Movie Reviews: The Hobbit and Skyfall

I’ve watched a couple of movies recently, so I’ll write brief reviews of both:

The Hobbit:  I heard some negative things about it before I watched it, most notably that it was often slow and that the special effects looked fake, but when I watched it I actually really enjoyed the movie.  I greatly appreciated the fact that it kept the tone of movies of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as I felt a bit of nostalgia throughout the movie.  I think, generally, the special effects were well done, though the fat goblin king looked silly.

The fight scenes were either added or greatly embellished from the book, but I didn’t mind it too much because it’s, well, a movie, and since a great deal of the audience hasn’t read the book or know anything about Tolkien’s world, it helps keep them attentive.  Some of them were ridiculous, but people love ridiculous fight scenes.  They also did a clever job of keeping Gandalf around and providing excuses as to why he would not be present, as he randomly just leaves on his own accord during the book to do other things.

One thing they did really well that I thought would be difficult was the riddle scene.  They changed the motive behind the riddles, playing more upon Gollum’s split personality rather than treating the riddles as a sacred game (an explanation that would just confuse a movie audience), and they put enough good humor and tension in it to make it interesting.  I thought it satisfying to both lovers of the book as well as the regular moviegoer.  Also, another change from the book that I, as a Tolkien nerd, really appreciated was the fact that we got to see scenes that were only hinted at in the book, such as the White Council where they discuss the Necromancer and the Dwarven Kingdom before Smaug roasts it.

Another change I’m fine with is Thorin’s personality.  In the book, he’s more sympathetic, but in the movie he has more of the feel of a tragic hero.  I’m fine with that, and I think it’ll make the ending more interesting.

There were a couple of things I didn’t like, though.  One, I don’t know why they need Azog to follow them around just to have a main bad guy.  I understand that with the decision to split the movie into three parts, they probably wanted a central enemy before the characters meet Smaug (and the Necromancer is influential in the background but not primary), but I don’t think it was necessary.  The tension should come from the mystery of the adventure ahead of them, not because they’re getting chased by some souped up Orc who was supposed to slain by Dain Ironfoot.  Two, I am unsure why they had such an extended part for Rhadagast the Brown.  They also made him seem like some weird hippy.  While he is a bit odd in the book, he had a minor part and did not zip around on a sled of rabbits.  That was all pretty darn random, but I guess it provided a way for Peter Jackson to inform Gandalf of the Necromancer without Gandalf investigating himself.

Furthermore, I can understand that, for people who don’t know squat about Tolkien’s universe, that the dialogue could be overwhelming, with all sorts of name-dropping and references to stuff they wouldn’t know.  For me, though, I loved all of that because I knew what they were talking about.  I guess that’s just a matter of background knowledge.  All I will say is that, even for those who don’t know anything beforehand, listen carefully to the dialogue because it is important, even if you don’t always recognize all the references.

In summary, I really liked the movie a lot.  It didn’t wow me as much as when the Lord of the Rings trilogy came out, but it was great.  I think most of the actors did a great job, including the guy who played Bilbo, and I enjoyed the cameos from the actors of the trilogy.  I’m crossing my fingers that Legolas and Gimli make a cameo at the last battle in the third movie.  In any case, I have no problem recommending this movie.

Skyfall:  The reviews of this movie have been nothing but high… I was less impressed.  I appreciated the fact that they made Bond a more interesting character because he deals with inner-conflict, confidence issues, and emotions as, you know, a human being would, but the plot was pretty goofy.  Also, the references to past movies were amusing but completely illogical, confusing me for a brief moment because I didn’t know if the movie intended to be the last chapter of Bond’s adventures or setting them up.  The latter is the right answer, but then it makes zero sense making references to exploding pins and a particular car, or making Bond seem well past his prime.  I guess they were able to kill M off and replace her with a dude, explaining the newness of a female M in Goldeneye: “So, I hear M is a woman now…”  Too bad it’s the same actress, so I guess she has a twin or the British government engineers female M’s who look the same.

As far as the bad guy… boring.  Ex-spy who is angry at the British government (more specifically, M) and is allegedly smart enough to outmaneuver all of MI6, riddle London with bombs on a whim, and fly military helicopters through British airspace without arising suspicion.  Yep.  I found the character to be exceptionally annoying.

Some say that Skyfall is the best Bond movie ever.  Maybe it is.  Then again, while I have watched the vast majority of Bond movies and have been entertained, I will be the first to say that most Bond movies are really goofy and sometimes borderline inane.  It’s not that great of an accomplishment to be the best Bond movie ever, and Skyfall was not exactly something that blew me away.

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