Venganza Media Gazette

Tech, TV, Movies, Games, and More

Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

A mostly expected journey…

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Movie Poster
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Fran Walsh, Philipa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis
Studio: New Line Cinema
Release Date: December 14, 2012

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey follows in the tradition of his Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is a delicious fantasy stuffed full of dwarves, wizards, trolls, goblins, and a gold-loving dragon. The CGI effectively gives life and scale to each unique race. As a prequel to LOTR, the script is bursting with backstory; showing evil slowly creeping towards Mordor for the eventual war for Middle Earth. The film is also gluttonous. Jackson gives every obscure character with a passing mention in the novel, like a brown wizard or shadowy necromancer, needlessly extended scenes in this near three-hour exercise in patience. The story is stretched thin to somehow turn this children’s book into a three-parter as a desperate Hollywood attempt to secure consistent ticket sales.

In short, audiences will feel the same about The Hobbit as they did with Jackson’s LOTR trilogy. It does nothing to address previous criticisms and gives more of what made LOTR a blockbuster franchise.

The plot sticks to that of the novel, though certain liberties are taken to conform to conventional Hollywood storytelling. Thirteen dwarves aim to take their city and gold back from the dragon Smaug. The wizard Gandalf (McKellen) recruits hobbit Bilbo (Freeman) to assist in the adventure. All the while, Bilbo must convince Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage), the dwarves’ leader, of his commitment to the journey.

Of course there isn’t a complete story provided as the plot has been split into three films. Smaug is hardly seen, much less defeated. Unexpectedly, the script does carry one of its many subplots to completion; providing a sense of closure for this first installment. Bilbo is homesick. He can return home at any point while the dwarves are outcasts and homeless. Thorin grows weary of Bilbo’s seemingly lack of loyalty. This subplot plays throughout the film until its resolution, providing purpose and heroic moments to a climax that would otherwise feel like just another battle.

The film is long but never feels unbearable. Action scenes take place at the appropriate moments to kick up the pace after scene of melodramatic debate. The battles never do capture the grandness and danger of what we’ve seen before. Even the return of Serkis’s Golem doesn’t demand the same awe. I must recognize this dismissive attitude exists because Jackson already has tackled larger foes and greater battles. However, during The Hobbit’s most exciting scenes, such as the dwarves slashing their way through the never-ending caverns of Goblin Town, the viewer is reminded how comfortable it is to spend a few hours of escape in this fantasy world.

I put off seeing the film originally once it was announced The Hobbit would be three films instead of two. I didn’t think I had the energy for anymore of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world after having read the books, watched the animated features, attended each LOTR installment on during their opening weekends, and then sitting through the extended cuts. I was wrong. For those fans sitting on the fence, like I was, you’ll find this RECOMMENDED film will enliven you with plenty of vigor for the journey.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and other formats March 19, 2013.

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Movies, Now Playing Podcast, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz the alright, but there are some things that are pretty great…

Oz the Great and Powerful Movie Poster
Oz the Great and Powerful
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire, Mitchel Kapner
Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: March 8, 2013

The 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz is a visual feast. The Technicolor landscape—rich with yellow bricks, blue flying monkeys, and red ruby slippers—fascinated me as a child. Oz the Great and Powerful takes the audience back to this fantasy of saturated color pallets and dreamlike characters. The film will mesmerize children and make the discerning adults wish they could see this film through those young ones’ eyes. Its vision is bold and courageous, while lacking some heart and brains.

James Franco is the small-time circus magician Oscar, better known as Oz. To avoid the consequences of his womanizing, he flees in a hot air balloon. A tornado takes hold of the balloon and Oz awakes in a magical land. He is believed to be the prophesized wizard that will unite the Emerald City, which is under the control of three feuding witch sisters. Oz must decide if he will continue as a sham trickster or take up the mantle of the wizard to bring peace.

If Dorothy’s adventure was a journey of discovery, Oz’s is one of redemption. However, Oz never fully changes, but merely finds a way to better exploit his cons. Franco is able to convince the audience of Oz as a grifter. The role doesn’t fall far from the actor’s laid back reputation. Glinda the Good Witch (Williams) will eventually declare Oz to be a good man, but that remains in question. If her sisters, Theodora (Kunis) and Evanora (Weisz), had stayed attractive instead of turning hideously ugly, would Oz be so steadfastly in love with just Glinda? Franco’s constant smirk always gives suspicion to his intents, even at the end when he should be trustworthy.

Part of the problem is in the nature of a prequel. We know Oz is still a bumbling conman when Dorothy eventually arrives. True character development is hindered by needing to sync up with the original. This is a barrier for those in the know to truly invest themselves in the title character. However, there are plenty of set-ups to satisfy long time fans of Oz, though not everything is revealed. Despite not caring much for the future wizard, I did find myself caught up in the film’s backdrop and wondering how certain things will play out to bridge this story to Dorothy’s adventure.

Thankfully, the film finds reasons to focus on non-established characters. There is a town made of china smashed to bits by flying baboons. Here is where the most entertaining character is introduced, a living china doll. She brings sadness, spunk, and laughs. While cute, there is also a creepiness to her fractured skin and stiff movements.

The feuding witches are given a new dimension by fleshing out Evanora, who Dorothy will eventually land a house on. The most interesting of the three sisters, her story carries a tragedy similar to Victor Frankenstein. The audience is told she is wicked, but there is a sadness to her as she comes to terms with the monster she creates; making her a sympathetic villain.

I’m still not convinced there is anything great, powerful, or wonderful about this Oz character, but this land is worth revisiting for its other inhabitants and landscapes. This new vision is twisted like Alice’s Wonderland. The scenery continually spirals from sparkling flowers made of gems to rivers filled with translucent fairies bearing piranha-like jaws. The audience knows what levers are being pulled behind the green screen, but this mildly recommendable movie still manages to create some impressive illusions.

March 11, 2013 Posted by | Movies, Now Playing Podcast, Podcasts, Reviews | | Comments Off on Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful