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Non-Review Review: The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug represents a considerable improvement on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Some of the same problems still lurk at the edge of the frame: the pacing needs a bit of work; the movie is about half-an-hour too long; it feels a little too consciously like one extended prelude to The Lord of the Rings. And yet, despite all these flaws, The Desolation of Smaug accomplishes a lot of what it sets out to do.

This is very clearly the same Middle Earth that viewers remember from The Lord of the Rings. Even the least obsessive viewer will still recognise the occasional familiar landmark or setting from the early film. It’s not just the New Zealand locations that shine through; great care has been taken to establish a geography of this fictional landscape. Viewers who have yet to memorise the names and routes on Tolkien’s meticulously-prepared maps can see that this is the same world.

It’s just being seen from a different perspective. The Hobbit isn’t really an adaptation of that much-loved adventure tale, at least not exclusively. It is instead being crafted as a companion piece, with the heroes’ quest providing a handy travelogue of a world in turmoil.

The gold standard?

The gold standard?

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Non-Review Review: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey

I always feel a little embarrassed to admit that I prefer The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings. Don’t worry, I know that by any objective measure of craft The Lord of the Rings is a far more impressive literary accomplishment, but I never really connected with the characters at the heart of that sprawling epic in the way that I empathised with Bilbo Baggins. As such, it’s a massive relief to me that Peter Jackson turns in an endearing and enjoyable, if padded and indulgent, first instalment in his Hobbit trilogy. The technical advances and the somewhat cynical structuring of the film tend to garner a great deal of discussion and debate, but the heart of Tolkien’s introduction to Middle Earth is still here. The only problem is that absolutely everything else is as well.

And that's just the script to Part I...

And that’s just the script to Part I…

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Whatever Will Happen to the Caped Crusader? Thoughts on Batman After Nolan…

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

So, what now?

Christopher Nolan has rounded out his Batman trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises, tying up and resolving the arc he set up for Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins almost a decade ago. It has been a long and rewarding journey. I certainly think that Nolan’s accomplishments here deserve to be compared to other truly exceptional pop culture trilogies like The Lord of the Rings or even Star Wars. He told a complete story for the character, from the beginning through to the end. So, a week after he released the final part of his trilogy, people are wondering: what now? How do you follow a series of Batman movies like that? What next for the Dark Knight and Warner Brothers?

Speaking for myself, I can only hope that it’s something completely different.

Out of Nolan’s land…

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Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I

Even in this era of franchises and spin-offs and sequels and remakes to see a movie treated as a form of serialised fiction. I’m not even talking about a sequel hook inserted just before (or even during) the trailers, but I’m talking about literally taking one whole movie and dividing it and then releasing separately. It’s an approach that worked for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and for The Lord of the Rings, but each Harry Potter film until now has felt like its own story, containing threads building towards a larger finale. Each instalment has been structured with a beginning, middle and end. With Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I, we simply get a first act and what feels like the majority of the second. As such, it feels almost strange to review it without the companion film.

Harry's a wiz by this stage of the game...

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Blueprint for Success: Is The Dark Tower The Future of Multi-Media Experience?

Perhaps it’s down to the fact that movies have always been inherently distrustful of other forms of media (particularly newer modes like television or the internet), as reflected in the constant battle with them (with movies seeking an edge – like 3D – that other media can’t quickly ape) – but I’m surprised that an idea like this hasn’t been tried before. After quite a long period of speculation, it has been confirmed that Stephen King’s The Dark Tower is coming to the big screen. But it’s also coming to the little screen, at the same time. In fact, the not-at-all unambitious plan for the franchise can be laid out as follows:  

Step 1: They’ll kick it off with a movie, presumably the movie will tell the story of the first book, The Gunslinger which is a shorter book and extremely cinematic. They could also maybe fit in The Drawing of the Three in which the Gunslinger Roland meets his companions.  

Step 2: That movie will be immediately followed by a TV series which will pick up where the movie leaves off. A TV series is the ideal format to tackle some of the longer, more episodic stories.  

Step 3: The TV series will then lead into a second feature film.  

Step 4: After that second feature film, a TV series will then cover the events of the book Wizard and Glass in which the story of Roland’s youth is retold.  

Step 5: That will then launch into a third feature film… perhaps to wrap the story up or maybe simply to take the next step. Whether they end it there or plan more movies and more television presumably depends on audience response.  

That’s certainly one heck of a roadmap for a franchise, right there.  

Towering ambition...

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Why Del Toro Departing The Hobbit is a Good Thing…

The Hobbit is dead. Long live The Hobbit. Look, we all know it’s going to happen. Like the next James Bond film, the economics of the situation dictate that it must happen – a spin-off from The Lord of the Rings is too lucrative an opportunity to pass up, it’s an excuse to print money. Think of all the simple/theatrical/standard/deluxe/super/extended versions of the films have been released on video/DVD/HD DVD/Blu Ray. Now double that. So now you know why The Hobbit is going to happen, eventually. Unfortunately, I think we all know it’s not going to happen soon. And I’m here to tell you why Del Toro departing the film is actually a good thing.

Down the hobbit hole...

Note: This is part of a two-part article. Andrew over at the always wonderful Andrew at the Cinema is offering this article a jolly good rebuttal. Pop over and give it a read. Just make sure to spend a few minutes appreciating my flim-flam arguments before he pretty much destroys them with his advanced reasoning.

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Non-Review Review: Alice in Wonderland

I imagine Lewis Carroll’s iconic fantasy story poses quite the problem for anybody looking to bring it to the screen. Both Alice in Wonderland and Alice’s Adventures Through The Looking Glass essentially consist of a collection of vignettes, very loosely linked to each other. One minute you’re translating The Jabberwockey and the next you’re hearing the story of The Walrus and the Carpenter. I can’t imagine it would be particularly easy to produce a film following that sort of almost random structure. Perhaps that’s why Tim Burton’s wonderfully visual fantasy seems to draw perhaps more heavily from The Lord of the Rings than its own source material, which is a shame, as the director fantastically brings the magic of Wonderland to life. If only there were more of it.

Down the rabbit hole...

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