Wreck-It Dark Thirty: An Unexpected Journey

I had originally planned to spend this weekend visiting friends in Athens, but every hotel room in a twenty mile radius was booked up for G-day (whatever that is).  So Jim and I decided to catch up on some movies.  We hit the store for supplies and then settled in for a marathon.

First up was “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, the first in the new Middle Earth trilogy from Peter Jackson.  After that we watched “Wreck-It Ralph”, followed by “Zero Dark Thirty.”  Read on for my thoughts on all three.

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I am a Tolkien fan, have been since I first read “The Hobbit” at around age ten.  And I enjoyed Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy a great deal when they came out a few years ago.  Which is why I was so surprised to find that “An Unexpected Journey” was so unexpectedly boring.  First off, I get that the studio wanted to do this story in three different films; why mine a gold mine once if you can mine it three times?  They know that they have a captive audience for these films, and that nerds will keep shelling out for nerd fiction as long as they keep making it (box office receipts continued to climb for the 2nd and 3rd Star Wars prequels, even after Lucas thoroughly disappointed us with “The Phantom Menace”, after all).

But did we really need all that nonsense with Radagast the Brown?  He seemed only to be injected into the story to serve as a bit of comic relief, rather than to serve any real purpose.  The same can be said for the incredibly boring backstory to set up Thorin Oakenshield’s enemy, the pale orc who killed his father at the battle for the Mines of Moria.  I really have no idea why that story needed to be relayed, other than to satisfy fans of the Silmarillion (are there “fans” of the Silmarillion?) or perhaps to make us like Thorin Oakenshield, who to this point in the movie has come off as kind of a petulant twat.

And hey, I like Frodo Baggins as much as the next guy (which maybe isn’t that much, but I digress), but did we need to see  him in this movie?  The first thirteen minutes of “The Hobbit” was pretty much a straight rehash of what I’ve already seen in “The Lord of the Rings.”  If just felt slow and pointless, leaving me wondering when they were going to start telling the story of the movie I thought I was watching.  The same can be said for the entirely extraneous “council meeting” at Rivendell, where Christopher Lee and Cate Blanchett reprised their roles as Saruman the White and Galadriel.  It just felt to me like Peter Jackson wanted to make sure we know that this trilogy is related to the other trilogy, even if that meant making this movie as boring as possible for the first two long boring hours.

The last hour of the movie was actually quite entertaining, once Jackson finally navigated his way out of the boring mire of Rivendell.  I’ll be very interested to see how long it takes before someone puts out a fan edit of this movie that cuts its running time down to about 110 minutes, similar to what was done for the first Star Wars Prequel in “The Phantom Edit.”  If I do watch this movie again, I will probably skip the first fifteen minutes or so of the movie to where the story starts, and then fast forward liberally through the Radagast, Moria, and Rivendell bits.

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As a palate cleanser, we decided to queue up a movie I’ve been hearing a lot of great things about since it came out last Fall.  I’d never gotten around to watching it until now, because I don’t usually watch a lot of animated features.  However, I wish that I’d seen this sooner, so I could have started recommending it earlier.

The characters are so well-done and the story so compelling that by the end of the movie I was so caught up in the lives of the characters on the screen that I actually found myself getting choked up.  And it was just a lot of fun.  The world was inventive, new, fantastic, and yet totally real.  I was pulled into the world of these video game characters from the very beginning, and it never let go.

And I would definitely play Sugar Rush.

All I can really say about this movie is that if you haven’t seen it, I’m not sure we can really relate to one another until you do.  Just a great, great story.

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I was just about movied out at this point, but Jim put in “Zero Dark Thirty” and I made the mistake of watching the first ten minutes of the movie with him.  Fair warning: this movie gets its hooks into you quick and you will not be able to walk away until you reach the end.  I was surprised by this movie.  I didn’t expect to really enjoy it that much, to be honest, but I enjoyed it a great deal (way more than “The Hobbit”).

Just as with “Argo” I found myself totally enraptured by the world in which the characters lived, even though the story being told was one for which I already knew the ending.  The fact that Kathryn Bigelow was able to keep me on the edge of my seat until the end of this tale even though there could be no real suspense is a testament to her storytelling prowess.

There was not one moment where I was bored.  I never looked at the time, and even when I had to go pee halfway through, I made Jim stop playback so I wouldn’t miss a word.  This is very rare indeed, and by the end I was amazed to learn that the running time of the movie was 160 minutes, only ten minutes less than “The Hobbit”.

Jessica Chastain’s performance was powerful and I now totally get the Best Actress nomination she earned for the role.  At the end of the movie, when her hunt is over and she has no answer for the simple question, “Where do you want to go now?” I got that weird feeling in my chest.  I think they call it emotions.  I had them.  She made me feel things.  With my feelings.

Definitely see “Zero Dark Thirty” if you can.

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