The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)


If This is to End in Fire, Then We Will All Burn Together!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)Fans of my reviews may remember that last year I was extremely upset by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  I went into the movie unaware of the fact that Peter Jackson had split one book into three movies, leaving me angered over the fact that nothing had been resolved by the ending of the movie.  Going into today’s movie, I was aware but was perhaps still a bit sore about the perceived deception.  We’ll see how that worked out for this movie as I review The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, based on a novel by J. R. R. Tolkien, adapted for screen by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro, directed and co-written by Peter Jackson, and starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Stephen Fry, Graham McTavish, Ken Stott, Aiden Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Manu Bennett, Cate Blanchett, Mikael Persbrandt, and Sylvester McCoy.

We still Hobbitin’, y’all!  Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) accompanies a group of Dwarves lead by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to try to recapture the Arkenstone from the Lonely Mountain where it’s kept by the dragon Smaug.  The Arkenstone will somehow help Thorin become a king again or some shit.  On the way, their time is wasted by a skin-changer named Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), some elves named Tranduil (Lee Pace), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), and some Orcs.  Also, they meet Bard (Luke Evans) when they go to the cleverly named Lake-town, led by Stephen Fry.

If Thorin decided that he wanted to share his kingdom and he wanted to divide the Arkenstone amongst the other Dwarves, do you know how he would cut the Arkenstone?  With an Arken-saw!  I thought of that joke during the movie and, though I have told many of the people that I know read these reviews, I just want it to be available to cause pain throughout the entire internet.  As far as this movie goes, I again found myself angered by my expectations for it, but that anger was tempered with the experiences I gained from the first movie.  When I saw the first Hobbit, I didn’t realize that Jackson had split one book into three movies, leaving me angry.  I expected this movie to have me see Smaug desolated.  Turns out they mean the desolation CAUSED BY Smaug.  Youse is a tricky bitch, Jackson!  But going into the movie knowing the history of anger I had with the series allowed my expectations to compensate for it and I would say that I ultimately enjoyed the movie.  I still felt like there was a lot of wasted time with walking over mountains, stumbling through the woods, and conversations between Dwarves and Elves about the moon, and still don’t feel like there’s anything beyond a financial reason for this to be three movies, but it was still pretty entertaining.  Though he was a small part in the movie, I also appreciated the “skin-changer.”  Well, I guess it’s more accurate to say that I appreciated that they called him a skin-changer.  “Were-bear” would have sounded odd.

The look was good as you’d probably expect it to be, but there were some parts that didn’t feel like they held up as well.  Mainly parts of the white water rafting scene, and mainly just the parts of those scenes that appeared to have been filmed with a GoPro for some reason.  But I liked the scenes with Smaug.  Dragons are awesome.  And those scenes were visually spectacular.  Not just was the dragon awesome, but the constantly spilling gold coins added a level of difficulty to the rendering that I respect.  And Smaug looked scary as hell through most of his scenes, but I have to imagine that there was no way he looked anything but adorable when he was burrowing down into the gold where he was sleeping.  I imagine it looked like a little puppy burrowing into a pile of blankets with his nose.

The action was also pretty good in this movie.  I particularly liked the fat dwarf barrel fight because it was pretty funny and all of the fights involving Legolas and Tauriel because elven fighting is pretty awesome.  It’s like martial arts mixed with Hawkeye from Avengers bow and arrow action.

The cast also did find jobs in this movie.  I thought it was dangerous of this movie to add Luke Evans to the cast, though.  Not because I don’t expect him to be good, but because he is so easily confusable with Orlando Bloom, who was already in this movie.  Thankfully, Evans looks more like Will Turner from Pirates of the Caribbean and Bloom looks more like Legolas in this movie, so it was easy to keep them separated.  But his character didn’t give me any problems.  Other people in relation to his character did.  What the hell kind of logic is it to not pay attention to his ideas because his great great grandfather had a shitty aim?  Thank God no one that I know ever went to the gun range with my ancestors or I’d have even fewer people reading my reviews.

If the Necromancer in this movie had a puppy that needed to go to the bathroom, would it have to use the doggy door of Dol Guldur?  Sorry, that was another terrible joke I thought of that I wanted to punish you with.  The Desolation of Smaug was another good Hobbit movie whose greatest problem is the fact that I don’t feel that they need to be 3 (or possibly even 2) movies.  There is enough wasted time and side stuff that could’ve been cut out, but it still looks great, has some exciting action, and a great cast.  So I’m still going to recommend you watch this movie, but I personally won’t be purchasing a Hobbit movie until they come in one package.  I would’ve given this movie series enough money by then.  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug gets “I merely wanted to gaze upon your magnificence, to see if you were as great as the old tales say” out of “I did not believe them.”

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The Three Musketeers (2011)


We Live in a Kingdom Controlled by Fear

Have you ever wanted to see a classic novel like The Three Musketeers designed like Wild Wild West?  Yeah, me neither.  But that didn’t stop them from making one.  In the past, I’ve found myself less than impressed with the work of Paul W.S. Anderson, but I’m usually happy about the fact that his involvement generally brings Milla Jovovich, who I am always happy to watch.  And, what’s more than that, I love a good sword fight.  So I guess what made me have any interest in potentially watching Anderson destroy a story I love was the hotness of Jovovich and the promise of sword fighting.  Let’s see what happened in my review of The Three Musketeers, loosely based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas, written by Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, and starring Logan Lerman, Matthew MacFadyen, Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson, Milla Jovovich, Christoph Waltz, Freddie Fox, Orlando Bloom, Juno Temple, Mads Mikkelsen, Gabriella Wilde, James Corden, and Til Schweiger.

For no particular reason, the Three Musketeers – Athos (Matthew MacFadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson), and Aramis (Luke Evans) – and Athos’ lady friend, Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich), are trying to steal plans for an airship designed by Leonardo da Vinci.  Having gotten a better offer, de Winter drugs the Musketeers and gives the plans over to the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom).  A year later, D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman), leaves Gascony for Paris to become a Musketeer.  When he gets to Paris, a series of misunderstandings lead to him having consecutive duels with all three Musketeers, but it’s broken up by the guards of Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz), the diabolical priest-y dude that’s trying to take control of France from King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox).  The Musketeers find out that Cardinal Richelieu is trying to take over France with an elaborate plot to make it seem like Louis’ queen, Anne (Juno Temple), had been banging the bejesus out of the Duke of Buckingham.  I don’t know how that will help him take control of France, but you just go along with it.  The Musketeers have to stop the plot, D’Artagnan starts wanting a piece of the Queen’s lady-in-waiting Constance (Gabriella Wilde), and that airship comes back into the movie.

This isn’t what I would call a “good movie”, but it was decently fun for all of it’s stupidity.  I think that what I didn’t like about this actually had nothing to do with Paul W.S. Anderson.  It was mainly the story.  Yeah, it’s LOOSELY based on a fantastic novel, but it kind of fucks of what made the novel good.  The novel was a lot of fun, and the movie is as well, but they started to lose me when they brought in the giant airship, which was basically one of the boats from Pirates of the Caribbean with a balloon on the top.  My mind instantly went back to watching Wild Wild West and seeing that big, ridiculous, mechanical spider.  The airship was slightly more plausible than the spider, but still pretty ludicrous.  So ridiculous was it that, when the Musketeers were escaping from their pursuing airship by flying into some storm clouds, I half expected the response to “You’re never going to find them in there” to be them activating the medieval radar, which would essentially be them pulling a lever and dropping a whale out of the bottom of the ship and using it’s echolocation to find the other airship.  It wouldn’t have been that farfetched to me when contrasted with the flying pirate ships.  My remaining complaints on the story require ::SPOILER ALERTS::  First, one of the most memorable things about the Three Musketeers what the fate of Milady de Winter, and this movie pissed on that well and good.  In the novel, it’s a very memorable part when Athos is forced to have de Winter executed for her betrayal, even though he loves her.  It’s a very poignant scene.  They go for it in a sense here, but then put it under the glass coffee table and shit all over it’s chest.  It takes place on the airship and Athos is going to shoot her, but she dives off the airship into the water – easily ten stories above the water – in order to save Athos from the regret of killing her himself.  Naturally we assume, understanding physics as we do, that falling from that height and hitting water would be roughly the same as hitting concrete and de Winter would be pulverized, so I was okay with the way they decided to stick to the book.  At the end of the movie, the Duke of Buckingham fishes her out of the water, alive but a bit confused.  And she walked pretty well for someone whose BONES WOULD BE POWDER!  And that’s not even mentioning the unlikelihood of someone actually being able to locate someone adrift in the ocean.  Athos also was going to kill her because she betrayed France and it was his duty, not something stupid and selfish like his own hatred.  I also didn’t understand the idea of letting the Cardinal get away with his attempted betrayal, but I can’t really shit on it because I don’t remember what happened to him in the book.  ::END SPOILER::

One could argue that Paul W.S. Anderson had at least some control over the script, but since I don’t know his level of involvement, I can’t really blame the story on him.  The parts that I would expect a director to be in control of were actually pretty enjoyable, with a couple of complaints.  The main complaint comes from the answer to this question: what do you think of when you think about the Three Musketeers?  For me (and probably most people) it’s sword fights.  There isn’t an actual sword fight until about a half hour into the movie.  That’s not to say there isn’t action for the first 30 minutes, but they made the characters that I think of as iconic examples of sword fighters into people to whom swords were fairly secondary to pistols or fists.  And, in the case of Porthos, baskets he’s found laying around.  Some solid swordplay comes up later, but it bothered me that they would rather give the Musketeers some fantasy contraptions instead of having them sword fight.  And the action scenes were pretty fun, although they did use slo-mo a little much for my tastes.  I was a bit confused by Athos because he stabbed a guy in the chest and then headbutted him.  Why would you do that?  He’s already dead.  If you wanted to hurt your own head, you could’ve just face-planted after stabbing him.  Another thing that made me dislike the giant airships in this movie was that it was more time where they were doing action without the sword fighting I came to see.  It was just like Pirates of the Caribbean cannon battles in midair.  At one point, de Winter has to steal some jewelry from the Queen, and they tried really hard to fit in the overused classic of red lasers in a hallway that you can only see by blowing some powder down the hall.  To do that, they used thin, nearly invisible razor wire.  It worked well enough.

The performances were very hit and miss in this movie.  The person who could be considered the main character, Logan Lerman as D’Artagnan, did not work for me.  He reminded me of Keanu Reeves in his delivery, and that’s not really a compliment.  His delivery was quasi-surfer dude in a time period that didn’t support that.  I also didn’t like a couple of things they did with his character, like how he would defend his horse’s honor … to the death!  This also happened right before another stupidity on his part.  Moments before, his father warned him that his opponents might not be as honorable as him.  Then, the first thing he does when he gets into a fight is to turn his back on his opponent.  He gets shot for it, but sadly it was only a flesh wound.  Also, when he finally kills Rochefort, he stabs him in the chest with his heirloom sword that his father gave him and then lets him fall off of the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral with it still in his chest.  I know that you could go and take it from his corpse on the floor, but you also could have kept your fuckin’ sword by just pulling it out, dumbass.  I thought all three of the main Musketeers did very well, but did nothing particularly standout.  Milla Jovovich did a fine job, but I was mainly looking to see her be hot, so I got that.  Gabriella Wilde as Constance and Juno Temple as the Queen were also very beautiful.  Christoph Waltz did an the job you’d expect from a great actor like him, but you do begin to wonder about his choices in movies now that he’s getting to be a big name in America. Orlando Bloom seemed much more gay than usual in this movie, even though he was trying to be a badass.  Also, James Corden as Planchet, the fat comic relief, was annoying, and in the film far too often.

The Three Musketeers was exactly what I expected it to be.  They took a good story and wiped their asses with it, but had some decent action that was perhaps a bit light on the swordplay for my tastes.  Altogether it was a dumb movie, but fun enough that I don’t regret the dollar I rented it for.  I’d say it’s worth checking out from the RedBox, but you’ll also do alright if you never get around to watching it.  It’s the dumb fun for a night of shutting off your brains, or making fun of it with your friends.  I still like the Kiefer Sutherland/Charlie Sheen/Oliver Platt movie a lot better.  This version of The Three Musketeers get “Are you always this cocky?” out of “Lower the whale!”

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