DragonHeart (1996) – No Good Trope Goes Untwisted

If there is one thing we can agree on, it’s that most fantasy books and movies tend to lean on a series of expected tropes. The 1996 DragonHeart movie tries so hard to twist many of these tropes that the outcome is, well different.

Hi everyone! As a survival tactic, I’ve turned to some of my old favorite fantasy movies, and this one has stood the test of time better than others. Even better, they’ve made a handful of sequels that are begging to be explored. Fun fact: this is one of the few movies accidentally acquired because I rented the DVD then turned it into the wrong Hollywood Video. Does that date me, yes it does.

Evil Overlord

Perhaps the biggest trope that gets twisted in this movie is that of the evil overlord found in King Einon. He’s greedy and kills indiscriminately and doesn’t hold to the vows he’s taken. Where this gets twisted is that he has half of a good dragon’s heart so lots of story twisting has to happen for this villain to get what he deserves.

The Good Bad Dragon

Dragons in most fantasy are either all bad or all good. They are only around to either roast precious damsels and hoard gold or dispense much needed help to the main character. DragonHeart has a bit of both. All the villagers seem to agree that dragons are always bad and out to heat and eat their livestock. However, the nobility have insider info on the dragons where they are good and can be appealed to for favors. Our noble-ish night Bowen skirts that line by using the good nature of the dragon to blackmail poor villagers.

Willful Ignorance

There has to be some suspension of disbelief in all fantasy storytelling or the audience wouldn’t listen at all. We are willing to accept the existence of dragons in order to enjoy a good tale. Most stories have a few times where the main character refuses to believe an obvious truth because we like the whole twisty-ness of it all. In DragonHeart, Bowen has been searching the entire British Isles to kill off all of the dragons. When he gets to the last one and has to make a deal, he doesn’t realize this is the same dragon that he feels betrayed him. It’s not until it’s relevant to the story that the dragon reveals himself.

The Noble Sacrifice (Um, Spoiler Alert…)

This one happens all the time. Someone super important to the story has to sacrifice their life in order to make victory possible. In DragonHeart this gets super literal. The bad king, Einon, can’t die unless the dragon dies because he has half the dragon’s heart. They literally have to kill the dragon to emerge from the battle victorious. It’s bittersweet and noble (and such a stupid waste of perfectly good dragon!).

The Charming Rogue gone Good

Our dear knight is a good guy at heart who has bad things happen to him so he feels justified doing less than noble things to get by. Think Han Solo. He’s a good guy but also needs money and happens to have a few tricks up his sleeve. Bowen is charming and everything a gal could want in a rogue, but ultimately has to save the day by doing the last thing he’d ever want, kill a friend – in this case the dragon.

My review of DragonHeart

DragonHeart is entertaining even after all these years. The CGI is great considering the year this movie was released and the story is interesting and has some nice twists. There are a few things that will always bother me. Namely, the script is super kludgy and obvious – no subtlety here. Also, I wouldn’t have picked Dennis Quaid for a Medieval period piece, like at all.

It was fun to see actors like Jason Isaacs and David Thewlis when they are practically teenagers, especially since they both were in important rolls in Harry Potter.

For it being family friendly, I’d say it’s fine for the majority of families. There is violence stereotypical to standard Medieval fantasy (not Game of Thrones, mind you. More like Conan the Barbarian), mild depictions of injury and blood, no offensive language, and one cringey moment of bedroom innuendo that doesn’t result in anything.

For sentimentality’s sake I give DragonHeart 4/5 stars


If you like Dragon stories, check out these two anthologies!

Jodi L Milner is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Aladdin 2019, Hello Bollywood

Am I the last one to jump on this bandwagon? Yep. Am I going to use my usual excuse of literally not seeing the movie until last week again? Absolutely. After the whole fiasco with the live action Lion King, 2019, I had my doubts about watching another live action Disney. Hearing rumors of Will Smith being digitally painted blue didn’t help either.

But … I was pleasantly surprised. They took the original story from the 1992 Disney Aladdin, and breathed some new life into it, all without falling into the pitfall we call the uncanny valley. If they had decided to make Abu the monkey talk, then we would have had real problems.

What they did right

Any story that transports the viewer into a new time and place will have an inherent sense of wonder about it, and Aladdin is full of wonder. They created a gorgeous palace and city that felt full of history and culture. The costuming stayed true to the feel of the original animation, but was brought to life in a way that was both beautiful, colorful, and detailed.

Any story set in a foreign land that’s loosely based on a real one needs to be sensitive to offensive stereotypes and unfair comparisons. The very first Aladdin had a handful of these missteps that were corrected in a way that didn’t feel gimmicky. For instance, they swapped out the whole Aladdin runs through a harem bit. The harem is now clearly a school for girls.

Lastly, they framed the story in a new way that added a nice little twist at the end that I thought was charming. One of the biggest questions that the first movie struggled to resolved was ‘What happens to a genie when he is no longer a genie?” In the 1992 movie, Genie stayed magical and didn’t turn into a human. This didn’t seem right. So, the 2019 turned Genie human instead. Works for me.

What they got wrong

I know that CGI is a super fun toy and it lets movie makers create whatever they can dream up (and afford). But – for a critical audience, the best CGI is when you can’t tell there’s been any at all. Poor Abu got CGI slaughtered a few times. Nothing serious, just you could tell where real monkey ended and robomonkey began.

The use of fast and slow motion. This was a directorial choice. Guy Ritchie thought the chase through the market scene that happens when Aladdin runs parkour through Agrabah singing “One Jump” would be cooler if they altered the filming speeds. Dramatic moments were subtly slowed down and action sequences sped up. For me, it made it more silly than necessary.

Ugh, let’s talk about the awkwardness, shall we? Aladdin’s character is known as being a smooth talking, smooth moving street kid. The second he has to pretend he is a prince, all that smoothness flip flops into some amazingly awkwardness that had me hiding under a blanket. It was like 1997 all over again. I get why the awkwardness was important, Aladdin’s big message is that you have to be true to yourself. Whenever he wasn’t true to himself, he turned into a big lump of social disaster. A little awkward is great, funny even, but when it gets to cringe level, tone it down.

And Cue Bollywood!

As promised, let’s talk about how a film that’s meant to have very Arabic origins ended up just like a Bollywood style film. For reference, here’s some of the keystone needs of a Bollywood film:

“Standard features of Bollywood films continued to be formulaic story lines, expertly choreographed fight scenes, spectacular song-and-dance routines, emotion-charged melodrama, and larger-than-life heroes.”

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Bollywood-film-industry-India

Of the five criteria, Aladdin 2019 solidly hits at least three. The first and most obvious are the spectacular song-and-dance routines. The two that stand out are the parade welcoming Prince Ali Ababwa into Agrabah and then the wedding dance at the end of the movie. Both rely on large casts, bright costumes, tightly choreographed dances, and a catchy song.

The next of the three is the emotionally charged melodrama. Yep, we got that. Aladdin is playing a high stakes game with a princess, a sultan, and a nasty advisor. Melodrama is baked right in. Did I mention the tiger?

The last of the three is the formulaic story line. There are three wishes, we know what needs to happen, who needs to do what, and why it’s important. There’s an obvious enemy in Jafar. There’s an emotional problem where Aladdin needs to be true to himself. And there’s the secondary story line where the supporting cast may or may not fall in love. (No spoilers!)

All in all

I said it before, I’ll say it again. I thought it was a great movie. Fun to watch with the kids. Visually impressive. Good music. Entertaining story. It’s a great family movie night pick, or even a sing-a-long. My kids liked it, which is saying a lot.

I give the 2019 Aladdin 4 out of 5 stars, solidly good.


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Confession: I did not watch the 2020 Oscars

This isn’t a political statement, I’m not claiming wrongdoing from any side. If anything, this year’s Academy Awards had lots going for it. I just wasn’t one of the lots. In past years, the bleak months leading up to the Oscars are the perfect time to watch as many of the nominated movies as hubby and I are interested in. This year we managed to watch a handful of the nominees, by accident.

Cue drumroll. The ones we ended up seeing were Lion King (2019), Frozen II, How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World, Klaus, Avengers: Endgame, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Notice a theme here? We’re all about family friendly movies.

Watching the Oscars when you haven’t seen any of the best picture nominations is like watching the Superbowl when you haven’t seen any of the playoffs. There isn’t that emotional intensity of understanding the struggle. You don’t have any idea how hard people worked to get nominated. You simply don’t know enough of the story to know who to root for.

Add to that what’s been an insanity making busy schedule with large events every weekend for what feels like months, for us it wasn’t worth it. We taught the kids how to play poker instead.

Here’s three cheers to those who missed it, you are in good company. As for me, I plan on watching the following nominees/award winners over the course of the coming year:

  • Parasite
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Toy Story 4
  • Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
  • Knives Out

Let me know if there’s an amazing movie that needs to be added to my list and why you liked it!

Psst! Klaus was one of my personal favorites this year, charming all around – and on Netflix. Go see it!

Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list.

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Does The Lion King 2019 flirt with the Uncanny Valley?

Let me start out by saying that as a teen, I was obsessed with the 1994 Lion King. Everything thing about it was amazing. In fact, one of the very first CDs I ever bought was the Lion King soundtrack. It’s one of those movies I watched enough times that I can still quote the whole thing.

That said, I was not thrilled that they chose to do a live action version. The 1994 Lion King became a huge part of 90s pop culture. There is so much to live up to that if they fell short anywhere, they would disappoint millions. Including me. I’m a pretty tough customer.

Simba and Zazu (voiced by none other than the ever-amusing John Oliver)

Why we might have an uncanny valley problem

The uncanny valley is a phenomenon found when we try to recreate realistic humans artificially. We usually see this in CGI movies and robots. The idea is that the closer you get to recreating a lifelike human, the creepier it is until you nail it perfectly.

I’ve blogged about this before when I talked about the train wreck that is the live action Grinch movie (which is a super amusing post, if I say so myself) and again when I discuss the concept of the uncanny valley over on my writing blog. That post is far more academic and has graphs. Fascinating stuff.

With animals, the creepiness factor is different, but there is still a general unease when something is off. Finding Nemo cartoonized the characters to be cute and expressive and it totally worked. This new Lion King made the animals photo perfect. In fact, they used live action shots with real animals as much as possible, only adding in the mouth movements when they needed to talk.

For me, this flirted with the uncanny valley. Real animals don’t talk and it’s weird to see them do so in a way that’s super realistic.

Don’t get me wrong, the execution is flawless. The 2019 movie is still a beautiful story of loss and redemption. The music is still the breathtaking tracks from the original movie and has only been adapted slightly to fit this film. And because I loved the first one so much, I started disliking the new one because of the differences and limitations of using live action with CGI.

The Lion King is an emotional story. The characters need to be able to express those feelings. In a cartoon, the animator can exaggerate the facial expressions so that it’s clear what the characters are feeling. In live action using animals we lose all of that and have to infer what they might be feeling using context and body language only. This took away from the experience.

Scrawny Scar and his band of hyenas, ready to drop a hit single

Other significant changes

There were also a few updates to make the movie more politically correct, like removing the Nazi-like imagery from Scar’s big musical number “Be Prepared” and actually having Rafiki speak in Xhosa instead of whatever nonsense words he uses in the 1994 version. I agree with these changes as it shows sensitivity to today’s audience.

But there were also a few script adaptations where key scenes were either shortened, lengthened, or removed. That insightful part where Rafiki smacks Simba in the head and then says he shouldn’t worry about it because it’s in the past – gone. The funny bit where Timon is confused about how Nala wants to eat Pumba while still being friends with Simba – gone.

That lovely five-second bit where Simba flops down and sends a swirl of seeds into the air which Rafiki then finds? They turned that into a three-minute montage where we follow a tuft of lion hair that at one point gets eaten by a giraffe, gets pooped out, and then is transported by dung beetle. Really guys?

Also, the casting. While they kept James Earl Jones as Mufasa, which was an essential choice, they didn’t keep my personal favorite casting, Jeremy Irons as Scar. I get that this might have been a move to make the cast more appropriate for a story set in Africa – but Jeremy Irons performance was amazing and I missed it.

Mufasa! Oooh, that gives me chills. Say it again.

Summing up

I wanted to love the new Lion King like I loved the old one. The story was there, the magnitude of the African landscape was stunning, the voice performances were on point. But, it didn’t hold up to the original. Instead of enjoying it, I kept trying to figure out what they changed and why it felt different. For new audiences, like my kids, this will be their Lion King and they might come to love it like I loved the original.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen it?


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, a Romeo and Juliet story?

Two households, both alike in dignity, In the Galaxy, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

I couldn’t help it. With the whole ending sequence the way it turned out to be I had to explore this idea that Rise of the Skywalker might be, in fact, a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Star Wars is space fantasy at it’s most dramatic, so it totally fits here on my blog.

I’ll say this early on, this time I will be sharing spoilers so read at your own risk.

The obvious parallels

There are two forces in Star Wars, the way of the Jedi and the Dark side. As a generality, the Dark side has teamed up with the first order and has been a controlling force behind all their goals of expansion and dominion. The Jedi have always sided with the Rebellion, trying to keep a balance in the Galaxy and to shield innocent planets against unfair rule and taxation.

Montagues and Capulets = Palpatines and Skywalkers

In Rise of Skywalker, these two forces are embodied in two characters, who are the last surviving members of two powerful households and also the last reservoirs of power for both the Dark side and the Jedi. In the course of this movie, Rey learns that she is in fact a Palpatine. Kylo Ren is the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa – who as we remember was Luke Skywalker’s sister, making Kylo a Skywalker.

Let’s not forget a vital piece of information. Emperor Palpatine (despite being apparently vaporized during Return of the Jedi) wasn’t, in fact, dead. He’s still powerful and is still calling the shots behind the scenes in the First Order. He is the Montague. As the head of the more powerful house, he is irritated that the lesser house of Skywalker is alive and causing problems.

Kylo and Rey are compelled to be together

If there is to be a true comparison to Romeo and Juliet, there has to be some form of doomed relationship. Enter Kylo and Rey. If you classify obsession as a form of romance, then yes, Kylo is obsessed with Rey. He’s so obsessed, that he can form a force-fueled connection to her where they can interact with each other. Rey feels the connection to him as well but she fears what it means. This doesn’t stop her from ultimately going off on her own to face him.

Can we talk about the death scene?

The thing that makes Romeo and Juliet memorable and tragic is in the climax where a misunderstanding leads to the death of both of them. In the end of Rise of Skywalker, we see something achingly similar. Emperor Palpatine, now a stick puppet of his former self, wants to convert Kylo and Rey to the dark side and continue on his legacy. Throughout his life, he’s tried multiple times to get whoever has the strongest power in the force to strike him down and complete their journey to the dark side. Here it’s no different.

Rey faces him and refuses to strike him down. Knowing that she will never bend, regardless of what he does, he changes tactics like he did with Luke in Return of the Jedi and instead tries to kill her. This results in him gaining some of her power and making it possible for him to regain his former glory without dying. Kylo rushes in, fights briefly and bravely, and is swiftly dispatched off the side of a cliff and is presumed dead.

Here’s where our Romeo and Juliet bit comes in. Rey, believing Kylo is dead, knows she must destroy the Emperor and enters into an epic dual with him. With both Skywalker lightsabers, she deflects his lightning and manages to kill both him and herself in the process.

But alas! Kylo survives the fall and returns to the scene too late. Rey is gone. In the same vein as Romeo and Juliet, he tries to reverse the effects of Palpatine’s lightning damage by infusing her with his own force. This is the equivalent of taking the same poison. He is successful in bringing her back and they share a lovely brief moment, before he dies – finally finding redemption.

The rest of the story

While the elements listed above mirror Romeo and Juliet well, the rest of the story most certainly does not. The Rise of Skywalker had a big job to do. There were so many storylines that needed to find a sense of completion that this movie was destined to be complicated. Here’s a list:

  • Defeat Emperor Palpatine, the power behind the first order
  • Resolve the conflict between Kylo and Rey
  • Restore balance to the force
  • Give Luke a chance to redeem himself for becoming a bitter hermit in Last Jedi
  • Show all our favorite characters getting what they deserve.
  • Give Kylo a chance to be forgiven for the pain he caused his parents
  • Restore Rey’s lineage and missing past
  • Have one last epic space battle to end them all
  • Let us say one last goodbye to Leia

Did I miss any? Yea, probably. Like I said, it’s complicated and lots of these resolution points involve dead people. But, they did a brilliant job in weaving all this together without needing a single senate or lengthy (boring) council scene. Kudos to JJ Abrams and his team for making a brilliant end to a powerful story.

As for you dear readers – What did you think about the movie? What parts stood out to you as especially well done or interesting?


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list.

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The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

Growing up a nerd in the 80s was a unique experience. Of everything weird and wonderful, there were two movies that stood out and still tickle my imagination every time I see any related artwork. Those two movies were Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.

I’m sure you’re all suitably shocked.

When they announced they were taking the rest of the Dark Crystal story and making a Netflix series, I was both excited and concerned. The art of the original movie is what captured it’s fans, and not necessarily the story. In fact, while I loved the art and the mystic other-worldliness of the original film, I never paid any attention to the story until I became an author. How were they going to recapture that magic and balance it out with such a complicated story?

The verdict – with amazing artistic talent and skill. The Age of Resistance is exactly what it needs to be for those who loved the art of the original movie. The producers resisted the temptation to use CGI and opted for traditional puppeting, a decision that was both more costly and challenging, and it resulted in a series that looked and felt as if it stepped out of the original movie.

My other concern was how were they going to stretch the source material into ten hours of film? This is where many new comers to the franchise might start losing interest. Because the world of the Dark Crystal, Thra, is complicated with lots of different cultures and influences, both from within the seven distinct populations of gelflings, and also from the alien Skeksis who have taken up the responsibility of ruling the world, there are parts of the series that have to slow down and explain all of this.

No amount of amazing sets and beautiful creatures can make up for the material being slow and boring at times. I didn’t mind, because I enjoy deep worldbuilding and love examining examples of when it’s been done well. For everyone else, the pace of several episodes is slower than what a standard viewer is used to.

I finished watching the series earlier this week and was very impressed at how good it all turned out to be. For me, it’s a lovely reminder of that magical world that captured my imagination as a child.

Also, the music is incredible. I pulled up the soundtrack to listen to as I worked the other day and was swept away. Managed to write 20% faster than usual to boot!

Recommendations:

I recommend The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance to anyone who liked the original Dark Crystal, or who has a love for epic fantasy story telling styles. This will both amaze and delight you. Also, if you love fantasy art and puppetry, this will rock your world.

I don’t recommend this for those who really haven’t gotten into fantasy as it requires the viewer to take a rather large leap of faith on a premise they might not understand. It’s a bit slow and the payout of the story is long in coming. That said, it is beautifully made.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list.

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Movie of the Month: Inside Out

Check it out! I actually made it to a show before it left the theaters!  Yippee! And the kids sat through the whole thing, which means I got to watch the whole thing from beginning to end without having to leave for a potty run or break up a fight. This, my friends, is a small miracle in itself.

INSIDE-OUT-18What can I say about this movie that hasn’t already been said? Being a Disney, it’s gotten more than it’s fair share of media attention. People are calling it revolutionary and unique. And they’re right. We haven’t seen anything like this before.

The story of Inside Out is layered.  The inside layer is a story all about Joy, one of the emotions that live inside of Riley’s head. Joy is determined to help Riley always be happy no matter what happens. Joy lives along side her fellow emotions anger, sadness, fear, and disgust. Each of these emotions can use the master control panel that control how Riley reacts in any given circumstance.

io_Joy_standardThe outside layer is Riley’s story, a happy eleven-year-old, who loves her family and being silly and playing ice hockey. However, everything changes when Riley’s family moves from the Minnesota to San Francisco.  Riley finds herself in a new school and new surroundings, everything is different and for any child, different is stressful and scary.

Still, Joy is determined to make things work and help Riley put on a happy face, even when she has some very real problems that need to be addressed. Joy forces Sadness to stay out of the way and refuses to let her take the controls. Joy’s efforts only make things worse and she and Sadness accidentally both get sucked out of headquarters and down into long-term memory storage.

This means that Riley can’t feel either joy or sadness and is stuck with fear, disgust, and anger.

Joy and Sadness must find a way back to headquarters before Riley makes a decision that might destroy her life.

fnd_mc_insideout

My Review:

I thought Inside Out was adorable and perfect for my young kids. It opens up avenues of discussion about what different emotions are and why each are important at the right time. The movie is clever, funny, and poignant and will send you home thinking about it for a long time.

One of my favorite parts (don’t worry, no spoilers here) is when we are allowed to see the headquarters inside different people’s and animal’s heads. Everyone and everything has the same set of emotions but each act very different depending on who or what they are. It comes at the very end of the movie and is hilarious.

If you like cute, imaginative, feel good movies with a message then you will love Inside Out. It’s not just for kids, it’s good for anyone who likes to think and feel.

However, there is a silliness warning. There are a few parts that do get a bit silly. If you get uncomfortable with things that are silly or childish then you might want to proceed with caution.

Film Icon Christopher Lee Dies

It is a rare thing when there is an actor who is known and loved across several generations. Christopher Lee’s first films were made when my parents were barely teenagers. For me growing up, he was that guy who always ended up in the old-timey horror flicks and also a Bond villain. For my kids he will be immortalized as Saruman and Count Dooku.

There are few actors who have as long or as varied of filmography as Christoper Lee. IMDB clocks in 281 credits over the course of a 60+ year career. True to the workhorse he was, he die as he was preparing to start filming for his latest movie.

To celebrate one of speculative fiction’s favorite actors, here are several photos of Christopher Lee through the years.

Hammer Horror's Dracula

Hammer Horror’s Dracula – Lee’s iconic defining role

Ultimate Bond Villain - The Man with the Golden Gun

Ultimate Bond Villain – The Man with the Golden Gun

We mustn't anger Count Dooku, he's got a lightsaber

We mustn’t anger Count Dooku, he’s got a lightsaber

Monsieur Labisse from Hugo, on of Lee's rare unevil roles

Monsieur Labisse from Hugo, on of Lee’s rare unevil roles

No list would be complete without Saruman the White

No list would be complete without Saruman the White

While he rarely ever took the spotlight, the roles he did take he made personal and memorable, and that’s the stuff that makes a man a legend.

Rest in peace – you’ve deserved it.

Movie of the Month: The Hobbit, Battle of the Five Armies

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve put off seeing the last installment of the Hobbit trilogy. It’s not that I didn’t want to see it, but I was disappointed with the first two and so when the third finally rolled around  the excitement simply wasn’t there to rush out and see it.

the-hobbit-the-battle-of-the-five-armies_images

Most Lord of the Rings fans agree that turning the Hobbit into a trilogy was a huge mistake on the part of the lovely people at New Line Studios. The book of the Hobbit is tiny and the choice to turn it into an 8+ hour-long saga was purely a marketing decision. They thought it would bring in the same huge crowds and mania that LOTR did.

It might have worked, had the world of Middle Earth been new.

Because we are all very familiar with the sights and spectacle of Middle Earth it doesn’t hold our attention as long. That, and there simply no epic setting reveals like there were in LOTR. In LOTR there was the introduction of Hobbiton, Lothlorien, Rivendale, Gondor, and the halls of Moria, to name a few. These settings were dramatic and beautiful and captured the imagination. In Hobbit there really isn’t anything that can rival them. The halls of Thranduil don’t quite measure up to the other Elven realms and the the Dwarvish interiors of the lonely mountain are not as impressive as what we saw before in Moria.

Which brings us to the story. Because the Hobbit was a short book, and one of the rare instances where it would actually be faster to read the book than to see the movies, lots of extra material had to be added to flesh out the story. Much of this material is pulled from Tolkien’s supplemental material and stays true to the history and cultures of Middle Earth, and to that effect makes the Hobbit an enjoyable movie to anyone who is a fan of Tolkien’s works.

However, for those who need a movie that doesn’t drag along through lengthy exposition and introductions, the Hobbit was a bit of a chore to watch. Much of the scenes that were supposed to create sympathy for lead characters ended up being forced and well, boring.

hobbit-poster

As for the final chapter of the Hobbit, it has its fair share of thrills and spills and emotionally charged material. We finally see the defeat of the dragon, but with it comes the near downfall of Thorin, the Dwarvish king. With Smaug out of the way, Thorin can take the lonely mountain throne at last, and with it, its massive trove of dragon gold. Dragon gold brings with it intense greed and paranoia which infects Thorin, turning him against his kin.

The mountain hold and it’s treasure attract the armies all fighting for what they believe they are entitled to. Men, elves, orcs, dwarves, and eagles all join in the fight. Thorin, with the help of Bilbo and his kin, is reminded what is really important and leads the charge against the orcs. The fight doesn’t go well, there are heavy losses on all sides. Thranduil hates that elvish blood is being spilled for what he deems a fruitless endeavor. Bard, the reluctant leader of men, does his best to protect his people. In the end it’s the dwarves who pay the heaviest price.

In a scene much like when Boromir dies in LOTR, Thorin pays for the victory against the Orc general, Azog, by sacrificing himself. The movie ends on a bittersweet note where the good guys win but we ask ourselves, was it worth it?

the_hobbit_the_battle_of_the_five_armies-wide

After everything, I give the last installment of the Hobbit a 6 out of 10. I liked it, it was enjoyable, but in the end it didn’t quite meet my expectations. It moved slowly, many of the emotional scenes felt forced, and in the end we didn’t get our happy ending.

Did you see The Hobbit? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Movie of the Month: Interstellar

interstellar-3840x2160This month’s featured movie is the sci-fi adventure Interstellar, a hard-hitting space drama that’s torn between the efforts to save humanity and one man’s fight to stay connected to his family.

If you like movies similar to Inception, where there is plenty of brain bending to make the story work, then Interstellar is right up your alley. It’s not as far out as Cloud Atlas, so don’t worry – but there are a few 2001: Space Odyssey type elements floating around that make it a little strange.

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Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a pilot turned corn farmer in Earth’s last desperate attempt to continue to feed itself. Humanity is indeed on the brink as blight kills off crops, much like the great potato famine. It is clear that the situation is not going to improve and so an undercover NASA program is tasked to find a way of preserving the human race.

Their solution is to find a new world to colonize. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. The nearest habitable worlds are light years away and any efforts to find them are futile simply because of the amount of time it would take. Interstellar had a whole team of astrophysicists figure out how it could be done and then used their calculations to generate the imagery in the film, cool eh?

In Interstellar, there is a singularity located conveniently within our solar system that leads to a different system with several potential habitable worlds. However, due to a bunch of theory of relativity issues, any landfall the explorers make results in epic time loss for those on earth and also anyone who remains on the ship. This results in a very fast paced film as Cooper fights for every second lost in order to reunite with his daughter.

It’s the last third of the film that gets a little screwy. The explorers find themselves in a hopeless situation. There is no way to return important data back to earth for NASA’s colony ship to be able to break free from the surface (another plot strand…) and there is no way for the explorers to survive on the current alien world. They have to decide if they are going to sacrifice themselves to save humanity or save themselves but doom civilization.

interstellar-anne-hathawayThe only way to get the needed data back is to send a probe into the black hole. Cooper and Amelia (played by Anne Hathaway) must separate to give the greatest chance at success.  Amelia’s ship has colonizing equipment to set up another home world and can ensure the survival of the species should the worst outcome happen, so her success is critical. Cooper takes the other part of the ship and heads into the blackhole.

He ends in a time bent fifth dimentional tesseract that enables him to pass on the needed information to NASA. I said it got trippy –  this is the epicenter of trippy here and why I reference Space Odyssey.  Turns out that all the strange phenomenon that they had seen in the beginning of the film was actually Cooper in the fifth dimension trying to communicate with his daughter in the past.

Do I recommend Interstellar? Yes, with caution. This is a film meant for people who love to think in an abstract and twisted way. Those who just like a good story that doesn’t demand much of the watcher will find themselves lost and confused quickly. If you like time travel paradoxes, you’ll like it. If you don’t, then I wouldn’t recommend it.