Part 2 – Seen on screen, 2014

Blame it on the dog, a lack of funds or being plain old busy, but as revealed in my post on Monday 12th January, 2014 was a dreadful year for cinema visits, with just six visits made.

Happily, none of those six films were disappointments. Here are more detailed reviews of them, with my ‘Movies of the Month’ summary too.

MockingjayThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – ★★★★

“Strong continuation of the franchise, with solid performances from newcomer Moore and the late Hoffman.”

I’m a big fan of the world and people of Panem, both in novel form and film. Though her fiction may have been compared to Koushun Takami’s ‘Battle Royale’ – something I can’t comment on, as I haven’t read it – Suzanne Collins crafted an excellent story when she wrote of a dystopian world where a young adolescent named Katniss Everdeen would lead a revolution.

I found the novels, originally aimed at teenagers, to be unputdownable, reading them from cover to cover within a matter of days. The films have been worthy adaptations, with Jennifer Lawrence being the perfect choice for Katniss.

Of the supporting characters in Mockinghay – Part 1, Julianne Moore’s debut as President Coin was strong, embodying the ‘no frills’ leader as I had expected. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman sadly didn’t appear on screen enough, though this could be down to his death occurring during filming. He had filmed some scenes for Mockingjay – Part 2 so we will see him reprise his role one last time.

The action was just as tense as the film’s predecessors, moving from the Hunger Games arena to the devastation caused in the aftermath of Catching Fire and the resistance movement. I’m aware that Katniss remains a ‘Marmite character’ to some, but in Mockinghay – Part 1 Lawrence catches her transition from unease at being the face of the revolution to being the hero they need very well.

However, Mockingjay – Part 1 is the third of a four-part series, and in certain scenes it does feel like a ‘filler film’. Though it may be an odd point bearing in mind that she is the film’s protagonist, it did feel a bit too much like Katniss’ film at time, with not enough screen time given to supporting characters. Hopefully this will be rectified in Mockingjay – Part 2, as the series reaches its final conclusion.

InterstellarInterstellar – ★★★★

“Visually stunning and engaging, but suffers from being a bit too clever in parts.”

No one can deny that Christopher Nolan is a very clever man, and if there was a dictionary definition to explain his work I think it would be something along the lines of the below, with the antithesis of Nolan’s style involving the word ‘Bruckheimer’.

Nolanesque – Works of great intelligence that explore the human psyche, characterised by deep, multifaceted emotion and expert lighting.

Interstellar plays on all of the above, with Matthew McConaughey excelling in the lead role.

It’s undoubtedly beautifully shot, with the Earth-based scenes suitably despondent with their dust-ridden fatigue. The scenes where the crew are on-board the Endurance become expertly fraught and claustrophobic while the shots in space and the wormhole are breath-taking.

However, and it may be that this is a negative identified purely because I don’t have an aptitude for physics, but I found Interstellar to be too clever in parts – though whether any of the elements in space are actually plausible is another thought entirely.

At over three hours it is a very long film, and in the final third I went from having my mind totally scrambled through the epic visuals of what a wormhole could be like and what it could do to become emotionally drained, having my heartstrings pulled by a father’s love for his daughter and a daughter’s love for her father.

I think I will revisit Interstellar in the future, but I’ll make sure that I have an energy drink and the pause button to hand so that I can check with my viewing partner that I’m up to speed.

Five ArmiesThe Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – ★★★★½

“A suitable conclusion to the trilogy, with strong fight sequences, both on a large and small scale. While it can never rival The Lord of the Rings, in my opinion, it will have been an excellent first journey into Middle-earth for a new generation.”

On 16th October 2010, I shared the excellent news that Peter Jackson’s plans to return to Middle-earth with a two-part adaptation of ‘The Hobbit’ had been greenlit. 13th December 2014, and I returned to Middle-earth via the cinema for potentially the last time.

Comparisons with Jackson’s LOTR were always going to be inevitable, but trying to separate the two and focus primarily on the merits of The Hobbit trilogy, I’m very pleased that the films were greenlit; with Jackson at the helm, a return to Middle-earth was always very welcome, in my opinion.

Looking at my ratings, I gave An Unexpected Journey four stars, The Desolation of Smaug four stars and The Battle of the Five Armies four and a half stars. Reading those scores, I stand by them and think that TBOTFA was the strongest of the trilogy.

Jackson excelled in battle choreography in LOTR, and this was also evident in the epic conclusion in TBOTFA. The sequences between the dwarves, the orcs and the people of Laketown were fast-paced and exciting, with pockets of dialogue between characters while on the battlefield. The fights between characters on a one-to-one basis were equally exciting, with great scenes between Thorin and Azog, Legolas and Bolg, and Fili and Azog.

Though it was original to the films and not in the novel, the sentiment between Tauriel and Fili was moving, and it hinted to the friendship that would emerge between Legolas and Gimli and help to break down the long-held animosity between elves and dwarves.

Will Jackson make a third visit to Middle-earth with an adaptation of ‘The Silmarillion’? Who knows, but I would certainly buy a cinema ticket if he did. He is a true Tolkien fan, and his six brilliant films are all testament to that.

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