The Hobbit: The Trilogy

The Hobbit splitting... again

Will a trilogy be the right move besides at the box office?

Yes, it’s official, and I’m hoping on the news like a rabbit.

Okay, I won’t proclaim I’m a Tolkien scholar in any sense. I have the regular The Lord of the Rings trilogy on blu-ray and the extended versions on DVD which I have watched countless times. They’re great and will never get old. Just today, Peter Jackson confirmed that his prequel epic will be three parts. Yes… previously a 2 parter (which has caught on recently with Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Twilight) has been beefed up to a full blown trilogy. Hey, it worked the first time; Return of the King had more than a 1000% percent profitability. But, I hope this isn’t the reason why it’s being split… again. It’s an easy cash-grab especially for a movie with a 3D option.

It’s being said that the appendices that were included in a later publication of The Return of the King. What I’m confused about is if Jackson is adding another movie or adding more story in between the 2 movies that a 3rd is inevitable.

I don’t know. First impressions are I’m bummed, I’m liking the 2 parter movie trend. But at the same time if Peter Jackson can pull off an elaborate world (again) that has fleshed out stories without it being too difficult to follow, then all power to it. I’ll see all three!

Netflix Fix: The Iron Giant

The Iron Giant

Then, a flop. Now, a superb cult classic, The Iron Giant pulls at our hidden heart-strings.

Another reblog from my past Fixing Netflix blog.

Before Iron Man or The Iron Lady hit the silver screen The Iron Giant made its small 23 million worldwide gross income (according to boxofficemojo.com). Yes, it wasn’t the most successful movie, or having the longest lasting effect. But it has a pretty strong cult following that still appreciates its charm.

The Iron Giant is a simplistic tale about a interstellar 50 foot robot crashing in 1950′s Maine countryside. A young boy, Hogarth Hughes, finds him and befriends him.The Giant is an almost mute baby-like robot, pushing full responsibility onto Hogarth to protect him from others. The backdrop of the setting is the 1950′s Red Scare and the fascination of everything nuclear. This leads to the government’s fears that the giant is similar to Sputnik and Communist Russia. A Washington intelligence officer, Kent, paranoid about the international threat stops at literally nothing to track down and destroy the giant. They run into a hip beatnik, Dean McCoppin, who runs a scrap yard who assists in his protection from Kent.

Brad Bird directs this wonderful picture. He’s currently known for his success in The Incredibles and the recent Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. The art is smooth, flawless and creates that wondrous small universe for the story to unfold.

The problem with most animated pictures nowadays is that it follows the same old progression of plot. The rise and fall and coming together of friendships. It’s full of happy-go-lucky songs and dance numbers that push the story along. The Iron Giant doesn’t rely on this structure; it’s pushed by its characters motivations and their connection to each other. It’s a breath of fresh air for any and all viewers.

The Iron Giant is a great coming of age story, one that gives the main character real responsibility and a connectivity to the giant that is believable and heart felt.

Trailer Tuesday: Man of Steel

While eagerly waiting for The Dark Knight Rises to begin I was also waiting for the first trailer of the new Superman movie, Man of Steel. I thought I would see action, Metropolis, and the infamous S on Clark Kent’s chest. What I did see was very surprising. 

Yes, it’s quite the opposite of what I was expecting, which I like a lot. It looks like they’re going for a more practical origin story than a simple “he landed in Kansas, moved to the city, got a job at the Daily Planet, infatuated with Lois Lane, saves the day” type of story. They’re going for more of a fleshed out origin that gives Superman his meaning.

In a way, Superman is a Christ-like symbol; he’s come to this planet with powers that we can’t really understand but it’s his burden to bear, to protect us and watch over us. In a sense, Superman is a lonely savior. If DC Studios can have this theme intertwined without smashing us over the head with it than it can be a superhero movie with actual true meaning which is lacking in most movies of the genre. Plus, the movie has Christopher Nolan as producer so hopefully it’ll smooth over Zack Synder’s visual over-top-ness that he showed in 300 and Sucker Punch. Expected release: June 14th 2013.

I actually have high hopes for this one. What do you think? Are you on board?

Breaking Down The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises gives an epic conclusion.

The Dark Knight Rises gives the epic an epic conclusion.

Yesterday was crazy for me. I woke up at 6:30am, didn’t get to nap, got to the Batman marathon at 3:30pm to have the marathon began at 6:15. I never got the chance to see Batman Begins and The Dark Knight in the theater for their first release so I thoroughly enjoyed the big screen spectacles. When 12:01 decided to come around I was eager and ready to get blown away by the conclusion. And I was.

Because it’s such a dense movie to dissect I’ll break up the different theatrical elements for you.

Plot

To me, the plot is most important in a movie; it’s the driving force that moves the viewer through the film. But if it’s too dense, full of plot lines and character, you can lose many viewers. I feel that that’s what The Dark Knight Rises did and I’m not surprised; in the first two installments had this same issue. Not to say that this is bad but a viewer like me gets frustrated when the movie gets away from my understanding. I’m not a lazy viewer but you really got to immerse yourself in the story and concentrate on each line to follow correctly. The screenplay sets itself up nicely with long exposition making me wonder where this is headed to but gives reviting pay-off in its finale.

Characters/Acting

If there is an outstanding element in TDKR it’s the characters and the actors who play them. Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne is a changed character from The Dark Knight, he has become reclusive from the events of the Joker since all of Gotham believes he was the cause of Harvey Dent’s death. We see his arc clearly, his struggles and his rise to heroism. TDKR is an ensemble piece. Most notable and surprising was Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, a thief with superb agility and ability to hoax her victims. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays John Blake, a young optimistic policemen that reflects a younger Bruce Wayne. Of course the established characters like Lucious Fox, Jim Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth and their respective actors help give moral compasses for Bruce in his journey. And I can’t conclude without mentioning Tom Hardy as the globo-terrorist Bane. He’s intimidating at best, cold and calculating. It was a hard task to top Ledger’s Joker but Bane is almost as captivating and fun to watch. Bane is a worthy villain, giving Batman a worthy match in strength.

Aesthetics/Cinematography

As I was watching the Batman Begins and The Dark Knight I was impressed on how distinguished the different movies were from each other. BB had a very orange/yellow and black palette which helped point out how corrupt Gotham was. The Dark Knight didn’t have much of set apart look but it had enough for us to become absorbed in. TDKR did have interesting visuals, especially when Gotham turns into an almost post-apocalyptic wasteland. I just wish that it had a specific color scheme as the origin story had.

Theme

Nolan’s Batmans have always had themes to drive Bruce Wayne on these ideals whether they’re psychological or societal. Batman Begins  was based on fear, that is the origin of the symbol he created. The Dark Knight is all about chaos and disorder; Joker was the spitting-image of this ideal he was objecting Gotham to. In The Dark Knight Rises there are undertones of anarchy, dystopia and a strong hint of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The whole movie doesn’t drive on these as strongly as the others but gives rationale for the events that unfold.

As I said in my Trilogy article the third installment need to have some resolution for the hero. TDKR strikes this right on the head tying up the epic in a creative and satisfying way. It really is the perfect conclusion to Nolan’s epic.

What did you think? Let me know!

The Triumphs and Tragedies of Trilogies

The Dark Knight Trilogy

The Dark Knight Trilogy

It’s Batman week here on the interwebs with The Dark Knight Rises releasing to theaters this Thursday and it’s good to see that I’m not the only one amped and ready to get blown away. I’m setting my expectations high and trusting Nolan not to let me down. And to get prepared to get blown away I’m doing the Dark Knight Trilogy marathon and midnight showing at our local Cinemark. The publicity and hype behind this last installment is bound to let down or live up to anyone’s expectations. But! I’ll let you my thoughts after the credits roll. This article is about the best and the worst of trilogies, what makes them work and why I think that it’s the perfect format for an adventure epic.

I think that if you’re a story teller and want to tell a story of your character or your world you have 3 movies of my attention to get it done. The format is simple: The first movie has to tell the origin of the story, the background of the main character, his/her motivations, and the conflict that he/she has that will move the character forward through the narrative. The second movie is an adventure, basically. We learn more about our hero through an antithesis that challenges him/her. The third (and hopefully  final) movie is the resolution. This is where we find things come full circle for our hero, conflict is settled, and he/she faces his/her fears and conquers them.

Now that we got the basic rules of trilogies down let’s see how many were able to achieve this and which ones weren’t. And I’m only going to talk about the ones that are most popular and that I’m most familiar with.

Original Star Wars is a no-brainer of a first choice of how it fits into the formula. We have Luke Skywalker thrust into his adventure by fate in A New Hope, his training as a Jedi Knight and confrontation of the villain Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back and even though the weakest of the three Return of the Jedi has a strong resolution and reconciliation and redemption of Anakin Skywalker when Luke saves him from true evil. The hero tale is greatly in the foreground of the war of the Rebellion which gives more interest to its characters and world. Who doesn’t love these movies!?

Lord of the Rings– Peter Jackson knew exactly what he was doing. He filmed all three at once knowing that they all had to be top-notch and successful. We have two stories that are perfectly told: Frodo and Sam’s travels and Aragorn’s acceptance of responsibility. Every movie has great build-up, conflict and resolution but connects to each other movie without the viewer feeling lost.

Spider-Man- As I said before in my reboot article these films aren’t perfect but they do follow the formula very well. In Spider-Man we are introduced to Peter Parker, his struggles in high school and his infatuation to Mary-Jane. He has conflict with the Green Goblin which sets up a series long tension with his best friend Harry. Spider-Man 2, carries this tension and creates a clash with Doctor Octavius and escalates the Peter/Harry story when Harry finds out who Spider-Man really is. Spider-Man 3, folds this conflict up in and interesting way.

Pirates of the Caribbean– For some reason a lot of people don’t like this trilogy but I think it did a very good job with its story telling. It’s true that there are about 50 different plots going through the series but that’s what’s so great; everyone has a motivation, a want, a goal and they have to go through various channels to get what they desire. I don’t count the 4th as part of the epic; it was more of spin-off and didn’t do anything for me.

Toy Story– The whole theme of these movies is the relationship that the toys have with their owners. That theme carries the story through all of the films, and creates a world that we can feel a part of. And even if there is no singular thread of plot running through the movies it does well to tie up that theme in all the installments.

Back to the Future did an excellent job creating a dynamic of the Marty/Doc relationship and sets out individual plots through all parts to hold the audience’s attention. Why it’s lower on my list is because there no central plot to tie all of these together but all movies can stand on it’s own.

X-Men-  I used to be a huge fan of these movies but they wear out during time. But a positive thing about them is that the villain has different avenues to seek equality. In X-Men Magneto’s strategy is to make everyone mutant, in X2 Stryker aims to kill all the mutants, and in X-Men: The Last Stand the heroes and villains ally together because the enemy wishes to change all the mutants back to “normal.” The theme holding these together is alienation and it capitalizes on each installment.

Star Wars Prequels– Okay, I’ll give in and say that the Episodes I and II were horrible; they just lacked the magic that the originals had. But my all-time favorite Star Wars movie goes to Revenge of the SithI believe that the whole saga is about the rise, fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. Revenge of the Sith not only has a corrupt government story but a tragedy of a hero. Maybe the magic in the originals is because they were a single epic while the prequels were a tragedy.

Indiana Jones– Honestly, as a trilogy Indiana Jones is a train wreck. Raiders of the Lost Ark is a classic and I’m not criticizing what it did and how it holds up under time. But Temple of Doom was just plain awful; yes, it was an adventure but all the aesthetics were horrible, the characters and plot were off-putting. My favorite, The Last Crusade, had more of a back story for Indy, had the humor and great adventure. I won’t even get into the 4th as it ruins all credibility of a trilogy any way. What I have a problem with is that it had no idea what it was; I like the idea of Indiana Jones being a Bond-esque kind of adventurer where his background didn’t have any prevalence. It went back and forth with the idea and didn’t succeed.

What are your favorite trilogies? Take a look at this list to refresh and share your thoughts.