REVIEW: THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY – EXTENDED EDITION

CAST
Martin Freeman (Captain American: Civil War)
Ian McKellen (X-Men)
Richard Armitage (Hannibal)
Ken Stott (Spivs)
Graham McTavish (King Arthur)
William Kircher (Xena)
James Nesbitt (Monroe)
Stephen Hunter (All Saints)
Dean O’ Gorman (Young Hercules)
Aidan Turner (Being Human)
John Callen (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Peter Hambleton (A Twist In The Tale)
Jed Brophy (Heavenly Creatures)
Mark Hadlow (King Kong 2005)
Adam Brown (Pirates of The Caribbean 5)
Ian Holm (Lord of The Rings)
Elijah Wood (Sin City)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Cate Blanchett (Hanna)
Christopher Lee (Star Wars – Episode II)
Andy Serkis (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who)
Barry Humphries (The Howling III)
Jeffrey Thomas (Spartacus: Gods of The Arena)
Lee Pace (Pushing Daises)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Conan Stevens (Game of Thrones)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement)
Jarred Blakiston (Power Rangers Dino Charge)
 The release of the three Lord of the Rings Extended Editions were something of a revelation a decade or so ago, particularly for J.R.R. Tolkien fans that wanted to immerse themselves even further in the cinematic landscape of Middle-earth. The nature of the LOTR novels dictated that the film adaptations would be packed to the brim with characters and locations while still excluding a wealth of material that couldn’t possibly be included in the movies, so introducing more material made for a fuller experience.
Peter Jackson and company have taken a similar approach with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition Blu-ray release, but the new cut of the film doesn’t feel like the definitive version that the LOTR extended cuts did. Instead, a movie that is already stretched too thin simply becomes longer, feeling like an indulgent director’s cut rather than a noteworthy superior cut.
All of that being said, An Unexpected Journey Extended as a Blu-ray release is still a worthwhile purchase for fans of the movie or the universe. The real selling point is the continuation of the Appendices, which even pick up the numbering from the LOTR Extended Editions so that this set holds Appendices 7 and 8. Spread across two different discs, the documentary material is just as rewarding to watch as the LOTR Appendices were, spanning about nine hours of in-depth production footage and interviews. The Appendices cover all aspects of building Tolkien’s world, from returning to the original LOTR sets to casting the new characters to developing the culture of the Dwarves to the score and even the early involvement of initial director Guillermo del Toro.
For fans of Middle-earth or just the process of making a film, these Appendices stand as the most thorough documentation of blockbuster movie-making in recent memory. But perhaps the most engaging part of the behind-the-scenes footage is the depiction of the friendships and bonds forged in the trenches of making a movie of this stature. For such a large scale production, seeing these relationships blossom in this footage is inspiring. The only downside to the Appendices is that unless you opt for the “Play All” option from the beginning, each segment will kick you back to the main menu after it ends rather than just continuing on from where you begin.
 The commentary track from Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens is insightful and entertaining, even if a lot of the same content is covered in the Appendices at various points. Still, their rapport was amusing enough to keep me engaged throughout the length of the movie. The other special feature included on the movie disc is the “New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth” featurette that’s a holdover from the initial Blu-ray release of the movie.

The first Hobbit Extended Edition feels bloated as a movie, but the bountiful supplemental content and absolutely stunning audio/visual presentation

REVIEW: THE HOBBIT 1,2 & 3

 

CAST

Martin Freeman (Captain American: Civil War)
Ian McKellen (X-Men)
Richard Armitage (Hannibal)
Ken Stott (Spivs)
Graham McTavish (King Arthur)
William Kircher (Xena)
James Nesbitt (Monroe)
Stephen Hunter (All Saints)
Dean O’ Gorman (Young Hercules)
Aidan Turner (Being Human)
John Callen (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Peter Hambleton (A Twist In The Tale)
Jed Brophy (Heavenly Creatures)
Mark Hadlow (King Kong 2005)
Adam Brown (Pirates of The Caribbean 5)
Ian Holm (Lord of The Rings)
Elijah Wood (Sin City)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Cate Blanchett (Hanna)
Christopher Lee (Star Wars – Episode II)
Andy Serkis (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who)
Barry Humphries (The Howling III)
Jeffrey Thomas (Spartacus: Gods of The Arena)
Lee Pace (Pushing Daises)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Conan Stevens (Game of Thrones)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement)
Jarred Blakiston (Power Rangers Dino Charge)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is Peter Jackson’s return to the land of middle earth, and it’s another epic adventure that is sure to delight moviegoers of all ages. The story of The Hobbit takes place before The Lord of the Rings. It connects some of the dots to Jackson’s earlier trilogy and it’s once again an adaption of the beloved writing of J.R.R. Tolkien as brought to cinematic life. This is one journey you are absolutely going to want to make because this is one of the most exciting motion pictures released in the fantasy genre since this film adventure began with The Lord of the Rings. The story takes place before the events that unfold in The Lord of the Rings. Things start to unfold in flashback style through the storytelling of a much older Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), reflecting upon his earlier adventures as he reminiscences with Frodo. We learn about how a powerful dragon named Smaug destroyed much of the land where Dwarfs lived, and claimed their Dwarf Kingdom, leaving the dwarfs without a place to call home. Flash forward and onto the beginning encounter between young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) who informs the merry hobbit that he’ll be going on an adventure and that he needs to prepare. Before the evening is even over with, Bilbo is joined at his quiet home with the presence of thirteen dwarves, including the warrior leader Thorin (Richard Armitage). The company is quick to make themselves at home, feasting and celebrating, and all before Bilbo learns of their journey to reclaim the Dwarf kingdom known as Erebor. Reluctantly at first, Bilbo eventually joins the ranks of the team as their “thief”  and journeys with them on an adventure he never expected in the first place. Gandalf saw something in him that he couldn’t even see for himself.

As the perilous journey continues, they face great danger against Trolls, Orcs, Goblins, and other obstacles on their way to Erebor. What no one expects is that Bilbo will accidentally stumble upon a small golden ring, and that there would be a chance encounter between Bilbo and a creature named Gollum. The rest of the history of Middle Earth waits from here. There was so much anticipation for this film that it is nearly unparalleled in the history of film. It sounds like an exaggeration to state that there was that much hope and anticipation surrounding this film, but the fan-base surrounding this production is unlike anything else out there. The fan base is so dedicated and enthralled in the works of Tolkien and in director Jackson’s vision for bringing these stories to life. There is a lot of dedication from the fans and from those who are involved with making the films happen.


How many big-budget films are given a prequel treatment that is massively enticing to loyal fans and the masses at large? The only film to compare it to  is that of Star Wars’s prequel The Phantom Menace. Unfortunately, we know the results of that prequel film and series was disappointing for many fans. So the question soon centers upon whether or not fans felt the same way about The Hobbit on film. Luckily, the comparisons can end there, because while some viewers may quibble over sentiments that express disappointment that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey isn’t exactly on the same precise level of filmmaking found in The Lord of the Rings trilogy it’s clear this film isn’t underwhelming, even if for some it failed to live up to the built-up anticipation.

The Hobbit is also a revolutionary film that changes the game of filmmaking. This is the first production of films to be filmed with 48fps (frames per second) technology. The entire idea behind it was to make these films take full advantage of 3D technology so as to remove the effects of motion-blur commonly found and to increase the overall resolution and clarity. It wasn’t something the studio had in mind. This was all a part of Jackson’s vision for how to impact the future of filmmaking. Theaters projecting The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and future installments had to upgrade their theater equipment just to project these films in the best format possible and that still isn’t realistic as a possibility for many theaters. Yet consider the fact that this is the first film ever produced with 48fps. And it was all because Jackson wanted to do something even greater; something audiences hadn’t even had the opportunity to experience before.

The industry standard of 24fps won’t disappear anytime soon (especially considering the higher costs associated with the technology of 48fps cameras) but at least it seems Jackson wasn’t all alone in wanting to advance the filmmaking game as James Cameron has already announced plans to film his next motion-picture with the same 48fps frame-rate. This is really quite the accomplishment. Almost everyone involved with The Lord of the Rings films creation in prominent roles came back to work with Peter Jackson in making The Hobbit films. This is perhaps one of the most notable elements of the entire production. Howard Shore has crafted another score that is just essential to the backbone of the film. Although it is highly enjoyable it is also a bit repetitive compared to earlier outings, with the greatest accomplishment in this entire outing being the stellar Misty Mountains song. Director of photography Andrew Lesnie is also back to being brilliant as the official photographer of Middle Earth and New Zealand.

Speaking of returning individuals, not only does Andy Serkis return to reprise his legendary performance of Gollum but he receives a promotion to second unit director. He continues to prove that he deserves a special Academy Award for outstanding acting in an uncomfortable outfit and suit thingymagig. Of course, he’s also brilliant all around and a real asset to these films (and now apparently in several ways). While Jackson also keeps things interesting for the adults in the audience  he clearly seems to keep in mind that the story needed to be a more jubilant one and the results are the funniest and most simply enjoyable film in the series to date. It’s the kind of film you could simply put on and get lost within for a few joyful hours. The whole family can share in enjoying this adventure story. The journey continues with an unlikely team of heroes that have set out to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from the all-powerful Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is the hobbit that fits the role of the thief to steal from the living dragon. Little does the rest of his team know that he’s in possession of the mysterious and magical ring that he took from Gollum. The leader of their team, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) goes off course in order to fight the very darkness that threatens the world. They soon realize that they will need the help from every race, and more, if they ever hope to defeat the great darkness that will soon overtake all of the lands.

 

 

CAST

Martin Freeman (Captain American: Civil War)
Ian McKellen (X-Men)
Richard Armitage (Hannibal)
Ken Stott (Spivs)
Graham McTavish (King Arthur)
William Kircher (Xena)
James Nesbitt (Monroe)
Stephen Hunter (All Saints)
Dean O’ Gorman (Young Hercules)
Aidan Turner (Being Human)
John Callen (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Peter Hambleton (A Twist In The Tale)
Jed Brophy (Heavenly Creatures)
Mark Hadlow (King Kong 2005)
Adam Brown (Pirates of The Caribbean 5)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Cate Blanchett (Hanna)
Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who)
Lee Pace (Pushing Daises)
Orlando Bloom (Elizabethtown)
Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man)
Stephen Fry (Bones)
Luke Evans (Dracula Untold)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement)
Ryan Gage (The Musketeers)

The tales are still unravelling and a lot of the characters are still telling their backstories. However, Peter Jackson and co. don’t allow this picture to go without any action. The orcs continue to follow the protagonists from one place to the next, with the intention of killing each one of them. As this danger comes upon each village, audiences are introduced to a batch of insanely entertaining action sequences. One of the most impressive happening down the rapids of a fast-moving stream. Even through the more subtle scenes, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has a much better sense of pacing that keeps it moving. Gandalf explores numerous environments, as he ventures the darkness of the curses that threaten the entire world. This team of writers don’t need to have constant battles in order to keep their audiences engaged. While some of the dialogue is intentionally cheesy, the majority of it holds its own fairly well. As expected, the film is humorous when it wants to be. There are a lot of gags against the stereotypes of dwarves that will surely gain some laughs from moviegoers. This works extremely well in bringing a change of tone to the picture every now and then. While the team continues to fight towards the mountain in which Smaug is underneath, they encounter a wide variety of different people and creatures. It’s all a matter of being able to tell the difference between friend and foe. Of course, a lot goes wrong along the way.

Despite having Smaug’s name in the title, he’s the antagonist held for the third act of the feature. This dangerous dragon makes for a meaty portion of the running time, as Bilbo attempts to sneak around the beat’s chamber without being detected. Once the group is faced with the task of fighting off the dragon, they’re forced to draw deep inside themselves in order to find the bravery and courage needed to at least put up a fight. There’s plenty of running around and fighting here, but Smaug gets quite a bit of time to speak with Bilbo before things start spinning out of control. Not only is the dragon threatening in size, appearance, and name, but is actually rather witty in his dialogue. This makes for a great final act that pulls everything together.

 

CAST

Martin Freeman (Captain American: Civil War)
Ian McKellen (X-Men)
Richard Armitage (Hannibal)
Ken Stott (Spivs)
Graham McTavish (King Arthur)
William Kircher (Xena)
James Nesbitt (Monroe)
Stephen Hunter (All Saints)
Dean O’ Gorman (Young Hercules)
Christopher Lee (Lord of The Rings)
Aidan Turner (Being Human)
John Callen (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Peter Hambleton (A Twist In The Tale)
Jed Brophy (Heavenly Creatures)
Mark Hadlow (King Kong 2005)
Adam Brown (Pirates of The Caribbean 5)
Ian Holm (Lord of The Rings)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Cate Blanchett (Hanna)
Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who)
Lee Pace (Pushing Daises)
Orlando Bloom (Elizabethtown)
Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man)
Stephen Fry (Bones)
Luke Evans (Dracula Untold)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement)
Ryan Gage (The Musketeers)

The Battle of the Five Armies proves to be an accurate title for the last entry in the series. This entry picks up directly where The Desolation of Smaug left off with the impending doom of Laketown because of the approaching dragon Smaug. The people of the Laketown struggle during their confrontation with Smaug and try to defeat the dragon. It is ultimately up to the heroic Bard (Luke Evans) to try and stop Smaug from obliterating everything in the path and save Laketown. Thranduil (Lee Pace) now seeks the sacred jewels of his people and arrives with the elves to get them back from the dwarf kingdom. The humans of Laketown seek shelter and gold so they can rebuild their town. The dwarves, having been without their home for so long, unite and fight to protect the reclaimed mountain kingdom. Increasing chaos ensues as the orcs arrive and bring with them bats bred for war and goblins. The threat of the rise of Sauron (the Necromancer) looms in the background.

As the story progresses, it becomes clear a war is brewing in Middle Earth between the dwarves, the elves, the orcs (under the separate commands of Azog and Bolg), and the men of Laketown (who are fighting alongside Bard). Gandalf (Ian McKellen) must try and prevent the battle that looms but is faced with escaping the grasp of the necromancer with the help of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett). Upon arriving outside of the dwarf kingdom before the battle begins, Gandalf tries uniting the men, dwarves, and elves as he senses the impending war approaching with the orcs and wants the armies strengths combined so they can defeat the orcs. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) also tries to unite the divided armies of men, dwarfs, and elves. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) continue to be an aid to the dwarfs as needed and are thrust directly into the ensuing battle.

Dwarf leader Thorin (Richard Armitage) has become obsessed with finding the Arkenstone: the heart of the mountain. It is kept by Bilbo Baggins as he dislikes the way that power and greed has overtaken Thorin’s mind. Bilbo tries to remind Thorin of his important duties to those in need. Thorin, blinded by gold and the rage of his past, has to overcome his demons to fight as a hero once more before the war has ended. Bilbo, a true friend to Thorin, remains by his side as he faces a inner struggle to regain his sanity and to fight for what is right.

Following An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug, The Battle of the Five Armies is easily the most action-packed of the three films. The entire film serves to act as a concluding act to the series. It concludes the story that was established in the first Hobbit film and brings additional closure to the entire six-film saga as it creates a bridge between series. With great adventure, action, and dramatic closure, The Battle of the Five Armies is another excellent experience in the cinematic land of Middle Earth.  The performances are impressive across the board in this film. Martin Freeman serves as a sort of anchor to the proceedings with his lovable performance as Bilbo.  Richard Armitage brings dramatic weight to the character of Thorin with his remarkable performance. As always, the great Ian McKellen makes Gandalf one of the series most beloved characters. Rightfully so. Evangeline Lilly does a superb job in the role of Tauriel. She brings her best to the part and makes an excellent action-hero. It’s a lot of fun to see Orlando Bloom bringing the character of Legolas back. Cate Blanchett is as good as always and Luke Evans brings something uniquely special to the film with his role as Bard. These performances mesh together remarkably well and help the film to succeed during both moments of spectacle and dramatic events occurring between the characters.