Prose Lullubies are not for the Fainthearted

My sister is six-and-a-couple-of-months-old, and we’re on page 194 of The Hobbit.

I bought a copy filled with some of the many drawings and paintings of the talented Alan Lee, with the intention of trapping her one day, while she was strapped in the car and unable to escape, and start reading. The first couple of times I tried to force books upon her as story-time reading were unsuccessful, she claimed that Gerald Durell was “boring”, despite her immense enthusiasm for animals, and declared Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone just as bad. However, she has maintained interest in The Hobbit for approximately a month now, and we both enjoy the experience, though sometimes she asks what words mean. And fair enough, Tolkien uses some rather advanced vocabulary for a year 1 student!

I love the fiction genre, and when I was younger, my parents read me a lot of books – they steadfastly continued throughout my entire primary schooling – till I was 11! – and almost the complete Anne of Green Gables series was narrated to me, night after night, in Hebrew. I derived great enjoyment from the experience, and have very fond memories of my mother, muddling words and nodding off as her voice grew hoarse, with me poking her awake gently and demanding that she finish the chapter, though I, at the time, had formed and enforced some very stubborn, weird views on what I was allowed to read in English. I love passing on my enjoyment and seeing my sister drop off to sleep.

But I have to wonder, should I have started with something more benign? The Colour of Magic, perhaps, or The Spiderwick Chronicles, or even renewed the Anne of Green Gables tradition? Because The Hobbit has some pretty gory images, some rather gruesome, violent scenes, and a lot of talk of beheadings and enemies and evil. And I don’t want my sister gaining a binary perspective of the world, seeing everything as direct oppositions. On the other hand, she’s interested, and I want to foster that – because isn’t her interest an indication that she is ready to be read these stories? Although, possibly I should be waiting until she can read them herself…

 

What do you think?

-Let’s call me Lily

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Moi

Sorry this took ages. Here’s the gorgeous end-credit song “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran to make up for it 🙂 (and it’s long)

Very early this morning yesterday morning two days ago on the 11th of December 2013, I saw the premiere (premieres are ALWAYS fun, even if the movie isn’t that great) of the second installment of The Hobbit trilogy; The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (The Hobbit: DOS) in 3D and High Frame Rate (HFR) with a few of my friends. After spending half a day lolling about in bed and musing about the film, I finally caught up on reviews and have now sat down to write my own. Like last year, when I reviewed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I will be doing footnotes for spoilers which will discuss things in more depth behind the cut, and won’t be doing a film summary like other reviews usually do.

I have to admit, not having seen any of the trailers and avoiding spoilers like the plague also meant that I was disadvantaged in that I couldn’t remember anything about the first movie for the first couple of minutes. Luckily (or unluckily), there was a malfunction with the film, so after having sat through the 1/4 of an hour of ads in anticipation, the audience had to wait a while longer for everything to be sorted out, which irked me, especially as I’d already had it happen in the HPDH7 Part 2 premiere.

“So, at this point I’m wondering whether Beorn will be central to the second film, as he was quite important in the novel, and how much more embellishing Peter Jackson will do. Also, how the film turned out in 48FR, which I didn’t see because I thought it would be too much of a risk for the first time watching a movie…”

That’s what I thought after watching the first Hobbit film. Well, here are a couple of quick answers!

1. Beorn? I was waaaaaay off with that. Really. [1] What about you – any hypotheses proven or unproven?

2. This time I watched the film in both 3D and HFR. To be honest, I couldn’t really tell the difference! Yes, at the start it takes a few moments to adjust, but it seemed just as vivid as watching it only in 3D had…Sometimes you end up focussing on the wrong thing, as I mentioned in my previous review, but that’s caused, again, by the 3 dimensional aspect of the film as well. So 48FR didn’t end up mattering too much to me. Could any of you tell the difference?

The film opened with a flashback scene from months before Bilbo’s journey began, re-acquainting the audiences with the general thrust of the plot in a lovely little sequence, and then moved straight into action which would be typical of the next 2 hours and 41 minutes. You can read Peter Jackson’s take on The Hobbit: DOS here. Meanwhile, I shall start with the positives (the few I could find. Feel free to point out more!):

Desolation-of-Smaug-Movie-Dragon

Smaug the Stupendous, Smaug the Impenetrable, Smaug the Magnificent, Smaug the Terrible…Yes, Smaug is indeed all these things and more! With “armour…like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail is a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!” (The Hobbit), Smaug casts a terrific shadow over the dragons to come in future films, with amazing reality and expression, in part from the CGI and motion capture work of Weta Digital, and in part from the magnificent voicing by Benedict Cumberbatch. This is what a dragon should be, not the pathetic attempt that Eragon made back in 2006. (Although I have to say, I wouldn’t have known it was Cumberbatch voicing it if I hadn’t already known….and how on earth did he do motion-capture for that??? ) The Bilbo/Smaug scene was by far the highlight – the best part of the film, similarly to the Bilbo/Gollum confrontation in The Hobbit: AUJ. Both CGI and 3D were used to great effect here, and the acting was just brilliant.

The visual effects, while sometimes a tad over-the-top in their attitude towards the sometimes disorienting angles and quick-cut panning, were incredible, creating the right atmosphere for every scene, with vistas of Mirkwood, with its spiders and Elves, Laketown, the ramshackle town in the centre of a lake, as well as the Lonely mountain itself. There was an especially glorious snippet of Bilbo enjoying the sunlight for a few moments in Mirkwood. The score of the film was up to par with the previous films – I especially appreciated how they continued to incorporate aspects of the LOTR trilogy.
Character development could have been better, in my opinion, but I felt that the writers did include was very well done: namely, the demise of Thorin Oakenshield and Bilbo Baggins, as well as the role of Balin.[2] Whilst the movie was nowhere near as humorous as The Hobbit: AUJ, it still retained a bit of light-heartedness, for which I was glad, and the acting in general was very, very good. Luke Evans, who plays Bard the Bowman, was fleshed out nicely and added to the film considerably, although he was hauntingly similar to a cross between Captain Jack Sparrow and William Turner. It may have just been the facial hair and my imagination, though. 🙂 You can read an interview of him here.
I think that personally, the film let me down quite a bit. I am definitely going with my original thoughts back before any of the hobbitsses were released and claiming that 2 films would’ve been better than three.
Yes, some of the scenes were good, such as the initial Lonely Mountain sequence and the Barrel-Riding scene (Which, you’ve got to be kidding me. But… sort of great.). Similarly to The Hobbit: AUJ, I think Jackson could have cut right back and made it a much shorter, tighter film. They definitely could have done less on Laketown – three chases in one small city means nothing new came across – and the deviation of the last half an hour with the dwarves in Erebor seemed superfluous to me, like they were just trying to stretch the action…whereas I think they could have done more character development, which Jackson mentions that he tried to bring into The Hobbit: DOS. Or expanded on a couple of scenes which I personally would have found more entertaining [3] than the original added sequences.

The purpose of the journey also seemed weak to me, as I found the task of sympathizing with the dwarves plight rather more difficult when they were relegated to background of Elvish fighting. However, I think that it was also to do with the tone of the film – The Hobbit is definitely a lighter book than the LOTR trilogy, and the first film really reflected the almost mischievous nature of the dwarves adventure, rather than the doom-defying quest to destroy the One Ring. The Hobbit: DOS seems to try for more gravitas than its predecessor, but to me it made the resultant film less successful and more of LOTR try-hard copy (to be crude).

Bilbo enjoying the fresh air

Pretty, pretty mini-scene of Bilbo enjoying the fresh air

As for the new supporting/main characters introduced apart from Bard: Thranduil, King of the Mirkwood elves, and his son, Legolas (gasp – We weren’t expecting that!) It was odd, because Thranduil looked the part, but from my perspective he wasn’t regal enough, instead acting cruel and, in some cases, a bit petty. As for Legolas, well, I have to say that I never saw that particular ‘fan favourite’ appeal, so to bring him into The Hobbit: DOS seemed a bit pointless to me unless he had an important character arc, which so far he hasn’t. And his lines! Well, to be fair, not only him. There were so many melodramatic, clichĂ©, cheesy, or over-the-top lines that it just felt ridiculous at times.

What was especially disappointing was the character of Tauriel, Chief of the Guards for the Elvenking. As someone who is not what you would call a ‘purist’ – i.e., I can enjoy scenes that are original, or adaptations that work well if you ignore that they don’t match up to the books (not if they destroy the whole concept of the book, though. Or if there is terrible acting/plot) – I was overjoyed that there’d be at least ONE female character in The Hobbit: DOS. In fact, I figure that if they had really wanted to show some parity, they could have gender-swapped some of the dwarves, so there’d be some main characters that were female, rather than a singular secondary character (It could have made for a more interesting dynamic of ‘brotherhood’ and friendship between the 13, as well!). Thus, I was completely dismayed when I watched the film and realised that rather than create a character with depth, the writers had done something (in my view) atrocious: they had relegated Tauriel to a couple of flashy action scenes (because that totally shows the audience how she’s a strong woman, right? Because violence does that; violence apparently, in our society, gives the impression of muscular strength and skills, and disobeying orders to go kill some orcs shows independence, which, when spun together, creates an image of a brave elf doing what she thinks is right to the audience. Apparently this is what violence is meant to show. As if a woman can’t be strong unless she is bearing arms.) and, even worse, formed a love triangle surrounding her. This is how I saw Tauriel; as something meant to appease females all around the world in the hopes that it would garner more viewers who felt that at least they’d now have someone of the same gender to identify with. As a female, I didn’t identify with Tauriel at all. Tauriel as envisaged by Evangeline Lilly here, would have been better to see, but I couldn’t find her. She wasn’t there.

In short, I feel that they shouldn’t have created Tauriel at all. It’s like with the TV show Elementary – if you’re going to do something like that, change the gender of a character, or introduce as female character, at least do it well? Make Sherlock Holmes a woman, not Watson (there are even wacky theories out there which state that Holmes was a woman, you could have backed it up with genuine Sherlockian and Holmesian thoughts on the matter!).

But, hang on, I think I’m being too harsh on Tauriel. In her defence, Lilly played the character as well as she could, given the circumstances, and Tauriel does have a high position in the Elven kingdom. She does speak with ‘the voice of reason‘ and show wisdom at times, as well as being skilled at her job, which is inherently violent. I think that it’s just – we had one character to hang all of our hopes on. Just the one female character. So if she lets us down in any way, because she is all that is there to represent females in the entire film, we are going to judge her and critique her more.

While many critics seem to be approving of the increase in action, I actually found these less enjoyable, as while the site changed, and the sequences themselves looked to have been meticulously choreographed and practised, there were simply too many to allow the full appreciation of the skill expended by the many participants. Additionally, a significant amount of fight scenes were mainly focussed on the elves against the orcs, which I found repetitive, especially as the fighting styles didn’t change.

After reading my review of the first film, as well as from what I remember, I am certain that I was more entertained by it than by The Hobbit: DOS, its sequel, contrary to most others. May the third film be better than the first two put together!

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions on the comparison between the two, as well as any other comments you have to offer.

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I Solemnly Swear

I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it!!!!

I still haven’t written down what I thought about the Day of the Doctor. Or the Hobbit, which I watched at the Premier on Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

I am going to do this. (I discussed it out loud so I still haven’t summoned the motivation to do so in writing, as it feels like I’m repeating myself)

I am going to do this. (before the year is out :))

Seriously, I’ll do this soon. They will be long reviews. It takes me ages to type them. I will do this.

Sorry,

Let’s call me Lily

Cliched as a Girl in the Flower Dress

I have been neglecting this blog a bit.

Sorry.

(I had lots of excuses here, but they were all clichéd and useless and really, who wants to read those anyway?)

However, as the Armageddon Expo is this weekend, and I am attending for the first time ever, I will definitely be blogging on how that goes, after the whole event is over. I promise 🙂

November is almost here, and with it comes Thor: The Dark World (expect for in France, which gets it on October the 31st) and, on the 23rd, The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special; The Day of the Doctor.

December brings, on the 11th, The Hobbit:The Desolation Of Smaug,

January the 19th is the newly announced Season 3 Sherlock premiere date.

There are also the weekly previews of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show.

Then there’re The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Antman, Guardians of the Galaxy and so forth…

I have decided not to watch any of the trailers that have been released, which is kinda why I’ve been a bit silent – if I’m not watching them, I can’t very well write about them, now can I? But I am very much looking forward to them, especially since Thor: The Dark World is meant to be very promising since Joss Whedon fixed some problematic scenes. I very sincerely hope that Jane is going to be a stronger character than in the first film, not just a besotted damselish scientist who gets the buff guy unexpectedly.

And all off my friends have been going on and on about the wondrous growly voice of the magnificent Cumberdagon – Smaug – who speaks in the new trailer. I haven’t seen it, but you can below 🙂 I think that I want to wait and see if the anticipation is worth it. That way I will have tried both methods; the wait and see, and the watch all you can beforehand, so I will know exactly what to do for the final installment in the trilogy.

However, I did recently see the Iron Man 3 blooper reel and how they did the ‘barrel of monkeys’ sceneit is absolutely incredible – the amount of people who worked on that scene to get everything to match up what with all the layers of CGI. And the fact that it’s REAL! Real skydivers doing the action sequence! REAL!!!!!! (yes, I am very impressed, can you tell?)

Also, on my quest for an identification card for Coulson, I discovered the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D website, which has some other handy accessories and a bit of info on the characters so far.

However, I have to say, I am not convinced with the show itself. Really, this is what we’re doing, Whedon? Really? Inserting a bundle of clichĂ©s into every episode and not even making them well-executed clichĂ©s? The internet told me that The Girl in the Flower Dress is the best episode yet. I will have to respectfully disagree with you on that point, internet. I am not seeing the show increase in quality, let alone in the bounds and leaps described by others. It’s okay. It has a couple of characters that I like, it has a plot line that I find intriguing because of the Project Centipede thingy (not because of Skye), and I’m trying to like it because it might have promise. Hopefully this will be revealed before the penultimate episode.

Also, I really want to know how Coulson lives.

What say you?

Reactions of Reactions: The Desolation of Smaug

For everyone who is as connected as I am (not very), guess what?

The Desolation of Smaug Official Trailer has been revealed. Yay!!

And now, something that is both entertaining and very revealing towards the attitudes of both fans and cast members, if you click here, you can see what happens when fans of The Hobbit, creators of the prestigious LOTR site TheOneRing.net, watch the trailers. They have quite a dramatic reaction. Then, you get to watch three actors, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly and Lee Pace, who play elves Legolas, Tauriel and Thranduil respectively, react to the reaction of these fans.

In costume.

Personally, I think Legolas is looking a bit CGI, possibly due to the age difference that he needs to portray, but also possibly just because the images cut each other quote quickly.

I’ve Gone On An Adventure!! (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)

This was me yesterday at midnight. It was very exciting!

This was me yesterday at midnight. It was very exciting!

Yesterday at midnight, my friends and I were sitting through the ads and getting ready to watch The Hobbit: And Unexpected Journey at New Zealand’s premier, the first in the world. And we saw it!!!! And it was very exhilarating, and exciting, and really quite long.

So.

This post is going to try to give information about the movie both with and without spoilers – I’ll be using little numbers, and putting the spoilers related to the topics at the bottom, with a warning sign.

The movie was really good, altogether. I’m not saying fantastic, or magnificent, but it was really good. That said, I felt that there were a few snippets that weren’t very necessary, and one in particular that really derailed the narrative a bit (see spoilers at bottom) [1]. Overall, it was, I think, more violent than LOTR, but not by too much, and M is the right rating for it.

The casting was brilliant. Martin Freeman makes for a comedic, heart-felt performance that enhances the audience interaction in the film, which could be seen throughout the audience as people laughed out loud. The dwarves were, I felt, mostly characterised, and it was quite easy to tell between them, and figure out their roles [2]. The interactions between the company are amusing, sometimes touching, and overall the camaraderie is great – I’m really liking the way that the relationships have been set out. Sir Ian McKellan, as Gandalf, was once again fabulous, and the villains of the film – Azog the Pale Orc (from an appendix) and the Goblin King – were both cast very well in my opinion [3].  So, the casting was a success.  F.I.G.W.I.T. fans will also be very pleased, as Brett McKenzie from Flight Of The Concords reprises his role of Frodo Is Great/Gone…Who Is That??!!??, an elf who now has two little cameos and more than a full sentence of dialogue, as well as a close up shot!!

This is very handy when trying to remember all the names and faces! Note that Thorin isn't included - he's too special.

This is very handy when trying to remember all the names and faces! Note that Thorin isn’t included – he’s too special.

Andy Serkis is AMAZING!! He gets his own little paragraph. Everyone knows that Serkis is an awe-inspiring actor, and this is absolutely clear when he appears as Gollum once more. The Riddles In The Dark scene was noted to be the highlight of the film [4] by everyone who I eavesdropped on after the film had finished, and this is in no small part because of Serkis’ performance.  Additionally, the motion capture and digital Gollum are even more realistic and detailed, if you had thought it was possible.

Weta Digital and Weta Workshop have outdone themselves. With more intricate sets like the goblin caves, gloriously detailed models like Rivendell and ‘real’ helicopter shots of beautiful scenery and Hobbiton, the setting of the film is absolutely delightful. The prosthetics and Special Effects work is seamless, and characters like Azog and the Eagles are made realistic and painstakingly, which is definitely a bonus, as everything is sharp and very well made. The weaponry is once again masterful, and in scenes such as the Storm Giants’ fight, you can really see how far we’ve come into the digital decade. The costuming is wonderful, with Galadriel looking as ethereal as before, and the newly introduced Mirkwood elves and Thranduil, their king appearing as different from the Rivendell elves as the Lorien ones are. The dwarves look incredible as well, with their clothing reflecting their wandering and tough natures, as well as showing off things like Bombur’s belly.

Smaug. Well, like I thought, you don’t really get to see much of Smaug, but what you do see is brilliant. There’s quite a build up [5], until the very, very last thing you see on screen before the credits is his eye, opening to fill the screen.

The score is wonderful. I really loved the music in LOTR, and The Hobbit draws on this and incorporates it into key scenes such as Bilbo picking up the One Ring, and Hobbiton scenes, in a way which gives continuity and has the effect of giving us familiar aspects that will be remembered next time we watch the LOTR trilogy again. There is also some deep and reverberating new theme tunes which crop up every time there is a battle scene with the dwarves, and is woven around the central celtic-like dirge that the dwarves are seen singing  in the trailer (which is gorgeous, by the way, I adore the newfangled song, which was adapted from the original in The Hobbit).

I saw the film in 3D, and while is worked quite effectively, and gave the experience another level, in some places, I noticed that it drew your eyes to the forefront, even though the action was in the not 3D part of the scene, which meant you needed a bit of adjustment.

So, at this point I’m wondering whether Beorn will be central to the second film, as he was quite important in the novel, and how much more embellishing Peter Jackson will do. Also, how the film turned out in 48FR, which I didn’t see because I thought it would be too much of a risk for the first time watching a movie.

And that is that for now, methinks. I’d love to have your opinion on the film, or on my commentary and opinions, and if you can bear spoilers, keep reading, because there’s a lot more to come!

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The Hobbit Update

So, as a surprise move, tickets went on sale yesterday evening instead of today, which I had no idea about until this morning, when I heard on the radio that tickets had already sold out in Wellington. As I was on the way to prizegiving, and was not returning home until, erm, now, I kinda panicked.
Hopefully it will be okay.
I plan to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 3D HFR (High Frame Rate, which is a new technology that plays frames at 48 per second, twice as fast as normal frame rate) with some friends, which will be a great experience, if all goes well.I’m off to book the tickets to the premiere now.

On another note, it has been decided that the second movie in The Hobbit trilogy will be called The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. So I was half right in my previous guess, which you can see here.

Signing off for now,

Let’s call me Lily