Logan: Breaking the Superhero Wheel

I arrived in the door five minutes ago after seeing Logan. Before I took off my coat, before I set down my keys, I ran to my laptop and pressed hard on the power button. I didn’t want to let myself not write this blog.

Now, for those who frequent this small corner of the internet often, you’ll know me for my love of fantasy. All the same, the genre has run parallel to the superhero film since the early 2000s, making fans of one essentially fans of the other. And after a decade of what I always considered “Post Dark Knight angst”, it seems superhero films are finally set to become grounded in something substantial again. Something worth buying a ticket for.

When Deadpool stole our hearts last year with its shoot-from-the-hip, salacious style, the fifth gear the superhero movie was cruise controlling in started to wobble. It’s been long overdue of course. Quite frankly, I can’t sit through another ten years (in which time I could be helping to bring children into the world) of watered-down, emotionally empty films where an ever-expanding motley crew chase after aliens with their pew-pew guns and make “off-the-cuff” jokes because hey, killing bad guys is super chill, amirite?

I have sat through the Avenger movies, and the Spiderman reboots and the myriad of other characters Marvel are packaging into solo films so fast we honestly can’t remember their names. I blink and Marvel births six Thor movies. I go to the bathroom and Captain America lands himself another sequel. The wheel had to stop turning. The wheel had to be broken.

So it came as little surprise really that it fell to Hugh Jackman and Wolverine to haul us all out of the complacent coma we’d allowed ourselves sink into. Logan, an X-men spinoff I could honestly see on a Best Picture list, shook me from the word go and didn’t let me rest until the credits rolled up and the lights came on for a stunned audience. With its unapologetic level of violence, you could be excused for thinking this was just another body-count movie, a comfortable 120 minutes of nada. Instead, Logan managed to unearth more deep-rooted emotion than any superhero movie has ever dug for, let alone found.

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Hugh Jackman, delivering a performance that will surely rank as one his more memorable, brought out the vulnerability of the Wolverine character as though it was the one side of him he was destined to portray. Patrick Stewart, on the other hand, reprising his role as Professor X, delivered a side of the character we perhaps weren’t expecting. Here Professor X had more bite, less art, a reflection of the later years of a man working his entire life for those around him. But perhaps both will admit they acted in the shadow of Dafne Keen, a young actress who brought to life a whole new character in her first flurry on the big screen. Rather than succumb to what I call “Carrrrll”, where young actors essentially get in the way of any meaningful plot, Keen drove the story forward, standing as tall as her co-stars by the time the 141 minutes adrenaline rush had collapsed over the finish line.

Fans of both the comic books and previous films will find plenty to play with, and such is the nuance of many of the scenes, even those who would normally gloss over a superhero blockbuster will pause in the quieter moments of the film and reflect on what a genre such as this can achieve when handled with such care.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for this viewer was to see how wide-eyed political the film turned out. Essentially a movie about innocent, predominantly Black/Hispanic pre-teens running from the U.S. government towards the “You’re-welcome-here, ey” Canadian border, Logan managed to stick a middle finger up to the Trump administration somewhere in the throes of its action. And by God did the movie deliver on that front. Refusing to shy away from blood, death, sickness, Logan‘s punch-by-punch action shots dove at you two claws extended, impaling you with a message that characters here aren’t oh-so-safe as we have come to expect from the Marvel production line.

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All in all, this movie will be remembered as the best X-Men had to offer, perhaps even the best the genre has given us too.

Because in a state-of-play where Marvel are happy to knock you over the head for two hours with clichéd plots and woeful dialogue, Logan is as raw as we’ve ever had it.

This was two and a bit hours of primal Hugh Jackman screaming at Hollywood, at viewers, at the genre and at the world.

And by fuck do I hope we’re listening.

A Post has no name

Before I begin a post like this, let me just start my paraphrasing House Stark: Spoilers are coming.

I’m writing this post to be friendly to both book-readers as well as TV viewers, as a lot of the theories dabble between both. That being said, if you don’t want to read something that discusses everything that is out there, now is your chance to run!

Last week, the penultimate episode of season 6 of Game of Thrones, entitled “Battle of the Bastards”, treated us to the kind of action we’d been baying for since the show started. It will no doubt go down as one of the series’ best episodes alongside fan favourites such as “Hardhome” and “The Rains of Castamere”. It brought a final, dramatic conclusion to the Northern story arc that had been building for years. Of course, if you’re a book reader, you know that we’re still waiting for the same action in the novel, which will be featured in “The Winds of Winter” if and when we should get it. The book’s version of events is far more complex of course, and if you are excited to see how George handles the whole affair considering the show has pipped him to it, I’d highly recommend you check out “The Grand Northern Conspiracy.” It’s available as a cluster of entries here. It’s a great way to see how all the little bits fit together since the death of Robb Stark!

Now, onto why you are here!

Who are Jon’s parents?

In either format of the story, Jon’s parents are suggested to be Eddard Stark and a non-noble woman who he met during Robert’s rebellion. One is a fisherman’s daughter, but this is widely doubted. From an email from the author himself, we can see the relevant birth dates of some of the major characters around the time in question. While this confirms nothing in itself, it does allow us to speculate as to where Jon could have come from. When we look at the timeline of Robert’s rebellion that we can piece together from the books, we see one major candidate as Jon’s mother is Wylla, who was a servant of House Dayne. Eddard confirms the name as Jon’s mother in both the show and books to Robert on their way down the Kingsroad, but says no more about her.

However, Jon’s mother might also be Ashara Dayne, who was lady-in-waiting to Elia Martell and the sister of the legendary Kingsguard knight Ser Arthur Dayne. Show-watchers will remember Sir Arthur from one of Bran’s flashbacks, where guarding Ned’s sister for Rhaegar he is killed in combat. After this, Ned returns his sword to House Dayne in his honour, and there it is suggested he may have brought home the child of Ashara Dayne, who committed suicide shortly after hearing the news of her brother’s death (and was known to be with child around the time). It was rumoured Ned and Ashara conceived Jon at the tournament of Harrenhal which preceded the war (which is also suggested by Ser Barristan Selmy), where they were seen dancing together. The time between the tournament and Ned bringing news of Ser Arthur’s death is within the window of a pregnancy. As a theory, it is perhaps second only to the big, infamous R+L=J.

This theory suggests Jon’s parents are Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister) and Rhaegar Targaryen, who was believed to have abducted Lyanna sometime after the Harrenhal tournament. This is after all, one of the major instigators of Robert’s rebellion. Many believe Lyanna actually went willingly with Rhaeger, but regardless she was held at the Tower of Joy during the war, guarded by three knights of the Kingsguard (two in the show). Ned brings five of his northern bannermen to rescue her, with only himself and Howland Reed surviving the combat. It is widely believed the presence of no less than 3 of the 7 Kingsguard at the Tower of Joy, and not at major battles such as the Trident where Rhaegar was killed suggests they were guarding his heir. In the book, Ned recalls her lying “in a pool of blood” asking him to make “a promise” repeatedly which isn’t expanded on. As well as this, it is often noted Jon does not have the “Tully” appearances ascribed to Sansa, Rickon, Robb and Bran, but instead him and Arya look more like Lyanna. While Ned contemplates Robert’s bastards in Season 1/Book One, he also drifts towards Jon and his sister in the thought process. When Daenerys visits the House of the Undying, one of her visions is one a winter rose (noted to be liked by Lyanna) growing from a wall of ice, which would indicate Jon, a relative of Dany in this theory.

The show also plays with this theory at times. In Season One, one very smart viewer caught the initials RL edged into a a piece of wood propped directly behind Jon.

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We were tragically cut off during Bran’s flashback to the Tower of Joy, but it’s only a matter of time until we get the rest of that story. If it is as we expect, then it will point to the long held belief that the title of the series: ” A song of ice and fire” referes to Jon himself, who would have both the blood of the wolf and the dragon.

The only living person, of course, who could confirm this theory is Howland Reed, as he was with Ned Stark when they found Lyanna. Ned would never have revealed Jon’s parentage while Robert was alive, for fear his friend would kill the Targaryen heir (as was seen with Dany). In both books and the show, Howland is alive, and so is his daughter Meera….

Is Meera Reed Jon’s sister?

Meera is described as of an age with Jon, and they both share similar features. If Meera was to have been born in a set of twins to Lyanna Stark, then it’s plausible Ned allowed him take Meera, as it may have hid the truth better. It’s a sort of Luke Skywalker/Leia style theory, and definitely far out there in terms of what happens. After all, if R+L=J+M, then another fan-favourite theory is corrupted, and that’s that the dragon has three heads.

Who are the three heads of the Targaryen dragon?

This theory has widespread support. Rhaegar was known to be obsessed with the idea of the dragon having three heads, so much so that people say he got Lyanna pregnant as he could no longer father children by his own wife, Elia Martell.

See this passage from the book itself

The fifth room, finally, shows a man very much alike her brother Viserys, except that he is taller and has eyes of dark indigo rather than lilac. He is speaking to a woman who is nursing a newborn babe, telling her that the child’s name should be Aegon and saying that “What better name for a king?”. The woman asks him if he will make a song for the child, and he replies that he has a song and that “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.”. He appears to look at Dany then, as if seeing her, and then he adds that “There must be one more,” and “The dragon has three heads.”.

The Targaryens who came across the sea were three siblings led by Aegon the Conqueror, each riding a dragon, and they took all of Westeros. Safe to say it’s iconic there are three dragons again.

Daenerys will of course be one of the dragons, as a daughter of Aerys. It is also said the Mad King had a daughter by Joanna Lannister, the wife of Tywin Lannister. It has been noted throughout the past that Targaryen’s have been known to breed  what they call “monstrosities”, and as a dwarf Tyrion certainly fits the bill.

The similarities between the three supposed relatives of Dany, Jon anf Tyrion are striking. Just consider:

  1. All three belong to a different group in Westeros history: Andal, First Man, Valyrian
  2. All three are outcasts in their own right
  3. All three are third children
  4. All their mothers died in childbirth
  5. All three have dead fathers
  6. All three have a tragic lovestory (in some way each of them actually murdered their love)

There are other candidates of course, such as Aegon (book only), but these three have stood out the most.

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What’s going on with Bran’s visions?

To see Bran’s visions slowed down, just look here. They’re slo-mo’d and commentary is added from his flashback splurge in the forest beyond the wall. Another question commonly asked about Bran’s visions is what effect he is able to have on the past? After all, there was a definite interplay with Hodor in the past and present, and at one point during the Tower of Joy scene Ned Stark of the past seems to hear his as yet unborn son.

If you want to gain an understanding of this, check out this video. It goes through the time travel mechanics and gives some handy examples of other works such as Back to the Future!

Will Cersei’s prophecy be fulfilled?

It’s fair to say of late Cersei’s luck has turned. It seems the words of the prophecy she received from “Maggy the Frog” as a child are coming to fruition. Already, two of her children are dead, as was predicted. One of the biggest parts of the prophecy was that she would be killed by what Maggy called “the Valonqar”, which translates to “little brother” in High Valyrian. Now, given the plot, you wouldn’t even blame Cersei for believing this referred to her brother Tyrion.

The next candidate would be Ser Jaime, her own lover and brother. Though they are twins, it is noted that Cersei was born first. Importantly, in Bran’s flashbacks we see the Mad King Aerys and his plot to burn the city and the Lannister forces. This was stopped by Jaime, the “Kingslayer” and the theory suggests he will have to do it again to stop his sister. It should be noted it was mentioned some of the Wildfire was stored beneath the Sept of Baelor, which is where Cersei’s trial would be.

It should be remembered in a wider sense that Valonqar, as with many Valyrian words, may be gender neutral and non-specific.

Could it refer to one of the Stark children?

Could it refer to Dany?

Could it refer to Loras Tyrell, the sand snakes or the Hound (all can fit in some way)

Most interestingly, could it be Tommen Baratheon, the little brother of her own children?

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The road goes ever on and on-Things I liked about the last Hobbit film [SPOILERS]

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I’ve waited until now to make my judgement on the last Hobbit film (well, at least the written version of it). Overall, it wasn’t particularly easy. I liked the first Hobbit film, and I disliked the second one. The third movie, called “The Battle of the five armies” was kind of like a mix of the two. So, to keep this short….er, and to make it easy for myself, I’m gonna tackle the good things in this post, and then we’ll look at what went wrong after.

1. The acting

Some moments of the Hobbit films have been guilty of the worst acting in the entire Middle Earth franchise. Mostly this has been down to a bad script, and a lot of the rest of it is either poor casting choices (Billy Connolly? Stephen Fry??) or working the plot wrong. Even so, it’s actually been overwhelmingly positive. In the battle of the five armies (BOTFA), Martin Freeman (Bilbo) and Ian McKellen (Gandalf) give their usual five star performances, and it’s safe to say there will NEVER be another Gandalf quite like Ian.

Richard Armitage performs consistently as the dark and vengeful Thorin Oakenshield, who spends most of the movie lusting after the Arkenstone (or king’s jewel). Aidan Turner (Kili) and Ken Stott (Balin) play their respective role as dwarves in the company very well, and are given lots of screen time in this installment. Aidan Turner in particular has went from strength to strength with each movie, and he even somehow manages to improve on the overall feel of the elf/dwarf romance that is Tauriel and Kili. Himself and Richard Armitage stand out in the action scenes, with Graham McTavish (Dwalin) also good in this respect.

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I think one of the most memorable performances in the franchise is given by Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman, who is blessed with the liberty of far more to do than his paperback compatriot. His nemesis Smaug, who is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, is also wonderfully portrayed, which brings me to my next point…

2. That first 40 or so minutes

It wasn’t until the second watch that I truly appreciated it, but the first half an hour/forty minutes of this film is actually well up there as a contender for the best portion of the trilogy, and even has a Lord of the Rings kinda flavour to it that has been so glaringly missing from these three movies.

There are many bad ways to start a film (or end it a la Desolation of Smaug), but BOTFA has to be an example of how to do the exact opposite. It opens with the imminent attack of Smaug on Laketown, which (and I rarely say this) is VISUALLY AMAZING. That’s right. These scenes was so well done that I couldn’t help but notice. The sequence is a bit marred by Stephen Fry, but other than that it is perfectly constructed. The interplay between Smaug and Bard gives the dragon the hubristic tone seen widely in the novel, and though in large sections of the trilogy the heroes seem impervious to danger, with these scenes there really is a constant threat raging amid the dragon fire. After the death of Smaug, we get a fitting introduction to Thorin’s lust and greed, and then it is off to Dol Guldur where in the second movie we saw Gandalf captured by the now revealed Sauron. The sudden arrival of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Saruman (Christopher Lee) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving) sets up what is uncharted-but-touched-on territory in Tolkien’s work, with the concept of the White Council banishing Sauron being very real, but the execution of the scene obviously fabricated by Jackson et al. It turns out quite well on screen, outside of the epileptic inducing Sauron that has become a stereotype of this trilogy.

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3. location, location, location

It normally goes without saying that Middle Earth is beautifully represented by the New Zealand landscape, but hell, I’m gonna say it anyway. It is noticeable that there is far more CGI work in the landscape, yet even so, the city of Dale has an Osgiliath ruins-like feel to it, while Erebor itself is one of most vividly created parts of all six movies. Gundabad has a nice Cirith Ungol look to it, which for many LOTR fans was one of the best settings in the original films.  Dol Guldur is unique as compared to some of the other locations, and its effect is mirrored onto Mirkwood well to show the spread of Sauron’s sickness.

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4. Some of the action scenes

Although as a movie, there is way too much of a reliance on CGI, some of the action scenes do still have that LOTR effect. In particular Tauriel’s scene on Ravenhill was well constructed, and Thorin vs Azog on the sheet of ice was a great way to lead up to the finish. I think the most obvious reason the look of the battles (as well as their credibility) has improved is that Jackson cannot escape the ending of the book. It is inevitable that Kili, Fili and Thorin had to die, and so in the latter part of the movie there was more of a desperate feel in the battles with Azog and Bolg. Bard’s fight scenes alongside the other men of Laketown were reasonably well done, so that in the end they were not dissimilar from the Siege of Gondor fights in Return of the King. It was the “setup” parts of most battles that stood out, but once the armies engaged it was a little hard to keep track. Still, the battles hugely improved on Desolation of Smaug.

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5. The ending

The first time I watched this movie, I was really unhappy with the ending. I know people go on and on about the last LOTR film dragging on, but this ending felt like a purposeful attempt to do the opposite. The second time, it still is obvious the ending could use work. The resolution after Thorin’s death is far too quick, and much of the cast is just kind of rushed off screen. There is no real finishing of the Bard, Thranduil or Dain storyline. Saying all that, I think Bilbo and Thorin’s last scene was really well done, as was Gandalf’s goodbye to Bilbo. Including the auction when Bilbo arrived home was a definite boost for the “there and back” theme of the whole thing. The final scene, which is one of the opening scenes of the Fellowship of the Ring looked at from within Bilbo’s house, was a touching (albeit slightly cheesy) note to end on. It was not a bad way to end it, and they did provide the link between the trilogies they wanted.

Next time, I’ll look at all the bad things, which is likely gonna be a much longer blog with far less structure. Until then.

World War Z without Brad Pitt

It’s very rare in the modern day to be able to read a book, watch it’s film adaptation, and still find no faults between them. Very rare. But here, after ploughing through an entire series of The Walking Dead books, the faults of which I outlined before both as a novel and as an on-screen version, I found a winner.

The above is actually incorrect, that is, in phrasing of course. I’d actually seen Max Brooks’ novel in the film version six months ago, long before Waterstones got paid a holiday visit from Kyle and his gift card. So when a quick google search informed me the movie and book were pretty much different in all but name, I wasn’t sure what I had got myself into.

The film World War Z stars Brad Pitt, who in the midst of a zombie pandemic finds himself shuffled into the deck of the world’s rescue team, which also features a globally renowned expert in viruses et al as well as the standard motley crew of army companions. Their mission is to go deep behind the enemy lines, to find patient zero and investigate how the infection operates. The journey takes them across countries which overall does try to encompass excerpts from the novel in as dramatic a fashion as possible. The portrayal of Israel is a good example that readers of the book could find a good parallel in. After that though, the similarities dwindle out. Most of the latter part of the movie centres on a World Health Organisation facility, where a plan for a cure begins to unravel. The climax is tense and overall as a narrative the movie successfully breaks into the ranks of respectable zombie films. This review will tend to focus more on the book though, as that’s probably where the real credit should go.

The most observable difference seen in the first few pages of the book on comparison to the film is the existence of the slow-type zombie rather than the fast-moving monster that is rampant in Brad Pitt’s world. Other than that readers would be surprised to see the book actually comprises a series of interviews, each skipping to different parts of the world and effectively examining the fallout of the “war” for people of all manner of class, gender, economic background and professional status. Even I thought this wasn’t going to work, with the skill needed to write a convincing novel made up only of interviews very hard to come by. But to Brooks’ credit, he whisks you right into the story from the beginning. The interviewer only intervenes to a point, giving the book room to flow, and so the pace isn’t hurt at all as mostly those being questioned are left free to describe first-hand what occurred to them during the apocalypse. However, if this was the only feature alone that Brooks employed, I’d leave the book thinking it was a solid shot at trying to convince the reader this had actually happened. What’s scary more than impressive, is that the author goes much, much further.

What’s immediately evident is the writer sticks to a set time pattern, with the novel’s early interviews revolving around the breakout of the virus, progressing eventually through survivor stories and the resulting fight back by the humans remaining.

The first twenty pages are an eerie look at just how terrifying it would be to come upon what seem like gruesome murders or abstract infections, the tone set by those interviewed (which of course the author controls) that all authority were completely incompetent, bewildered or out to cover up the true nature of what was going on. The writer breathes intelligence in every interview as he comes up with clever ways to get the virus on the move, such as cross-continent organ transplants or smugglers helping people out of quarantine zones. This helps quash the disbelief we all would have of “how exactly does this take over the world?”

Some of the best work is evident in the Israel/Palestine story. Of course, pre-war, this has its own political and social upheavals, so the virus only adds to the pool of problems the Middle East faces, with religion and military powers now coming into play as well. This is told from both sides of the Gaza strip, and from those both in power and those on the ground.

Once the plague begins to go global, the interviews shift to where the blame lies. At first we get glimpses of government officials discussing cover-up operations and attempts to avoid panic, but this also expands to give us a look at more interesting and obscure topics such as failed vaccine attempts and the embers of human-zombie contact on American soil.

The Great Panic spans a large chunk of the novel, and importantly deals with how humans became the losing side; a factor left out by most zombie movies where viewers are landed into the situation already after the government/society has collapsed. The tone here darkens significantly, and for the first time we begin to see the psychological implications of an undead world. Survivor stories feature a deranged woman, the fall of the army and the Russian side of the conflict.

After that we see just how big the fallout is, with stories of cannibalism and humans gone insane, either imitating zombies to their own demise or forming wild groups in the urban jungles. The book then takes the survivor cases in two groups-those still living in America and those located on other continents. Some pieces even go so far as to deal with life on the international space station, or life for a Japanese computer kid who is so hooked he fails to notice his parents gone for several days.

WordPress doesn’t have enough blog space to go into detail on all of the fascinating stories the author explores. As a result, I’ll focus finally on the last portion of the book, where I think the author succeeds to give the novel a lasting legacy. Here, during the human fight-back, we are painted a portrait of every aspect of the front line, whether it’s underwater, in cities, in Parisian catacombs or across the American Great Plains. Comprehensive would be insulting as a description, such is the extent to which it falls short in showing just how far the author’s research has prevailed. The ending is bitter sweet in most respects, with a lot of the earlier interviewees revisited to examine the aftershock. Realistically, if you took out the world zombie here and there, it really feels like the novel could have been the aftermath of any natural disaster. It’s less of a novel about zombies thriving, and more of a novel about humans clinging on, whatever for, and even then, remaining uncertain.

I would certainly recommend this on any summer reading list, if only for its merits in writing alone. Outside of that, the research, detail and difference in style the author brings to the table are commendable and go far beyond whatever Pitt and his friends were ever likely to achieve.

The Desolation Of Smaug-or how Hollywood can make a hobbit even smaller (spoilers-obviously)

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Hello again, been a while. Anyway, never mind that. Two nights ago I went to “The Hobbit:The Desolation Of Smaug”. This is the second film in the Hobbit trilogy, for those who missed out on popular culture for the last three years or so. To say I was excited would be a massive understatement. At the age of eight, I was first exposed to Tolkien’s world when The Fellowship of the Ring was released in cinemas. Since then, it’s been an explosion of Tolkien into my life. Over the following two years I saw the other two films, and simultaneously read The Hobbit. But since then, it’s gone logarithmic. At this stage, I’ve read the Hobbit about ten times, the Lord of the Rings perhaps five. Outside of that, I’ve gotten through the Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin and am currently finishing up the Unfinished Tales. I bought “Tales from the perilous realm” the other day, though that’s a whole other story. Not that this is very impressive, but I guess it highlights just how much Tolkien has played a part in my life, so when ten years later “The Hobbit” was planned for cinematic release, ya..I was excited.

Last year we had our first taste, and granted, it was no LOTR, but not bad Jackson, not bad. When three films were announced, I was skeptical. Three is a lot. But then, we heard the appendices et al would feature, so I felt a bit more at ease. I myself knew one film would be enough to tell The Hobbit, but not very well. To me, in two films you could faithfully adapt the book and make two very good movies. Perhaps the break could have come at Mirkwood, though let’s not argue that here. What we have to work with is what’s given, and that’s three films. The second film came with a whole roster of changes, including extra characters, new plot lines and changes to original material. This always happens with adaptions. A book works slowly, and can have its effect in that way. On screen though, we need constant visual stimulation. Otherwise we grow tired. So I knew the original thing wasn’t gonna cut it in cinema. It was too formal, too organised and too moderated. Cinema needs more freedom than books do. But too much freedom and creative control can damage original material a lot, which I felt was the problem with The Desolation of Smaug (TDOS after this).

I have too much to say on all this, so I’ll go with numbers and try keep it short (hah, unlikely though).

  1. Really childish action– This was probably the biggest flaw, one I’m sad to say carried over and multiplied from film one. Some would argue The Hobbit is a childish book, and so it’s OK, but since the tone has been adapted to fit LOTR, those people can go be wrong somewhere else. Every action sequence felt like a video game (that barrel one extremely looked like one too). There was no sense of danger like the Battle of Osgiliath, where anyone was fair game. Here the heroes felt invincible. There was no heroic and emotional sacrifice like Boromir, instead just a series of smiling dwarves killing orcs like they needed psychiatric support. It’s bad enough the poor characterization makes it hard to care for our heroes, but worse again that we know there is no chance they’re going to die. During the LOTR trilogy, I knew who would die and when, but even then I still doubted myself. Here, where again I know who dies and when, I sit completely calm as I know no number of orcs (of which there were many)  can stop our heroes picking them off in funnier and funnier fashions. That whole scene paved over one of the more well written and cherished chapters of the book, and replaced it with ten minutes of “kill orcs to win prizes NOW”. Orcs going down in twos and threes, orcs being flattened by barrels, and worst, orcs being catapulted up so Legolas can chop their head off. Did I say Legolas?
  2. LEGOLAS! Seriously though, why is he here? OK, I suppose considering they do go to Mirkwood, it is perfectly conceivable that a certain elf prince would be there. But that’s not why he is here. He is here, because somewhere out in the audience, people are going “he was in the other ones too!” Legolas was a good character in LOTR, now he has been cheapened down beyond comparison. No bit of his character has remained from the original trilogy, a fact I’m sure Jackson will say is due to “not being mature enough yet”. Yes, Jackson, I’m sure it’s perfectly conceivable that a few thousand year old elf would be obnoxious, reckless and all round annoying, but in seventy years completely change his entire personality because he “grew”. In the film series so far, he can only be described as a middle earth gatling gun, and a 2D one at that if we’re being honest. The fact he is given a love interest is even cringier, and no amount of “oh look he sees Gimli” is gonna make up for any of it.
  3. Tauriel- No, I’m not objecting to the presence of a girl in Middle earth (let’s face, we never see them). What I am objecting to is the idea that for the film to be good the producers felt she had to be there. And yes, that is why she is there. I’m sorry to anyone who loves this character, but her entire birth into the film is based on the fact that big corporate film makers think the normal population would be in uproar if a film ever went without both genders (because remember guys, Saving Private Ryan got horrible press..right?). What’s sadder is that in the modern generation, maybe they would be. Tolkien didn’t create Tauriel. Whereas Azog and the boys at least have some basis in the Appendices, this one is clean cut the creation of Jackson and co. When I heard it, I hated it, and then I was OK with it. After the movie, I hated it again. I think better film makers could have made it work, moulding the character into the story and making it realistic. I mean, real fans should have been worried enough when it was announced all her scenes were re-shoots. That just reeks of “We didn’t have it in their first, but then we showed it to our big producer daddy who said they wouldn’t put it on the fridge unless it had a girl”. I think Jackson went all out to show just how many orcs Katniss Everdeen Tauriel could kill in one film. We get it Jackson, girls can kill people too. Do they really have to carbon copy Legolas, who at this stage is a much better looking Rambo and nothing more, into a girl version just to spell out the most obvious message of the 20th century? All Evangeline Lily’s lines were weak, not her own fault, I mean after all, she had the huge task of convincing an audience this entire character fit into a story that they didn’t. But no, if only they stopped at the huge cliché that any girl in a fantasy film/book has to be either unbelievably attractive or a killing machine (bonus points here, they managed BOTH). Worse again, they stuck up their other middle finger to girls everywhere when they gave the character not one, but two romances. It is downright blatant sexism to include one girl in a movie, and then spend all of her lines having her fawn after elven Rambo and, well, what I would even admit is an attractive dwarf. As I quoted on another blog post, this was literally “I’m a strong independent elf who don’t need no other elf”. What she did need, it seems, is to cross cultural barriers put up by the author himself just to get across as many “nothing triumphs love” as humanly (should this be elvenly?) possible. There is really no end to the problems with this character, whose killing scenes well outrun any time given to Bilbo (remember him, he’s a hobbit isn’t he?). I feel most sorry for Evageline Lily, whose good acting skills would have been more than enough to portray Tauriel had she been included in a fair fashion. At the moment, she literally is stealing the show. If ever a character was so unflawed, it’s Tauriel. Her credits should literally roll as “Tauriel, played by (a) Martin Luther King (b) Mila Kunis (c) Mother Theresa (d) The entire team from the avengers (e) The concept of good will and kindness.” Arwen worked well in LOTR, but please Jackson, if you want to inject more girls into The Hobbit, please do it tastefully. (P.S. it is a huge plot hole to tell Tauriel she can’t have Legolas because she’s a lower class of elf, yet then have her as the captain of the entire royal guard…awkward).
  4. Bilbo…or lack thereof – Imagine my shock when, having watched TDOS, I walk out having seen nothing to do with a hobbit. On a serious note though, this film was the marring of the entire series, no matter how much the third one picks up. People will say the first one was long, granted, it was. But at least it felt like the book a little. Martin Freeman convinced me he was “on an unexpected journey”. It really felt like that childish sense of wonderment you get when reading the book. Film two abolished all that. Not only did Bilbo see as little screen time as possible (think Jackson’s cameo actually outran our eponymous hobbit), but anything with him was completely out of fell of the book. The only moment we even got close was during the Smaug scene, and even that was cut short by MORE action (more on that next). The whole second movie became for Bilbo what LOTR was for Frodo; a desperate struggle against the one ring. Only problem is that is literally not even close to what the books intends. The one ring wasn’t even “the one ring” when the hobbit was published. And yes, I’m aware Tolkien did later revisions to merge the books together, but still, only motivating Bilbo on the ring basically takes the entire book and shakes it upside down until all the substance falls out. It’s a shame that a chance at getting a real story on the underdog turned into “here are the overdogs doing their thing for the 234567th time this movie” (coincidentally, that’s exactly one tenth of the orcs that die in this movie).
  5. That last action sequence – If ever I thought in there Jackson had one more nail to drive in Tolkien’s coffin, I didn’t see it coming here. We were at the lonely mountain, all you have to do is put in those tantalizingly good exchanges between our dragon and bilbo and then send Smaug off to Laketown. BUT NO. Apparently the people need one last dopamine attack. Enter half an hour of unscripted action sequences involving a rather cumbersome Smaug chasing our dwarves (oh and Bilbo) around Erebor. If Smaug could breathe fire, he’d have killed them easy (oh wait he can! Are we sure?) But then it’s on to the grande finale. We’ve already accomplished destroying Tolkien’s work, we need something else to defy. Poor physics, never saw it coming. Watch as Thorin Oakenshield sails along a MOLTEN gold river on nothing more than an iron sheet. If dwarves can withstand this kind of heat, why not just bask in Smaug’s hell fire and get their tan on. I suppose their too busy trying to let loose an entire gold statue on Smaug by melting it (in the most ridiculous fashion of all time). Oh but look, heat didn’t kill a dragon. Damn, was sure that would work.