Category Archives: Reviews

Mechagodzilla Designs

Mechagodzilla has been one of my favorite kaiju since its first appearance in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. Its design has undergone several changes throughout the years, some better than others.

Showa era Mechagodzilla
The original Mechagodzilla was a remotely controlled robot designed by the aliens of Black Hole Planet 3 whose aim it was to take over Earth. Later, they controlled it through a link to the brain of a cybernetically enhanced human. Its introduction was unique in that it wore a Godzilla disguise and shocked fans during a brutal fight with Godzilla’s ally Anguirus. It shed its disguise when facing the true Godzilla to utilize an arsenal of weapons including lasers, feet jets for flight, an energy shield, and, my favorite, finger missiles. The design is dated but features classic elements and is instantly recognizable as a mechanical replica of Godzilla.

Heisei era Mechagodzilla/Super Mechagodzilla
The first major overhaul to Mechagodzilla’s design. This robot was built by humans as an anti-Godzilla weapon using salvaged future technology from Mecha King Ghidorah. It could link up with another future-tech machine called Garuda to form Super Mechagodzilla and combine their weapons. The design is very smoothed out compared to the Showa Mechagodzilla and is overall less appealing, though the changes in its form did reflect the changes in Godzilla’s design during the same time. I would rank it last among the three older Toho designs. However, the Power Rangers style combining of mechs into a super mech is always fun.

Millennium Mechagodzilla/Kiryu
Kiryu is a cyborg built using the skeleton of the original 1954 Godzilla as its support structure. It uses Godzilla’s DNA combined with advanced technology to give it the ability to act and react with Godzilla-like instincts. Unfortunately, when it hears the current Godzilla’s roar, the original Godzilla’s spirit is awakened within it, and it is able to resist the control of its creators. This design keeps some elements from Super Mechagodzilla’s look such as the over-the-shoulder cannons, but it returns to using slightly more angular shapes and looks more like Godzilla than ever. It takes the “mechanical Godzilla” concept to its epitome. It has a great balance of complexity for interest vs. simplicity for recognizability. Kiryu is easily my favorite design.

All of these versions had in common the base idea that Mechagodzilla’s appearance should be based on Godzilla’s, and they all succeed in that. There was another similar mecha, M.O.G.U.E.R.A, which was constructed from the remains of the destroyed Heisei Mechagodzilla, but it clearly did not resemble Godzilla and so wasn’t given the Mechagodzilla name. Even the Mechagodzilla seen in Ready Player One is instantly recognizable as such, pulling in all kinds of elements from the original Showa era look, especially in the neck/head design and the inclusion of the finger missiles. It’s an agile update to the character that doesn’t toss aside the signature elements of the source.

Ready Player One Mechagodzilla concept art by Jared Krichevsky.

GODZILLA anime Mechagodzilla
This, however. . . .   This machine was co-created by humans and aliens to be the ultimate anti-Godzilla weapon, and by just the aliens to eventually assimilate Earth through the spread of its nanometal technology. Like with the new anime Godzilla, I feel this role should have been played by an original kaiju. Its appearance and abilities are such a departure from the Mechagodzilla we know that it should simply have been given its own name like M.O.G.U.E.R.A.
On its own, without comparison to the previous Mechagodzillas, this design is overwrought and cluttered. Because of the high level of complexity, it’s difficult to identify its overall form (an issue also plaguing the transformers in their 2007 movie series). To improve this design, I would make sure details which are included to look cool and complex also appear utilitarian. This is a machine designed for a purpose, not for display. I would include larger plates of armor over portions of the frame. Not only would this help clean up the busy design, it would, like actual plate armor, aid in deflecting attacks rather than providing hundreds of little crevices/weak points.

As it is, this new Mechagodzilla is a disappointment that makes me wonder what could have been. I look forward to the next iteration of the character in hopes it will be an improvement.

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review

I’ve had pretty good luck with Netflix originals. I’ve enjoyed most of those I’ve watched. I actually got my hopes up for the new Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters movie/trilogy of which 1/3 is available, and well, that was a mistake.

This is the first official Godzilla movie from Toho which is animated. The three-parter is done in the same CG anime style that I’m seeing a lot of on Netflix. It was strange to see at first in the Knights of Sidonia series (which pulled an Attack on Titan by starting off really intriguing before majorly derailing). I got used to the style while watching BLAME, a much better movie. So I didn’t mind the CG look at all while watching Godzilla. I think it actually made the smooth, gliding walk of the exifs (alien humanoids) stand out well. It’s also fantastic for depicting the complex mechs and machinery used in fast-paced combat, and the action in the movie looks great.

Unfortunately, the intro to the movie wasn’t paced well. There’s in medias res and then there’s garbled mess. We’re thrown into the middle of a stand-off between Character Man and Other People. There’s something at stake. It’s a big deal. It gets resolved. Some people blow up. Character Man is very distraught. From what I gathered during my viewing, the humans living in space wanted to get rid of the elderly to conserve resources, the grandson of one of the old men, Captain Haruo, thinks this is wrong and tries to stop it but fails. Then the story starts and we get some flashback explanation of what’s happening. Earth was razed by Godzilla. Two sketchy alien races showed up in ships claiming they could help, but they failed, and humans and aliens had to escape together on one ship to try to find somewhere else to live. However, the details are still vague and I didn’t feel like I got a chance to get to know any of the characters, much less their names, before the halfway point of the movie. Haruo and his exif priest friend concoct some plan to return for another try at defeating Godzilla.

Here’s the weird part: The humans have been wandering around looking for a habitable planet or hanging around a non-habitable planet. It’s unclear. But they say their plan was to find another planet, and they’ve been searching out there in space for 20 years with no success. Their backup plan was to live on the moon and salvage resources from Earth. So once this plan to have another go at Godzilla is presented, they decide to give it a try. They push a button, and instantly warp back to Earth. Just like that. Twenty years they’ve been struggling to survive out there, they had a safe backup plan, but they decided to terminate a huge portion of their population and keep starving out in space when they had the ability to immediately return to Earth. Why didn’t they use that warp ability to check out the known planets in habitable zones of their stars? They traveled 12 light years in a minute. Proxima Centauri b is only 4.2 light years away. We have a huge list of possibly habitable planets that this group could easily have reached in 20 long years. It’s stated that they’re currently at Tau Ceti e which is on that list, but it’s far from the best candidate. Apparently only the stupid humanoids managed to escape Godzilla’s initial destruction.


They get back to Earth and start their mission to locate and destroy Godzilla if he still exists. For Earth, it’s been 20,000 years since the ship left, and the entire planet is apparently covered in a fog enshrouding a metallic forest. Also, there are dragons now which supposedly evolved from Godzilla cells just like the metal trees. There is no real explanation given for this huge difference in the passage of time or this extremely quick evolution of life on the planet. Roll with it, I guess. Our scientist character waffles between speculating that the Godzilla we encounter is the original and reasoning that he’s a descendant. Not sure where he’s getting his information. The plan immediately goes wrong and it’s a big heroic struggle to take down Godzilla once and for all. I finally caught the name of the guy in charge, whom everyone was complaining about, just before he died. I’m still not clear on who the girl soldier is or what her connection to Captain Haruo is though they speak as if they know each other pretty well. I wished somebody had given me some background on these people so I could care about at least one of them. Haruo is the only one with even a slight backstory, but he’s very flat. He’s full of rage and wants to kill Godzilla. That’s all I’ve got.

I have no idea why this is a Godzilla film. In King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), the script was originally written for Frankenstein’s monster instead of King Kong. He would be enlarged by the supercharging power of electricity allowing him to hold his own against the king of the monsters. Somewhere along the way, it was decided that King Kong would be a better choice for role of the western monster. However, they replaced him without reworking the script. So, inexplicably, in this movie King Kong is powered up by electricity. Even though it was a fun bout, it’s clear that he’s the wrong monster for the story because this electricity stuff makes no sense. Similarly, I feel that another, perhaps original, monster would have better suited for Planet of the Monsters. They’ve removed the one vital, trademark trait of Godzilla; his radioactivity. There is no mention at all of radioactivity in this movie. On top of this, he’s given completely new characteristics and abilities apart from the Godzilla we know. He emits EMP, he creates an electromagnetic shield, his hide is metallic, and his fiery atomic breath is now more a laser beam than anything. Aside from his appearance, which is very much akin to Legendary’s Godzilla rather than Toho’s, there’s nothing here which makes me think Godzilla. It’s disappointing.

Their vague, confusing plan works and they defeat Godzilla. But wait! The mountain behind him shakes and the REAL Godzilla rises from beneath it towering a ridiculous 200m taller than any previous incarnation of the character. He blows everyone up except Haruo, and we wait to see part 2. I can only suspend disbelief so far. A 100m tall Godzilla slowly lumbering through Tokyo, okay. But this new mountain-sized behemoth . . . I can only picture him plastered to the surface of the Earth, unable to move due to his enormous mass. It might serve to make him more intimidating if it weren’t so silly. He doesn’t compare to Shin Godzilla when it comes to intimidation, anyway. Out of nowhere, the exif priest tells us he’s seen planets create monsters like Godzilla hundreds of times to quell the pride of the dominant species which is overpopulating the planet, and that no one has ever defeated their monster. First of all, why mention this only now? Second, this concept was done better in Blue Gender (1999).

All-in-all, this movie was just bad. Again, great visuals, but that doesn’t make up for the frustrating, boring experience. I don’t have hope for the next one to be better, but I’ll probably set my bar low and give it a watch just to see Mechagodzilla.

Versions of Holmes

It’s difficult to remember my first introduction to the character of Sherlock Holmes. I recall Daffy Duck sporting a deerstalker hat, solving a mystery with Porky Pig as “Watkins.” Cartoon characters in various shows would, when confronted by a mystery, occasionally blow bubbles from a pipe and remark that their deductions were “elementary.”
In 1988 Data played the role of Holmes for some holodeck high jinks in Star Trek: TNG‘s “Elementary, Dear Data.” Wishbone solved the mystery of The Hound of the Baskervilles in “The Slobbery Hound” in 1995. I had a sense of who the great detective was before ever reading the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In recent years there have been hugely popular adaptions of the character played by Robert Downey jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch, but I find that I must enjoy them as totally separate characters from the original Holmes. While the detectives in Sherlock Holmes (2009) and the BBC’s series Sherlock are interesting and compelling, they both have a failing that the canon Holmes didn’t. They can’t seem to interact normally with people. Yes, Holmes is eccentric and can sometimes offend people with Spock-like dismissal of emotions as hindrances, but he’s also very clever and observant. He’s a master of disguise who can anticipate the reactions of others. He has no trouble with acting politely and properly in public. Whether or not he has any respect for someone, he could surely make them think so.
When I see the more recent versions of the character, I’m missing the dignified air I pick up from canon Holmes. I miss the awareness he should have of the social setting around him. I miss the version of Holmes that can be smug and superior but also charming at the same time.

This is why I am thrilled when I discover new Sherlock Holmes adaptions that deliver the same feel as an authentic Doyle mystery.

Mr. Holmes, starring Sir Ian McKellen as an aged version of the detective, is a fascinating take on the character. It’s based on A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin and follows Holmes struggling against a failing memory whilst trying to recall his very last case. The pivotal case itself, though short and simple, could have been one among Doyle’s own short stories, and the character felt like the real deal. I especially appreciated the very believable growth of the character along with its conclusion.

In Sherlock Holmes video games, of which there are many, there is one I’ve found that not only feels authentic but is also an excellent game overall: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments by the developer Frogwares. The player assumes the role of Holmes and is tasked with solving six cases by piecing together the evidence using the player’s own logic. With multiple possible conclusions in each case, and the complete trust of Scotland Yard, it’s possible for the player to pin the crime on either the true criminal or an innocent person. The player can also choose to condemn or absolve the culprits, moral choices that affect the rest of the game. This encourages the player to carefully examine every detail before him/her, much as the real Holmes would. Frogwares has put out several similar Sherlock Holmes games, but none that capture the essence of Doyle’s work quite as well.

Whether or not you enjoy the edgier more bumbling Sherlocks of recent series, if you crave a more classic take, I highly recommend both Mr. Holmes and Crimes & Punishments.

Interstellar Art

I finally got around to watching Interstellar now that it’s available for streaming. Overall it was enjoyable. I especially enjoyed the set-up, the world-building, and of course the visuals were great. Every now and then there was something a little too silly or irritating, but it never took too long to get back into things. Now I get why people made such a fuss over the sound mixing, though. There are few things more frustrating than almost hearing something or almost understanding something. Christopher Nolan’s argument was that it was an intentional artistic decision to occasionally keep the dialogue just too quiet to hear so that the audience could experience the emotional sense of the moment rather than focus on every word that was being said.

When I was taking art classes in college we’d all be focusing on our projects in preparation for a group critique. Inevitably, one of my classmates would accidentally gouge into their sculpture or spill ink across their paper, and it would be the night before the critique giving them no time to fix it. Well, the next day while we all presented our work, this unlucky classmate would have no choice but to present their ruined piece for everyone to discuss. There was something of an unspoken rule for the rest of us to follow: Before the professor can ask about the obvious mishap, someone needs to chime in and say how great the art is. Smiling with excitement, you state that you especially like the big gouge through the center which breaks up the monotony of perfection. You appreciate the way it reminds you of how there can be no order without a little chaos, or how it speaks to you of the unexpected or the complexity of the mind or you feel it’s a comment on society. Invariably, the professor will be nodding along, taking in your views with seriousness and finding a new appreciation for your classmate’s messed up art. The group will have a great discussion, and no one will be embarrassed. I always appreciated the assist those times when the unlucky classmate was me. But really, the truth is that no matter what artsy-sounding stuff you can make up about somebody’s bad art, it is still bad art.

I feel like Christopher Nolan would be fantastic at art critiques.

Wood Elf Drama

There are a lot of problems with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, as with the entirety of Peter Jackson’s latest trilogy, and I could go on and on picking it apart, but there’s one big issue I want to explore.


When Thranduil decides to withdraw his remaining elf troops from the battle, Tauriel stands in his way because she doesn’t want him to abandon her dwarf friends who are going to meet terrible fates at the hands of the orcs. She’s in love with Kili (because they’ve shared a little witty banter here and there and they’re both pretty so of course she is) and he and his buddies are doomed if the elves leave. Thranduil tells her that her love for the pretty dwarf isn’t real and asks her if she would be willing to die for that love. She tells him that there’s no love left in him.

Legolas implied that his dad is all cold-hearted because when Legolas’ mother died it devastated him. So Thranduil once believed in real love, but now he doesn’t feel it and presumably resents and even denies its existence because he believes it only causes great pain. Okay then.

So when Kili meets his inevitable demise, and Tauriel throws herself off the ledge along with Bolg in an act of heroic self sacrifice, she should have died. But she didn’t. At the end when Thranduil finds her crying over Kili’s body, this somehow convinces him that that love must have been real after all, and reminds him of the love he used to feel. Why? Why would seeing her crying about it again suddenly change his mind on the whole thing? He didn’t care about Kili or Tauriel’s happiness.

What should have happened is Thranduil should have found Tauriel dead afterward, having nobly died and all, and then realized that she was indeed willing to die for her love thus proving that it had been real. That might have been enough to give him his change of heart, and it would have been an appropriate end to that little story arc. Were they just afraid to kill off their made-up lady character?

Leaving Tauriel alive at the end of the Hobbit trilogy leaves a big ole loose end dangling when setting up for the Lord of the Rings. One would assume that after the battle, since Legolas couldn’t return home with the wood elves and now had a new mission to go out on his own to find Aragorn, Tauriel would accompany him on his way just as he accompanied her throughout the entire story. They’ve gone everywhere and done everything together, and now they’re both outcasts. One would assume that she’d follow him at least to repay him for giving up so much to assist her as she defied Thranduil. One would assume that she’d be standing with him during the forming of the fellowship of the ring later on.

Are we to believe that instead she went and cried over Kili for ever and ever, and that even when the world needed the help of a brave, heroic, worldly, elf warrior like her who would be willing to sacrifice her elfy immortality to do what’s right, she’s nowhere to be found? Better she had a heroic end than a pathetic one.

Teen Hero 6, Go!

After seeing the clip in the trailer with Baymax and the tape dispenser, it was impossible not to go see Disney’s Big Hero 6. It was good fun for all, and Baymax was indeed hilarious in just about every scene. I wasn’t terribly attached to any of the other characters, and the movie would have been blah without the inflatable, huggable, lovable robot sidekick. When a character is innately funny in his normal state, though, it’s generally a bad idea to try to make him funny on purpose (see the less humorous low battery sequence). That mistake was made only once, thank goodness. I did guess the villain’s identity right away and who would die and who wouldn’t and what the lessons and twists would be, so I was longing for a story that was a little more unpredictable as in Up or The Incredibles. I could have done with some more development of the characters, too, for both the villain and the nerd school heroes. The Stargate reference could have been a little more subtle as well. Still, it was enjoyable all in all. It’s a great alternative to your standard Marvel super hero movies if you need something a bit more lighthearted.

Oh, and this comparison occurred to me in the second half of the movie, and it’s driving me nuts:

Godzilla 2014

Long story short: Too many humans; not enough monster battle. Not nearly enough.

Long story long:
(spoilers obviously)
I haven’t been a Godzilla fan for very long. My husband, several years before he was my husband, is the one who pretty much forced me to watch my first film of the franchise. Luckily for him I was no stranger to campy Japanese action (go, go, Power Rangers!) and I enjoyed it. I can’t remember now which one it was, but I think Mothra sacrificed herself and turned into glitter. Yeah, that doesn’t narrow it down much.

Anyway, now that he’s my husband, I have of course watched every Godzilla movie multiple times, and I feel like I have a sense of what a good Godzilla movie is supposed to be. I also have a King Ghidorah plushie that roars and makes his silly tweedly flying noise. Let’s face it, Ghidorah is the only monster that always seems to swoop in having a total blast doing his thing. His cry sounds almost like a giggle. Godzilla’s great, but he’s more of a grumpy personality unless he’s winning a fight, and then a victory dance is sometimes in order.

Naturally, we were off to see the new movie as soon as we were able. Thanks to the catastrophe that was the ’98 adaption, we set our bars very low and expected to have a good time despite this not being a Toho-made entry. I was prepared for the human plot that anchored us to be silly and pointless, for the monster action to be crazy and fun, and for the whole thing to take itself a little too seriously. We both came away feeling really “meh” about it.

There were some good things, to be sure. Godzilla’s new look is spot-on. I was afraid he wasn’t going to be given any personality at all, but he did seem to express irritation with the MUTOs and satisfaction at smacking them down. Just enough without getting campy (not that there’s anything wrong with campy, but it would clash with this movie’s tone). Although, that moment where he and the protagonist are looking at each other really close and he almost nods at him like, “nice job destroying that nest, dude,” was kinda dumb.

The MUTOs themselves were alright if a little boring. I did like that they aaaaalmost look like they could have been played by guys in suits if it was the good ole days. We got both a flying monster and a ground monster, so that was nice. They seemed very insect-like, so it bothered me a little that they roared all the time. Every monster these days seems to have a gaping mouth and a samey roar no matter what sort of creature it is. Regular insects don’t exactly make teeny tiny roaring sounds. I’d just be happy with a little more variety from the sound people. Hissing, screeching, croaking, squawking, something other than the same old tiger roar mixed with elephant trumpet and jet engine that we always get. Even Godzilla had that going on, unfortunately covering up most of his trademark cello sound. It’s best if the monsters can get some unique, otherwise unthreatening cry to inflict dread simply because it accompanies their destructive power (see King Ghidorah’s trill).

I appreciated the sense of sheer terror that the movie showed us. I mean, how would it really be when faced with something that huge, dangerous, and out of your control? Sure there are screaming people running everywhere in the older movies, but we’ve never gotten to see it quite from this perspective before. I think that’s thanks to the very real presence Godzilla had in this movie. His entrance was pretty lackluster though. Someone was talking about how Godzilla was going to come, and then he just sorta swam up. My husband put it well: Godzilla was like an overblown movie star that got asked to make a small appearance in some new movie, and he didn’t really care so he just agreed to show up at the time they gave him with no enthusiasm at all. Godzilla is so great at making an awesome entrance. I’m not sure why they’d just have him wander up from the water without any style.

Now, as for the battling. . . I want to throw something at whoever decided to keep cutting away from the monster battles. We were there specifically for the monster battles. We wait and wait, and Godzilla finally arrives and comes face to face with the first MUTO. Oh, man, here we go. It’s gonna be great. Finally! Aaaaand we cut away to a kid watching the news before they even get started. What? Okay here comes the second fight. Godzilla’s going to face off with both MUTOs at once. This is the finale! It’s gonna be awesome. Aaaaand we cut back to what the soldiers are doing. Oh, we almost get to see the monsters over behind those build—nope back to the soldiers. I’m not sure why film makers don’t realize this, but fans don’t like to be teased like that. It’s not funny, man. If we had been allowed to see the first fight in Hawaii, I feel like maybe that would have been a more fulfilling amount of battling, but with only parts of the final rumble I was left very unsatisfied.

The battling, when we got to see it, was very unenergetic. Yes, I liked the weight of the monsters in the lumbering way they got around. I liked the realistic way they moved. But when they’re fighting they’ve gotta pick it up a little bit. Compare this to the fighting in Pacific Rim and you’ll see how much more face-paced and therefore exciting it could have been. I also feel like there was some fan teasing going on in how long it took Godzilla to remember he could do his well-known tail whip and atomic breath. That final kill, though. Very cool.

Why did we go to Hawaii for the first fight? There was a huge missed opportunity in not staging the first encounter of Godzilla and Male MUTO at the reactor where it hatched. Didn’t anyone notice that perfect setting in the surrounding abandoned city? Prime monster fighting ground—no evacuation needed—and it was left untouched. I’m just bewildered by this.

Moving on. . .ah, to the humans. Oh, the humans. Alright, so, you got Bryan Cranston for your movie. Good job. You start him off as the protagonist, give him a background and personality, and we start to latch onto him as our viewpoint for the movie and invest in him emotionally. Going good so far. Now, you make him smartly making the best decisions he can in a time of crisis, and you make him tragically lose his wife after sending her in to do her job. Great! He’s got motivation for spending the next several years working on how to discover and deal with the monsters that caused this, and he’s perfect for eventually coming up with the plan that will save the day at the end.
No? What? You’d rather kill him off after half an hour and jar us with a switch to his completely generic, uninteresting, boring, barely-capable-of-emoting son as the main character? WHY?

The generic protagonist, Ford, with his generic wife and son were the most boring thing about the movie, and boy did we stay focused on them for a long time. I was almost squirming in my seat whenever any of those three came back on screen because I really didn’t want to watch them. I wanted to at least go back to the admiral or the scientists or somebody slightly less boring. Heck, I want to go see what that awesome bus driver is up to. But no, we’ve got to stick with dull Ford the whole way. And he makes such stupid decisions sometimes, too. What is he thinking? Oh no! There are flaming tanks flying at me and nearby explosions and bits of vehicles and it’s dark and foggy. Ah, it’s probably fine to tell the train that it’s safe. No monsters nearby, right? Oh no! The Fem MUTO is walking right by me. Better stay still and be quiet, and while I’m at it, point my flashlight directly into her eyes.

The other humans weren’t much sharper though. The most facepalm-worthy moment was when the military team went to check for the second MUTO egg in the Nevada facility. They really went inside without noticing the massive gaping hole that had been torn in the building. Most of the building was gone. How did they not see this coming in? And then -gasp!- there’s the Fem MUTO, big as a skyscraper, sauntering toward the city not a few miles away. They were in helicopters. They flew in on helicopters and nobody saw that thing walking across the barren landscape? Hah. And how about all the human stupidity in the finale? It is well established that the monsters emit EMP which has a very specific range, and yet there are jets raining from the sky when it goes off because they were flying within that range. What did they expect, and why are they still acting surprised?

I think I can see the idea that this was to be the first Godzilla movie for a new audience. It’s been a long time since the last one, after all. So I understand the approach of the slow, suspenseful buildup to the battle at the climax, mimicking the original 1954 movie. However, it still dragged on too long. I started to lose focus about halfway through. My husband was yawning. A couple miffed fans walked out of the theater. People began chatting. Monster movies aren’t supposed to be boring at any point. It’s my hope, if they plan to make more of these now, that sequels will focus more on the exciting monsters and get to the action much quicker. That was the trend in the earlier movies.

On the whole, this movie wasn’t terrible by any means. It was boring for quite a stretch, entertained decently in the later third, and at least occasionally felt like a Godzilla movie. They showed plenty of reverence for the original films and for Godzilla himself. Unfortunately, it feels like they missed the point of these movies, both of the original allegory and the reason the whole series is so much fun to watch and watch again.

Not Quite There and Back Again

Well, one of my favorite books, The Hobbit, is now a movie. Or rather 1/3 movies so far. I was really surprised at how different it was at times. Usually they take your favorite book and chop it down to half its size in order to fit it into a ~2 hour running time. But this time they’ve stretched a little book out into three looooong movies, leaving no scene out and adding in plenty of new ones. I found myself a little bored during the added-in parts and extra battle sequences, but overall I enjoyed it.

Martin Freeman makes a wonderful Bilbo. The scene with Gollum was just about perfect. Middle Earth looks fantastic as always. For the most part the jokes and gags are funny. And I was really happy some songs from the book were left in.

But. . .there were just a couple spots that came off cheesy. I really didn’t like that Thorin’s orc nemesis was added in for such a big role, but I’m guessing his purpose is to give the goblins and wargs in the finale a specific character as a leader. The prologue with Frodo served absolutely no purpose and should have been cut. If I want to see Frodo stare at me emotionally I’ll watch LotR again. The dwarves could have set up the quest just as easily. I think cutting the prologue would have made the running time a little easier on my rear end, too.

One other thing that bothered me was how un-dwarf-like some of the dwarves were. Thorin was missing his long beard, and he and a couple others seemed a little too human to me. I assume the film makers were trying to make a few of the dwarves more appealing to us humans, but I like my dwarves to be as dwarfish as possible. Gimli for example. If they hate elves it should be because the elves are a bunch of sissies, not because elves didn’t jump in to save them during a dragon attack.

I’ll give them a chance to grow on me in the next two films though. I can’t wait to see Murkwood and its spiders, the wood elves and their cellar full of barrels, and of course, Smaug. The camera people of Dale were once some of the worst of their kind. They failed to capture even one shot of the infamous dragon during his initial attack.

New Toy

I hereby plug the Kindle Paperwhite. I wasn’t sure I’d like using an e-reader over good ole paperback books, but now that I’ve tried it, I do prefer it. No more keeping a paper book pried open while I’m reading, figuring out how to hold the book while I’m lying on one side and can’t see half the pages. No more funky clip-on light either thanks to this new backlit model. It can tell you how long it’ll take you to read each chapter. Light and thin, nice contrast, no glare, no more traveling to a book store to find my next read. In fact, this easy access has me reading again instead of staring blankly at bookstore shelves only to decide on nothing. There is something to having each story in the form of a physical book sitting on a shelf, but I don’t think I could fit another slip of paper onto my bookshelf as it is, so this thing will save me a lot of space. I’m currently testing the alleged 8-week battery life with Cloud Atlas and some Terry Pratchett between spurts of comicking and writing.

As for Cloud Atlas, it’s not so much awe-inspiring as it is depressing. It’s not going to be one of my favorites, but it is an intriguing read. It’s fragmented in such a way that the experience is both very frustrating and interesting at the same time. Many times I was reminded of seeing the first half of a movie I’m not enjoying, but then sitting through the remainder because my mind won’t rest on it if I don’t find out what happens. With each shorter story split in half, it’s hard to like any of the characters all that much. I did really enjoy the way one character identified each sound in his surroundings by which instrument would represent it in an orchestra, and also the way one character seemed to constantly hear “the devil” or animals or the dead talking to him as if it was completely normal. I think the movie adaption was very successful in cutting out a lot of the bits that weren’t necessary. Some of the stories I liked, while some I didn’t, so overall it was okay.