‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Review

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Dir: Peter Jackson

Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Aidan Turner, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, Dean O’Gorman, Lee Pace, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee and Cate Blanchett

Synopsis: Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the Lonely Mountain from falling into the hands of a rising darkness.

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review. As much as a spoiler free review goes on a movie based on a popular book and a prequel to popular series.*

 

 

Peter Jackson has done it. He has bought the world of Middle-Earth that J.R.R. Tolkein created to life on the big screen. Of course, he added in another whole movie that really seemed unnecessary but, hey what the hell right? The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies should have felt – and for some part does – as a grand finale to another ambitious trilogy that we could have only originally only imagined. The film has great moments but after a while the final film of The Hobbit series is slightly an underwhelming one.

 

Hobbit Smaug

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug left things on a cliffhanger with Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) flying toward Lake-town to cause havoc. The Battle of the Five Armies picks up right after that as we see Smaug raining down fire upon the citizens of Lake-town. It’s a great set-piece to start off but judging how short the scene was I really couldn’t see why they decided not to put it in as the finale in the last film. Yes, more money, but even so, I really couldn’t see any reason they couldn’t have squeezed in an extra ten minutes.

 

The “real” beginning of the film would have been a great start, which is the rescue of Gandalf (McKellen), by Galadriel (Blanchett), Elrond (Weaving), and Saruman (Lee). The scene is cool because it gives Blanchett, Weaving and Lee more to do than just sit around a table and talk about the “Darkness that is coming.” Also, the scene is a bit anti-climatic, which can be said for the whole film series in some way. It is a prequel after all, and while I’m good at suspending disbelief, I couldn’t help but have the thought in my mind: “they’re going to be okay!”

 

Hobbit Gand and Gala

 

But this is the problem with prequel series and older fans. We know how the story is going to, so we do have to suspend our disbelief a lot more than fans that maybe don’t know about the original series (I’m looking at you Star Wars prequels!). However, one of the great things that Peter Jackson has done with The Hobbit films is that he has created a series that is some way is new and creates great moments that you forget the previous films. Desolation of Smaug is a great example of that but The Battle of the Five Armies juggles that throughout the whole film. When the film is on full cylinders it’s an amazing experience, but when it starts to slow down and gives the audiences some winks to the future (or is it past, I don’t know) it becomes a little jarring.

 

Hobbit Thorin 2

 

Anyway back to the film. Thorin (Armitage), Bilbo and Company have finally secured their homeland and have gotten the room full of gold. Unfortunately, their celebration is cut short by Thorin, who becomes obsessed on getting the “Arkenstone.” So much that he starts to act like his grandfather before him. The obsession is described by Balin (Stott) to Bilbo as “dragon sickness,” as Thorin starts to turn on his own thinking one of his own people is hiding his birthright. Thorin starts to act brash and when the people of Lake Town come for shelter and some of the gold that was promised to them by Thorin himself in the previous movie, he tells them to leave or else. Things don’t get any better when Thranduil (Pace) comes and wants to claim the mountain as well.

 

Hobbit Thraduil

 

This puts the sides on opposite ends as Bard (Evans) tries to reason with Thorin, but again he’s having none of it. Thranduil sees this as an act of war and the Elvin army is ready to attack when Thorin’s cousin Dain (Billy Connolly) comes to help him. But before any of them can attack each other, the Orc army makes itself known and thus begins the titled Battle of the Five Armies.

 

Hobbit battle

 

Here is where Peter Jackson success and fails. Jackson gave us some great and dare I say mesmerizing battle scenes in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, especially The Return of the King, and while I don’t want to compare the two final films, The Battle of the Five Armies does have title to hold to. Now, I’m all for a good battle scene and while we have to sit through about an hour or so of build up for that actual battle and characters constantly reminding us that a war is coming or about to begin, when the battle actually starts, it is only okay. Again, don’t get me wrong, Jackson is one of the best directors that can put together a grand set-piece like a war (again look at the LotR films) but unlike those previous battles, Jackson relies more heavily on CGI with The Battle of the Five Armies. Of course since casting millions of people, controlling them in just an open space would be a pain in the ass, and there aren’t any huge goblins out there, CG is reasonably the best way to go. However, at the same time it feels like we’re watching an animating film instead of a live-action film, which again sucks because of the great battles Jackson has given us in the past. And yes, I know Jackson used CG in the LotR films, but he was able to hide it more in those films than these.

 

Despite that, it’s certain characters that save (and I used that word very strongly) the film. Martin Freeman’s Bilbo and Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield character’s come full circle. You can arguably say that The Hobbit movies are as much a Thorin movie as it is a Bilbo movie. Thorin goes from sympathetic and heroic character in the past films to this crazed and troubled character for three-fourths of the movie back to being character we love. Thorin’s arc is touching, heartbreaking and an great experience to watch unfold and Armitage does an amazing job of being able to fill those shoes.

 

Hobbit Biblbo

 

Freeman is also great and while he doesn’t spend so much time on screen the scenes he has are touching and great to watch. Whether it’s a scene of him trying to bring Thorin back to normal or a simple scene of him and Gandalf sitting down not saying a word to each other because at that point there is nothing to say, Freeman has given the character of Bilbo more life than one of could have imagined.

 

The rest of the cast kind of gets thrown at the wayside, which tends to happen when you have such a huge cast. All the actors that play the other Dwarves don’t really have moments to shine expect for Aidan Turner’s Kili who continues and finishes his romance arc with Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel. Luke Evans has more to do as Bard the Bowman acting as new leader and gets to show off his fighting ability. Lee Pace has about the same amount of screen time he had in last movie as the Elvin king Thranduil but finally gets to show more of his ability to fight. Finally, Orlando Bloom as Legolas is just in the movie for the action as he doesn’t really serve a purpose for the movie other than show how he got on his adventure at the start of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

 

Hobbit Tauriel and Legolas

 

All in all, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is not a bad movie but considering that there was going to be only two movies and the previous Hobbit movies built up to this, it does leave a little bit to be desired and was a bit underwhelming. If anything, The Battle of Five Armies and the other Hobbit movies are all about the adventure and characters, and on that end it succeeds with flying colors. But when it comes to the titular Battle of the Five Armies and a final film of a trilogy, it’s only okay.

 

 

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

3.5 out of 5

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‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Review

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Dir: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Gleen Close and Benicio Del Toro

Synopsis: In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will have minor spoilers but nothing that will spoil the movie itself.*

 

 

When Marvel announced they would be doing a movie based on relatively unknown characters in Guardians of the Galaxy, pretty much everyone voiced an opinion on the matter. Was it going to be good? Bad? Would it be too weird? However, what everyone agreed on was this would be one of the Marvel’s biggest risks. So was the start of Phase 2 and the so called “Cosmic Era” the hit Marvel expected it to be? Yes, yes it was.

 

The movie starts off with a strong emotional scene set in the 80s of a young Peter Quill in the hospital. After a strong goodbye to a family member he runs out and gets scooped by a ship. Fast forward 20-something years later and Peter Quill (Pratt) is all grown up and now goes by the moniker “Star-Lord” although it’s almost only to himself and goes around the galaxy gather things to sell.

 

The movie than opens with Quill retrieving a silver orb that everyone wants. The orb puts him in the crosshairs of the assassin Gamora (Saldana), who is working for a Kree religious fanatic Ronan (Pace).  Ronan wants to wipe out the Xandarians, which is the home planet of the Nova’s – an intergalactic police force – for commissioning a peace treaty with the Kree, and will get help from Gamora’s father Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) in exchange for the orb.

 

While all that is going on, Quill gets a bounty placed on his head and that is where we get introduced to the duo of Rocket (voiced by Cooper), an angry, talking raccoon, and Groot (voiced by Diesel), a walking tree who can only say, “I am Groot.”  The four eventually end up on Xandar and end up getting thrown in jail. It’s in the jail where we meet Drax, who wants to avenge his family’s death by killing Ronan and Thanos. They eventually decide to put some of their differences aside, and even with their own agendas, to escape the prison and find out why Thanos and Ronan want to the orb.

 

The movie is a bit plot-heavy, which isn’t a bad thing, but it really doesn’t feel that way. It’s a bit slow at the beginning – what movie isn’t – but it picks up as it progress. But even with everything going on, like the universe being threaten or the beautiful landscapes and designs, it’s all about the characters. Each character has their own moments, whether it’s individually or together, and probably one of the best scenes of the movie is when they finally decide to be an actual team. Kudos has to be given to director James Gunn for making this team up work in a little over two hours as oppose to The Avengers where we had the foundation of that team up being laid out by several movies over years.

 

What? A picture in my review?

What? A picture in my review?

 

But next to Gunn’s direction, the movie is bought together by it’s impressive cast, which is lead by Chris Pratt, who is almost perfectly cast as Star-Lord. He’s cocky, heroic and can also deliver a hero’s speech as he is also coming up with one-liners. Being a child of the 80s, his references are usually themed to that era but they don’t seemed dated or cheesy and they actually work.

 

Zoe Saldana is already use to playing strong kick ass female characters and Gamora no different. She’s determined, deadly and at times feels like she’s the compass of the group, which is weird considering she is one of the daughters of “The Mad Titan” Thanos. Equally as deadly is Drax, played by Dave Bautista. Although it would seem like he’s the muscle of the group, although he does have some great action moments, Drax will definitely be a favorite for some. He has some of the funniest lines and moments in the movie and does so with great timing and deadpan wit.

 

But of course we have to talk about Rocket and Groot. Both characters were done by motion-capture and CGI, but while it seems so simple to put in a walking, talking, machine gun touting, genetically modified raccoon and a walking tree that only says three words, the character provide the team with some, even more, comic relief and warmth. Bradley Cooper brings a great sarcastic tone to Rocket and without spoiling anything also brings some great emotional scenes. Diesel, who already has a limited talking character under his belt with The Iron Giant, does it yet again. Who knew that “I am Groot” can be said so many different ways and when said can mean something entirely different.

 

The villains are also pretty great here, Ronan the Accuser, played by Lee Pace has a great menacing look to him and is almost unstoppable, although some might see him as one-dimensional, which I can see but Pace does a great job every time he’s on screen. Karen Gillan’s Nebula, the other daughter of Thanos and least favorite, is also pretty cool although it would have been nice to see a little more of her. Even Korath (Hounsou) who has a great look to him isn’t really anything more than glorified henchmen. Of course, the ever so reliable Michael Rooker as Yondu has a standout moment.

 

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Finally, John C. Reilly and Glenn Close make the most of their supporting roles, as part of the Nova Cop. However, comic book fans already know, and as I stated earlier, Josh Brolin voices Thanos. Thanos does show up and I wouldn’t be a fan if I didn’t mention him. He only has one real scene and then shows up on screens and is talked about a lot. One shot in particular should be recognizable to comic book fans when we see Thanos as a whole character, it might be fan service but its welcomed fan service.

 

While the movie is a “Marvel” movie, it also feels like a James Gunn movie. It’s sarcastic, humorous, some dark humor (especially one that involves bodily fluids) and pushes its PG-13 rating but never really feels that way. More importantly, this is Gunn’s first big budgeted film and you can tell by the set-pieces and how much everything feels someone was let loose to create something from the ground up. The other nice thing is although this will eventually fall into the Marvel Cinematic Universe – there are elements from the already set MCU – Guardians feels like it could be set in it’s own universe, which seems odd to say since it’s set in the Galaxy.

 

All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy is fun, funny, has sly dialogue and is action-packed. The design and set-pieces are great to look at (even in 3D) and the music choices are great and fit very well into the movie as a whole. Marvel’s big risk, for me, wasn’t a big risk at all. Yes, it takes risks but it is those risks that make the movie what it is and what makes it so fun. The movie’s connective pieces to the MCU are great to see and to see Thanos have some screen time is really awesome to see (also the mention of the Kree!). Is it the best Marvel movie yet? I’d say it is up there.

 

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

5 out of 5