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I gotta confess, I was skeptical. I liked the promo posters but I was hardly dying to see this and didn’t even bother to check out that many trailers. I knew I was going to see it – too much of a Tolkien fan not to – but I didn’t expect much since I was never really blown away by the LotR films. However…

I think what happened in the meantime was that I grew up, meaning that I was finally able to enjoy a screen adaptation of my beloved books without grumping and harrumphing over each alteration. Hell, by the time the party got away from the trolls I had to admit to myself that I didn’t really remember the book all that well, and so released from the shackles of snobbery I stopped worrying and learned to love The Hobbit. In fact, I’ll go and outright admit it – I liked this better than all the LotR films.

Here’s the thing. I was always in love with John Howe and Alan Lee’s illlustrations and enjoyed seeing them recreated on screen in The Lord of the Rings, but where a single watercolour or sketch can leave plenty to the viewer’s imagination, Jackson &co. couldn’t or wouldn’t allow us the same so the sets were detailed, rich, and boring. Art Nouveau for the Elves – really? That was even lazier than building the citadel of Minas Tirith on elements of the early Romanesque when Tolkien clearly stated he imagined it as monolithic as the architecture of ancient Egypt. The mines of Moria were the only set where I felt as enchanted as I used to be with fantasy & scifi landscapes of 80s and early 90s films, from Conan to Total Recall. It was consistent, it was appropriate with all the monumental angularity, and it rocked. And in The Hobbit they took what was good and ran with it.

That was the winning point of this film for me – we got to see the races of Middle Earth in detail, their cultures and mores and priorities. Where Gimli was played for laughs in The Lord of the Rings, offensively to any lover of the books, the Dwarves finally get proper treatment here, from the splendor of Erebor (the rise and fall of which is such a magnificent opening I’d go see the film again just for that) to the different clans’ looks, whether in beard-braiding or the design of their tools and armour. This was finally thought-through to the degree I’d expected from the earlier trilogy, and I was happy. Same for the Trolls, Orcs, and Hobbits – and speaking of which, Elijah Wood finally got good as Frodo in the small role he had. I never bought him completely as the Ring-Bearer but here, as Bilbo’s down-to-earth adoptee, running the old kook’s household and looking every part the tween he’s meant to be, he was a delight.

Sir Ian McKellen played Gandalf true to the book which might confuse the audience that only saw the earlier films, but I enjoyed it. Martin Freeman is Bilbo Baggins, the quintessential rural Englishman of Tolkien’s imagination. The rest of the returning cast seemed cosy and comfortable in their roles, which conveyed wonderully the complacent feel of the world before disaster strikes in the major books. And last but not in the slightest the least, Andy Serkis stole the whole damn show as the decrepit yet genuinely menacing Gollum.

Sure, there were things I was iffy about – the eagles ex machina made me roll my eyes but then Tolkien is just as guilty of overusing them so okay, fair enough. The constant, constant chases could’ve used a breather every now and then instead of spending all the slow scenes on Bag End and the semi-impromptu council of Elrond, and so on, but on the whole it’s really just bickering on my part since I thoroughly enjoyed this very long film and was honestly bummed when it ended. I want the rest, now!

Objectively: four out of five stars
Enjoyment: five out of five stars
Richard Armitage: five out of five panty changes, would phwoarr again

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Oh boy.

OK, so, the Twilight saga is done. I never read the books so I can’t say this gave me some ineffable feeling of closure, parting, or regret, but now that I mentioned the books I must say what’s been bugging me the most throughout this film: it felt like they expected the audience to have read Meyer’s quadrilogy and known the meaning and the motivation behind the goings-on. This was not an adaptation as much as an illustration, a blatant sequence of “you liked this part in the book, so here it is on the big screen; and this one, and this”. No-one seemed concerned with conveying a coherent plot or keeping the characters’ portrayals consistent; if you’re not part of the club, Team Jacob or Edward or what have you, f*** you.

So, with the plot done away with, the visuals were pretty if a little too… earnest? The Cullens’ house is still the most sexually attractive thing in the series (and I’m not being snarky, it’s the most beautiful living space I’ve seen on film yet) but Edward and Bella ditch it in favour of a Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light ™-type cottage. And not only that, but they abandon the cottage* the very next day since they have to flee the country for reasons. Why did they get it, again? Between the shots of Grand Designs we’re treated to snippets of wildlife documentaries, hilariously old school soft-focus erotica, and something that’s supposed to be horror but is effing hilarious because all those overly sculpted and product-slathered faces and hairdos get ripped off their shoulders like the cast is an army of Ken and Barbie dolls.

It does get good at times. Michael Sheen hams it up magnificently, aware that there’s nothing he can do but turn his performance up to 11. I love him, and the fellow who plays Bella’s cop dad, and Jacob – it seems like Lautner got in on the joke too and is happy to troll the scenes he’s in as Pattinson is happy to trash the series in interviews and DVD commentary. It’s like there are two kinds of taking the piss going on in this film – the fun kind that results in bizarre and infinitely rewatchable moments, and the frustrating, what-is-even-going-on kind that’s nothing but lazy, from the lack of story to the Ethnic Stereotype Theatre culminating with the atrociously coiffured Eastern European duo.**

I regretted the lack of chemistry between Edward and Bella – they have so little spark that they’re reduced to declarations of love even more awkward than Padme and Anakin in Star Wars Ep 2 – but I hope that, should someone revisit these books in another cinematic instalment, we get to see them race each other to the nearest lone hiker for a juicy picnic. Then I’d buy that they’re a couple! (Let alone parents…)

All in all, two out of five stars. What’s good is brilliant in its eccentricity but the rest is just a mess. Shame!

(* I can’t blame them. I’d have applied a torch to it.)

(** Though, with them I’m not sure if I was offended or entertained to tears. At least they seemed to be having fun.)

We’ve been to see every Twilight movie since we stumbled upon the first one winter’s evening and spent almost the entire movie laughing at how unironically bad it was. The vampires who seemed to be made of wood (sparkly wood though!), the uncomfortably creepy stalker-ish behaviour of Edward and a guest appearance by Dr. Acula. This film could never hope to reach those dizzy heights but we went in hoping for some fun and laughs and were only slightly disspointed.

I can’t say I was entirely suprised, but the film seemed incredibly badly edited. At one point Bella is screaming at Jacob to get out of her life and then poof, he is asleep on the couch and Bella is smiling. The vampire-clan deck out a cottage for Edward and Bella before telling them they have to move to escape the freaky Italian vampire people. There are other things happening too but they were so unmemorable I can’t remember any of the middle of the film. Something about witnesses to the freaky child from the last film, it all got to the point where I was wondering could I fall asleep (as I did with The Dark Knight Rises) and hope noone would notice.

Suddenly! There was some sort of battle in the snow, lots of heads being pulled off and laughs aplenty. Werwolves eating vampires and vampires punching werewolves. Then! it turns out it was all a vision – the groans around the cinema were funnier than anything else in the film. There was an ending too, but I didn’t pay enough attention through all the soppy music

Film : **   Enjoyment ***