Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Bywatches: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Bilbo is a special snowflake.

(spoilers alert)

As I write this, I'm listening to "The Last Goodbye", the credit song for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, for the nth time.

I think the lyrics embody all this movie means for me. It ends with the words "I bid you all a very fond farewell", which is what Bilbo tells the assembled hobbits at his 111st birthday party at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, so while this movie is likely the last we'll ever see of Peter Jackson's cinematic version of the Tolkien legendarium, it's not truly an end. The movie even ends when a very old friend of a now elderly Bilbo comes knocking on the day of his famous birthday party...

Which is not to say that The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is entirely a movie of sad goodbyes and bittersweet reflection. Far from it. For the first two hours, in other words the meat of the film, this is the climax we've been groaning for since the 45-minute opening of An Unexpected Journey. From the dramatic slaying of Benedict Cumberbatch-voiced dragon Smaug to the inevitable coming of the Eagles at the end of the battle, there is barely a moment taken to draw breath.

And you know what? I loved it. If you were let down by the leaden pace of An Unexpected Journey or the unsatisfying cliffhanger ending of The Desolation of Smaug, Peter Jackson makes a full repentance for those here. If nothing else, Battle of the Five Armies is the perfect companion for a large tub of popcorn and a stormy night. Or a clear night. Or hell, even a small tub of popcorn. It's pretty good.

All right boys, higher, HIGHER, I want to hear that glass BREAK!

Now of course there are the problems that seem to affect any movie with a high enough budget: plot holes (couldn't the Orcs just have used the giant worms to dig into the Mountain and catch everyone in the back?)  and unfinished threads: want to know what happened to everyone except Bilbo? Pony up yet more money for the Extended Edition in a year's time! (Or, you know, read the book.)

Nevertheless, I don't think my enjoyment of the film was at all dented by these complaints. I didn't go in expecting something on the order of Citizen Kane or even Interstellar, and I was thoroughly entertained. I don't regret spending the time or the money I did on this movie, and I am definitely looking forward to picking up the Extended Edition for some more closure on the fate of the Lonely Mountain, Dale, and so on.

Goodbye, Peter Jackson, and thank you for taking us with you to Middle-earth, one last time.

Rating: 4.5/5

Coming soon:
Bywatches: Exodus: Gods and Kings
Byreads: The Way of Kings, Excalibur

Monday, December 22, 2014

My first ever Christmas present

Welcome, friends and Romans, to The Cosmic Bystander!

Well, yesterday I received my first Christmas present.

Now, you're probably doing a double take. A nice Jewish boy like me getting Christmas presents? Am I high on sufganiya sugar? Has the Cosmic Bystander finally assimilated?

Well, no. It's from a guy in Ramat Gan.

At the beginning of the month, a friend and I decided to sign up for the Reddit Secret Santa 2014 exchange. This involves sending a Christmas present to another Redditor (who doesn't know who or where you are) and getting one from a different one.

Being the cheap, cosmic bastard I am, I didn't check 'international shipping' so I got some guy in Tel Aviv to ship to. Sunday two weeks ago I sent him a Rick & Morty mug and a Star Wars book. He got it about a week later and seemed happy.

Now last Tuesday an already great day (I'd booked tickets for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies) was improved by an email notification that my Secret Santa had sent my gift.

And yesterday it arrived!

What has it got in its pocketses, precious?

Two! Two PS3 games for the Bystander, precious!

Thank you Secret Santa for giving a nice Jewish boy his first taste of Christmas.

It might as well be Saturnalia, though. They're all celebrations of the winter solstice. Although with global warming, we'll probably end up calling it the summer-lite solstice.

Coming up soon on The Cosmic Bystander!

Bywatches: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Exodus: Gods and Kings
Byreads: The Way of Kings