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« Zero Dark Thirty (2012) - Combo Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy | Main | Towne Country: FFC Interviews Robert Towne »

March 18, 2013

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Brando

@BillC, no worries, thanks for your response.

Bill C

@Brando: Appreciate the hunger for fresh(er) content. Explanations would look like excuses; this is just one of our fallow periods, unfortunately.

Brando

Pardon my posting here, but although the re-uploads of old reviews and DVD spots are cool and all, and I like the new scrolling format of the site, it's been two weeks since you've guys have done a review of a new release (the last was March 7th and Walter's awesome review of "Oz the Great and Powerful", I believe). This is such a bummer because I feel like this has become a pattern recently, and well, there are so many films that come out each week, good and bad, that could use your guys insight. Like "Olympus Has Fallen" that just came out. Yeah sure, it looks like garbage, but often times when I've felt that way about a picture, your reviews have swayed me to put money down and buy a ticket. That's how great of writers you all are.

Luke Allison

Wrong on the deux ex machina. Tolkien addressed that idea in his essay "On Fairy Stories." He coined the phrase "eucatastrophe," the darkest moment when everything reverses. Tolkien survived WWI and lost all his friends in it. He was no Pollyanna. But he believed life had purpose and meaning. This is of course poison to nihilistic white American guys who think hope is bullshit. It takes a bored and remarkably safe culture like ours to believe that any hint of providence in a stoy is somehow inauthentic.

I thought the movie was basically shit, but let's not blame it on Tolkien's writing. This reminds me of all the fantasy fans who hate LOTR because it's too black and white. Just because the Orcs don't rape Frodo anally when they capture him doesn't make it black and white. Tolkien's ideas of good and evil were highly nuanced and remarkably complex. Jackson misinterprts him at all the wrong points, playing to our 21st century naval-gazing milieux and making the primary conflicts internalized: will the hobbits overcome their self-doubt and low self-esteem in order to overcome the bad guys? Sometimes external conflict is okay.

Anyway...I love your writing and your site. But I disagree with it a lot.

Simon Fallaha

My two word review: Bore-bo Baggins.

Josh

Just a couple of thoughts to add to the furor:

1. I felt like a hungrier director with more to prove would have done more with the riddles scene. There's so much potential there for something weirder and more intense, with that strange mixture of humour and sick tension that's right there in the source, especially given the inherent "classic match-up" factor that anyone who saw Gollum as a highlight of LOTR would be feeling. Am I right in thinking that this may have been the most anticipated scene of the whole trilogy? And what we get is this flat high school play staging. I felt like I came to this movie with very grounded expectations, pretty much having decided to enjoy it no matter what, and I would say this scene popped out as the only real surprise disappointment (that includes the pale orc thing, which just seems cynical on PJ's part). Walter's right about everything, although the harsh on Serkis seemed a bit out of nowhere. i guess the split personality thing is becoming a bit two-dimensional, like he's leaning on it a little hard? Maybe Walter could elaborate.

and

2. did anyone else get the zionist parable thing? guys with prominent noses longing to return to a lost homeland, league of rich white people deciding things behind the scenes, rescued in a tight spot by giant eagles? listen, i don't want this reading either, but once you've seen it you can't unsee it. i just can't decide if i'm supposed to be more offended by the zionists as gold-hungry midgets or by palestinians as the horrible smaug.

Richard

I went to see this as part of a family outing, and didn't care for it, but felt the same about all the LOTR movies. This one seemed no worse. I will give it credit on one point: the 166 minutes went by mercifully fast. I've been tortured by many 90-minute films that felt longer.

josh

I can't believe you didn't remark on the godawful music. Omnipresent, invasive, atrocious saccharine music. Everywhere. Ugh.

cb

"There are no coherent motivations, goals, or character arcs."

and this is just blatantly false. i dunno how the movie could be any more clear about the motivations, goals, and character arcs without venturing into ham-fisted territory.

cb

it's not gonna take me five years because i know a good action-adventure movie when i see one.

but, then again, i have a soft spot for PJ and Tolkien both, so i won't claim objectivity. the bashing of the filmmaking is wildly overstated, though, because some people here aren't taking enough time to think about the reasons for the decisions made or to evalute it within the context of the rest of the story to come. and getting worked up about the movie's fun moments.

if you can't appreciate the level of filmmaking and storytelling at work in the "Riddles in the Dark" scene, then you are clearly just out to hate.

but i get it, this movie and/or this approach to the story isn't for everyone. what befuddles me is that someone who gave King Kong 4 stars could think that this film is a whole 3 1/2 stars worse. Tone, technical virtuosity, lots of CGI, elaborate, over-the-top setpieces, level of characterization and theme, a slow-paced first hour followed up with abundant action and character moments interspersed...i mean, outside of the characters and worlds they are very similar. maybe Walter doesn't like King Kong any more. or maybe he's just that fed up with Middle Earth. or maybe he doesn't like dwarves.

TylerR

Good write-up, Jason. You really flesh out the way I felt about this movie. It isn’t just disappointing as a poor movie, but simply subpar and downright lazy film-making. ‘Shocked’ is indeed the right word. As much as I was afraid of how much P. Jackson would indulge himself in this film, his other films were at least competent. In other words, I expected even more of the droning exposition and schizophrenic storytelling that marred the LotR trilogy, but The Hobbit delivered it at a deplorable, dollar-bin level.

Jason

A few thoughts of my mine to flesh out my odium for this film.

First. Characters. This movie is called "The Hobbit," if you are going to take liberties and flesh out a character it should be the titular hobbit. It isn't called Epic Dwarf Movie. We really needed to know and care about Bilbo as a character for this film to work.

Second. Exposition. Movies are a visual art form. It's show not tell. The amount of exposition in this film was unforgivable. Granted LOTR was heavy on the exposition but it always fit in the context of the film. Characters expositing (sic) during the council of Rivendell is fine, a random dwarf telling us Thorin's whole back story while he poses dramatically on the side of a mountain is not. It is just lazy writing.

Third. Motivation. Characters need some motivation, this goes for the good guys and the bad guys (even most monsters). Other than a vague sense of "my life is boring" Bilbo has none. Why the albino orc chief wants to wipe out of the line of Durin is vague at best. Same with the Goblin-King. Why did he try to capture the dwarves in the first place? He only found out after the fact that he had Thorin and he was worth something.

Four. Tone. While many viewers seemed to think the riddle scene was the highlight of the film, it felt misplaced in this film. It was a complete tonal shift from everything before and after and had little impact on the plot of the film. If you are going to do multiple films this fits much better as the prologue to the second act. More broadly pick what you want your film to be and make that film. The dwarves doing dishes, the three stooges trolls, Radagast the Brown, the singing Goblin King (can I just call him Jabba?), the dwarf with the slingshot all belonged in one movie, a light-hearted action-adventure romp, perhaps even one aimed at children. Thorin, the mini-council at Rivendell, the ring, and the albino orc all belonged in another film, an epic film, perhaps one called Lord of the Rings. Make one or the other, when you try to do both it comes off as a sloppy incoherent mess.

Five. Action. Considering the masterful set pieces that littered the LOTR films, the ineptitude of the action scenes in the Hobbit was shocking. I could go on all day here but I would simply invite you to rewatch the Moria tomb fight from Fellowship and the Battle of Helm's Deep from Two Towers and reflect on the difference between an action scene that is set-up, paced, developed, and resolved vs an extended shot of dwarves running and mowing down CG goblins (I felt like I was watching someone play Diablo II). There was no tension or excitement to these actions scenes, I found myself laughing at them.

Overall the problems aren't the framerate, or the length, or even the source material. The problems are the film making.

Stephanie

Hopefully everyone will soon realize that Jackson's LOTR movies weren't that good. I really wanted them to get this one right, by not hiring Jackson! His big budget films lack atmosphere and magic.

Bob

Now that's prompt service! Thanks very much, Bill.

You've made my day.

TylerR

Nicholas, the film doesn't need to flesh out every character, but it does need to decide what they hell it is about. This first installment looks like the script was made by tossing the book in a blender then messily gluing it all back together. There are no coherent motivations, goals, or character arcs. Seven Samurai doesn’t try to set you up with the pretense of the individuals. ‘Hobbit’ wants you to care for a titular character with no motivation and giving land to an asshole king with less personality than the shield he shares his name with.

Bob

Oh for goodness' sake, people.

Is it really going to take you all five years before you'll be able to look back and think "Wow. That movie was clumsy, worthless and awful. What was I thinking?"

Because, you know, this movie really is clumsy, worthless and awful, and all your whining right now is going to look funny as hell once the long aftermath hits.

Oh, and FFC? PUH-LEAZE restore the hate mail section for the Star Wars prequel. I miss it very badly.

Nicholas van der Waard

This isn't a review so much as it's a guy bitching about Tolkien's writing (and completely missing the point of it). Bravo! And for all the Deux Ex Machina we see in the movie, it's actually been toned down compared to the novel. Furthermore, there's 13 dwarves. If we spent more time fleshing out the characters, there'd be no adventure, at all. You ever see Seven Samurai? How well were those characters fleshed out? I'd rather watch the Hobbit over and over than read another one of your terrible reviews.

TylerR

"it's just weird that in this review Chaw criticizes PJ both for straying in general from the original text and for not straying enough from the text."

The movie spends so long on unimportant bits of the book's minutia, then sees fit to add useless fluff in other parts. What it gets right doesn't matter and what it adds doesn't either. This film is a train-wreck of style and substance. It offers nothing new to the franchise and is even more of a massive step back in terms of coherent storytelling than we saw as the original trilogy passed into mediocrity with each successive film.

cb

i just re-read the book before seeing the movie and i don't see how what's in the book is any more clever than what's in the movie. and what's in the book is actually more of a deus ex machina as Bilbo and the dwarves basically are done for and then Gandalf does some ventriloquism work in the troll's voices to get them fighting each other until suddenly the sun hits them (not to mention that the dwarves kinda stupidly wander in to get sacked a few at a time) and Bilbo is initially sent in to burglar from the trolls on the flimsiest of premises (whereas in the film he is sent to save the ponies). and, in the book, there's a talking purse that gets one line so as to foil Bilbo's burgle attempt. this scene is just one example of how saying that there were no improvements made in adapting this text into a movie is giving the filmmakers far too little credit. what Tolkien wrote worked as a simple kid's tale but does not work in the larger context of his work and LotR, just as a straight-up adaptation would not have worked in a post-LotR movie climate. but either you want to see these movies and what they contain or you've already had your Tolkien fill. that's fine. it's just weird that in this review Chaw criticizes PJ both for straying in general from the original text and for not straying enough from the text. i've seen this same self-contradiction in a few other respected critics' reviews, and i hate to say it, but i think they are missing the forest for the trees and getting confused in the process. this movie is trying to strike a balance between the character of the book and the character and scope of Tolkien's larger mythology and narrative. obviously, this attempt at such a balance is not working for a lot of critics, including Walter. but it worked for me and i think it will greatly enrich this particularly story's own pathos once we come to the journey's end, not to mention enrich the LotR trilogy by providing this rich groundwork for what came before in the discovery of the ring. WhatCulture had a great piece on the 8 Reasons they thought this was the best movie of the year, and they touch upon the pitch-perfect moment where Bilbo spares Gollum's life. there is value in this movie taking its time, letting moments breathe in a way that LotR couldn't since it had so much narrative to fly through. as they say, God is in the details.

Chris

@cb: "to insinuate that this scene had no sense of wonder or magic, well, sorry, but i got that sense big-time...and also during the prologue and the stone-giants sequence that you so casually dismiss."

I don't think Walter's issue with the troll sequence was the deus ex machina of it, but that the dialogue between Bilbo and the trolls was a lot cleverer in the books, which got somewhat lost in translation.

cb

as much as i often agree with you, Walter, i knew this was one movie you were gonna hate and i was gonna love. simply put, i thought it was great storytelling (insomuch as the slight source material allows, and almost all the changes made were smart ones in terms of trying to bridge the huge gap between The Hobbit text and LotR) and often virtuosic filmmaking and, for whatever its problems, i think there's enough heart and technical merit to give it at least one or two stars and not act like it's worse than a lot of the other blockbuster tripe out there. because it really isn't.

HFR is a totally optional experience. as you noted, at the very least it makes 3D better. at best, you get a sequence like the stone giants which in HFR 3D is an experience like seeing a snippet of Shadow of the Colossus translated into something that--though totally surreal in content--practically feels like it's happening in real-life right before your eyes. but, yeah, it makes the movie not look like a movie at all and that can be very distracting and an obstacle to being immersed in the movie as escapism. whatever the case, though, i don't think a viewing option should have that much of a bearing on what you rate a film, and your review kinda comes across like it did, like HFR dropped it from two stars to half-a-star or something like that.

it's fine to complain about deus ex machina but i'm not sure the Troll scene qualifies (they have to use their wits to delay the Trolls and then Gandalf enables the sun to hit before the Trolls realize it's coming) and the Eagles--yes, they are a deus ex machina, but at least they are consistently so throughout Tolkien's texts, to the point where they start to transcend being just a bail-out and kind of get at the heart of what the term "deus ex machina" refers to. if PJ hadn't included the eagles here, fans would have been in uproar about total infidelity to the text, and you may have thought that would be the preferable choice, but not to appreciate the beauty with which the scene was translated into a cinematic sequence seems just a tad unfair. to insinuate that this scene had no sense of wonder or magic, well, sorry, but i got that sense big-time...and also during the prologue and the stone-giants sequence that you so casually dismiss.

it seems like HFR really ruined any hope the movie had of reeling you in because a lot of the comments you make in this review just kind of glance off what was actually going on in the movie and the reasons the filmmakers had for their choices, whether you agree with those choices or not. but then again, this super-sized prequel may have been doomed from the start as far as your perspective on it goes. i suspected as much but am sorry that you disliked it to the extent of giving it no credit at all. i was hoping that your appreciation for PJ's King Kong might provide a bridge to appreciating this kind of gargantuan adventure with an emphasis on fun but some earnest moments, too. i really think that compared to KK, AUJ is just as ingenious and ambitious in its spectacle and action and as beautifully simple in its characters and theme (as the Empire review noted, Bilbo's little speech to the dwarves about helping them reclaim their home is a minor stroke of genius on the part of the writing team--Bilbo choosing to stay on this perilous adventure that takes him farther and farther away from the home he cherishes so he can help bring the dwarves closer to theirs).

jim

"Take it from somebody who actually appreciates creativity and innovation. "
steve spassov...thanks for posting the most halariously idiotic comment in the history of the internet.

Scott

Three installments of The Hobbit? The Hobbit was never an epic. It's basically a kid's story. An elaborate kid's story no doubt. But, still. My view is movie going is a visceral experience. So what am I going to be experiencing viscerally while watching hours on end of dwarf-bonding and hobbity daring do? Perhaps what those queer folk (to borrow from Tolkein) feel whilst waiting in line for tickets to the next Star Wars, acting out their favourite scenes. In full garb. And that scares me. Not that there's anything wrong with it.

That said, I enjoyed LoTR. It had enough of a mix of characters that provided some weight. If I had to spend hours with the hobbits in that movie I would probably start to feel like a silly goose.

JE

what is with Walter Chaw and run-on sentences? Jesus Walter put down the thesaurus and go read some fucking Hemingway already. You have interesting things to say but your writing style is insufferable.

tom

@jason

ha.

Cameron Williams

I have a feeling I enjoyed this review more than I will the film. I think Peter Jackson is a nice guy and that doesn't necessarily make for a strong director. I suspect he's dominated by Fran Walsh, afraid to tell her 'no' and thus his films are suffering. Her scripts are as bloated and undisciplined as she is.

Biff

My goodness, was Steven Spassov's review of this review ever awful and completely ignorant?

Chris

Sort of agree with the assessment of the film, but I think the jab at Andy Serkis needs more elaboration. "Sick of his shit," meaning... annoyed that he's the go-to guy for mocap? Or that he's a bad actor? Or that he interpreted the "gollum" noise wrong and it kills a little bit of your soul each time he does it? What's the deal? I like him personally but moreover am baffled that anybody could actually have a vendetta against him.

steven

worst review of all time. lmao .5/4? wow...

just stop and find a new career bro

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