Monday, 15 December 2014

Defining the Final Chapter

For anyone who hasn't read the book there will be SPOILERS, so read on if you are ok with this.

The film picks up exactly where the Desolation of Smaug ended. This first section sets the tone for the rest of the film and reveals Bard's heroic, yet modest nature and skills. He kills the dragon.  But I think that was obvious from the trailers. After Smaug is destroyed, crushing most of Lake Town along with him, there are mentions that others will look to the mountain and that is when the film's title appears.

There are far more characters involved now and each are given something to do (thank god, no one floundering around). The armies slowly come together, apart from the Orc hordes, they ready as soon the film starts. Orcs are disgusting but they are patient, they must have been waiting for the signal or call for months. The men of Lake Town take refugee in the ruins of Dale, reluctantly lead by Bard and Thranduil, King of the Woodland Elves bring aid not out of kindness but so he can swing by the mountain to get his white gems. Thorin, who is going mad, has made plans and called on his cousin Dain in the Ironhills to come and fight when he suspects that everyone will try and steal his treasure. Gandalf is stuck in a bird cage in Dol Guldur and Legolas and Tauriel decide to find out where the Orcs went. The film leads up to the 45 minute battle scene which is amazing and as the film is called 'battle of' it is fair to say that it is not too long.

I was surprised that Battle of the Five Armies isn't that long either. It was a little over 2 hours. Just an observation in case you were thinking of what snacks and provisions to take with you.

There were a few scenes missing from the second film, just a few things but they were included in the extended version, with the third instalment, nothing was missing, except maybe the end. So much fuss was made of the false ending in Return of the King, with this film, it ends. In fact it comes full circle ending on the first few lines Bilbo and Gandalf exchange in Fellowship of the Ring, which is links and ties up the story. But I felt that there needed to be more of an end after the battle. Favourite characters do die and it is incredibly sad. The people of Lake Town should tribute by blowing a large horn and standing in silence on the cities wall but that's it, then Bilbo leaves. There was little resolution there. I am praying that more is explained in the extended version. In the book, I'm sure, and the BBC radio drama version, things were wrapped up. Bard is made master of the town, funerals take place, the treasure is equally divided and there is more of an end, that's all I'm saying.

Aside from the enviable epic battle, there are a some touching scenes. A conversation between Dwalin and Thorin when the former is trying to convince him to follow the Dwarf army, their kin, into battle, is brilliant and also it was nice to see a reasonable dwarf in the company that wasn't Balin. It was an out of character scene for the violent fighter Dwalin and it was perfectly placed. Another touching moment was between Bard and his son, Bain. When Bard sees his bow is broken he fashions a sling shot to shoot the black arrow at Smaug, Bain has his back to the dragon being used to steady the arrow. Everything slows down and Bard, very calm tells his son to look at him. It's brief and it, in a way encapsulates Bard's reasoning. He's not looking to be a hero, he just wants to save his children. Another brief moment between a father and son, Thranduil and Legolas, is near the end. Thranduil, who usually shows little emotion other than anger or annoyance, looks for Legolas. He is worried for his son but as soon as he finds him, reverts back to his usual expression. Pity there isn't more about this family.

The Tauriel, Kili, Legolas triangle comes to a head. It's just as unnecessary as it was in DOS and even more confusing. Basically, it still doesn't work. In the movie guide (I bought them all!) John Howe says that Tauriel is out of love with everything else and has turned to Kili, who is going through the same thing, so it's not exactly love, its almost love. Which ever way you view it, its not clear what she is really thinking.

Thorin is going through his mad king phase suffering from 'dragon sickness', obsessing over his gold. I was please to see the signature scenes from the book were put in. Thorn threatens to throw Bilbo from the gates where the dwarves have barricaded themselves in. Bilbo was trying to help his friend by keeping the Arkenstone and then giving it Bard and Thranduil to bargain with. All to avoid battle. It's a great scene which actually starts the battle off. Thorin steady decline into madness is brilliantly done, expressed in his little talks with Bilbo when he heard Smaug's voice blend into Thorin's.

Apart from the last scene at the end, there are obvious links to LOTR. When Galadrial, Elrond and Sauruman come to Gandalf aid, they are attacked by the Nine Mortal Men who were given rings, yes, there are to become Ringwraiths then are attached by Sauron himself. Galadrial banishes him to the East (Mordor) and Elrond suggests they warn Gondor but Saruman casually says everything is fine, he hasn't got the ring and then says he'll deal with him. But we all know what happens there. Another hint to the future, Thranduil actually shows emotion after looking for Legolas, thinking he was dead, finds him heartbroken. Legolas just says 'I can't go back' so his father suggests to go see a ranger, 'his father Arathorn was a good man and he is set to be a great man'. Oh and this ranger's name is Strider. Massive hint there. The ends an epic trilogy to set up for an even bigger journey and adventure.

In fact after seeing it (twice) I had the urge to go home and watch all of LOTR. I stopped this urge by watching some sic-fi and catching up on Twin Peaks, just to take my mind off the film. I am that attached.

I am hoping to actually do the marathon before the end of the year, with all 5 films, as it would be difficult to factor in the current release. I would have to dash off to the cinema and dash back. This is when an in-house cinema would come in handy. One day.

I definitely recommend this for any film fan, Tolkien appreciation society and those who have been as touched as me by the films. Go see it OneLastTime


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Farewell to Middle-Earth

After a year of waiting, a year of just watching that unbelievable cliffhanger and listening to 'I See Fire' by Ed Sheeran over and over, the wait was over. Battle of the Five Armies has begun.

I pestered my friends to book tickets for an IMAX screening of the film as soon as possible and I'm very glad we did, we had amazing seats, exactly in the middle.

It's been all over film magazines, TV spots, the trailers were released a few months ago, just so we all got revved up and ready to go. Instagram has been going crazy with posters, teasers, behind the scenes, cast videos and premiere photos. The build up has been immense but this morning felt anti climactic.

I had been at work until midnight the day before and the cab driver had taken the longest (and wrong) route to my home, plus there had been a crash/stabbing in on road, so even more traffic. All this mounted to me being very tired and slightly reluctant to roll out of bed the next day. I was also running late for the screening having left early but not factored in Sunday traffic. I am never taking that damn bus again! I made in time though, saw last few adverts but as soon as the New Line Cinema icon came up, I settled in. I was back and the film did not disappoint.

The question about the 276 page book being turned into not 2 but 3 films WAS ludicrous and in some ways, it still is but the result wasn't three terrible films, it was an amazing trilogy and brilliant achievement in cinema, again. The Middle Earth saga, as what is now known as was and is a phenomenon. No one ever thought the fantasy/adventure genre could ever be critically pleasing, award worthy and loved by millions. Apart from being excited about this OneLastTime  business I am really sad to see the end. There may be other Middle Earth films but not with familiar characters and adventures. If you're thinking The Silmarillion, good luck, its quite a serious book and actually takes places year and years before The Hobbit. This really is the end. After the film, I was very upset and I'm not ashamed to say it, I've already written about how much The Lord of the Rings films mean to me. I said it quite a few times. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I was emotional about the characters, the end, nostalgia for LOTR and the whole experience really. It was satisfying ending, but I still wanted more.

I'm still writing my post about the film, keep your eyes peeled.


Saturday, 6 December 2014

Comic Comfort Zone

My comic book and graphic novel comfort zone is surprisingly small. For superheroes, I tend to read X-Men related comics, mostly different versions of the universe such at X-Men Fairytales and Noir. But of course my favourites comic is Fables and any of its spin-offs. Fairest is the last spin-off standing. The stories are just so entertaining and its always exciting when new characters are introduced.

But, for this past month or so I have stepped out of that Fables comfort zone. I tried a new sci-fi series, an odd love story of sorts, a massive global warming warning and an old favourite that is actually none of the above. But in truth, they all have a sci-fi element.

SAGA by Brian K Vaughan 

This was recommended to me by my friend who said it reminded him of Star Wars and my brother in law who said it was so good he read it in a few hours. I knew the basic story and dived in.

It is indeed a Saga. The narrator is the young child that could possibly end a war between two species that has been raging for decades. A solider and a rebel, who escape across the galaxy to save their child. There are many creatures and species and different planets, none are Earth and from what I can tell none of the characters are human. What's brilliant is the story and dialogue. Apart from a few words here and there, if it weren't for the brilliant art work, the characters could be anyone from anywhere. At the centre its a simple story that expands to something amazing. I'm hooked.

Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction

Don't judge the title. It's not at all what you think. The characters don't come across as a work of fiction, you can relate to them, apart from the science fiction type they can do. Suzie is a librarian, Jon is a PA. They both have the ability to stop time when they have sex. When they meet, they're not alone anymore. After they discover that they share this ability, they abuse it. For a good cause though, they decide to rob banks to save the library where Suzie works. Strange but brilliant idea. I'm waiting for the next book to be released.

Snow Piercer by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette

I actually read this some time ago when I though the film that was based on it was coming out. Its called Part 1 but feels like it didn't really need a Part 2. A terrifying view of a future that you really hope NEVER happens. After an environmental catastrophe, the world is thrown into an Ice Age and the last of the human race live on a train with 1001 carriages. It circles the globe, never stopping. The story covers class wars/system, religious cults, rebellion and dictatorship. It is also a journey film as the characters travel from the last carriage where poverty reigns to the front carriages where the 1st class passengers enjoy real food, hot baths, parties and luxuries, until they reach the front where the engine is. The film was good but for other reasons, the graphic novel which was only released in the UK very recently is a sweeping epic in a tight cramped space. The sequel is worth seeking out but for now this Part 1 was brilliant even though the artwork is not to my taste.

Grandville Noel by Bryan Talbot


This is not a new series to me but this Noel is the latest release. Grandville is a cross between Rupert Bear, Sherlock Holmes and Quentin Tarantino. This is the best description I have seen for this steam punk series. There are or were 5 planned stand alone books, each centred around a different genre. Grandville was a political conspiracy, Grandville Mon Amour followed themes of terrorism, Grandville Bete Noire was a science fiction story and Grandville Noel focuses on a religious conspiracy. The 5th book with have a gangster theme. The characters are anthropomorphic animals and humans or 'dough faces' as they are called are low class citizens. The main character is Detective Inspector Archie LeBrock, a badger who works for Scotland Yard. He is brought over to Grandville (Paris in our universe) after a series of events that take place in Britain. In this universe, Britain lost the war with Napoleon and was invaded. Britain fought for independence and won it 23 years before the start of the first book. The background history spills over into the stories sometimes as an important part. The book is like reading an adult version of Rupert Bear set in fictional France. The series is addictive and the animal characters are all very unique.

I'm glad I stepped out of the comfort zone and discovered a few new stories. I should be back on the prose too. Still getting through 'Don't Point That Thing At Me' by Kyril Bonfiglioli, slowly. Mortdecai is fabulous invention but it does take a while to get to the action. I'm hoping to finish the short book by January as that is when the film is released. I get distracted though, especially with all these comics lying around.