The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

And so it ends.

I went to see The Battle of The Five Armies this past Saturday in 3D, a format I still feel unnecessary and gimmicky although I will admit to some pretty cool effects because of it (that snow!!). There’s no denying that The Hobbit trilogy has been inferior to The Lord of the Rings but it’s still been an entertaining film series and The Battle of the Five Armies was a solid finish, if a bit unsatisfying at times.

Spoiler Alert! I will be talking about what happens in this movie so if you haven’t seen it and/or haven’t read the book, you might want to hold off reading this until you have done one or both. Unless you just don’t care, in which case keep reading!

Here’s some of the good:

  • Smaug. Smaug Smaug Smaug. Is it too late to make a movie solely about him? A prequel or a movie from his perspective, something like that? Because that character is excellent. His design, his voice, just his absolutely magnificent self. And when he dies, well, I might have teared up a bit.
  • Defeating the Necromancer. Not actually in the book, this is part of the White Council storyline added from the appendices. It’s fantastic to see how powerful Galadriel is. And while I’ve seen some criticism (since the first Desolation of Smaug trailer actually) about how flirty Gandalf and Galadriel are, I disagree with that strongly. They are two of the most powerful beings in Middle-earth and are also good friends. I see no reason to think that their deep affection for each other has anything slightly romantic about it.
  • Bard and Thranduil. Luke Evans and Lee Pace were perfect choices. It’s no wonder that Bard became the leader of Laketown and it was nice to see the beginnings of those leadership qualities in Bain as well. And Thranduil was still his weirdly fabulous self but we got to see the Elvenking in action here rather than just the cautious recluse.
  • Bilbo. This probably should go without saying but Martin Freeman as Bilbo was an inspired choice.

There were several things about this movie that bothered me, like how little we saw of Bilbo, the confused battle scenes, and the open ending of most of the story lines.  By the end of the film there’s a lot left unexplained and I don’t know if this is because of bad storytelling, or perhaps that Peter Jackson didn’t want to make the same mistake he was accused of with Return of the King where there were about 10 endings (all good and necessary in my opinion though). I’m hoping we get the closure I’m wanting in the extended edition. For example, what happens to Tauriel? Does she go to the North with Legolas to look for the Dunedain? Is she still banished? Why did we only see Beorn and Radagast for just long enough to register that they were at the battle? Granted, Beorn’s change was pretty cool but then…we never see him again. Could Fili and Kili not have had a better ending? I don’t mean the manner in which they were killed, but the last we see of them is just laying where they fell. At least Thorin was given the respect of a show of grief when found by the other dwarves. And what of Bard and the other survivors of Laketown? At the end of the battle, they are just looking at the front gate of the Lonely Mountain. I’m really (really, really) hoping that these questions are answered with the material added to the extended edition but even then- the theatrical version shouldn’t be just a first draft for the “real” movie we see with the extended version.

For a better and more in-depth review, you can’t do better than Sorina Higgins’ for Christianity Today. And be sure to read her follow up post on what exactly is missing from the movie, some of which I’ve mentioned above.

What did y’all think?

Clariel

Oh, how quickly resolutions fail. I recently claimed that I was taking a break from YA fiction because I was tired of reading the same bad story over and over again. And yet, here I am reading more young adult novels. However, Clariel by Garth Nix justified my broken resolve.

Clariel

Every now and then we read books that touch a chord in our imaginations that continues to hum the rest of our lives. The books don’t always have to be good on the whole, but something about them, a phrase, an image, a character, remains in our minds long after putting the book down. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, Chalice by Robin McKinley are some of those books for me. Sabriel by Garth Nix also falls into that category.

Sabriel

I don’t remember what made me first read Sabriel but it was, and is, like nothing I’ve read before and I quickly devoured it and the sequel/companion novels Lirael and Abhorsen. I was delighted to see Clariel, a prequel of sorts, on the Young Adult new book shelf at my library recently.

I won’t try to tell much of the plot because it will be difficult to describe without going into too much back story. And while Clariel didn’t quite touch the same chord as Sabriel, it was still far and away better than the majority of what is cluttering the Young Adult genre right now.

I will say this, that Clariel has that rarest of things: a realistic heroine. She isn’t a blank slate for the reader to transpose themselves on to. She acts like the 18 year old that she is. She’s moody, immature and indecisive. She thinks she knows what she wants in life but hasn’t really thought through the ramifications on following through with that plan. And when she is forced into taking a different path than she wanted to, she does so with maturity learned from previous mistakes. It’s also nice to see a main female character whose story doesn’t revolve around finding a man or even developing a romance with the male protagonist. Clariel is, in fact, still as happily single at the end of the book as she was at the beginning. How refreshing!

I know Garth Nix has written other popular series and seems to be a prolific short story writer so I look forward to delving into those, but has any one else read one or all of the Sabriel series? I would love to hear your thoughts on them.

Maleficent

This movie had a lot against it in my opinion. I’ve never been a huge fan of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (#BeautyandtheBeast4lyfe!) and I get tired of villains being made sympathetic. Sometimes evil really is just evil. But this retelling worked, for the most part.

First the bad:

  • The Moors, where Maleficent lives, looks a bit like it was taken from the latest straight-to-DVD Tinkerbell release. It’s sugary bright and seems unsuited for the tone of the movie which, yes, is family-friendly, but that doesn’t need to mean it looks like a cartoon.
  •  I understand the idea behind this movie is that we’ve been told the wrong story. But the main character’s name is Maleficent, her assistant’s name is Diaval, she has big devil horns, and her wings look like they came straight from a gigantic bird of prey. Either she’s a villain, or the deck’s been stacked against her in a big way.
  • Aurora is under the curse for all of what, an hour? While I understand the need to continue the plot of the story, it’s hard to take the curse seriously when we know she’s not going to be fighting it long.

Now the good:

  • I don’t like Angelina Jolie. All I can think when I see her is the absolutely crazy (bad crazy, not fun crazy!) antics she used to perform pre-Brad Pitt and motherhood. But she somehow fits perfectly in this role, both as good Maleficent and bad (that mouth!).
  • Goodness. That wing stealing scene is brutal (in the best way?!). It’s a powerful and absolutely believable back story to the bad Maleficent. Not only has the best part of her physically been stolen, but her heart has truly been broken, by the loss of her wings and a betrayal from the man she loved and thought loved her in return.
  • But love! The great redeemer. And not romantic love. We meet Prince Phillip, but he only meets Aurora once before the curse takes effect and while there’s an obvious attraction, his kiss does not break the spell. SPOILER It’s Maleficent! She watches over Aurora from birth and even before learning to love the little princess, Maleficent begins her redemption by caring for Aurora. It’s lovely and not entirely unexpected, but still nice to see this recent theme in movies and TV that non-romantic love is just as valuable and powerful as romantic love.

What did you think?

Advent Time!

ChristmasDecoration

Today is the first of December. Thanksgiving is over (hope it was lovely for all my American friends), the snow is falling on WordPress blogs, and yesterday was the first Sunday of this Advent Season. Which means that it is now socially acceptable to begin celebrating Christmas. Last year I wrote about my love of Advent Calenders after discovering a fantastic online Tolkien Advent calender with the chance to win a personalized Tolkien book collection. I just revisited that site today (tolkienchristmas.com) and it seems to be going again this year. Maybe. There are still clues to answer but no links to little Tolkien treasures like there were last year and I can find no mention of it on the hosting website (tolkien.co.uk). But…it won’t hurt to try right? The good news is that all the links from the calender last year still seem to be working so here’s the link to last year’s treat from today: an illustration by Jemima Catlin.

Father Christmas

Father Christmas

I also mentioned a series of posts on favorite Christmas carols written by Jubliare. Those are also still available to be read and you can begin here with O Magnum Mysterium. (Or read them all thoughtfully compiled here!)

christmascarol

And here’s something new for this year: an Advent Calender from Weta Workshop! (EDIT: I’m afraid that Weta link might be user specific. So if it doesn’t work for you, you can always try and pull it up through their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WetaWorkshop) It too unlocks a door every night at midnight (New Zealand time) and offers a little treasure for us to enjoy each day until Christmas.

1stAdvent

Does anyone else have any links to other Advent Calenders? I would love to know about them! (Even if they are only pictures of physical ones!)