Thanks to their both being available on home video (take the hint, cinema-industry) I was finally able to watch two of the biggest movies of …. 2014!
The only reason I didn’t find The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies even more disappointing than I did was because my expectations had been lowered by the lacklustre reviews when the movie was in theatres. This last part of the Lord of the Rings prequel was basically about Thorin Oakenshield (displaced dwarven king who spent the last two movies questing to regain his lost kingdom from a squatter — the gigantic dragon Smaug). However, now that Smaug is no more, the last movie is just about Thorin acting like a pouty child, locking the door to prevent everyone else (the titular “five armies”) from coming into Erebor and supposedly stealing all his stuff–not much of a story.
Since most people reading this will have seen the movie already, I’m going to rant along into spoiler territory (If you haven’t seen the movie, skip down to the Interstellar section of this review). How silly was it to spend this whole movie fighting armies off only to explain the mania away in the end as some kind of “dragon” sickness! I can’t believe that the eagles came to save the day — again! If I lived in Middle Earth, I would just hang out with the eagles all the time. Despite there being five armies in play, most of the good action takes place between the individual dwarves and the super-orcs, so I don’t really know what the point of all the armies was. That whole episode fighting the super-orcs just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The dwarves know that it’s a trap but they all go running to the tower. However, later when a “dead” orc floats past them under the ice, it doesn’t even occur to them that he might not be dead and that he will come crashing through the ice? (Which is so far-fetched it’s ridiculous! Do super-orcs not breathe? If the ice is thin enough for him to smash upward as his brain is deprived of oxygen, surely the ice would have cracked and they all would have fallen into the water from above much earlier.) Despite all the stupidity in this movie, the visuals in the movie do not disappoint. Everything looked spectacular and grand — I just wish she story had not been so thin and ridiculous. (3 out of 5)
In stark contrast, Interstellar was a very impressive movie. In my opinion, this is the kind of movie that Gravity should have been. I didn’t know much about the plot of this film before watching it, but I was totally enthralled by the great blend of science and fiction. The story (for those of you who have not yet seen) is about a team of astronauts who fly out to rendez-vous with some other astronauts who have found a new planet for humanity (ours is dying and no longer able to sustain us). There is so much packed into this film: astro-physics, speculative science, robotics, action, suspense, brainy discourse, and themes of human frailty, the power of love, and the wonders of exploration. I love sci-fi that doesn’t put in a lot of explanation for the imaginary stuff that goes into providing context for the main story. Things like cryo-sleep or the really cool robots in this movie are just presented as normal to this universe, without some character coming out to give us exposition of it all. That really adds plausibility and realism to the future that is presented in this film. Even though there’s still some narrative “hocus pocus”, it also feels like these events could really happen. It’s obviously sci-fi, but the fact that it’s relatively close to reality, and runs on principles that are hypothesized by real scientists makes this a pretty fresh kind of movie. I have not seen many like this.
As for the movie itself, I love that there are some wonderful cameos that I didn’t expect, as well as some pretty crucial plot twists that came as a bit of a surprise. The look of the film is impressive — especially the very cool and unique take on artificial intelligence (who knew that a few slabs of steel and a sarcastic personality could make such a great, memorable robot). My only disappointment is that I wish the space suits didn’t look like something out of the 60s. That and the ending seems a bit too “feelgood” and convenient. Nevertheless, I love that Christopher Nolan has given us some thought-worthy science fiction (something that we can never have too much of). It’s great to noodle over all the relativity and the temporal mechanics mentioned as well as what it would really be like once humanity takes to the stars — it’s not quite so easy as Kirk and Picard make it seem, is it? (4.5 out of 5)