Tag Archive: the two towers


Lord of the Rings is the gold standard of trilogies; each one of the three films was an excellent adventure that had brilliant characters, glorious fight scenes and plenty of enjoyment. So with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, expectations were high and a new trilogy hinged on it’s success.

An Unexpected Journey takes place sixty years before The Fellowship of the Ring and is the story of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman). Bilbo is recruited by Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to accompany a team of thirteen dwarfs, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on a quest across Middle Earth to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim the dwarf’s stolen home from the dragon Smaug.

The main thing that leaps out at you as you watch An Unexpected Journey is that there has clearly been a lot of work put in to the visuals of the film; based purely on it’s aesthetics The Hobbit is a must watch, it’s just a beautiful mix of epic trailing shots over vast landscapes to the intricate creation of Rivendell, home of the elves. To be quite honest, I still find myself amazed that they can make Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and others look a good two foot shorter than Ian McKellen but every special effect looks just as perfect as they did in Lord of the Rings.

Martin Freeman has the title role and with little experience in films before it is a huge ask of him to carry the weight of such an ambitious trilogy, but it is a task that Freeman is more than a match for as he turns in a very accomplished and polished performance. He brings this really charming sense of likeability to his character and even throws in some comedic lines as well. McKellen, as you would expect, does the standard high quality acting you would expect from him so there’s no point wasting time talking about that. The main person I was looking forward to seeing was Armitage as Thorin as I have been a fan of his since his days in the BBC’s adaptation of Robin Hood. Armitage’s character carries the burden of being the rightful King of the dwarfs and has a real hatred for elves: Thorin is a more complicated character than the film chooses to recognise but Armitage’s performance brings layers to the dwarf leader. However, it was Kili, played by Being Human‘s Aidan Turner who quickly became my favourite dwarf and if there is a finer character in Middle Earth I would like to hear about it!

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all this good…

Right from the off it seems that An Unexpected Journey is struggling to find it’s identity. Ian Holm and Elijah Wood are brought back to reprise their roles from the original trilogy in order to really cram the fact home that The Hobbit is the prequel trilogy, as if anybody needs telling this again. And the first act really struggles along with far too many character introductions given valuable time when the film could have been moving along with a lot more fluidity. There are several jokes that miss the mark every time (a tradition that unfortunately continues throughout the film) and it even skates around the edges of turning into a musical at one stage which, thankfully for everyone involved, it does not.

An Unexpected Journey never really finds a settled pacing and at times becomes incredibly dull and you can’t help but notice more than just a couple of pointless scenes thrown in for good measure. The biggest disappointment for me were the action scenes. Lord of the Rings brought us epic battle scenes in The Two Towers and Return of the King and the unforgettable death of Boromir in Fellowship, so if there’s one thing that Peter Jackson can do it’s battle scenes. But you wouldn’t know that from this film. Just when you think you might get to see some brilliant fight scenes it’s taken away from you either by a change of scene or by the dwarfs running away, which they seem to do a lot of to be honest. What could have been a great climatic battle once again turned in to a fleeing scene.

But I don’t want to end on a sour note. The return of Gollum was welcomed with open arms and his exchange with Bilbo is easily the best and most fun part of the movie; there was the appearance of the One Ring and the invisibility thrown in for good measure! The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey‘s biggest fail is that it just isn’t Lord of the Rings, but what it is is a decent story and a great block for The Desolation of Smaug to build on!

My Rating: 6/10

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Sometimes, appearing in a huge franchise can make you become a household name across the world and the rest of your career becomes easy, but for some actors (and quite often better ones) are forced to play from the sidelines; consistently being a supporting actor and never the main role, this is the case for Karl Urban. Urban is an actor from New Zealand who, despite having gained critical acclaim for films in his homeland he has never been thought of as a leading man for Hollywood, yet unless you have been living on Mars you will have seen him in quite a few of his films, ones that you could even count among your favourites, but you just might now know.

As I mentioned Urban started out working in his home country of New Zealand and here he started out working in the theatre and appearing on television adverts. Karl Urban then got a break after being seen internationally by appearing on the television series’ Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess in the recurring roles of Cupid and Julius Caesar. After fulfilling his work on television he appeared in an offbeat romance film entitled The Price of Milk for which he received a nomination at the New Zealand Qantas Film and Television Awards; he later appeared in Out of the Blue (2007), a dramatisation of New Zealand’s Aramoana massacre and gained positive reaction and the Qantas Film and Television Award for Best Supporting Actor.

So now lets move on to what I know him for: being a supporting actor in a number of franchises. The first of them, and arguably the biggest of all of his films is Lord of the Rings. Now, Lord of the Rings has a huge cast and story that spreads itself over three films so there’s no doubt that you’re not going to be able to name all of the actors an actresses who were a part of the project, but Karl Urban had a pretty decent role in The Two Towers and Return of the King. Karl Urban played Éomer. Éomer has quite a significant role in the books which is diminished in Peter Jackson’s trilogy but he still plays a part. In the films Éomer is made an outcast but is present at the Battle of Helm’s Deep as he remains loyal to the King of Rohan, he is also responsible for the death of the leader of the Haradrim. After this part in one of the most successful trilogies of all time you could have forgiven Karl Urban for thinking he was going to have a pretty tasty career.

The final chapter of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was released in 2003 and in 2004 Urban appeared in two more franchises significantly differing in quality. First was The Chronicles of Riddick where Urban plays the villain to Vin Diesel’s hero and as such Urban’s character dies in the climatic battle scene. This was a first taste of Hollywood films really and an encouraging start although the film itself didn’t go down well with critics. Despite this, Urban’s next choice was superb. If you missed Karl Urban in Lord of the Rings you may have seen him in The Bourne Supremacy (part of another of the best trilogies of all time). In Supremacy Karl Urban is again the villain playing second fiddle to Matt Damon’s hero who everyone loves; Urban was the Russian agent Kirill who killed Marie but inevitably failed in his mission to kill Bourne himself.

In 2007 Karl Urban got a shot at being the leading man in Pathfinder, a Viking adventure film. The film itself lacks in the dialogue area and replaces it with an emphasis on violence, blood and gore… this was probably a reason for the harshly negative reaction to it, however I don’t mind the film but it certainly didn’t do anything to help Karl Urban’s career.

As a childhood fan of Star Trek Urban actively pursued a role in the 2009 reboot.

In 2009 Urban returned to doing what he does best and decided to hang around in the background of another huge blockbuster: Star Trek. This is probably a role that Urban is most famous for to fans across the globe. In JJ Abrams reboot of the famous science fiction series Urban plays Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy who becomes Kirk’s first (and pretty much only) friend at Starfleet Academy. As Bones, Urban injected (a nice little pun for those who have seen the film) some comedic moments into Star Trek and his performance is held in high regard by fans of the original series.

After appearing in Red and Priest, Urban gets another chance at being a lead man in a big blockbuster this year in Dredd, a reboot of the 1995 film starring Sylvester Stallone, in which Urban will be playing Judge Dredd. The film itself is being hotly anticipated by fans of the comic book character  and it received positive reception at Comic Con which has probably the hardest crowd to please in the world.

At the age of 40 it may be a little late for Karl Urban to make that step to the forefront after being in the secondary roles for so long but it is not unheard of. Urban has a real talent for acting and I have enjoyed every one of his performances that I have seen. In my opinion Karl Urban has not got the recognition or fan base that he deserves but with the Star Trek franchise looking as though it could stretch out easily for a few films then he may get it there or in any upcoming Judge Dredd sequels. He deserves it, that’s for sure.

Here’s a video of Karl Urban talking about his role in Star Trek and just generally being cool. His colleagues seem to love him too!

The Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises are too of the highest grossing in cinematic history, with the boy wizard being ranked at number one. There is a lot of debate among fantasy fans as to which franchise is actually better and audiences tend to fall on one side or the other, rather than both.

There are many similarities between the two film series’: the unsuspecting hero (Harry and Frodo), the ever faithful best friend (Ron and Sam), the tale of friendship and companionship, both taking place in completely new worlds and the battle between good and evil. Both franchises are based on books by British authors, also; Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien.

Return of the King is joint holder of the most Oscar awards won by a single film.

If we go by recognition from the Academy Awards then there is, of course, a clear winner in terms of which film series is better. Whilst the Harry Potter series won the BAFTA for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema, it received zero Oscars, despite six of the eight films being nominated for 12 between them. Lord of the Rings, however, was nominated for a total of 30 Oscars, winning 17 of them including best picture for Return of the King.

Throughout the course of the Harry Potter series it remained British in its casting. It made child stars of the main three newcomers Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson but accompanied them with some of the best British actors around. Some of the best include Gary Oldman, Alan Rickman, Julie Walters, Helena Bonham Carter and Maggie Smith.

Whilst some of the actors in Lord of the Rings are British Peter Jackson (director and creative mind behind the films) went abroad too for Elijah Wood and Viggo Mortensen. Lord of the Rings also combined the new actors and old actors by pairing Orlando Bloom with the likes of Ian McKellen and Sean Bean. So both film series have superb casts, there is no doubt about that.

Dobby won the hearts of audiences the world over throughout the Harry Potter series.

 

The special effects for both films are again fantastic. Both franchises had to create these brand new worlds for audiences. Harry Potter had it slightly easier because it’s world is still based in human territory really but did what it had to; the flying cars, Dobby the house elf, the massive basilisk, the whomping willow, werewolves and the brilliant scenes of the Quidditch World Cup.

 

Lord of the Rings created the Shire, Mordor, Mount Doom, Rohan and more. Making each place look as though it belonged on the screen and looking as though you could actually be there. The creative process that went into those scenes is unimaginable. And where Harry Potter created the basilisk and the house elves, Lord of the Rings created Gollum, the Balrog and Sauron himself.

There is no doubt that the two franchises are up there with the best of all time, but there is one factor that, I think, separates them. That is the rewatchability factor. When I like a film, really really like it, I want to watch it again and again and enjoy it as much as I did the first time. As much as I like Lord of the Rings every time I consider watching them again it dawns on me how long they are and as the first one is slightly slow paced it seems like a much daunting task than perhaps it is. This is even more true if you happen to own the extended cuts.

Millions of children have grown up with Harry, Ron and Hermione.

This is where Harry Potter triumphs, in my eyes, as each film is an enjoyable journey. Despite the story getting darker and darker as each film progresses the films manage to keep a light heartedness about it that makes it easy to watch, easy to follow and easy to watch again. As well as this, Harry Potter is something for the whole family to enjoy, whereas Lord of the Rings is perhaps targeted at a more mature audience.

As you might be able to tell, I fall into the category of Harry Potter fans. I do think that this series is better than the Lord of the Rings. This is not a slight on Lord of the Rings at all, as I still think it is a superb trilogy and look forward to The Hobbit later on this year. But for sentimental reasons, perhaps more than other reasons, I think that The Boy Who Lived will always be my favourite film series no matter how long I live.