Fantasy

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Review

One year ago, many of us sat in theaters across the world and gasped.  The second installment of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, ended with Martin Freeman’s Bilbo looking on with terror as Smaug the dragon flew towards helpless Laketown.

“What have we done?” Bilbo asked.

A whole year we’ve waited, anxious, knowing the doom and destruction that would come down on some of the characters in Laketown.  For those of us who’ve read the book, The Hobbit, we knew the ultimate showdown was at hand.

Today, we know the answer to Bilbo’s haunting question.  Today, we bid farewell to one of the greatest stories ever told.

::SPOILERS AHEAD::

TheHobbitTBOT5A_Teaser_PosterIt should come as no shock that Smaug refused to go down without a fight, and he left devastation and destruction in his wake.  The survivors of Laketown head ashore, and it’s not long before people take notice of Bard “the Bowman” and elevate him to a leadership role.  In the cold, burning north, there’s nowhere else to go…except the ruins of Dale and the mountain of Erebor.  As the Dwarves are united, the Woodland Elves are split apart.  Low simmering conflict between Tauriel and the ideals of King Thranduil and the affections of fan-favorite Legolas come to a boil.  Three factions:  Men, Elves, and Dwarves all begin claiming the treasures of Erebor–and they’re willing to fight each other to get it.

The Battle of the Five Armies pulses with tension as these factions argue amongst themselves, unknowing that Sauron, servant of Morgoth, has returned and unleashed an army of Orcs, Goblins, wargs, bats, trolls, and giant *****.  That last surprise was too joyful a spoiler to share.  Sauron’s goal is to take Erebor and Dale, a strategic hold that would unite his territory with that of the fallen kingdom and ancient enemy of Angmar and Mordor, allowing him to strike at the hearts and cities of the free peoples of Middle Earth with ease.

If things couldn’t get more complicated, Smaug infected the gold under Erebor with a dragon sickness, a taint, a greed not unlike the corruption the One Ring can yield.  As Balin of Moria sorrow fame (The Fellowship of the Ring) says, “He’s seen this before.”  Now the sickness affects our hero, Thorin, who sees the need of the survivors of Laketown and refuses to honor his word.  The survivors have no choice but side with Thranduil, the greedy and cruel Woodland Elven King.  Oh, but that’s not all.  Thorin has a secret:  the Dwarves of the Iron Hills are sending an army led by his cousin, the brilliant Billy Connolley as Dain II Ironfoot.  Can the people find a way to unite under the sudden arrival of Sauron’s army, led by Azog and later Bolg?

It’s no secret that the Laketown survivors really get the short end of the stick here.  They’re trapped in-between many armies and just trying to survive.  The on-going narrative elevates the story and reminds us what’s really valuable:  family, love, and home.  Likewise, though Smaug versus Bard occurs very early in the film, his actions have long-lasting effects on all.  Thorin must do battle with himself.  Though the cinematography throughout the film is brilliant and beautiful–and at times chilling and heart-wrenching–Thorin’s inner struggle is highlighted with psychedelic dragon and gold imagery that could only be found in Middle Earth.

Despite the additions of Legolas and Tauriel, who were not in the book, their subplots and relationships are so well woven, they are welcome additions and help move the story along significantly.  The acting on all parts was superb, but characters we’ve come to know–like the other Dwarves of the company or Skinchanger Beorn–took more of a backseat to Bard, his family, and the Elven trio.  Also, as is usual in theatrical releases of Middle Earth features, there are apparent gaps in the narrative that undoubtedly will be filled by the extended version. (May it be released soon.)  These gaps aren’t frequent, but they’re noticeable, only fueling this author’s desire for the additional footage.

The film was toted as “the defining chapter” in the Middle Earth saga and it lived up to that claim.  By the end of the film, lingering questions about characters as they are in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy versus The Hobbit movies are finally answered.  What’s most satisfying as a Tolkien fan is seeing Galadriel and the White Council’s rescue operation.

The-Hobbit-the-battle-of-five-armies-poster-the-hobbit-37565136-1024-1453The stakes were certainly raised to a supremely high level, with the threat of Smaug, Sauron, and the severity of the villainous army’s arrival.  Unlike some fan’s impressions of the Elves at Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Thranduil’s Wood Elves can fight, and so they do.  Both they and Dain’s Dwarves are well coordinated, highly oiled battle machines, but not so much the survivors of Laketown.  That helps the experience and added tension as they scramble to defend themselves and the personalities and courage of some are revealed, whereas the cowardice of others are exposed.  The entire lengthy battle sequence is well worth the wait and the entire movie helps justify the lengthy expansion from two films to three.

Did I mention there’s some heart-wrenching moments?

The whole of The Hobbit Trilogy as well as Middle Earth Saga itself is neatly rounded out, a fitting farewell from Peter Jackson and his team who painstakingly brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s world to life on the big screen.  Their endeavors of love will live on in us fans and geeks who have so truly appreciated this world.

As my wife and I sat in the theaters, with the credits and tears rolling, we couldn’t help but acknowledge that we were saying goodbye to Middle Earth on the big screen.  Yes, its extended versions and books will forever live on in our househould, as will the board and card games, online MMO, and in Legos and toys.  (I will admit it freely.  I’m a kid at heart.)  However, for six years out of nearly fifteen.  It’s been a part of our lives.  It spawned a fascination of the fantasy genre and captivated an audience to believe in magic and halflings and Elves and Men and Orcses… dark lords and shield maidens and so much more.  Middle Earth is a legacy Tolkien, Jackson, and others have left.  In a way, after seeing X-Men: Days of Future Past just a week ago on DVD and then The Hobbit, I realized this was a goodbye to Ian McKellan, who has graced the screen as both hero and villain, and so many other actors who have brought beloved characters to life.  It’s been a journey, one that will live on in our hearts and imaginations, and those of future generations, and it’s something to be proud of.

Now may it rest, this One Last Time, for a good long while before anyone does a reboot.  Let it simmer.

“What have we done?” Jackson and his team of movie makers and actors and actresses may ask.  They made a masterpiece.  Thank you.

For those of you still on the fence, or perhaps needing that last bit of nostalgia, here are a few videos…just for you.  Happy holidays, fellow geeks and readers.

Middle Earth Legacy Trailer:

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Billy Boyd (Pippin from The Lord of the Rings) performs The Last Goodbye:

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Fantasy

For Those of You Who Can’t Get Enough Smaug: Stephen Colbert Interview with the Dragon from “The Hobbit”

Given that today begins our #OneLastTime journey into Middle Earth, it’s only right we share another video.  You may have seen it already.  Stephen Colbert interviews the infamous fire dragon himself, the self proclaimed “King Under the Mountain” and “Death”.  Check out the humorous video below.  For those of you who haven’t read The Hobbit nor seen The Battle of the Five Armies yet, there MAY BE SPOILERS.

Here at Geek2Geek, we love Smaug too much not to give him his deadly due (and this is not the dating site).  Check out the interview and journey to Middle Earth at your local theaters, #OneLastTime!

http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/509747/smaug

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Fantasy

At the End of Middle Earth: We’re Reminded to “Shake it” with the Library Bard’s Parody

The end of 2014 isn’t the only thing quickly approaching.  Later today, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies releases in theaters, bringing an end to trips to Middle Earth on the big screen…for now.  For those of us anxious to still see the film, there may be a sense of trepidation, a hesitation to say goodbye to a sage and land we love.

In the midst of that loss comes a reminder…we’re never too far gone to shake it.  Musical group, Library Bards, featuring “The Bard of Everealm” from ABC’s The Quest, presents Gandalf!, geek parody of Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off.

Check out more Library Bards’ music here!

Enjoy!  And shake it all the way to Erebor, Mordor, or the movie theater #OneLastTime.

Check back with us for our review of the final chapter in Middle Earth.

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Jurassic Park, Movies, Star Wars, Trailers

Trailers to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World Released

Jurassic World:

Star Wars VII:

We here at Geek2Geek (the blog, not the dating site) are in hog heaven–Jurassic Park has a new movie in the franchise coming out next year, and so does Star Wars.  Wow.

I’m personally very excited about Jurassic World, having been able to even be a part of some of the filming; and I’m cautiously excited about Star Wars, knowing that we’ve been a little burned in the past… (Is that too much of an understatement?  Anyone remember the “romance” in Episode II?  It still haunts my darkest nightmares…) But Star Wars VII appears to be going back to the basics and it looks great.  Here’s to new hope!

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The Walking Dead (ZOMBIES)

The Walking Dead’s “Coda”: How Much of an End Is It?

AMC’s The Walking Dead midseason finale ended a story arch with a literal bang and wailing, leaving the characters and us to ask:  What’s next?

 

::There will be SPOILERS for The Walking Dead::

 

 

My brief and unsuccessful background in music helped prepare me for the “heartbreaking” episode.  I recognized the title, “Coda” has a term in music that brings a piece or composition to an end.  A quick glance in the dictionary, just to confirm my suspicions that I hadn’t lost all musical knowledge left me with questions:  what or who are they ending?  Rumors were flying online and none that I particularly cared for.  The Walking Dead has made a habit of gut-wrenching cliffhangers or character deaths in mid-season finales since Sophia was revealed to be in Hershel’s barn in Season 2, giving credence to the rumors.  What I hoped to not be the case was true:  the ultimate demise of another fan-favorite character.  Coda, a musical term, was the perfect title for the last episode of Beth Greene, played by Emily Kinney.  Despite fan controversy over her (fantastic) singing, echoed by Darryl in season 4, Beth was both the musical heart and soul of the survivor group.

What “Coda” didn’t do was totally give justice to a superb character’s story arch, not to mention leaving the “accidental” shooting by Dawn Lerner felt forced.

It’s easy to overlook and dismiss this as life.  Sometimes there isn’t the buildup to the death, there’s just nothing.  As I watched Beth prepare for rescue, a sense of dread fell over me.  This is the buildup?  I thought.  This is it?  Such is life.  Sometimes those we love die ultimately too fast and without warning, so if the show was trying to capture an untimely end for a beloved character, it succeeded.  At what cost though?

This week, as a ruling came down in the Ferguson case and the subsequent rioting, looting and burning of businesses occurred, with National Guard stationed throughout Saint Louis, MO, I saw this episode a new light altogether.  I realized I shouldn’t so much write a review (see Screenrant for a review I mostly agree with) as discuss the many issues The Walking Dead brought to Season 5.

Hope

I have heard The Walking Dead described as nihilistic.  The imagery of church and cross and references to beliefs from Christianity are heard loud and clear, and understandably twisted with zombies.  We haven’t so much seen characters lose their faith as lose the things or people they hope in, or keep them going.  Eugene’s deceit about being a scientist with knowledge of a potential cure was felt powerfully by the characters and the audience.  The ever smiling Bob Stookey died with his romantic interest, Sasha, nearby (more on that later).  Many characters who remind the others about morality have died–Dale, Hershel, Bob.  Carol’s kidnapping.  Beth’s death and the failure of the Grady Hospital rescue. More than anything, this show dangles hope in front of it’s characters and snatches it away.

From a storytelling perspective, it makes for excellent post-apocalyptic drama. The actors and actresses do a stupendous job on showing how their circumstances are hardening them.  Each new disappointment or loss is met with a “such is life” perspective.  They are struggling to find hope and meaning.  As echoed by Michonne in the second half’s promo video, they need to do more than just survive.  Hope, like post-apocalyptic healthcare, is a rare commodity.

Human Villains

I said it before.  This season, it happened.

  “Finally, at this point in The Walking Dead, roughly 1 1/2 years into the apocalypse, by now the characters who have survived mostly are quite capable of learning when, how, to avoid or fight walkers. The show does need human villains to keep any tension to the plot.”

The first few episodes of this season delivered some spectacular action sequences, including the harrowing search for supplies in a flooded food bank.  That perfect deadly scenario did not provide an easily “cleared” room, leading to the bite that made Bob’s “tainted meat” line perfect payback for the Hunters.  Larger crowds of walkers versus smaller groups of survivors leads to greater challenges.  It keeps the “zombies” dangerous.

What’s more, we were given a terrifically horrendous selection of villains these 8 episodes.  Here they are:

Cannibalism

Nothing quite sucked the hope out of the air like the Terminites, the folks from Terminus, turning out to be cannibals and later, the Hunters from the comics.  The butchering of Sam and other extras and later the capture and eating of Bob’s leg was nearly traumatizing.  It nearly worked…but Gareth and his band of followers transition from a welcoming community to a captured, raped, and pillaged group who later slaughtered or imprisoned those responsible, to cannibals, wasn’t fully developed.  I mean, they knew how to farm.  How to garden.  That much was evident.  Every group in the apocalypse needs to take appropriate defensive measures, sure.  But why cannibalism?  There’s a very narrow gap between Team Survivors’ method of butchering the butchers and…well, you get the idea. Despite this oversight, the Terminus and Hunter plotline was the strongest of the entire season, with the most urgency, adventure, suspense, excitement, and ultimately a significant but well crafted death of Bob.

Indentured Servitude…or Slavery

The survivors of Grady Hospital lived by sheer lucky decision making.  They survived the Atlanta bombing by staying put, and with Dr. Edwards, were able to create a seemingly safe environment where they rescued people, treated them medically, grew their own food, were totally self-sustainable…and forcing people to become their servants or “wards”.

Christine Woods as Officer Dawn Lerner, leader of the Grady Hospital survivors in AMC's The Walking Dead, season 5 episode 8, "Coda"

Christine Woods as Officer Dawn Lerner, leader of the Grady Hospital survivors in AMC’s The Walking Dead, season 5 episode 8, “Coda”

The season began with the low note of cannibalism, it raised throughout the middle episodes, arguably the best of the series, to become all too clear that Grady Hospital survivors, led by Officer Dawn Lerner, weren’t the real heroes.  Christine Woods’ portrayal of Dawn was intricate, layered.  It was hard to decide if she was psychotic, caring, a strict administrator and leader, supportive…  Dawn continued to flip back and forth between those.  What it came down to, and what I believe Beth realized before she stabbed Dawn to prevent Noah from having to return as her ward, was Dawn’s fixation on the indentured servitude as a means of remaining in control.  There was almost this sick focus on Noah.  Beth’s growth as a character and the continual conflict yet mutual reluctant support of one another meant there was only one way for Beth and Dawn’s story arch to end, sadly.

Team Survivor learns Dawn is changing the deal in "Coda", episode 8 of AMC's The Walking Dead

Team Survivor learns Dawn is changing the deal in “Coda”, episode 8 of AMC’s The Walking Dead

What’s more is that, like Terminus, Grady Hospital folks weren’t entirely bad.  Not all of them.  Dawn was systematically eliminating the bad apples who also, ironically, threatened her hold on the others.  Though no love was lost (nor exactly given) to the remaining Grady Hospital folks, nor an alliance struck, Team Survivors left one down and Daryl took Dawn out.

So the villains of the show aren’t so much people as the ideas they come up with and then implement.  Cannibalistic brutality and power-hungry indentured servitude led to some pretty nasty villains.  How very realistic.  An evil idea breeds evil acts and can change people.  As Rick, who himself has been struggling with brutality, told Officer Bob (not to be misconstrued with my favorite smiling medic), “You can’t go back.”  How far is too far?  The ironic thing is, even with all this devastation and all the hell, the very thing that can help change people is the very element the show eludes to, whether it’s the biblical quote over Father Gabriel’s altar or Rick asking for a sign before his son was shot in season 2 by one of Hershel’s men, leading them to the veterinarian and future group members.  Ironically, Christianity holds the keys–no Jesus holds keys to redemption and renewal.

It’s people, like Gareth, the Governor, and others, who wish not to change.  Still others, like Tara, Merle, and Martinez have embraced redemption and change, even if not from a faith perspective.  I wonder what would happen if, once the group was settled, redemption from this angle could be explored.

Ultimately, it’s the ideas these groups of people create about themselves that leads to heroic and good deeds or evil or morally grey.  The application of certain formed beliefs creates heroes and villains.  We’ve seen that played out with those who insist on maintaining their humanity, with ideas perpetuated by Grady Hospital and Terminus created evil, and we’re watching the rest of Rick’s Team Survivor struggle in the grey middle.

Unlike the Governor’s long presence on the show, by the time “Coda” ended, there were distinct threads from this season drawn to a close, like parts of a music piece.  Unfortunately, that means the walker apocalypse lost more healthcare workers and the loveliest musical talent on the show.  Emily Kinney’s Beth will be sorely missed on the show.  It also means we have to wait until February for more.

We’ll continue exploring the issues of AMC’s The Walking Dead, when it returns in February 2015.

 

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Jurassic World bands
Behind the Scenes, Movies

Code names, Dinosaurs, and an Exciting Countdown!

“Hey, my friend told me that the next Jurassic Park is doing some filming in New Orleans under the code name ‘Ebb Tide’ and they’re looking for extras!!!”

My fiancé Meredith has a favorite movie.  That movie is Jurassic Park.  She loves everything about it, can quote every line (e.g. “an interactive CD-ROM!”), and is totally obsessed with dinosaurs.  So when I hear my ecstatic girlfriend telling me one fine summer day that there was an opportunity to be a part of the next movie in the franchise, I couldn’t help getting just as excited as she (or as close as I could anyway).

There was just one problem: the deadline for casting was over.  Now, with my personality, I say “crap…well that’s too bad” and give up.  My fiancé on the other hand said “I sent my stuff in, just in case, and I figure you should too–just in case.”  I’m so glad we did.  Within a very short time, we were called to register with the casting agency in Louisiana (thanks Central Casting!), and were off on an 8 hour drive the very next day.  Meredith told me she had the thought, as we were driving away from her house, that we were nuts.  Totally bonkers.  We were making a 16-hour round trip for the chance to be in the next Jurassic Park.  I knew that we absolutely had to go.  Favorite movie?  Once-in-a-lifetime chance?  No regrets.

So we went.

Now there’s much more to the story, including making multiple trips to New Orleans, getting government clearance badges, making sure to post nothing that violated our confidentiality agreements (unlike the extra in Batman v Superman that is being sued for $5mil), and more; but I’ll zoom in on one particularly excellent experience while filming:

I can give no details on the scenes Meredith and I were in, nor can I safely say when in the movie they will likely appear, but I can say that filming was fun, and Chris Pratt is hilarious.  The particular scene I’m speaking of wasn’t funny in itself, but he had all the nearby extras that could see and hear his antics in stitches.  I can say that he was very nice, approachable, and looked the part of a Hollywood leading man.  I can also say that if they keep the scene I was in with him, you’ll see me dead-on and up close next to him.  Here’s hoping!

If you’re super excited about the movie (you totally should be), and you start to froth at the mouth when you see teasers (you totally should), you need to check out the viral marketing page Masrani and the countdown page to the official trailer here.  I have been excited about this film since I knew it as Ebb Tide and got to be a part of its filming, and I can’t wait to see the official trailer this Thursday!

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Art by Killian Plunkett and "thesealord" - DeviantArt
Artwork, Christianity

Irredeemable?

What Have I Become…

Remember when Luke Skywalker decided there was still good in his father, Darth Vader?  That despite everything he had done, he could return to good?  He said as much in a conversation to him on the way to see the Emperor–but how did Vader respond?  “It is too late for me, my son.”

Have you ever felt that way?  That due to what you’ve done or what others have done to you that you’re somehow irredeemable?

The word “redeem” means to buy back.  When used properly, it often pertains to issues of debt.  In the context of Star Wars, it appears Vader believed his actions and the attitudes of his heart prevented him from returning to the side of good, despite his own seeming desire to do so (as seen in the tone that line was delivered).  The debt was simply too large.  Luke was convinced that his father could turn back by act of will and/or action.  Vader couldn’t believe it, and if you’ve read any of the extended Star Wars universe, I bet you have trouble believing it too.

Did Vader save himself?  Did he redeem himself through his actions?  Despite Wikipedia’s assertion that he did, I say no.  I don’t see how it can be possible–how can you pay back a debt with money you don’t have?  Vader lived many years in the service of the Emperor, and it wasn’t until his son came along and believed in him, believed he could return to the path of light that something changed.  When Vader believed, his actions proved it.  He wouldn’t have killed the Emperor and brought balance to the Force if he didn’t believe in his son first.

In a similar way, many of us struggle with failures in the past, some that have shaped us in unimaginable ways; and we say with Vader “It is too late for me.”  But is it really?  Just like Vader, we’ll continue in our lives unchanged until someone else steps in and believes in us.  In the Bible (Romans 1:16) it says “for I am not ashamed of the gospel [good news of Jesus], for it is the power of salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  I believe, and more importantly Jesus believes, you can be redeemed into right relationship with Him, right relationship with the side of good, because He already paid the debt to redeem you on the cross.  He died in your place to buy you back, saying “It is finished!”  No debt can withstand God’s riches.  Not mine, and not yours.  Having fully died, He was fully raised to life again by God on the third day, and because of this we who believe have the confident trust that God gives us new life even as He gave His Son Jesus life.

Vader wasn’t redeemed by saving his son through killing the Emperor.  He believed first, his heart was changed, and then his actions that followed were in keeping with his new belief.  In the same way, we cannot work ourselves into belief and redemption, we believe and then our actions show the heart-change that has taken place.  To people who were asking Him “what shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus said: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”  As a Christian, I know that I am redeemed by grace (unmerited favor from God or “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”) through faith (belief and trust) in Jesus Christ alone.  No debt can withstand God’s riches, but like Vader, you still need to believe.

When I first saw the picture entitled “What I Have Become,” I immediately saved it and set it as my phone background.  It reminded me of my own feelings of remorse over my many failures in life, and the question that always leads me back to Christ.  I can now ask the same question with awe, reverence, and immense thankfulness, for I have been made new in Jesus.

 

It is not too late for you.

 

 

“What Have I Become…” Artwork by Killian Plunkett and “thesealord” – DeviantArt

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