Saturday, 21 December 2013

Four Quick Movie Reviews – Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, Gravity, Catching Fire, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Winter is movie-going season for me. I don’t tend to go to the cinema any other time of year. Perhaps it’s because sitting in a cinema seems more appealing in the cold weather, or perhaps it’s because films I want to see tend to come out around Christmas. And there seem to have been even more than usual that I wanted to see this year! So... on to some quick flash reviews...

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters


Ok, so technically this wasn’t a winter film. I saw it on 6th September, my husband’s and my wedding anniversary. He surprised me with a trip to see this, which is especially sweet because this really isn’t the kind of film John tends to like.

I really enjoyed this. I think they did a good job of translating the book into a film, though perhaps some of Annabeth’s reasoning for mistrusting Tyson wasn’t brought across clearly enough. She just seemed like she was being mean for the sake of it. The action scenes were done well and the monsters and special effects looked really good. I loved how they interpreted Charybdis. I thought some moments were genuinely sweet, and John practically imploded from the cheese factor of some parts (did I mention I love cheese?). All in all, this was a much, much better film than the first one, and I would recommend it to fans of Percy Jackson as well as those who haven’t read the books. Though (of course!) the book is still miles better.

Gravity


Oh my gosh, I enjoyed this one SO MUCH. I was really impressed with the acting, the effects, the music, the direction... everything. I think this is a very good example of a film that plays to the strengths of the medium. I can’t imagine this story told in any other way than as a movie – I was amazed how much I was drawn into it, feeling the main character’s rising panic, yet at the same time a sense of complete awe at her surroundings.

The acting was brilliant in this. Sandra Bullock should definitely be nominated for awards for her performance, which was subtle and powerful. George Clooney’s character was the sort of character that tends to irritate me in other things, but he was perfect here. I thought the themes and overall storyline of the film were compelling and portrayed well, though there was one certain ‘womb’ scene that was almost laughably unsubtle. A wonderful film, and definitely worth seeing!

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire


This is the sequel to The Hunger Games, which I loved. Confession time: I still haven’t actually read Catching Fire yet, so I can’t compare the movie to the book. I really enjoyed the film, and there were parts of it that definitely felt better than the first. Jennifer Lawrence is as amazing as ever, and I thought the new characters were all interesting too, though some were a bit underused.

There were some elements of the plot that I wasn’t so sure about. The twist at the end, while interesting, seemed both a little unrealistic and also cheapened some of the tension and drama from earlier in the movie. I can certainly understand why Katniss was so annoyed. I loved the effects and the action in the movie, and I enjoyed getting to know the world and characters better. Unfortunately, it did have a very disappointing and exasperating end. I know, I know, this is the ending of the book, but that doesn’t mean it had to be the ending of the film too. They could at least have signposted that we were coming to the end. As it was, it hit very suddenly and felt like they’d cut off the last ten minutes of the film.

However, overall this was an extremely fun and enjoyable film, and I can’t wait for the next one!

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug


After a bit of a baffling start, this film continued the story from the previous one nicely, setting up a good pace and feeling much less episodic than the last one. I enjoyed this film more than the first. I thought it had a better sense of story and adventure, and much less random moments. The atmosphere felt more even too, as if this film knew better what it wanted to be.

Unfortunately, what it wanted to be was Lord of the Rings 2.0, which I personally think is a bit of a shame. It didn’t feel anything like The Hobbit (the book), not capturing that same sense of magic and delight, the almost fairytale or folklorish feel, instead becoming a larger story with Weighty Significance. In other words, the attempt to make The Hobbit epic is what spoiled it for me. They constantly referenced The Lord of the Rings in every joke and wink to the audience, until I wanted to throw popcorn at the screen in disgust. They drew out a story that should be much shorter, and the padding really doesn’t make it better. The extra scenes are unnecessary – they don’t add anything to the story of The Hobbit, and so are only meaningful in relation to The Lord of the Rings. Why not just let The Hobbit tell its own story? There are also action scenes that are drawn out far too long, which spoils the tension of those scenes. A later sequence involving Smaug chasing the dwarves, and smashing every support pillar in the entire mountain in the process, is a good example.

And the attempt to make this an epic tale with gravitas and significance beyond its own simple story has also led to other issues that made me grind my teeth a bit. If The Hobbit is The Lord of the Rings 2.0 then Thorin is certainly portrayed whenever possible as another Aragorn. He is the Rightful Heir to the throne, a reluctant leader who must rise to the calling of his Noble Blood, who is Destined to blah blah blah. This film isn’t the story of Bilbo; it’s the story of Thorin Oakenshield, and that, for me, is the biggest shame of all.


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