The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
Posted by on Dec 26, 2014

MAJOR SPOILERS

I took my last trip to Middle-Earth this last weekend. Seeing the conclusion The Hobbit trilogy was satisfying mostly just to see it end. In many ways I want this film to be spectacular. It is the last time we’ll see Middle-Earth for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, while it had it’s failings it still had its merits. First, lets get the worst out of the way.

As I have said in the past, I look at a movies as a standalone features. Meaning with movies based on books I essentially ignore the text. I do this because the movie will never measure up to the book. It might come close but even the best director can’t compete with your imagination. Plus, I don’t have to deal with how it diverged from the book which has no bearing on the quality of the film.

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Now that we have that out of the way. My first problem started with the editing. I honestly felt like I was watching a Michael Bay film at times. It seemed when ever drama needed to be added, slow-mo was apparently the way to convey that. It got to the point where it was annoying. At times it even sucked me out of Middle-Earth, especially where it wasn’t needed. Thankfully, they left most of the battle scenes unaffected reserving it for those one on one encounters.

As I’ll get to next, Peter Jackson inserted some additional subplots to help expand the narrative. Not a bad idea but the editing reflected a very disjointed story. We would get scenes wedged in that seemed out of place. This called into question their relevance to the main plot. After all, the subplots should feed into the main plot so we get this big pay off in the final act.

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My biggest problem with this trilogy is that it is a trilogy. Now I know I try not to reference the book, here it is slightly  important. The book lays out the basic story for Peter Jackson to follow. He did for the most part but the story itself wasn’t big enough for three films. Their were subplots from the greater mythos that were pulled in to try and fill it out but this mostly failed. Ultimately what I am leading up to is that the big final battle didn’t have much build up.

When you look at the timeline, the final battle really seemed rush. The five armies seemed to just appear when the time was needed. I chalk this up to the organization of the three films. The first film could stay largely the same. My only suggestion would be to shorten the goblin kingdom scene and end the film with our dwarven heroes at Beorn’s cottage. The second film would pick up immediately where the first left off. Again, it would stay largely the same but it would end a little differently. It would end with Smaug plummeting to earth after getting shot by Bard. I would also cut out a little of both mountain chase scenes. This would allow for the third film to dedicate more time to setting up this big final battle. To build up to it and give the audience the big pay off we want.

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My final gripe with Battle of the Five Armies is with certain scenes. I’ll only point out a few for the sake of time but we’ll see how well that goes. First comes with the pay off scene with the whole dwarve/elf love triangle going on. It comes to ahead when Tauriel, Kili, and Legolas engage in battle with the “I learned how to armor myself from a Saw movie” orc. In what should have been a confirmation of love between Kili and Tauriel, we see Kili killed and Tauriel basically thrown aside. Legolas then begins to well, lay his brand of Legolas justice on him.

To be clear, my problem here is not that Kili was killed. My problem is that we have a budding relationship, that felt forced anyways, ripped from completion without a satisfying conclusion. Wouldn’t it be more satisfying to see Tauriel kill our Saw inspired Orc? That’s at the very least the revengeful ending we deserve.  Speaking of relationships.

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The other big scene that troubled me was Thorin’s grapple with gold fever. I get whats going on but it pulled me away from the film rather than pull me into his psychosis. I mean by the end, Thorin get’s swallowed by the gold floor. Wouldn’t that technically mean he succumbed to his madness? Instead the next scene is of him finally putting his insanity aside. Trying to include this trippy peak inside of Thorin’s head seemed out of place. I’m not sure why we couldn’t have just seen Thorin step over the line and realize how fare he was gone.

With the bad out of the way, lets take a look at the good. Hands down the best part of this film were the performances. My favorite three were Martin Freeman (Bilbo), Luke Evans (Bard), and Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel). While not new to the acting scene, these three have been gaining some momentum thanks to their performances. With Martin returning to Sherlock, Evangeline joining the MCU, and Luke on to The Crow, they are definitely on the verge of exploding.

The Battle of the Five Armies can best be summarized on a macro level. Meaning, the closer you look the worse it gets. Even just one level of magnitude down the inconsistencies begin to show. If you’ve watched the other adventures in Middle-Earth, then go see it. At the very least you’ll have a film that just makes you angry.

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Why Universal’s Monster Universe Might Work

Why Universal’s Monster Universe Might Work
Posted by on Dec 18, 2014

In the wake of Marvel’s seemingly unstoppable success, many studios are rushing to mimic their winning formula. Fox and Sony are trying to get their own Marvel shared universes up and running with their characters. DC is on the way to launching a Justice League universe, which has been in the works for awhile now. These universe aren’t just about superheroes though. Dan Aykroyd wants to launch an entire Ghostbuster universe complete with movies and shows. While some seem to be doing better than others, many studios simply see the potential pay out and try to bull rush towards it.

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Now, this last weekend I took the time to knock another movie off my watch list. Dracula Untold tells the story of the prince of darkness and how he gained his powers. While largely unsurprising, the film did do a pretty great job of redefining the character and giving purpose to his actions. This film successfully adds depth to a character whose kind in recent years have been reduced to one dimensional villains and heroes preying on the tropes associated with them. This film was average overall and if you like fantasy/action/adventure flicks, it is definitely worth your attention. However, that’s not what I am here to talk about.video-night

Much like it’s fellow studios, Universal is jumping on board the shared universe train and starting their own. Avoiding the superhero genre, they are focusing on their classic movie monsters starting with Dracula and moving on to include The Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster and bride, The Mummy, and more. Without giving away too much of Dracula‘s secrets, it looks as if the main tension in this universe will be between Dracula (Luke Evans) and his creator The Master Vampire (Charles Dance). It’s too early to tell exactly how this universe will work but we already know that it will be more action-adventure than horror.

Lets start with that. Abandoning the horror genre completely I believe would be a mistake. That is where these monsters got their start and that is the realm that they belong to. I understand wanting to make these characters more accessible to audiences, I just hope they keep to their original interpretations at least a little bit. This in my opinion is the first step to making this universe work. We have enough superhero movies coming our way, literally 40 planned movies in the next 6 years. I honestly don’t think we need anything else resembling a superhero movie. So, by focusing on the horror aspect Universal can still differentiate their characters from the larger pantheon of big screen heroes.

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What Universal will need to do in order to be successful is differentiate themselves from the other shared universes. Keeping one foot in the horror genre is one way to do that. The other way to do that is not make these monster heroes. They are after all, monsters with very evil tendencies. For instance, Dracula is a good guy putting his friends and family first. Gaining his dark powers is a direct result of trying to protect his people. Yet at the end of the day he still has to suck the blood of people to stay alive. His fellow monsters are equally tortured and forcefully evil. If Universal keeps this in mind we will have a group of very unique characters that have to deal with far more than the average superhero.

Staying on this tortured soul idea, these monster’s have to deal with things that their superhero counterparts just don’t have to. First, they are monsters hated and feared throughout their life. Take Dracula, even though he is a good guy all he see’s about himself is this personification of evil. That by itself is pretty heartbreaking when you think about it. The closest we get to the tortured hero concept is The Hulk and the X-men. However, even they don’t have it that bad. The Hulk who is always aware of the thin line between hero and monster, is still largely accepted as a hero. The X-men are hated sure but the majority of their powers also don’t require them to kill people. Universal will have a group of “heroes” that are not only struggling with a larger threat but with their own failings as well.

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Fair warning Dracula Untold spoilers ahead.

We know that at the end of Dracula and from other moments during the film, that his creator is planning something. The last line of dialogue is from him saying “Let the games begin”. I believe we will see a battle for the soul of the world essentially. With The Master Vampire and Dracula being the generals trying to either plunge the world into darkness or keep it in the light. This will require foot shoulders to fight this battle. I hope that we will see these two battling it out with various monster pawns, with iconic monsters on each side. Essentially, Dracula will be the Nick Fury of this universe but he will have more personal motivations for trying to stop his Master. This could lead him to use less than savory means to bring monsters to his side. It all adds another layer to these monster’s relationship dynamics with each other and how they deal with the outside world.

It will be interesting to see how this whole universe shapes up. I think that if Universal tries to distance themselves from the superhero genre as much as possible instead of mimicking it, the better off they will be. Focusing on these tortured monsters and having them operate in a world of grey will differentiate their universe from others. By doing this they will have characters that struggle with their own failings which makes them more interesting and more relatable. Out of all the shared universes on the horizon, I am most intrigued by Universal’s. They have a real opportunity to make a unique film experience, as long as they keep the mimicry to a minimum.

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Side Note: The majority of the monster films settings from here on out will be present day. So instead of getting origin stories for each monster, I think we will be seeing these monsters as already being established. Monsters potentially involved are Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster and bride, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Wolfman, and Van Helsing. Some others may be included but it is simply to early to tell.

 

How the MCU is about to Change

How the MCU is about to Change
Posted by on Dec 11, 2014

Major Spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and possibly for other Marvel Films

If you want to skip to my MCU predictions and theories. Just skip to the last two paragraphs

So I initially started out writing a completely different piece this week. One that I had actually finished and everything. That was until I watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this last Tuesday night. In AoS‘s mid-season finale they changed everything. They have officially introduced the Inhumans. The Inhumans if you remember, is the name of one of Marvel’s upcoming movies set to premiere November 2nd, 2018. Being just under 4 years away, you might say this seems like an awfully early introduction. I am about to drop a knowledge bomb on you that will show you otherwise.

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Let me give you a quick introduction to The Inhumans. In the most basic sense they are one level above the X-men. There’s us, the regular humans, then the X-men, and then the Inhumans. In a much more complicated explanation, the Inhumans are a completely different species that were created when the alien Kree experimented on early humans. You might remember the Kree as the blue alien in AoS season 1 and the blue aliens in Guardians of the Galaxy. You see the Kree were in a war with the Skrull’s and they sought to create their own super soldiers. They experimented on early humans giving them incredibly powerful abilities, who they then just left on Earth because of a genetic prophecy that the Inhumans would over throw them. The Inhumans then went on to establish their own secret society on Earth.


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These Inhumans look exactly like humans until they go through Terrigenesis. This is a process where they are exposed to the Terrigen Mists of the Terrigen Crystals, left by the Kree, where they then mutate or transform. Often this transformation will result in physical mutations as well as granting the subjects powers. The powers that they can gain are in a pretty wide range. Some merely become stronger while other gain the power to destroy cities. To help maintain order the Inhumans have a strict caste system. Essentially, your power dictates what options are available to you.

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The Inhumans live in a city known as Attilan where they are ruled by a ruling family. Black Bolt, their king, has the power to level cities through the powerful sonic vibrations of his voice. Medusa, their queen, has prehensile hair which gets more frightening the more you think about it. Crystal, Medusa’s sister, ex-wife of Quicksilver (we’ll get back to this), and has control of the four elements. The other members of the royal family include Gorgon, Karnak, Triton, and many others. These powers range from super strength, causing shock waves, to teleportation. Those first three are the most important so far.

The last thing you need to know about the Inhumans is that they aren’t restricted to Attilan. Recently, it was revealed that there was group of Inhumans in the beginning who split from the larger group. These nomads mingled with humans, spreading through out the world. In a war that involved Thanos (more on that later as well), the Terrigen Mists were spread over the world. It was then revealed that their were more Inhumans out in the world.

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There is your crash course on the Inhumans. Now let’s talk about how this will all play out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As we already know, Fox owns the rights to everything concerning mutants. This includes the word mutant. This leaves the MCU with a problem. How do you introduce new superheroes with super powers on a larger scale? Enter the Inhumans. An entire race who has the ability to give seemingly normal people powers. Now the MCU has the opportunity to add new heroes.

On this Tuesday’s episode of AoS we finally got our first introduction to the Inhumans. Skye has been rumored to be an Inhuman for a long time and she has been revealed to not only be an Inhuman but the Marvel character known as Daisy Johnson (aka Quake). Before I continue on this I need to give you another crash course. This time it involves the series Secret Warriors.

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You see, the series only exists because Nick Fury has been black listed by the world’s government. He made a hard choice that saved a lot of lives but broke a lot of laws. So, since he no longer has S.H.I.E.L.D. he creates his own team. He uses this team to investigate a potential S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltration. He learns that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by Hydra. Hopefully this sounds familiar and if it doesn’t, go do yourself a favor and watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier. However, this investigation doesn’t end there. He soon learns that Hydra, and in turn S.H.I.E.L.D., has been infiltrated by another evil organization. This kicks off a whole secret war between these three groups.

Fury has been recruiting young powered individuals to his secret team. Most of these are actually the children of villains of the Marvel Universe. This team includes the son of the Absorbing man (we saw him earlier this season in AoS), the god of fear and the son of Ares, the son of Doctor Druid, the daughter of The Griffin, the potential son of Ghost Rider, and Daisy the daughter of Mr. Hyde. Daisy is the important one here. She has the power to create seismic waves in anything. Whether it’s the ground or your heart, she can shake up anything.

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Daisy is recruited by Fury to lead his main secret team. She goes on to not only be a fully fledged hero but the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well. So the revelation of this week’s AoS is kind of big deal. I have been waiting for AoS to take this Secret Warrior slant ever since Winter Soldier. Everything seem’s to finally fall into place and needless to say it is impossible for me to control my excitement.

Putting my excitement aside, how could or will this all play into the MCU? Well the Inhumans are a pretty weird group of individuals. I would have put them on the same list of unlikely movie adaptations alongside Guardians of the Galaxy. Thus, even though their movie is 4 years off they are going to need a lot of introduction. This is where AoS comes in. They can start to introduce this whole secret group of powered beings over a longer period of time. Creates more of a mystery and eases the audience into the idea of Inhumans.

Now in terms of Age of Ultron, there are few inferences we can make. We know that AoS will have tie-in episodes with Age Of Ultron. What this will look like is anybodies guess. It is very possible that we could see a at least one character go between both. For instance, take into account the twins Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s possible Inhuman origin. They could very easily be introduced in AoS. This is a long shot but it starts to make sense when you think about it. The agents will most likely switch their focus on the Inhumans. Trying to discover who they are and where they come from. Not only that but they will continue their war against Hydra.

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We know from The Winter Soldier that Hydra’s Baron Von Strucker is holding the twins. We also know that by Age of Ultron comes around they will be free to battle the Avengers. Now what if Director Coulson’s team discovers Strucker’s secret base because they were investigating Hydra’s involvement with Inhumans. Even if Hydra didn’t know what they had, Coulson would pick up on them having some newly super powered beings. They rush in to find these Inhumans and in the ensuing conflict the twins make their escape. Throw in a small meeting between them and Skye and you have your tie-in episode. If you make it so that somehow Skye and the twins get separated from everyone else, you have yourself a couple tie-in episodes.

Obviously, this is all just conjecture fueled by dreams at this point. The only thing I can see getting in the way of this though is the contracts involved. Maybe it’s too costly to have the twins in an episode of AoS. I do think whatever this crossover is it will have something to do with Baron Von Strucker’s operation. Since Whitehall is now dead, or seems dead, their needs to be a new leader of Hydra. Why not Strucker? It looks like Hydra has many different parts that aren’t always working together. At least it didn’t seem that their was much information sharing between Whitehall and Strucker. If there was, you’d think Whitehall would have gotten farther in his research.

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Now that I have given you an idea of the different directions Marvel could go, let me give you my theory. AoS will now switch focuses. Instead of trying to find the city, they will try to find more Inhumans. This will lead them onto Strucker’s trail who has also been investigating these Inhumans. The guy with no eyes, most likely Reader, will at the very least enlighten Skye. Reader will at the very least turn our agents onto what Hydra has been doing. This will all lead into the Age of Ultron tie-in episodes. They will run into the twins or other Inhumans. The whole situation will be quiet explosive since these Inhumans are now very distrusting towards humans. After Ultron hits, the AoS will have to deal with some of the ensuing chaos. After all of this, Director Coulson will shift out of his current hands on role and into that of an actual Director. Skye will begin to lead her own team with the help of Melinda Maye. As for the Inhumans role, I think they will continue to pop up both in the show and in the movies. Possibly as just rumors or even new cameos and end credit scenes.

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I feel that the first Inhuman royal we will be introduced to is Crystal. Since she has a connection with Quicksilver it makes the most sense. Back to the Thanos attacking Attilan, I think that will happen much sooner than we think. I would guess it would start in Infinity War Pt. 1 and would lead into the Inhumans movie. They would be dealing with this influx of new Inhumans and gathering forces to take the fight back to Thanos. Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel) whose movie comes out in the same year, will also be central to this conflict. I also wouldn’t be too surprised if we see her at the very leas a part of S.W.O.R.D., think S.H.I.E.L.D. but in space. However that is all a topic for another day.

Can’t wait to see how everything will turn out and curious to see how close or far my theories are. Avengers: Age Of Ultron releases May 1st, 2015 and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns March 3rd, 2015.

Why Captain America Needs to Die

Why Captain America Needs to Die
Posted by on Dec 4, 2014

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A few weeks ago, Marvel blew up the internet to the squealing cries of joy from Marvel fans everywhere by revealing their movie plans until 2019. Easily one of the highlights of this little shindig was the announcement of Captain America: Civil War, the third Captain America film. Civil War was a massive crossover event that pitted Iron Man against Captain America on the issues of security vs. liberty. Basically, Iron Man wanted to register all superheroes as public government agents while Captain America believed that this was a step too far.

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Without getting too much into the actual comic plot, let me give you a brief rundown of the important bits. Both Iron Man and Captain America assembled their own teams to fight the good fight against each other. While the story itself was a truly unique and game changing event, it was rendered nearly inconsequential by the subsequent retconning to reestablish the status quo. Most importantly, this event ended with the arrest and death of Captain America.

If you are at all familiar with comics, death is less of a permanent sentence and more of vacation to Tahiti. When looking at comics the list of major characters that have actually stayed dead is small and is mostly occupied by Uncle Ben. So far, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has followed suit. Take a moment and figure out how many main characters in the Marvel Avenger’s movies have actually stayed dead. I count about four or five, all of whom are villains and some of whose deaths are still up to debate. While this can work in the comic world, Hollywood is a little less forgiving.

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When these heroes don’t die and continually return from the dead, the stakes are exponentially lowered with each return. This can only be sustained for so long in a narrative sense and even less when you take into account that these actors are on contracts which must end eventually. This leaves Marvel with really three choices: shell out more money to renew contracts, recast their now iconic characters, or kill them off. Marvel has already showed that renewing contracts is not their favorite thing, just look at the RDJ negotiations. Recasting these characters is extremely dangerous. Imagine someone else playing Tony Stark other than RDJ, you can’t can you. That’s because his portrayal defined that character for both comic and non-comic fans everywhere. With these two options less than optimal, Marvel has one option left.

Now, I’m not saying that they should just kill everybody off. Some, such as Thor, could simply go somewhere else or is somehow pushed out of the way to reappear at a later date or as a cameo. However, even that isn’t permanent solution since if they’re still alive, fans will want to see them again. Thus killing characters is really the only choice they have left. Marvel has a huge roster to choose from which they could have already started expanding to change up the team. Instead of just adding characters on top of old ones, they need to rotate out characters. This is where Captain America’s death comes in.

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As I said, Captain America’s death is a direct result from Civil War. It allows for the perfect setup and the perfect window to give us the first permanent Marvel death. This death will have more than a few impacts. Cap is first and foremost a symbol. That is where his strength lies when he is fighting alongside gods and monsters. He represents hope, freedom, and well America in general. His death would have a very deep emotional impact on just about everyone. Keeping him dead would raise the stakes for our other heroes.79617-148996-captain-america

He also acts as the Jiminy Cricket of the Avengers. Since he is this symbol of goodness, his death would be the death of that as well. This then has ramifications for the rest of our heroes who A. are angry and hurt at the fact that one of their friends is now dead and B. they now have no one to really stop them. This isn’t to say that without Captain America the Avengers become villains. Simply that they are missing a key part of their moral compass.

Lastly, it completes the idea that Captain America is a symbol. Again, this is a guy who was super in WWII fighting alongside regular soldiers. When compared to his teammates who consist of gods and monsters Captain America and his fellow “regular” heroes, quickly lose their effectiveness in this world. If Captain America dies, he becomes greater than all of his other teammates. He becomes a perfect symbol through his death, no longer judged by his human qualities but remembered for his near perfect ideals.

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So far, something big is going to happen to Captain America in the upcoming Avengers films. Joss Whedon has already teased that death will be a part of Age of Ultron. Kevin Feige has also stated that the Avengers roster will be changed by the end of Age of Ultron. Not to mention that Chris Evans is contracted for 6 major film appearances, this includes The First Avenger, Avengers, The Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron, and Civil War. This leaves one more film. While Infinity War Pt. 1 is the likely candidate, I would hope they could still work in his death before this film. For instance, since we know Black Panther will be a major player in Civil War, what if Cap has a major role in Panthers solo feature which results in his death. In the comics Captain America’s shield is made of vibranium which comes from Wakanda, the country Black Panther rules over. If Cap’s shield is truly broken he may journey to Wakanda to get it repaired. Not to mention that we might be introduced to Wakanda as early as Age Of Ultron if that is Ulysses Klaw (Andy Serkis) in the trailer.

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My whole point here is that Captain America doesn’t quite fit with all of these other super-powered beings. Sure he is super to us but compared to his team mates he doesn’t quite hold up. He is an effective leader and all that but his true power lies in his inherent symbolism. For me, the natural progression to fully utilize this is to kill him off so he becomes a pure symbol to inspire and bond his team. Much like the affect Phil Coulson’s death had but on a larger scale due to Cap’s greater significance.

The only other plausible option is to have Cap take Widow and Hawkeye and have team based more on espionage than fighting aliens. As we saw in The Winter Soldier this idea actually works really well. This again though has the problem that if they are still alive, they will be pulled back in.

However this all plays out, I have faith Marvel will come up with an appropriate solution. They so far have shaken up the formula either by approving sequels far before their first films were even released or by bringing obscure characters/actors to the big screen. I believe that whatever happens will make sense and be true to the fans.