Stunningly bad films: The Hobbit and Skyfall

Apologies if you do not yet own your official and licensed DVD of either of these two films, and this is spoiling a potential momento of built up excitement in your otherwise dull and pointless existence.

This not being a movie blog, I rarely touch upon or fiddle with the topic of the many DVDs that we may purchase here. There have been so, so many terrible films recently. Yet two of the best examples of ‘movie-making gone wrong’ are The Hobbit and Skyfall.

Not so much ‘movie-making gone wrong’ as ‘turds of films which are offensively bad’, these two enormous examples of cinematic ass-custard should embarass all who were involved with any aspect of them. The credit rolls in both films should read as a ‘naughty list’, or a kind of reverse Schindler’s List. Not that I’m saying that they should be sent to a concentration camp – unless it could be a camp in which actual concentration on quality film-making is taught.

The Hobbit

The Lord of the Rings films were walking a fine line between childish whimsy and serious fantasy. Any of the moments of ‘the shire’ and hobbits being all chummy and warm was enough to make any grown adult fight to keep themselves from violently punching out at the fellow cinema-goer sitting to their right. The earnest and annoyingly ‘regional’ accents and bumpkin behaviour of Frodo and his friends could appeal only to sad, fat young men who wear cardigans without irony and whose simple brains were made happy just by friendliness and tolerance being shown on a big screen, which is a world away from the bullying and dismissal that they instead face in their everyday lives.

However, The Lord of the Rings balanced this cretinous jocularity with proper action, battles, a war, slaughter, monsters and an excellent theme of good vs bad.

Obviously anything ‘the film’ did is because of the book(s). The books are something separate though. They were clearly written by a lonely and outcast man who lost himself in a world of fairies and goblins. White creatures are good, black-haired ones bad, good ones remain good and bad ones remain bad.  They are very simple and only made tolerable by the one interesting and fractured character, ‘Gollom’.

Yet, the overall theme of The Lord of the Rings was good, because it had a good Hero, excellently portrayed by Viggo Mortensen, and an interesting or atypical baddie, Sauron. This made the theme of the film seem important, because the entire fate of that land was therefore in the balance.

Obviously this still has huge flaws, because questions could be asked about the other lands, where the elves kept sailing off to, but moreover what if Sauron and Saruman won? Saruman seemed to love making Orcs and Orc armies. But what if all the Orc armies won? What if there were no more ‘good’ forces left, and in the entire land it was just Sauron, Saruman, and Orcs? How would they fill the day? Would Orc civilisations, nay an Orc renaissance take place?

In any case, cinematically speaking, it was a success due to the scale of the film, the main characters and the excellent acting by Viggo Mortensen – not to mention the battle scenes and the music. The soundtrack and original songs set an excellent atmosphere that carried the film through it’s fantasy balance.

The Hobbit, unfortunately, lacked any quality, interest, intrigue or intelligence as a film. Not that it had to be the same as LOTR. Lacking wars, battles, certain monsters or characters is not the issue. The issue is the portrayal of a child’s book into a film that is not posed as ‘a children’s film’.

Whether it should or should not have been made into a film (it should not) is also not entirely the issue. Because it has been. Therefore, what is there to actually enjoy, at all, in this one hundred and sixty minute cow pat of a movie?

The answer is; pretty much nothing.

At the start, the audience or individual movie-watcher settles in to watch the film. A bit of narrative and a beginning in the shire is to be expected. Instead, we quickly realise that this film would only be interesting to someone under the age of 12, who wouldn’t really be paying attention anyway. So the Dwarf King had a ‘sickness of the mind’, because he liked gold. Fair enough. Though I’m not really sure why this could be classed as a clinical mental illness by the narrator. Was the narrator qualified to make such sweeping statements? I mean, we are dealing with a fantasy land of dwarves and elves. There is no regulated currency or understood system of peace-keeping or international courts or treaties shown in the film.

Therefore it seems to be good, common sense to get as much fucking gold as humanly or elvishly possible in this land. Anyway. The narrator is anti-dwarf, or at least anti-King, and she wants us to hate the Dwarf-King as much as she clearly does.

Right, well that’s fine. But wait, hang on a minute, dragons love gold? In fact they “covet nothing more than gold”, says Mrs. Judgemental Narrator. So she is not only a dwarf-hater, but a celebrated dragon expert? Who is this woman?

Fine, dragons love gold. I don’t care anymore. I just want to watch a film about Hobbits. The ticket says ‘The Hobbit’. Not some frap-crazy woman talking absolute gash about dwarves and dragon hobbies.

So, the dragon just flies in and kills basically all the dwarves, ruins the entire city and steals all the gold.

WHAT?! That ‘JUST HAPPENS’? The Dwarf-King fucking loved his gold! Did he not suppose that one single dragon counter-measure would have been a pretty pertinent forethought in all of this?

It seems that he did not. All it took was the whimsy of one dragon who basically had a free afternoon and decided to rain down apocalypse on Dwarf City, just for shits and gigs.

OK. Phew. So that is the premise. And now the ‘journey’ that the film name also concretely promises. No? What?! Why not?! Ah. It’s because we have to sit through FORTY FIVE MINUTES of camp and sickening interplay between Bilbo Baggins, many dwarves and Gandalf, who seems to spend his time exclusively with people who don’t really like him, but just keep him around in case they need magic, or need someone to reach something that’s on a particularly high shelf.

Why are we, the audience, forced to watch a seemingly interminable to and fro between Gandalf trying to persuade Bilbo to go on the adventure. WE KNOW HE GOES ON THE ADVENTURE. EVERYONE KNOWS THAT. But still, more minutes tick by until, finally, of course, he goes.

And with an hour of both the film and our precious lives gone by, off they set.

So what does the rest of the film then offer us in terms of tension, excitement, or any emotion?

The answer again; is nothing.

We are not introduced to any of the dwarves. The Dwarf Prince seems to be sulky and a bit of a twat that no one really likes or speaks to. Bilbo doesn’t really do much in the entire film. You know THE HOBBIT, that the film ‘The Hobbit’ is supposed to be about. He finds the ring, and definitely scurries about a bit, you know, leaping and not-quite-falling-off-of-things, but that’s it.

So we don’t give a shit about any of the dwarves. We have nothing invested in Bilbo, because he is not centred as the Hero. Moreover, Martin Freeman will either always be Tim from The Office, or, Martin Freeman. He plays Bilbo as Martin Freeman with hairy feet. He must be a nice chap and causes people no harm, but he can’t really ‘act’, or at least hasn’t had a role requiring ‘acting’ as yet.

So after a lot of made-for-TV-quality ‘action’ and things happening to characters we know nothing about, the film is almost at it’s end.

They are all in a tight spot. The final and inevitable moment in any action or adventure film, when the chips are down, the baddies are in the ascendancy, and all hope looks lost. We, the stupid and gullible movie audience, love this bit. Because, inspiring our awe and quenching our escapist thirst for ‘courage under fire’, this is when we want to enjoy the unexpected brilliance of the Hero.

So what happens? Eagles save everybody. What?! No, that happened at the end of LOTR. Twice. Eagles saved them, then eagles rescued the hobbits as well.

Eagles were essentially a ‘get out of Mordor free’ card. It was pretty uninspiring and cheap, but hey, it was new. Eagles. Fine. I’ll let them do that to me on this occasion.

So what the fuck happens in The Hobbit? (again this is just the books fault!) EAGLES JUST COME AND SAVE EVERYBODY.

If a treasure trove of previously undiscovered Tolkien books were found, I bet that at the end of every single fucking one of them, it would say “and then eagles just come and save everybody”.

The man clearly enchanted millions of fans with his fantasy world. But boy was he stumped for ideas when it came to the final scene.

“No listen, Tolkien old chap, the eagle thing has been done. You always do the eagle thing. In every school essay you have ever written, ‘eagles just come and save everybody’ and the end. No more eagles”

“Alright! Alright, alright. So. The ending. Hmm… how about – wait, I know, get this – erm, eagles…. just come and… save everybody?”

“Oh for God’s sake NO! I JUST said no more eagles!”

“But it’s so good, eagles and that, massive eagles. Saving everybody.

 

Skyfall

Casino Royale was really good. We were promised a back to basics, renewal and refreshment of Bond, and we got it. His newness and concern at being an embryonic secret agent was a new angle.

My favourite part of the entire film was after he had the fight with the two black fellows on the staircase, which was reasonably raw and violent for a Bond film. Back in his hotel room and bloodied, fraught, he looked in the mirror. For a second, Daniel Craig’s excellent acting showed us that for the first time that we have ever seen, James Bond looked at himself and realised that he could easily have died in that fight. He was aware of his survival and the risks that he was taking.

The locations, the cars and the baddie were all decently Bond-like, and satiated our need to follow a man into not only a fight but a battle of wits, in which he seemed to, also for the first time, genuinely care about the Bond girl that he was with.

From this promising re-beginning, Quantam of Solace followed. Possibly the worst directing of a moving picture to have ever taken place, the result was an enormous pile of cack in which the Director made the film about him and his infantile and ego-hungry decisions to both confuse and bore the viewer.

So with Skyfall, the chance was here to give us all that we wanted – a simple yet entertaining Bond film.

They failed in this regard.

The baddie was a Spanish man who seemed to work for British intelligence, and had been sold out by Judi Denches ‘M’, so that – get this – there would be a “smooth handover” of Hong Kong back to China. Well, that doesn’t really make any sense. But we’ll ignore that.

The baddie later reveals that he had been tortured, so he had to smash his tooth to take a suicide pill. Then he survived. And also escaped.

Eh? That sounds like a film in itself. Are we to enjoy any of this, maybe in the beginning or cut-away in the middle of the film to a flashback of this harrowing and fantastic journey of both the body and the mind that this baddie has taken to become so filled with hatred of both M and now Bond?

No? Oh. So we are just to listen to that one sentence about all of that and accept that he is now pretty much a wrong ‘un. OK.

Then they capture him, and he escapes. That also ‘just sort of happens’. It happens because they put the baddie’s computer into their HQ’s computer system. Just as we have seen before in most films ever made. Maybe they don’t have films in the world of Bond. So they didn’t realise that – doy! – it was just a smidge of a bum-move to plug in the laptop of the bad guy – you know, the one that they had already stated was the most genius and also evil computer whizz in the entire world – into their mainframe.

Well they did. Then he got out. Then, they went to a fog-surrounded old house in Scotland. Obviously. So turning James Bond into Monarch of the Glen was to be the final hour of this film.

All because – sorry what was it again? – ah yes, the bad guy wanted to kill M. No wait – James Bond, you mean?

No. He wanted to off Judi Dench. If the film had been called ‘Judi Denches Skyfall’ or something at all similar, this wouldn’t have been an issue.

But when you are expecting James Bond to hurl himself out of a moving vehicle into another moving vehicle and then run somewhere while thinking something complicated and saving The Entire World, and instead you get The Queen milling around an old mansion, your senses are not piqued. You are more waiting for Lloyd Grossman to say “who lives in a house like this? David, it’s over to you”.

So, at the end, obviously the baddie dies.

And then M dies.

Ah. So what this film says is that the baddie actually won. He completed his goal, and James Bond basically did bugger all except … no wait, he just did bugger all.

Then finally – oh finally – the sweet end of the film comes.

So Bond walks in to the new M. We are introduced to Moneypenny and then M says ‘lots of work to do’ and the big Bond theme tune rolls.

So the NEXT Bond film will ACTUALLY BE A BOND FILM. Much like we were promised at the end of Casino Royale, two Bond films ago?

So Sam Mendes and his equally pretentious film makers and writers spent the best part of two full years making a Bond film so that they could ‘highlight issues’, or ‘re-energise synergies’, or ‘backsplash excrement’ or whatever they all said “oh ya, ya, ya, YA” to at their meetings.

If only – oh, if only – they had had just ONE SINGLE PERSON who was not a Yes Man at their meetings.

Maybe one person would have been brave enough to say “erm, hang on Sam, this is, well, a bit shit, really”, and gone on to explain, as I have done here, why they were destroying yet another Bond film with un-necessary ‘character development’ or ‘story inter-analysis’ or ‘cinematic dichotomy’, or whatever the shite it was that they thought that they were doing, except for one thing – making an actual James Bond film.

 

 

 

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Categories: Expat Life

Author:developingcityblog

Foreigner in Shanghai

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One Comment on “Stunningly bad films: The Hobbit and Skyfall”

  1. January 16, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    Reblogged this on F1 addicted and commented:
    Funny movie review on Developing City blog

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