Man of Steel Review: SPOILERS

 

Warning: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MANY SPOILERS OF THE MOVIE MAN OF STEEL. IF YOU AIN’T ABOUT SPOILERS, COME BACK LATER.

 Don’t agree with this review? Check out Nick’s review of Man of Steel in Four Color Fiend!

Unknown-1I’ve been a Superman fan all my life. In fact, in my particular brand of comic book nerdom its probably one of my most defining characteristics. I was raised and reared on a healthy diet of Superman movies, cartoons, comics, and toys. I can recite the words to Superman: The Movie the way people can sing their favorite songs. So suffice it to say that I was pretty disappointed following Superman Returns when the move was unimaginatively bound to the previous interpretation of the mythos without adding anything terribly worthwhile. Superman Returns was like the High School play version of Superman: The Movie and when I left that film, I was saddened to think that it was the Superman movie of my lifetime. A few years passed and on the heels of enormous success on the part of Marvel’s cinematic movieverse and the success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, Warner Brothers and DC decided to once again try to make us believe that a man can fly. Enter this weekend’s Man of Steel.

Many people have had negative, or at least mixed, things to say about Man of Steel and I will tell you that I think they are wrong. As not only a life long comics fan, but also a fan specifically of the Superman franchise I can tell you that this movie delivered to me what was a renewed faith in the ability of the film medium to make a modern take on the Superman mythos. The emphasis that I must lay here is the modern take on Superman. Currently DC is engaged in a company wide reboot (the New 52) that is seeing its characters take on a grittier, edgier, and more timely vein than they have in almost the totality of their existence, and in that respect Superman is no different. The company has taken a particular point to spin the focus of Kal-El’s personality that I grew up with (that Superman is the act and Clark Kent is the whole person) to a position that bends that prism more towards a subdued or filtered man in both aspects—and the true man only shining through in the most comfortable of situations. This New 52 Superman does in fact feel alien, alone, different, and still tied to Earth and the human race in a way that firmly lays his allegiance there. This Superman is also markedly younger and greener than previous in-continuity portrayals have been, It is this take on the character that director Zach Snyder and screen writers David Goyer and Christopher Nolan approached the character with.

In that respect, Man of Steel does a wonderful job of showing us a Superman that feels suspended between worlds—and not truly a part of either—for most of his life. Without knowing his actual roots, Clark wanders the world under a series of nom de voyages and earning his way as a drifter by working odd jobs in bars and on boats—occasionally saving men on burning oil rigs and presumably cats from hurricane stricken suburbs building something of an urban legend around his acts of angel-like guardianship of complete strangers. Clark is waiting for the day that he can reveal himself against a threat so great that he will deliver mankind from perilous doom…but in the meanwhile he scours the planet looking for some clue as to his point of origin. Eventually he finds it. And we go through the undisclosed motions of Clark deciding to be Superman—even if without a name—after he has a heart to heart with a hologram of Jor-El, his birth father. And while this may seem beat-to-beat with Superman: The Movie it isn’t.

To begin with, the movie employs an entirely different visual language than previous incarnations. The beginning of the movie is set on the Planet of Krypton which is, rather than an icy crystalline world, a hot, craggy, mountainous place with reptilian winged steeds, exotic armors and jewelry, and a fancifully militaristic looking science fiction world. While their technology is more than a little phallic the designs and depictions of familiar characters, events, and places are entirely fresh and different. Shaky camera shots attempt to give the world authenticity and give the viewer a sense of being a fly on the wall as they witness the last days of Krypton and the political strife they endure even in the planet’s violent death throes. From there on out we are treated to a partially non-linear story that disperses Superman’s origin re-telling with the “in time” action and story in a move that successfully manages to only tell relevant information about Superman’s childhood which builds into his isolation, alienation, and reluctance to enter the public eye.

These origin sequences really hit a high point in a scene which depicts young Clark first having to learn to cope with his extraordinary senses. As a special education teacher with years of experience working with students with hyper-sensory issues it was refreshing to see a young Kal-El have difficulty in focusing X-Ray vision and becoming overwhelmed by talking and sounds well beyond the ear shot of others. The flood of sensory overload and his understandable attempts to retreat show the ways in which heightened senses could be a maddening burden if not properly trained.

This is not the only instance in the movie where yellow sun radiation powered super abilities are shown to have some limitations or even drawbacks. In the previously mentioned oil rig scene, I was very impressed to see that even though Superman was able to catch a falling tower and hold it, physics still had some sway, as the platform could not handle the pressure of that weight distributed to a single point under his feet. More reasonable limitations were put in place as Kryptonian flight was revealed to be a kind of controlled jumping which required energy output and focus to maintain (originally Superman couldn’t fly, he could only jump 1/8th of a mile at a time). Additionally, Kryptonians were not seen as being indestructible gods. Missiles, bullets, and shells all take their toll in one way or another, and as such Kryptonian battle armor (as depicted in the New 52 continuity) serves a purpose of protection as well as looking like Underwear and old school dive suits from a steampunk future.

The movie was fast paced and action packed taking moments here and there to dip into some expository information that was either relevant to the next step or had required some context by delving into the past. The super battle sequences were bar none the best usage of Kryptonian super powers I’ve even seen and in many ways rival those as portrayed in last year’s Avengers movie. The special effects were phenomenal and the 3D was very well executed. The colors however, were muted and dull and did add a general malaise to the tone of the movie.

In so far as character development is concerned, the character that received the best treatment in the whole flick is really General Zod who has made the transition from being a cartoonishly villainous bad guy to being an anti-hero with a reasonable motivation to want to murder every living thing on Earth. There are times when Zod’s complexity has you wondering if he is, in fact, right in opposing humans’ right to exist over that of his own people. Superman and Lois’ relationship isn’t given too much service in its development, though the fact that Lois figures out who Superman is, before he is Superman immediately alleviates the silliness of her knowing Superman and Clark so well that her investigative skills are defeated by a pair of horn rimmed glasses. The fact that she is in on the secret and keeps it a secret out of respect and honor at least makes the Clark Kent, reporter guise (to be developed in the next movie hopefully) that much more possible. Other than that the character development is somewhat lacking in this movie. There are some touching scenes of parenthood on the parts of the Kents and the Els respectively, but it is probably fair to assert that if you somehow knew absolutely nothing about any single piece of the Superman mythos going into the movie, then you may not know why the hell certain characters were acting as they did. Luckily, there is probably not a single human American who can make that claim. With a 75 year history, commemorated this month with the release of this very movie, it is safe to say that anyone in America could probably identify Superman and some aspects of the staple stories and tropes of Superman stories.

While I did in fact say that I could not have made a better movie for Superman than this one when I left the theaters, that doesn’t mean this movie isn’t without its faults. Superman does very little to save innocent bystanders, and due to that millions of people probably die throughout the movie. I chalk this up to two key factors: this Superman is totally green with his powers, and is probably not aware of the full extent to which he can be helping those around him. (or he is limited as illustrated in other places in the movie), and also that there needs to be a sense of consequence for modern audiences to feel the danger of a situation. The Battle of Metropolis scene is intentionally and overtly evocative of 9/11 imagery with collapsing buildings, rushing crowds, and avalanches of debris and dust—and while the appropriateness of such is debatable, these images are images of disaster and consequence that are tattooed into our collective minds of what a city under siege looks like. To somehow make a greenhorn Superman able to save every life in the city…or even a majority of them…if too much to ask in an interpretation that, if anything, has attempted to put these fantastical elements of science fiction into a reasonably real world context. However, the small amount of times Superman does manage to save the day is too low, and he is not nearly outraged enough at the level of destruction he is participating in.

The movie also heavy handedly paints Superman as a messianic figure in more ways than one. From shots of Superman talking to a priest with a stained glass image of Jesus behind him, to evoking the post of the cross, to his blood being the salvation of his people its all a little much. That isn’t to say that Supes hasn’t always been a messianic figure but rather that the treatment here is hammered hard and Superman doesn’t really deliver all that much except on panty soaking good looks and abs that made my eyes cross with envy. There’s no moment of him giving people hope, and no moment of childlike wonder at the all-good man here to save us all from ourselves at his expense…just many moments of him drawing lines in the sand and proving to people that he is standing for Earth.

1770130-zod1One of the big bones that I know people are picking with the movie is that Superman kills General Zod. I knew that he would kill Zod from the start…as soon as Zod killed Jor-El. This doesn’t bother me. For one, I feel like there is a time to kill your enemy whether your Superman, Batman, or Ant Man. Sometimes villains gotta die—not in cold blood murder, but in the moment and without alternative. Sometimes it is the most moral thing to do. Another reason why this doesn’t both me is because in the continuity of Superman that I grew up with in the 90s, Superman did kill General Zod. Yes. Superman killed General Zod in the comics. Even though it was a General Zod in an alternate reality and he did it using that reality’s Kryptonite (which did not effect him), Superman did kill Zod and his two henchmen, in continuity that one time. So, not only is there a precedent for Superman killing a villain, but there’s precedent for him killing specifically General Zod. To be fair though, it wasn’t by the quick snapping of a neck, it was by painfully slow radiation poisoning.

All in, I think this movie was a success, and was totally engrossing and engaging to boot. It had some points that clearly could have used more work, I think you could say that about most movies. For those who say the movie was lacking wit and humor I have to say that this seems to be what audiences want in order for Superman to be credible. Superman III and IV received a lot of criticism for being preachy and campy, wehre as Nolan’s Batman Trilogy was praised for a realistic and gritty world. While some argue that they don’t want anything to do with a Superman that is angsty, angry, and troubled, others seem to gravitate towards it because they are themselves those things. Superman has always been nothing if not a reflection of the heart of America at the time. If America believes it still has a strong sense of right and wrong, but is lost, angry, and troubled then Superman reflects that. I know there are many days that I feel just that way. Additionally the movie is fairly consistent with the current Superman comics product being put out there—it is consistent with the current take of the character, company wide in comics. Many people hate the New 52 take on characters, so they hate the take in this movie. Some are on the fence so their feelings are mixed. I’m willing to try new things and see if the heart of the character can stay the same, as the trappings are made more accessible and relevant to the masses. I think they can. I think they got it right, for this time and place, and the audiences that are paying to see movies. For longtime fans there are easter eggs and name drops throughout the whole thing (watch out for LexCorp!). In closing I’d like to restate that I wouldn’t have been able to make a better Superman movie…without having seen this one first.

 Don’t agree with this review? Check out Nick’s review of Man of Steel in Four Color Fiend!

 

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Written by Brandon Melendez

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Remember the 90’s Nickelodeon Shows?

Back in the days when channels had personality and quirks (not just marketing plans and graphics), Nickelodeon had probably one of the kitchiest channels around was Nickelodeon. Around the time I got cable, the station was really in its early 90s heyday with the launch of its original Nicktoons block (Doug, Rugrats, Ren and Stimpy). While later shows would have some kook in their step, some of these early Nickelodeon shows really were pretty zany, or had odd premises. It’s no wonder we grew up to watch shows like Aquateen Hunger Force…when you think about what we were reared on, that is.

Any how, in a moment of feeling nostalgic here’s a quick shot of some 90’s Nickelodeon TV show intros, in no particular order, and as I found them on the interwebs. Enjoy this walk through memory lane.  For fun I’ll be rating exactly how 90s these intros are on a scale that strikes my fancy.

 

 
Welcome Freshman– 90s scale: 12 slap bracelets

Salute Your Shorts– 90s scale: 4 viewings of Terminator 2 (you know why, of course!)

The Adventures of Pete and Pete– 90s scale: 15 Petunia tattoos (no seriously, Hey Sandy by Polaris is literally one of the most 90s things that is allowed to exist in the universe)

You Can’t Do That On Television– 90s scale: 11 Jagged Little Pills (this little ditty is the Canadian import that gave Alanis Morrisette her start)

Clarissa Explains it All– 90s scale: 1 million bottles of Clear Pepsi. Just because it was. (oddly enough video of this is really hard to find)

Anime Review: Hellsing

This bullpen anime review has a certain level of irony to it, in some ways.  One has to do with the future, but I’ll never tell (I love leaving vague messages, don’t you?)  The other level has to do with my love for anime at the time I watched this.  I initially thought I could find nothing better than what I saw on Toonami with the end of DBZ, Gundam Wing and Outlaw Star.   Also, I didn’t get to finish seeing anything from Tenchi, and I fell out of synch watching G Gundam that I gave up trying to keep up.   All that was left was Adult Swim and the anime they had on it.  As I saw some in snippets, I got to see all of Trigun, FLCL, and I got the initial taste of Shinichiro Watanabe which was enough for me to get both Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo on DVD with no regrets.  However, after that, I couldn’t find anything more that stood out as good after those were released.  Sure, there were plenty of series, but with limited resources and bandwidth, what could I rely on?  Then, while flipping through channels, I kept seeing the name, “Hellsing” on the info bar when I passed certain cable channels.  I thought this was the animated series of Van Helsing or something.  I wanted nothing to do with that movie, no matter how much Hugh Jackman was in it.  So, I finally stopped flipping, and saw what I was dealing with.  I was elated.  I finally found some new anime worth watching that didn’t seem either too unappealing or too unoriginal for me to get into.  Naturally, I had to seek it out on DVD and see if it was affordable.  It was 13 episodes, and I had some spare cash.  Yea, this was going to be awesome.

Hellsing is based on the multi-volume manga series of the same name.  However, this DVD set was a more abridged version of what happened in the manga, leaving a good portion of things out and re-telling certain stories for the betterment of filling a 13 episode arc.  Years after the company distributing this on DVD closed, another DVD series called Hellsing: Ultimate was made, comprising of longer episodes that played closer to the manga.  Sadly, since I don’t have that, I won’t be covering that.  But, I do have this, and I will cover this.  So, let’s dive in.

Hellsing is a story about a secret agency working within the country of England with one goal: search and destroy all vampires and other unholy creatures.  This organization has existed for an extended amount of time, headed by the Hellsing family.  Its current leader, Sir Integra Wingates Hellsing, runs the organization with an iron fist and a well-lit cigar.  Her servant, Walter Donlies does everything in his power to assist her with her day-to-day affairs, along with protect her with his impressive skills with Garotte wire.  As for the agency itself, it’s comprised of former SAS officers asked to join for their impressive skills on the battlefield.  Hellsing also has a secret weapon, which marks the true strength of their order.  His name is Alucard.  His game is to act as personal protector of Sir Integra and the Hellsing family.  As for how he contributes, well, I think it’s pretty obvious how he does and who he is.  So, with all these cards in place, what could the series entail?  How about a female SAS member named Seras Victoria coming to the realization that vampires exist?  How about a rival organization with their own hunter who makes Hellsing’s work much harder?  How about a vast conspiracy behind the increase of the undead that may run deeper than just the standard fare of vampires?  All those in 13 episodes and you’ve got one solid series.

What I dig about Hellsing is that it’s a very cunning look at vampire hunting that is very rich and detailed.  You’ll want another season or extension to the story after its ending.  Another key element is the soundtrack.  The music is very atmospheric.  The choices range from various forms of alternative pieces from Japanese musicians.  Oh, and if the opening and ending themes do not appeal to you in any way, your blood might be as cold as the vampires being hunted.  I mean, come on!  One of the themes is played by 1990s rock group, Mr. Big.  That should be enough for you if you dug that scene.  The animation is very crisp with the colors fitting the motif perfectly.  I also appreciate the vocal exploits of the actors as they sound perfect for the roles given to them.  It was here that I discovered the awesome talents of Crispin Freeman.

If you’re looking for a nice and compact anime series to fill out your collection, Hellsing definitely does the trick.  If you become a bigger fan of such, look into the manga or even Hellsing: Ultimate for a more detailed look at the story proper.  Oh, and make sure when you watch it that it’s on a wonderful night….for a bite to drink.  Or you could just watch it whenever…..

 

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Written By: Ezenwa Anyanwu

A Tale of Two Khans and Spock Envy: Comparing Two Star Trek II’s

Warning: This Review Contains Spoilers of Star Trek: Into Darkness

I think its safe to say the JJ Abrahms loves Spock. I mean, we all do, but after leaving Star Trek: Into Darkness I came away with an overwhelming sense of Spock envy. While the notion of Star Trek is always to follow the dynamic captain as he develops due to the guidance of his crew in a reciprocal family/mock psychological element, I am more and more convinced that Abrahms prefers Spock to Kirk. The story seems to be centered, at least in its emotion, around the Vulcan (yes, I know what I said) while Kirk is kind of a floorshow. In the Abrahms Star Trek timeline, it is Spock and not Jim Kirk who causes events to transpire while the cocksure and wild Kirk simply is forced to react to stimuli. In the case of Star Trek II and this new Star Trek movie there is no greater stimuli for Kirk to respond to than Khan Noonien Singh (nee Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!) and luckily both films have their fair share of Khan to react to.

The classic portrayal of Khan is larger than life as delivered by the one and only Ricardo Montalban. Khan is a devious genetically advanced post-human who places himself above the morality and judgement of others (which dependent on the ferocity with which you believe in the survival of the fittest may have some logic to it) due to his superior mind and physique. No lie, Montalban’s costumes in Wrath of Khan were designed specifically to show off his superior physique and larger than life pectoral dominance. Khan however was driven incredibly mad in the original timeline of Star Trek when he was stranded with his crew and his turncoat wife on a planet which became a desert after their Kirk-imposed exile. Fantasy Island it was not. Between Kirk being his jailer and his jail becoming a death trap Khan and Kirk develop a rivalry worthy of any within all of science fiction. Shatner’s vengeful cry of “KHAAAAAAN!” is an Earth shattering staple of vows for vengeance, and more than slightly due to the fact that a rivalry between Shatner and Montalban could be nothing less than an over-the-top extravaganza of intense moments and smooth witted dialogue. Khan and Kirk in the original timeline is the epitome of the coin having two faces, and the two men are evenly matched.

This new portrayal of Khan is equally dangerous mentally but is also an incredibly more present danger as he has been turned loose on Earth and posed against Starfleet in general, rather than the singular representative of it in Captain Kirk. Benedict Cumberbatch (I suppose needing as dramatic a name as Ricardo Montalban) plays Khan differently. Montalban’s Khan is a man who lives life with passion and oozes culture through his pores while Cumberbatch’s is much more reserved and calculating in his every movement. Now that doesn’t mean that New Khan isn’t passionate but rather where Montalban burns, Cumberbatch smolders. Both portrayals are full of intensity, superiority, and Machevellian scheming.

To Abrahms’ credit, he worked hard to parallel his sequel to the original sequel in a way that was mostly consistent with his aim of “reverent disrespect” in revamping the Star Trek Universe. The movie contains many parallels in the theme of the “needs of the many” and “the needs of the few” as well as the climactic scene in the warp core in both films, Khan himself, and the addition of Dr. Marcus who in the original serves as Kirk’s rekindled romantic interest and unbeknownst mother of his secret son while in this movie she plays a distractingly attractive science officer (distracting in the sense that Kirk follows the divining rod in his pants to all destinations–a consistent character trait across any universe).

However, where things diverge quite a bit in this universe is that, while Captain Kirk is certainly possessed of immense potential and genius, he is untested and young along with his brash disregard for the rules which leads him to trouble, and has him making mistakes more quickly than he can easily recover often relying on Spock for more than support, but for his actual salvation which is unlike Kirk(with due deference to that time Spock used rocket boots to save Kirk from falling off a mountain). In this movie, Kirk is first sent chasing after Khan after an attack on Starfleet headquarters kills Admiral Pike, vowing justice or revenge…the distinction was never made too clear. From there Kirk chases Khan to the Klingon homeworkd of Kronos (where we see some great reinterpretation of what Klingons look like–we can call that one reverently respectful because it was spot on). From there on, Khan manipulates Kirk up and down the line, and while the Captain is aware of it in short order he is mostly powerless to stop him–only to react to him.

Without spoiling too much, suffice it to say the Kirk is well incapacitated in the act of undoing some great damage done to the ship on Khan’s part (this movie is not lacking in one ounce of amazing action or ‘splosions) and it is, yup you guessed it, Spock who is forced to go on a flying-car-hopping, destroyed future ‘Frisco, fist fight to the crescendo that, honestly, has made me very excited for Abrhams Star Wars movies. With all the fantastic faculties of the Enterprise’s crew behind him Spock is able to subdue the villain in a move that surely stole not only the show from Kirk but also “Spock blocks” his epic rivalry (see what I did there?). That said, Spock using the mind meld and the neck grip as part of a martial art were a nice touch–well done sir.

In the end, the movie is full of great parallel and poorly hidden yet all the while entertaining Easter Eggs and nods to the audience–including tribbles. While the new Star Trek franchise isn’t half as cerebral as the original–and has effectively become space action thriller whereas the original series was a space western–it is by no means dumb or witless. Some fans are resistant to change of any sort, but I think that Abrahms has proven the continued viability of the franchise moving forward. I won’t begrudge trying to take a stoic character like Spock and exploring him some to show the emotion under the veneer, and I also feel compelled to say that the rest of the crew are dealt with evenly and respect for their core while trying, and succeeding, to make them equally relevant. I can only hope that as the king of all outer space that he continues to make Trek movies in parallel with his newest foray into the land of Star Wars–at least one more because I really want to see how he handles a war with the Klingons.

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Written by: Brandon Melendez

Jack Reacher “Reaches” for a Hit

It started as a normal grocery shopping trip with a stop at the local Redbox, but it all went downhill from there. I was preoccupied on the phone and let my husband pick the film. After a weekend of horror films and TV shows, I can’t blame him for wanting something else, and I also can’t blame him for wanting an action film.

Let’s be honest here, who doesn’t love a good action film once in awhile? It’s relatively mindless, gratuitous violence from fights scenes and generally, lots of explosions. It’s the perfect combination, but usually, the star of the film is a beefcake, not some five-foot tall aging actor trying to revive his career. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher.

Now, after this movie had made it into our home, I should have known this wasn’t a good idea because 1.) I really hate Tom Cruise. I’ve liked one film from him in my whole life and 2.) I didn’t hear very good things about this film. I recently made a vow not to prejudge a movie (too hard) before I watch it so I decided to try to give this film a chance.

The film starts with a random guy with an assault rifle, one can only assume he’s a sniper, as he loads his guns. The movie makes sure to pay close attention to certain details (like the fact that the bullets were hand made and yes, this will come into play later) and also how he selects his victims. Once the deed is done, the shooter leaves without a trace.

The police comb the scene for evidence and then apprehend a man they believe is the shooter (even though the watcher can immediately see they look nothing like each other). James Barr (Joseph Sikora) is arrested and faces two fates from the “crime” he has committed; life in prison or the death sentence. The deciding factor is his confession but this jail bird doesn’t sing. Instead, he just writes “GET JACK REACHER” on a piece of paper, and cue Tom Cruise!

Who is Jack Reacher you ask, Detective Emerson (David Oyelowo)? HE IS A MAN OF MYSTERY! A decorated military man of mystery who “only appears if he wants you to find him.” There are so many ridiculous things wrong with this, but I’ll move forward. Of course, as the detective is discussing the illusive Reacher with DA Rodin (Richard Jenkins), a secretary comes in and says “Jack Reacher here to see you.” Where did he come from and why is he here?!

He’s apparently here to help investigate the murders. Which is strange because besides being a cop in the military and the fact that he has no actual ties to Barr, he’s not really qualified to be part of the investigation. From here, the fight scenes are weak (so is the plot twist) and Tom Cruise tries waaaaaaay too hard to be that sarcastic, snarky tough guy. Some of his one liners reminded me of Guy Pearce, but without being suave, attractive or bad ass. Am I being too harsh on you, Tom Cruise?

Listen, I love bad action films (or as I refer to them AWESOMELY bad films) the cheesier, the campier and the more outrageous it is, the better (I don’t care what you say, I loved The Expendables) but some films are just bad. Jack Reacher is one of them. This movie is available for renting now, I wouldn’t suggest it, but you’ll have to decide for yourself.

 

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Written by: Katie Sperduti

The Hobbit

I finally had the opportunity to sit down for three hours and watch The Hobbit over the weekend, and I must say that as overused as the word “epic” is…there really is no other descriptor for a movie of the beauty, scale and scope Peter Jackson’s latest foray into the world of Middle Earth. Now, before I get into the meat of my review I have to admit that I have never actually read The Hobbit, which leaves me at a slight disadvantage when looking at the movie from a book-to-film perspective. While I did read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit just never crossed my path at the right time, however, having read the magnum opus I feel confident in Jackson’s ability to translate the words of Tolkien’s imagination into plausible and magnificent worlds (even if they aren’t the exact images I might have had….though sometimes they are).

These movies start slow, and indeed keep a regulated pace throughout their entire run time and they are visually stunning in every regard, the slow pace and dramatic exposition that is typical and symptomatic of fantasy word may be more than a little disengaging for borderline or non-nerds who haven’t the spirit or attention span for full immersion in such fanciful imaginary worlds. That is certainly a heavy criticism of Jackson’s original Trilogy and a mild one at least for the first installment of the Hobbit movies. One thing that the Hobbit has in loads more than perhaps the entirety of the original LotR series is humor. Certainly, the novel is also a bit more lighthearted…though I haven’t read it…I can assume this due to the classification of the source material as Children’s Literature rather than out-and-out sword-and-sorcery or Fantasy. There is more whimsy in the world of Middle Earth because, I’ll assume, while there is a dragon to slay the impending doom of Sauron and Mordor are not yet nigh; the apocalypse is not a-knockng at the door and so there is more time for some slapstick and whimsy.

The action scenes in the movie are nothing short of stunning and compelling, and the climactic scene of the Company of Thorin Oakensheild battling the goblins is a marvelous roller coaster of magical action and…well…RPG cut scene excitement. And properly so I suppose as Tolkein inspired the entire Role Playing Game Genre as we know it. Though, to be fair while I was watching it I still wondered the age old questions about Gandalf: why does he leave just to save the day, why doesn’t he keep those eagles with him all the time, would he make better plans if he put down the weed for a minute? Unfortunately, those answers SHALL NOT PASS and we will be left with just those questions…forevermore.

Fans of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy will be glad to see that all necessary actors returned to reprise their roles…either as major players or just for brisk moments where their character was required. Though, making some of the actors and actresses look ten years younger can be somewhat distracting (especially in the case of a somewhat thinner of face and airbrushed Elijiah Wood) it isn’t overbearingly so. The movie manages to keep consistently with the visuals of the previous films but also broaden them remarkably and, as always, Jackson calls on his experience as a horror director to inform his choices on what to show, and what to leave to the imagination brilliantly.

If you are looking for a wonderfully fun, though admittedly long and occasionally flat, adventure check out the first installment of the Hobbit on either iTunes, Pay Per View, DVD, or wherever you get your movies these days. It’ll be there. It was kind of a big deal…and for good reason. While the movie is epic as epic as its relatives it manages to have a great deal of smiles in it as well. Check it out.

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Written by: Brandon Melendez