The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – a Review

Warning: this post offers a really, really geeky perspective on the latest “Hobbit” film as well as the entire “Hobbit” film trilogy.

In our last RPG campaign we embarked on a quest to steal the dragon’s hoard. In December of 2012. everyone rolled up a dwarven character except for me – I played a halfling rogue. Over the following two years our party traveled through wilderness and fought goblins, orcs, wolves and giant spiders.

Unfortunately our Game Master was obsessed with this epic RPG campaign he played in more than a decade ago. We didn’t mind when he introduced wizards and warriors from his former party as non-player characters. We didn’t object when it turned out they had their own epic storyline that had almost nothing to do with our story. The thing we did hate was the way GM constantly stressed how awesome all of these characters were – especially GM’s former character, an elven ranger who was obviously powerful enough to defeat the dragon by himself. The only reason we didn’t point that out to GM was that then our party would have been left with nothing to do.

During college we would have finished this adventure in couple of months. But with our jobs and families, the game stretched out for two years. Eventually we reached the dragon’s lair and devised a complex and ingenious plan to kill the great beast. But our dice rolls failed us. GM had to choose between letting the dragon kill our group or fudging the rules for us to win. First option was anticlimactic and the second one unthinkable because our GM is a stickler for game rules. So he sent out the dragon to attack nearby town. Our group was thus saved while our dragon was killed off-screen by some archer guy we met once and barely remembered.

To say that we were disappointed is an understatement.

Next game session GM tried to create some kind of satisfying conclusion to our campaign. He came up with this huge battle of five armies for the dragon’s treasure. Although my halfling thief did had some fun during the game, we spent most of the time talking about movies and stuff while our GM furiously rolled dice and consulted mass-combat rules for his imaginary battle. When King of Dwarves appeared riding a pig and King of Elves rode in on a moose, we decided to step in and end this foolishness once and for all. To our dismay we found ourselves fighting on these really complicated combat terrains – Falling tower! Floating ice! – with so many rules in play that the combat. Took. Forever. By the end of the evening I was ready to destroy my character myself. I didn’t even care that the orc horde might win and flood the international market with mountains of dragon’s gold thus destroying the economies of fantasy kingdoms. But we won and the campaign mercifully ended.

I’m aware that in our GM’s mind, this RPG campaign looked like epic Hollywood blockbuster. Hell, if it were a movie I’d pay good money to see it on the big screen even though the whole story would probably take about nine hours to tell, maybe less if they decided to edit out all those characters and stories that had nothing to do with our group of dwarven thieves. But as RPG campaign, this whole experience was a mixture of frustration, boredom and occasional bouts of fun. We’re planning to start a new campaign this year, but we’re looking for someone else to be our GM.

Interstellar – A Review

Nobody can say that “Interstellar” lacks ambition. Christopher Nolan’s latest film tackles on our future, exploration of space, wormholes, human mortality and the nature of love. Even with a running time of almost three hours, themes of “Interstellar” are almost too big for it. And it shows.

Behind the film’s epic vision are story and characterizations that I can best describe as, well, clunky. Characters don’t really talk to each other: they mostly exchange thoughts about Big Questions. The plot begins through a set of unbelievable coincidences that are eventually explained but nevertheless remain a clumsy way to establish a story. And it’s hard to ignore the way terrifying problems appear and are almost immediately solved or safely ignored. Earth is dying… But look at our spaceship! Space exploration is our last hope… but we only have one spaceship. Also, due to time dilation there’s a chance you might spend decades alone in a tiny space capsule. We could ponder such soul-crushing experience but let us instead explore this alien planet!

By themselves, these are all minor problems. But in a film filled with them, they start to chip away from both the film’s epic story and our suspension of disbelief. And that’s a shame because “Interstellar” is a big, serious science fiction film rarely seen in cinemas nowadays. It takes the audience into outer space and other worlds showing them majestic vistas that almost feel like an abstract painting come to life. Accompanied by organ-heavy musical score by Hans Zimmer, these visuals convey something the film’s story fails to do: that universe is so vast and inimical to human life that its exploration is a remarkable feat.

And then we get a scene of astronauts punching each other on another planet. I guess that a story about man’s place in universe just wasn’t dramatic enough.

The real question “Interstellar” asks isn’t about true nature of love or about mankind’s destiny but this: faced with a hugely ambitious yet deeply flawed film, how much of its imperfections are we willing to accept because we would like to see more such films? This is important because alternative to “Interstellar” isn’t another ambitious and original SF film but competently made and utterly bland blockbuster made as a part of an existing franchise.

Answer that question and you’ll know if “Interstellar” is a film for you.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Dear ladies and gents,

the trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron dropped this week. Well. It was leaked online and then Marvel just posted it anyway.

Sure there is plenty to parse here – Hulk and Iron Man and Captain’s broken shield and whathaveyou… But it’s really about Ultron for me. It’s great to see James Spader being up in our faces once again. Now if I could just stop falling asleep while watching Blacklist (facepalm)

Fall movies I am super excited about

Dear ladies and gents,

autumn is here! (although judging by the weather we’ve been having there was no summer to speak of? Not that I’m complaining mind, I abhor heat)!

Anyhow. ANYHOW. You know what autumn means! Boots! Jackets! New TV shows! And movies! Because this summer the movies have been well… sh*te, no? I liked Guardians of the Galaxy, but that was about it?

There is plenty of movies coming out in the next few weeks and here is a short selection of a few movies that will get my butt in the seats. If there is anything you are dying to see, please share, I am always looking for recommendations!

Birdman

Looks promising, no?

Interstellar

I still don’t know what the what is Interstellar about, but will be seeing it anyway.

St. Vincent

I would see St. Vincent for Bill Murray alone (conversely I would also love to hang out with Bill Murray. I had some odd (one way to describe it) nights out, but I’m fairly certain this one would top all of them). Add Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd to the mix… well… a must see for me since I love all three.

The Imitation Game

Oscar bait-y obv. Also Cumberbatch obv. Also for the love of everything that is holy – just no. NO. If there is anything that will put me off this man for good, then this craziness will.

Gone Girl

Read the book and enjoyed it immensely. Hopefully the movie won’t disappoint (fingers crossed and all that. Screenplay was written by Gillian Flynn herself and it does deviate from the book so yay an element of a surprise there).

Foxcatcher

The reviews are really (REALLY) good. And I like Tatum, Ruffalo and Carell.