helps turn the tide towards the light. Ian McKellan was superb and his character’s evolution was incredible. The continuation of his battle with the Balrog is one of my favorite cinematic moments of all-time.
It is Viggo Mortensen who steals the show, however. While he was great in the first picture and was perfectly cast, he truly shines here and anyone watching this film would want to follow him, which is great considering what his role is in the goings on of Middle Earth and how this series ends in the following film.
If you are going to watch these films, you should always watch the Extended Editions, as they provide more story, better context and a heftier helping of the meat and potatoes. The Extended Edition of The Two Towers offers a lot of extra footage that isn’t in the original theatrical version. It isn’t so much that it makes it a different film but it certainly makes it a better one.
The Two Towers is perfect. It is a masterpiece like the other two pictures in the trilogy. It is the weakest, sure, but I’d rather be the weakest film in this trilogy than the best film in the Transformers series.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: the other two Lord of the Rings films, as well as The Hobbit trilogy.
Release Date: December 10th, 2001 (London premiere) Directed by: Peter Jackson Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson Based on:The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien Music by: Howard Shore Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, Andy Serkis, Sala Baker, Peter Jackson (cameo)
New Line Cinema, WingNut Films, The Saul Zaentz Company, 178 Minutes, 208 Minutes (DVD Extended Edition), 228 Minutes (Blu-ray Extended Edition), 171 Minutes (DVD Widescreen Edition)
“[Gandalf is standing on the bridge, in front of the Balrog] You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass!” – Gandalf
This was a definite treat to revisit, especially since I just revisited The Hobbit trilogy beforehand. I wanted to watch them in chronological order for the first time but having now seen this again, a film I have probably seen a dozen times already, I have an even greater appreciation for it, as it’s truly perfection.
Unlike those Hobbit movies, The Fellowship of the Ring and its two sequels, didn’t have identity issues. It has a consistent tone throughout and it knows exactly what it needs to be and how to accomplish that. This was Peter Jackson at his absolute best and this is a timeless movie and will continue to be for generations.
Being that this was the first major live action adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, makes its level of perfection something truly special and a feat that proves that the impossible can be possible. I should state, though, that the Soviets and the Finnish did their own live action adaptations before this but no one has really seen them and they weren’t done with the resources and budget that allowed this story to really live and breathe the right way.
I’ve tried to think of negatives for the sake of this review but the acting is superb, the directing and cinematography are flawless and the special effects are better than anything else that predates this film. Also, the issues that exist with The Hobbit films don’t exist with this one.
We have real human beings in prosthetics and makeup as the orcs and goblins. Also, the film isn’t afraid to rely on some other practical effects. Sure, there is CGI galore but the film doesn’t default to it and it’s why this looks better than The Hobbit films, which started coming out 11 years later.
The best thing about this film is its spirit. You immediately care about these characters, all of them, they mesh well pretty exceptionally, and none of them look stupid like most of the dwarves in The Hobbit. Gimli, the main dwarf in this story, looks like a real character and not a cartoon caricature.
Also, you care about the journey and how it is taking a toll on everyone in the party. You feel their emotions, their stress and their burden in seeing things through no matter what the cost.
The action is stupendous and the big battle at the end of the film is incredible. Also, the wizard battle between Gandalf and Saruman is incredibly badass.
Howard Shore, who scored all of these Tolkien pictures, did a much better job at creating the themes for these films than The Hobbit trilogy. The music here hits the right notes and it’s all become pretty iconic.
There is a reason why this film gave birth to Tolkien Fever in the early 2000s. Everything about it was just right and it was a real example of filmmaking and storytelling perfection.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: the other two Lord of the Rings films, as well as The Hobbit trilogy.
Also known as: The Hobbit: Part 3 (working title) Release Date: December 1st, 2014 (London premiere) Directed by: Peter Jackson Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro Based on:The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien Music by: Howard Shore Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy, Manu Bennett, Aidan Turner, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)
New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films, Warner Bros., 144 Minutes, 164 Minutes (Extended Edition)
“You are changed, Thorin! The Dwarf I met in Bag End would never have gone back on his word! Would never have doubted the loyalty of his kin!” – Bilbo Baggins
While this trilogy lacks when compared to its predecessor, The Lord of the Rings, it was still better than most big budget movies of the last decade and I was pretty excited about revisiting the third and final chapter, even though The Desoltation of Smaug was weak by Tolkien movie standards.
And this is the best of the Hobbit film series.
This is also the shortest of the three movies and I think that says a lot about the structure and flow of this film, as a short novel didn’t need to be stretched out into three really long movies.
This one jumps right in where we left off, as Smaug flies out to destroy the nearby town on the lake. My only real complaint about that though, was that the battle with Smaug was a cliffhanger and once you get to it here, it’s resolved in just ten minutes. I thought that the Extended Edition would rectify this a bit but it didn’t. Still, the opening of this film is fantastic and one of the best sequences out of all the Peter Jackson live action Tolkien movies.
Once that’s quickly resolved, the rest of this movie pretty much just deals with a gigantic fantasy battle of epic proportions. Everything leading up to this was the real story and most of the context. This film just decides to throw down and give us a real war, up close and personal. And while that might not seem like the makings of a great film, this is still really good and definitely the most fun Hobbit film to watch.
And it’s not just action for the sake of action, there are some real creative things that come into play. I love the elves shooting a massive volley of arrows only for the dwarves to respond with their “whirly bird” giant arrows that immediately destroy the elves attempt at a strong and deadly offense.
Additionally, the battle and every phase of it serves the story well, moves things forward and finds time to explore the main characters and their true motivations while making them all sort of find the spot where they need to be going forward in life.
Apart from the giant battle and Smaug, there is the big confrontation in the evil castle that sees Gandalf, Saruman, Elrond and Galadriel do battle with the spiritual forces of Sauron. This was one of the Peter Jackson additions to the story that wasn’t in the book but this was a satisfying finale to my favorite plot thread in these films. Jackson did a stupendous job with this portion of the Hobbit series and even if it wasn’t initially supposed to be there, it fits very well within the overall story arc of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
I also like how this movie wraps up, as it doesn’t give us a really long, overly drawn out resolution like The Return of the King.
The Battle of the Five Armies might not be Lord of the Rings good but it is still a pretty fine fantasy epic motion picture. And it has really got me excited to want to revisit The Lord of the Rings trilogy once more.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: the other two Hobbit films, as well as Lord of the Rings.
Also known as: The Hobbit: Part 2 (working title) Release Date: December 2nd, 2013 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Peter Jackson Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro Based on:The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien Music by: Howard Shore Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Stephen Colbert, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy, Manu Bennett, Aidan Turner, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)
New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films, Warner Bros., 161 Minutes, 186 Minutes (Extended Edition)
“There is something about you. Something you carry, something made of gold… but far more precious…” – Smaug
I’ve been rewatching these, as I haven’t seen them since they were in the theater. And like the Extended Editions of the Lord of the Rings films, I’m hoping that the Extended Editions of this trilogy help to make the films richer and give them more depth and context.
Where my disappointment with An Unexpected Journey was somewhat fixed, the Extended Edition of The Desolation of Smaug didn’t do much to make this film any better and in fact, stretched it out more than it needed to be.
The extended scenes in the previous film seemed to make things better. But here, it drags out some of the scenes that could have been even shorter in the theatrical version.
All the stuff that featured Smaug was pretty good but it felt really stretched out in this film. But as I said in the previous review, they didn’t need to stretch out a short novel over a nine-plus hour trilogy. It’s friggin’ overkill, even with the narrative additions to the plot that weren’t from the original book.
Watching the extended version splits the movie up onto two discs. In all honestly, it showed me just how inconsistent the film is. The first half is not very good but the second half is much better.
The first half of the film was dragged down by things that didn’t need to be there. I get that Beorn is in the book but his inclusion in the film was unnecessary and didn’t really serve the plot in any meaningful way. They spend a half hour on this and all that comes out of it is that the dwarves get some ponies to ride for about two minutes. Just cut the whole thing out. It didn’t fit in the film, it slowed things to a crawl and it didn’t help the narrative and should have been omitted just as the Tom Bombadil stuff was left out of the Lord of the Rings movie adaptations.
Also, the forest with the giant spiders was a pretty weak sequence overall and even though giant spiders exist in Middle Earth, it felt more like a rehash of something we already saw just a few years earlier in one of the Harry Potter movies. Although, it does serve the purpose of pushing Bilbo towards being more of a badass.
Then there was the whole sequence of the dwarves getting captured by the elves, escaping really easily and then giving us the barrels down the river scene, which is the worst part of any of these Lord of the Rings related films. That whole scene is the worst kind of cringe and it pulls you right out of the movie and almost makes you embarrassed for liking these films. It felt like over the top Disney blockbuster schlock.
Also, the dwarf and elf romance felt really forced and awkward as hell.
Once you get to the second half, things get much darker tonally, which contrasts the goofiness of the first half so greatly that it doesn’t feel like the same movie. But this is the superior half, even if it is also drawn out too much.
I really liked Luke Evans as Bard though. I also enjoyed the bits with Stephen Fry.
The best part of the whole film is when the dwarves finally reach the mountain and Bilbo Baggins comes face to face with Smaug. For fans of the BBC show Sherlock, this is extra exciting, as Bilbo is Watson and Smaug’s voice is Sherlock. At least I thought that was a cool aspect of this film’s casting. Luckily, both men also were brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the last few years.
I can’t say that this is the worst of the three Hobbit films, as of yet. I still need to rewatch The Battle of the Five Armies. But from memory, I think I did like that one better than this chapter.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: the other two Hobbit films, as well as Lord of the Rings.
Also known as: The Hobbit: Part 1 (working title) Release Date: November 28th, 2012 (Wellington, New Zealand premiere) Directed by: Peter Jackson Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro Based on:The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien Music by: Howard Shore Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy, Manu Bennett, Aidan Turner, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)
New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, WingNut Films, Warner Bros., 169 Minutes, 182 Minutes (Extended Edition)
“I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure.” – Gandalf
When these movies first came out, I was really disappointed with them. Granted, they were still mostly enjoyable but they lacked the magic that made Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy so spectacular a decade earlier.
I finally revisited this, as I got a great deal on the entire set of Hobbit films in their Extended Edition format, which is also the versions of the Lord of the Rings films I own. And like the other Extended Editions, this beefed up version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey became a better, more fleshed out movie.
Also, I’ve had six years to let this movie digest and I did find it more palatable this time around. Although, some of my issues with it are still there.
To start, this feels like a disjointed film, tonally. It’s as if it isn’t sure what it needs to be. Frankly, the tone of Lord of the Rings was perfect and this should have mirrored that. There isn’t really any reason why it couldn’t, as it had the same creative team behind it.
The film suffers from being too hokey at times and its the kind of hokey that is cringe. The dwarves look goofy as hell, the humor is usually off key or unnecessary and the musical bits, whether or not they exist in the book, really bogged this movie down and made it exude Disney level cheese but really bad Disney. I’m sorry but Aragon and the Mouth of Sauron didn’t break out into song and dance in Return of the King.
There’s also weird moments like the dwarf snoring and breathing moths in and out of his nose. And then there are strange, unnecessary things like Radagast the Brown having bird shit crusted to the side of his head. I also can’t leave out the insane physics of this movie and how the dwarves and Bilbo are seemingly indestructible and have incredible balance between the Stone Giants fight scene and sliding down a massive rock chute without splattering all over the place or breaking every bone in their bodies.
Another thing that hurts the film is that it relies on CGI much more heavily than its predecessors. The Lord of the Rings films had a bunch of guys in fantastic orc makeup and they looked real and totally badass. Here, we have computer animated orcs that look more like video game characters than something organic on the screen. Granted, I love that Manu Bennett plays the orc leader.
But the reason why CGI orcs don’t work for the film is because practical effects, if they can be utilized properly, just look better. The original Lord of the Rings trilogy was heralded as being a huge step forward in special effects on every level. The Hobbit movies, however, are just stagnation.
The film has some strong positives though.
All of the new main characters were well cast. I loved Martin Freeman as the young Bilbo and Richard Armitage as Thorin. It was also really cool seeing Lee Pace as the Elvenking, Thranduil. He wasn’t in this chapter very much but his role gets bigger in the two pictures after this one.
I also liked the additions to the story, at least in this film. The side story with the Necromancer is really cool and I liked seeing Gandalf, Saruman, Galadriel and Elrond come together to discuss the rising darkness in Middle Earth.
The problem with this trilogy, which becomes more apparent in the second and third film, is that this didn’t need to be a trilogy. The Hobbit is a short book when compared to the Lord of the Rings novels. This could have been expanded into two films and even included some of the additions to the story but three movies spreads the narrative too thin. Especially for movies roughly around the three hour mark.
An Unexpected Journey doesn’t quite work in the way that it should but it is still a hell of a good time for fans of Lord of the Rings.
Rating: 8.25/10 Pairs well with: the other two Hobbit films, as well as Lord of the Rings.
Release Date: January 22nd, 2010 (Sundance) Directed by: Taika Waititi Written by: Taika Waititi Music by: The Phoenix Foundation Cast: James Rolleston, Taika Waititi, Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, Moerangi Tihore, Cherilee Martin, RickyLee Waipuka-Russell, Haze Reweti, Maakariini Butler, Rajvinder Eria, Rachel House, Craig Hall
Whenua Films, Unison Films, New Zealand Film Production Fund, New Zealand Film Commission, New Zealand On Air, Te Mangai Paho, Transmission Films, 87 Minutes
“Don’t call me dad, it sounds weird.” – Alamein
I’ve been a Taika Waititi fan since first seeing Eagle vs. Shark and Flight of the Conchords. I didn’t see Boy when it first came out though and I put it off for too long. I have heard great things but the subject matter was pretty close to home and I wanted to save this for a later date because I assumed it’d be a good movie to keep on the back burner when I needed something really good to watch.
Well, I certainly wasn’t disappointed and I ended up loving this more than I thought I would. It’s funny and emotional while also having a perfect balance between lightheartedness and seriousness. Really, it was crafted with perfection and with a real love of the story and the characters within.
The young James Rolleston had to carry this picture on his back and he did so with gusto and really made the film a magical experience. You saw the world through his eyes, felt his pain but also felt his youthful enthusiasm, even when he was faced with tremendous adversity and a broken heart. He had Waititi at his side in the toughest scenes but this kid shined and really represented the feelings that many boys and men have in regards to fathers that treat their sons like an afterthought. And even though Rolleston’s Boy eventually releases all his pent up anger and disappointment, he still takes the right step forward and leaves the door open to his shitty dad, showing a child much more mature than the man that made him.
This film deals with a lot of serious subject matter and emotion but it mixes in the comedy elements very well. Waititi is the master at blending tough subject matter and humor. Between this film and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, he’s proven that he is a master of his craft in this regard.
Boy, the character, was such a fun kid to get to know. But the other kids were also great and had their own smaller stories sort of woven into this great tapestry. His younger brother Rocky had his own view about things and Dynasty had some serious problems she had to deal with that were directly tied to Boy and his nitwit father Alamein.
Certain moments in the film were emotionally difficult to witness but it was all presented so perfectly and beautifully. And regardless of the hardships all of these characters face, the film ends pretty optimistically with hope. It seems as if things will get better after all the bad stuff that happened. Ultimately, it shows me that Taika Waititi understands life and this film is really a celebration of it.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople.