Movie Reviews: Big Hero 6 and The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Two very different movies, and both equally good in their own ways. “Big Hero 6” is a Disney movie and contains the classic Disney elements: a traumatic event in the first 10 minutes of the movie, a hero in conflict, and a guardian angel (of sorts) to help him. There are strong secondary characters as well with lots of superhero action sequences and comedic scenes to lighten the tension. And, in the end, the hero has to find his own solution and to discover what is truly important to him. It’s a well-done, entertaining, and thoughtful movie in the best Disney tradition.

As with the best Disney movies, this one appeals well to the under 6 crowd, our action film-oriented 13 year old son, and our too-worldly-to-be-believed 16 year old daughter. We (the adults) liked it very much, too. The entire family gives this one two thumbs up.


The final installment of “The Hobbit” trilogy brought about some mixed feelings. I absolutely loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy and thought Peter Jackson did a fabulous job of getting the spirit of the trilogy right. (I’m not one who expects complete faithfulness to the books—these are movies, after all, and adaptation is necessary for such a different medium. Also, while I am a huge Tolkien fan, I don’t believe heresy was committed in adapting the books to film.) I am more ambivalent about his adaptation of “The Hobbit,” however. The book is a much more light-hearted romp into Middle-earth than the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but the movies take a more epic and serious tone. The first movie of the trilogy (“The Unexpected Journey”) definitely dragged in parts, but the second (“The Desolation of Smaug”) was much better, and the barrel scene down the river has become one of my all-time favorite action sequences.

This final installment focuses much more on the action sequences than any narrative (which is hardly surprising, given that the book is only 300 pages and is being stretched into three movies).   Richard Armitage does an excellent job as Thorin Oakenshield and his transformation from being noble and kingly to being cursed with dragon-sickness and back again is convincing and heart-breaking. Martin Freeman is a highly underrated actor who is fabulous as Bilbo, a hobbit who keeps his humanity and moral compass when all around him have lost theirs.

And for the Benedict Cumberbatch fans (o daughter mine!), let’s just say that [spoiler alert here!] Smaug gets killed in the first 10 minutes of the movie.

Our 13 year old son absolutely loved the movie and can’t wait to see it again. I enjoyed it very much and will probably take him for a repeat viewing. That being said, I suspect that ten years from now, when we are looking back at these movies, the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films will have held up much better and be more highly regarded than The Hobbit trilogy.

Movie review: The Desolation of Smaug (Hobbit II)

While I’m a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan, “The Hobbit” has always been my least favorite of his Lord of the Ring series of books.  And I simply could not fathom how anyone could make three movies out of such a short book.  I liked but didn’t love the first Hobbit movie (you can read that review here), but I thought the second movie was surprisingly excellent.

A caveat:  if you’re a Tolkien purist, I don’t think you will enjoy this movie as much as the first one.  This movie is less true to the story line than the first and is much less Tolkien-ish, for the lack of a better word (much as “The Two Towers” – often regarded as the best movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy – is the movie least true to the books).  There is virtually no narrative arc to the story.  Or, perhaps more accurately, what there is in narrative arc is completely trumped by the heart-pounding, non-stop action sequences.

And those sequences are marvelously done.  We saw the IMAX 3D fast frame rate version of the movie, and it’s amazing how the orcs and arrows leap from the screen.  The escape from the wood elves’ dungeons, with the barrel scene over the water, is about as amazing an action sequence as I’ve ever seen.  (And I’ve seen a lot.)  The choreography and cinematography of that specific sequence and of all the action sequences in the movie are simply mind-boggling.

For those who are seeing the movie because of Benedict Cumberbatch (o daughter mine, for example), all you really get is an enhanced and barely recognizable version of his voice.  (Smaug, however, does bear a curious resemblance to the actor who voices it, at least, for a dragon.)

Martin Freeman does his now-typical excellent acting job as Bilbo Baggins.  There is the surprise return of Orlando Bloom as Legolas and the always wonderful Ian McKellen as Gandalf.  All of the main actors are well cast and convincing in their roles.

For the diehard Tolkien and Middle-earth fan, I don’t believe this movie will be as satisfying as the first.  But for the rest of us, this is an excellent action/adventure/fantasy film.  The pacing is fast (unlike the first movie), and the acting is solid.  Oh, and just to reassure everyone, no harm is done to the audience’s ears by dwarves singing in this movie.  J

The family gives this movie a thumbs up.