31 December 2013

In The Shadow Of The Mountain

My friends give me grief because I read a lot of film reviews and therefore apparently don't make my mind up for myself. Fuck you, 'friends' of mine!!! I know you're only winding me up but here are all of the reasons that the abuse you give me is unjust. Firstly, I never embrace the points of a review as my own without having already seen the film for myself and secondly, I always go into a movie with a completely open mind. Also- reviews are not as opinion based as people think they are. A good review doesn't just explain what a person liked about something but rather analyses from a technical or theoretical point of view the aspects of a film that either worked or didn't. You could argue that there is still some degree of subjectivity to this but there is obviously significantly less than somebody just waffling on about whatever old shit they liked or hated. Of course, occasionally reviews contradict each other and so it is not an exact science but this is why I read a lot of them. Not only does that give me a better feeling for the general consensus but I also just enjoy reading both sides of an artistic debate to see which side I'm on. I don't read reviews to help myself form an opinion but rather as a guide to decide what I should go and pay to see at the cinema. If I had the money or time to see everything then I would but sadly I don't and so if I'm going to piss away some of my hard earned cash then I'd like to see something that I'm more than likely to enjoy. To conclude... My friends are all arses!

Anyway, these constant accusations have kind of led me to conclude that there are two levels on which you can enjoy a film. On the one hand there is how well made it is and on the other there is how much you actually like it. The first is slightly more objective whereas the later is completely subjective. Generally for me, the two tend to match up however there's a few Arnie films that got badly reviewed that I still love for all the wrong reasons and although I can see the technical brilliance of something like Solaris, it still bored the absolute bollocks off me. I mention all of this because when it comes to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, I'm kind of in that odd position where I can see that as a film it really isn't perfect but at the same time I really couldn't give a solitary fuck. Not only that but one of its biggest problems is something that I love the most about it. Like the well used flaps of an elderly whore ,this film is ridiculously baggy and noticeably longer than it should be. However as a huge fan of this franchise I am more than happy to anchor my arse to a chair, tell reality to go fuck itself and immerse myself in the ongoing bullshit of Middle-Earth.

"You're awfully quiet behind me, Gandalf..."
To quickly recap the shiz that's going down this time... A gang of hobo-dwarves are trying to reclaim their mountain home after it was repossessed by a giant dragon with a taste for bling and the temper of a knobhead. Although they're being mostly helped by Gandalf the Wizard, his mind isn't completely paying attention to them as he distracts himself with worries of a greater, sequel-baiting, evil. As a result he does his usual trick of buggering off to sort his own crap out just in time for his friends to do the dangerous missions alone. With incidents like the walk through Mirkwood here or even the Battle for Helm's Deep later on, Gandalf's dickish catchphrase is pretty much, “This next endeavour will be most dangerous... So see you in a few days my tiny peeps”. Bilbo is still tagging along for the adventure however in what must be symbolic of a homosexual awakening, he is slowly succumbing to the seductive power of The One Ring. Fans of small people fingering a tiny golden hoop will not go disappointed here. Dwarvin leader Thorin too is also starting to show signs of a stroppy brain fart as his obsession with reclaiming a magical stone is causing him to have the titty-fits of an irate and unserved pisshead. So yeah... Overall it's just continuing where we left off from the first film really.

I feel it would be hypocritical of me not to criticise this film for displaying a terminal case of Middle-Film syndrome. As the two regular readers of this blog/drawn-out suicide note may remember, I slagged off Hunger Games: Catching Fire a little while back for not having a proper beginning or conclusion and this is very much the same. As I said back then, I feel that a movie should have a proper three-act structure with a satisfying resolution with the Marvel films being a great example of how to do that whilst still continuing an over-arching, multi-film narrative. Having said that... in the case of The Hobbit films and where this issue is concerned I personally couldn't give a shiny shite. So to be objective about it, of course this sequel could be criticised for its lack of self-containment and having no fucks to give to anybody who missed part one. However when being subjective I don't mind it at all because for me the real accomplishment of all of these films is Peter Jackson's fucking genius ability to build a believable world that's inhabited by real and likeable characters.

Most people slagged off the first film because it spent the first of its many hours in Bilbo's kitchen as he and some dwarves had a fucking tea party. However this didn't bother me in the slightest as I just enjoyed losing myself to the beauty of Middle-Earth. Although even if that wasn't the case, the shitty pacing of the first film is seriously not a problem for The Desolation Of Smaug which opens and continues with the break neck speed of a pretty woman during National Rape Day. For at least the first hour of this film it feels like it's just set piece after set piece with the floating barrel sequence being something that everybody seems to be raving about. Although I of course loved the dwarves trip down the river rapids for me my favourite sequence was the the Spider attack during their hallucinogenic stroll through Mirkwoods. You can really tell that Jackson is a young boy at heart and you can tell that as a young boy he was probably a mischievous little bastard. He started out making low budget splatter films and every so often finds an excuse to go back to that by throwing into his blockbusters a little well humoured bucket shit and gunk. In the way that this excellent sequence depicts these eight legged fucks attacking in a more desaturated environment and with more muted, echoey sounds, I was very much reminded of the bug attack in Jackson's King Kong... Although sadly this lacked the sharp, fanged, cock-ended, Penis Monsters of that other child-friendly film.

Freeman here posing with the films budget.
I suppose the other thing that needs to be mentioned is obviously the confrontation between Bilbo and the dragon Smaug considering that's the set piece that this has all so far been building towards. To summarise... It's good. Very good in fact. Played by Benedict Cumberbatch, this is like the most fucked up episode of Sherlock yet and as such there's almost nothing to complain about it. The first half of the scene is like an act off as the dragon monologues like a motherfucker and Martin Freeman reverts back to his days in The Office when he turned looking uncomfortable into an art form. Then the second half is like one of those annoying computer game cutscene where the action only progresses if you press the right button... Except less annoying than that because it's not a computer game, you don't have to press a button and the action is fuck-off great! The design of the dragon is of course very good although after all the hype, if you were expecting it to look like anything more than a dragon you might be a bit disappointed. It's got scales, big wings, breathes fire and sharp teeth.... The special effects and performance by Cumberbatch are spot on with Smaug being a really good example of a massive lizardy bastard.

There are still a few sub-plots that seem to go nowhere but I guess we'll need to see the third movie before we completely write them off. Previously I slagged of the first film for having too many characters with fat dwarf Bombur not even getting a single line. However considering that, that is still the case with Part 2 I guess I was wrong to criticise. It seems that Bombur wasn't neglected but instead is simply just Middle-Earth's answer to Silent Bob. Although that retraction is only in the case of him as there are still definitely too many characters with Bilbo often becoming a background character in his own film. I understand that there's a lot of shit going down here but you know... the film is called The Hobbit so it'd be nice to see a bit more of him. Especially because with the exception of Mckellen's Gandalf, Freeman as Bilbo may be the best performance of all six films... That's a bold claim but I'm sure you'll agree with it even if Freeman is pitted against the mighty acting chops of Orlando Bloom. So yeah, these films are technically all going to have the same problem with their dragged out feel, lack of three acts and inaccessibility for anybody new to them but you know... fuck it- I'm happy so who cares? In fact, part of the appeal may even be as a 'wish fulfilment' factor of just living in Middle-Earth as I realise now that due to their love of home comforts, drinking tea and getting mashed off a twenty bag of Gandalf's, 'Old Toby', a Hobbit's life would pretty much be the dream for me.


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