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Non-Review Review: The Hobbit – Battle of the Five Armies

It has become a stock criticism to suggest that Peter Jackson did not need a full trilogy to adapt The Hobbit for the big screen. That said, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was an unexpected pleasure – a movie not all hindered by the pacing concerns of the trilogy and instead interested in its own central narrative. You could cut the opening scene from The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies onto the end of The Desolation of Smaug and you would have pretty much everything that you need.

While this approach benefited The Desolation of Smaug, it puts Battle of the Five Armies at something of a disadvantage. It is debatable whether there was enough material to support three full films based on The Hobbit – even drawing from other sources in the Tolkien canon – but this is clearly not the best way of structuring those three films. There is a sense that Battle of the Five Armies suffers from the decision to extend the planned duology into a full-blown trilogy.

The not-so-magic dragon...

The not-so-magic dragon…

To be fair to Peter Jackson, he does avoid the ending issues that haunted The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. However, he does that by editing Battle of the Five Armies as a brief epilogue to the previous two films, following by a massive battle sequence. This is quite impressive from a technical standpoint, but there is a sense of fatigue to it all. As the title implies, this is a five-way battle involving thousands of participants; both organic and computer-generated. A lot gets lost in the shuffle, and the plot – as it stands – could be explained in two sentences.

More than that, Battle of the Five Armies is hindered by its status as a prequel. The fact that everybody in the audience has likely seen The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring means that they know all this spectacle is really for nothing. The first two films in the trilogy largely avoided the problem by pitching the story as a working-class version of The Lord of the Rings, allowing characters to engage in quests that are deeply personal even as they ripple to larger events.

A messed-up character orc...

A messed-up character orc…

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Non-Review Review: X-Men – First Class

X-Men: First Class is easily the best thing to emerge from Bryan Singer’s X-Men movie franchise since X-Men II, all those years ago. Jane Goldman’s smart script and Matthew Vaughn’s confident direction help inject life back into the franchise that stirred up this current superhero blockbuster fad, providing one of the finest examples of the subgenre. Although the movie does occasionally veer a little bit too close to (and, once or twice, right into) camp, it’s also a clever, brave, bold and exciting action adventure, which provides the best characterisation of the series to date.

We've got it covered...

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Back to Begins: Is Nolan Bringing The Dark Knight Rises a Full Circle?

As The Dark Knight Rises draws closer and closer to filming, the rumours are just going to grow more and more intense. The latest rumour de jour (succeeding in a long line of debunked suggestions like the Riddler or Robin Williams as Hugo Strange) suggests that the League of Shadows will return to take on the Dark Knight in the final part of the trilogy, led by the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul and her lover Bane. I was initially skeptical of the rumours, perhaps because they so neatly dove-tail back into the first film of the trilogy, Batman Begins.

The birth of Batman...

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Three is the Magic Number: Why Do We Like Trilogies?

Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing all three films in the Matrix trilogy. I sat down yesterday, watched all three back-to-back and wrote reviews of them. As I did, I found myself thinking about how nice the concept of a “trilogy” is. It’s even a nice word – it sounds much better to say “the [insert film name here] trilogy” than it does to say “the [insert film name here] tetralogy” (or, to quote the Alien films, “quadrilogy”) or even the more generic “[insert film name here] series.” So what is it about sets of three movies that we like so much?

Looking for a stellar trilogy...

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Sticking it to the Fan: George Lucas and Fan/Hatedom

By all accounts, George Lucas should be one of the most beloved people on the planet. Ignoring the fact that he was the forefather of one of the most iconic trilogies of all time (Star Wars), he has managed to expand the boundaries of what is possible with special effects (down to companies like Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound) and even in video games (many of the earliest videogames on flopdisk came from LucasArts). Beyond that he’s also the man perhaps most responsible for Indiana Jones and one of the most influential film makers of all time. And yet his name evokes a huge amount of discord when it’s spoken. Just why is that?

Lucas has un-Fett-ered control of the franchise...

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Iron Man 3 Before The Avengers?

A geek bombshell has landed. Apparently Iron Man 3 may be arriving in 2012. Not that it’s coming at us out of nowhere. Iron Man and Iron Man 2 were two years apart. There’s no reason to believe the same wouldn’t be true of Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3. Also, The Avengers was the only major Marvel film planned for 2012… well, before the Spider-Man reboot got moved back to 2012, but that’s a co-production with Sony. Marvel have strived to get a bit of momentum going – Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk were released in 2008 as a double-act and Thor and Captain America will have the same partnership next year. The Avengers is big enough to open by itself, but it seemed likely that Marvel would have some other support feature designed to lead into it a month or two before release (in case audiences forgot about Captain America: The First Avenger in the year since its release). I like the idea of Iron Man3 in 2012.

Looks like Tony might not be taking any well-deserved time off...

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