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New Escapist Column! On How Only Peter Jackson Could Have Made the “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy…

I published a new column at The Escapist yesterday. This week, to mark the twentieth anniversary of the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, we’re taking a look back at the trilogy as a whole. We’ll be publishing three articles looking at the films, one each day. This is the first.

Most films are minor miracles. It is remarkable that films get made at all, let alone that many of them turn out to be good. This is particularly true of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which seemed like an impossible assignment. At the time, Peter Jackson seemed like the most unlikely of directors to successfully adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s unfilmable epic. However, in hindsight, it seems impossible to imagine that anybody except Jackson could have brought the film to life.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

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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Doctor Who: Dalek (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Dalek originally aired in 2005.

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry! I swear, I just wanted you to talk!

Then hear me talk now. Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate!

– Van Statten and the Dalek

Dalek is a pretty effective reintroduction of the show’s most iconic villain. It’s also something of a tour de force for lead actor Christopher Eccleston and Dalek vocal performer Nicholas Briggs. It’s full of interesting ideas, and perhaps the biggest swipe the show would make at “superfans” this side of Love & Monsters. That said, Rob Shearman’s script is occasionally a bit clumsy in its execution, never quite managing to convince the audience that the Doctor might be turning into a Dalek, no matter how firmly it labours to point. Still, minor quibble aside, it’s a wonderful way of welcoming the Daleks back to the fold.

The loneliest Dalek...

The loneliest Dalek…

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Non-Review Review: Seamonsters

Seamonsters makes for an interesting feature film directorial debut from Julian Kerridge, Kerridge has a long and distinguished filmography as an actor, and has directed a pair of short films before this, but Seamonsters stands out as a fascinating first feature-length effort. Working from a script by Kerridge and co-writer Martin Sadofsky, the film offers an exploration of teenage life in a quiet seaside town. While Kerridge does seem to lose a grip on the plot during the second half, Seamonsters benefits from a wonderful young cast, a mostly light approach to its subject matter and an endearing almost ethereal atmosphere, perfectly capturing the idleness of teenage life.

All at sea...

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