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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

5 Things That Would Have Made THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG a Better Movie

So I'm in a love/hate relationship with this movie, my friends.  Fortunately, the love outweighs the hate.  In fact, there were many aspects I loved, such as the stunning visuals, the rich character acting, etc. etc.  You know, the same magical stuff we find in all these Peter Jackson Tolkien movies.  And lest you think I'm just a naysaying loyalist with clenched fists around the books, let me add that I liked some of the changes for the movie interpretation, such as the appearance of Legolas and the addition of a female supporting character.  I thought these were fine decisions in transitioning the book for the big screen, but there were also a number of things that just plain bothered me.

I'm going to list 5 changes that I believe would have made this a much better movie.  The list could be longer, I know!  But these are five of the biggest problem areas I personally had with the film.  I know how much you love to hear me complain, so let's get started, and take a closer look into this padded bra of a movie, shall we?

Oh, by the way,
!!!!!!!   SPOILERS   !!!!!!!

1. Nix the love triangle between Legolas, Tauriel, and Kili.

For most people, I assume that this point needs "little," pun intended, explanation.  What were they thinking?  Are you telling me that an extremely attractive, highly successful (captain of the guard) elven women like Tauriel would ever give a dwarf- any dwarf, the time of day?
Now, I know that Kili is handsome, as well as being "quite tall" for a dwarf, but so what?  If height is on Tauriel's checklist, then why is she eyeing a dwarf in the first place?  She has an entire tribe of Orlando Bloom look-alikes to choose from, not to mention Orlando Bloom himself.
So let's take a page from the "Homeless Dwarf's Guide to Picking Up Elf Chicks."  Tell the girl a wiener joke, and then threaten to curse her.  Show the girl a pretty rock, talk about your mother and the stars for a while, and before too long she'll be ready to rock and roll!

I'm not so sure about that.

Can you imagine a ten like Evangeline Lilly hooking up with a dwarf in real life?  I can't either.  Sure, stranger things have happened, but it's still not a believable story device.  This subplot just doesn't sit right with me; it's just not believable!

So let's deep six this whole love triangle thing, shall we?!
A friendship?  Sure, okay.  I can buy that.  It should have been stressed that the dwarves were in that elfish prison for many days, and it's reasonable to assume that a friendship (even a crush on Kili's part) could have grown in that time.  I could believe that Tauriel chased down an injured friend to offer him some help, but a homeless dwarf who made her weak in the knees?  Sorry, not buying it.

2. Extend the Mirkwood scenes.

Now this is assuming that we have to give people a three hour film, which we don't.  But since we're tossing in all kinds of ingredients to make the movie longer, why not extend the journey through Mirkwood?  I would have liked to see the starving dwarves trying to chase down those elf feasts from the book.  I was actually looking forward to seeing this, and then my hopes were dashed when Legolas came crashing into the spider scene like Mr. Weasley's car from Harry Potter.
A lot of people might disagree with me on this one, but I think we could have gotten away with seeing a bit more of Mirkwood.  We didn't have to, but we could have, and the running time wouldn't have suffered by cutting some of the nonsense carnival ride that went on in Erebor (Lonely Mountain) toward the end of the movie.  I'll discuss more of that shortly.

3. Give Legolas his personality back.

Where is the Legolas we all know and love from the Lord of the Rings films?  Does he smile or laugh at all during this movie?  Maybe he does, but not that I remember, and I saw the movie twice.  He gives Gloin a hard time when looking at the picture of his wife and son, which was mischievous and funny, but apart from that, Legolas is an angst ridden, poker-faced git.
The elf I remember is kind, fun loving, dashing, and funny.  I guess he wasn't any of those things until his bromance with Gimli occurred years later, which must have melted his stony heart and taught him that there was actually a bit of fun to be had in life.
No, the hard-faced, dwarf hater we met at the beginning of the Fellowship of the Rings had always been that way until he met Gimli.  No wonder his girlfriend was trying to chase down the dwarves, she wanted to get away from the grumpy old elves.

The romance between Legolas and Tauriel should have been built up better in this movie.  It would have been something we could get behind and believe in.  The struggle should not have come from a forced love triangle involving a cute, homeless dwarf, but rather from the fact that Legolas is a Sindar prince and Tauriel is a commoner, or "lowly Silvan Elf."  This would have given more depth to Legolas' character when Tauriel dies in the Battle of Five Armies (my prediction).  But giving depth to Legolas' character is something that this movie seems bound and determined not to do.

I think a casting call was put out for "generic male elf 3," and Orlando Bloom just happened to be walking past the audition room.  He accepted the part, and then everyone got out their pencil and changed "generic male elf 3" to "Legolas."

4. Turn the "Morgul Arrow" that Kili was shot with into a regular poisoned arrow.

For me, the decision to have Kili shot with a "Morgul Arrow" is probably the most baffling addition in the movie.
I'd always thought that the "Morgul Blade" used to stab Frodo by the Nazgul was some type of a rare, magical weapon.  I thought it was special.  I didn't know that every Tom, Dick and Harry in the orc world was running around with these things strapped to the tips of their arrows.
And why was Kili shot with this thing anyway?  Whether the weapon was rare or not, what was the purpose of Kili being shot with a Morgul blade?  Wasn't the orc trying to kill him before he reached the lever?

Maybe the orc was thinking "I'd better kill that dwarf before he reaches the lever, but at least if I only nick him in the leg he'll turn into a wraith in a week or two."

If Morgul blades are rare, why wouldn't the orcs have tried to shoot Thorin with one?  He was the real target, after all.  On top of that he was a sitting duck floating there in his barrel.  Why didn't the orc just position himself, take aim, wait for Kili to pull the lever, and then shoot Thorin?

Pick me, Teach!  I know the answer, I'll tell you why.  Because Jackson wanted the Kili/Tauriel story to mirror the Frodo/Arwen story.  It was supposed to be one more link between this trilogy and the previous trilogy.  That's the only reason, and it is a STUPID reason.  In fact, it's so stupid that I think George Lucas must have called in to offer the suggestion.  Why Peter Jackson took the bait, however, we'll never know.

5. Give Smaug his teeth back- and dismantle the Erebor carnival ride of  indestructible dwarves and convoluted draco-incompetence.

The cartoon carnival ride at the end of this movie showed us one thing- Nobody needs to be afraid of Smaug.  Apparently, he is completely incompetent and incapable of injuring or killing anyone.
"What have we done?" Bilbo asks at the end of the movie, just after Smaug flies off toward Laketown.
Don't worry about it, Bilbo.  Judging from what we've just witnessed, I doubt that Smaug will even be capable of finding the place!

This movie did an excellent job in bringing the dragon to life!  He looked awesome, he sounded awesome, he was pretty much the most terrifying, organically based killing machine we've ever seen in a movie.
And then... he ran around Erebor for half an hour chasing ten short-legged little dopes (4 stayed behind in Laketown) without managing to singe the beard on a single one of them.
Don't be scared, now.  Don't worry kids, everything will be OKAY.  This dragon might look mean, but he really just likes to talk a lot, run around and knock down pillars, and spout off a bunch of threats that he doesn't intend to follow through on.

Smaug's not dead yet, but if you ask me, his character has already been assassinated.

He clawed and growled a lot on the way to the vet, sure!  But we've successfully had him neutered anyway.  Mom says we need to keep him inside the house until December 17th of 2014 when he can come out and play again.  But not to worry, people of middle-earth, his bark seems to be much, much bigger than his bite!

So there you have it!  Do you agree or disagree?
Like I said, this list could be longer, so now it's YOUR turn.
What bothered you about The Desolation of Smaug?  What is something that YOU would have changed to make this a better movie?  Leave your comments below and tell me what you think!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pacific Rim- "Rampage" the video game meets Robotech meets Independance Day

I just took the family to see Pacific Rim, and I want to take a few moments to urge everyone who's been on the fence to go ahead and see this movie in the theaters.

The way things are going, it may turn out to be a box office flop, which this movie definitely doesn't deserve.  Why?  Well, it may have something to do with the marketing strategy.  I'd seen the trailer a few times, but had not planned on seeing this movie in the theaters until Ben Avery (Strangers and Aliens , and Welcome to Level Seven podcasts) posted a few comments on FB giving the movie praise.

I had also failed to notice (probably my own fault) that this was a Guillermo Del Toro movie.  That alone would have sold me on seeing it in the theater.

What you see in the trailer is pretty much over during the prologue- that's the way I felt anyway.  We are dropped right into the action of this story and it's a pretty wild ride right from the get go.  As the title says, just imagine a mash-up of Rampage (that classic game with the Gorilla and Lizard that smash up buildings), Robotech, and the Will Smith movie Independence Day.  That might sound like a crazy combination, but it all works somehow.  The storytelling is very good, character-building is on the level, and the action is all paced very well.

Pacific Rim succeeds where Man of Steel fails- it reminds us that a movie can be action packed from start to finish without making us want to shoot ourselves to escape the madness.

It also succeeds where Star Trek Into Darkness fails, it gives us a lot of nostalgic value without being blatant or cheesy.  It is what it is- a fun, action packed adventure for all fans of the genre!

With all the regurgitated junk that Hollywood throws at us these days, it is your duty to go and support this kind of movie, you won't regret it!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Eight Point Story Arc - The Quest

Time to continue our discussion on the eight point story arc, using The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as an example.  The eight parts are as follows.

1. Stasis
2. Trigger
3. The quest
4. Surprise
5. Critical choice
6. Climax
7. Reversal
8. Resolution

Here's a reminder of the definition for the quest-

The quest
The trigger results in a quest – an unpleasant trigger (e.g. a protagonist losing his job) might involve a quest to return to the status quo; a pleasant trigger (e.g. finding a treasure map) means a quest to maintain or increase the new pleasant state.

Last time we talked about the trigger, which involved the four children entering Narnia through the wardrobe.  This is the transitionary point where the quest begins, and the quest is one of discovery and adventure.  What follows is part of the plot synopsis from wikipedia. 

Soon after entering Narnia, the children meet Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, who invite them to dinner. The beavers recount a prophecy that the witch's power will fall when two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve fill the four thrones at Cair Paravel. The beavers tell of the true king of Narnia, a great lion named Aslan, who has been absent for many years but is now "on the move again."

The quest begins to explore Narnia, defeat the White Witch, find Aslan, and fulfill the prophecy.

The quest is the real heart of any story.
Get the girl/guy.
Find the treasure.
Discover the killer.
The list goes on and on, but it's important to remember that the quest is only made interesting by the way your characters (especially the protagonist) are affected by it and how they react to what's going on.

Your idea for a story might be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but even the greatest quest can be turned into a school textbook entry if you don't utilize your characters and make it relatable to your readers.

Any comments about the quest of your own story or something you're currently reading?  Leave them below.  Next time we'll talk about surprise!

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Hobbit- I'm waiting for the Extended Edition

From the LATimes
Middle-earth fans who buy “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” when it is released on Blu-ray and DVD March 19 will be privy to a sneak preview of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” — the second movie in Peter Jackson’s planned trilogy based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien. But those hoping for an extended edition of the first film will have to wait until the holidays.
“An Unexpected Journey” will go on sale March 19 in three different combinations — a Blu-ray combo pack ($35.99), a Blu-ray 3-D combo pack ($44.95) and a DVD two-disc special edition ($28.98) — but all of them will feature the 169-minute theatrical version of the film, Warner Bros. announced Tuesday, adding that an extended edition will be available in time for the holidays.

I don't know about you, but I'm waiting for the Extended Edition.  Was The Hobbit a perfect movie?  Nope.  But I loved this movie and can't wait for the extra footage.  Maybe I'll get it from the Redbox or Netflix if I just can't wait until the holiday season.  Just think, once all three movies come out with extended editions, we can all meet up for a mind numbing  19 hour LOTR and Hobbit marathon.  Who's with me?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bleeding Star Chronicles # 4

Bleeding Star Chronicles #4- The Queen of the Black Veil was released this week.  Here's the description from Amazon.

This original sci-fi novella serial follows the adventures of Galin Winchester and the crew of the starship Katara. As Galin races a bloodthirsty robot intent on killing his children, Peter Cervantes fights for survival on the planet Necron, and soon meets up with the last person he expected to see there.

Peter Cervantes is the main POV character in this issue, and we get a lot of insight into his character, as well as his past and hopes for the future.

Pick up your digital copy today, exclusively on Amazon.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Eight Point Story Arc- The Trigger

Well, I'm finally back to discussing the Eight Point Story Arc.  Wonders may never cease!

The eight components identified by Nigel Watts in his book Writing A Novel and Getting Published, which I've just ordered for my kindle, are as follows.
1. Stasis
2. Trigger
3. The quest
4. Surprise
5. Critical choice
6. Climax
7. Reversal
8. Resolution

Here is the definition of the Trigger listed from the Daily Writing Tips website.

The Trigger
Something beyond the control of the protagonist (hero/heroine) is the trigger which sparks off the story. A fairy godmother appears, someone pays in magic beans not gold, a mysterious letter arrives … you get the picture.

So what was the trigger in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe?  The simplest answer is that it happens when Lucy enters the wardrobe, and is transported to Narnia to meet Mr. Tumnus.

The trigger in this book could also be considers as having three parts-

1.  It begins when the children move to the mansion.  This is a major disruption to their lives, and can be viewed as the start of their adventure. (We see this becoming especially true after reading The Magician's Nephew)

2. Lucy passes through the wardrobe into Narnia.  I would say this is the "Well, duh!" trigger. This is obviously a major turning point and the true beginning of adventure.

3. All four children pass through the wardrobe into Narnia.  Here we see the trigger come to a conclusion and this is where the quest truly begins.  It could also be argued that the quest begins after Lucy enters alone, and tries to convince her siblings of the existence of Narnia, but I'll talk more about this next time.

When writing your story, can you define a clear and intriguing trigger?  I recently read a book (no, I won't disclose the title) where the only clear trigger I could find came about 5/6ths of the way through the book.  Although some boring things happened in this horrible bore of a book, it seemed like the first 5/6ths of the book was stasis.  Don't make the same mistake, establish stasis for your characters and then start pounding them over the head with the universe!

In Michael Belmont and the Tomb of Anubis, the trigger happens when Micheal's parents disappear, he then must go on a quest to find them.

Want to send your characters on an exciting quest?  Make sure you establish stasis and then 'pull the trigger'  Your story will thank you for it!