Tag Archives: Michael Fassbender

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E8 Review “Alloyed” #AmazonReview #LOTR #RingsofPower

makes no sense … no Keyser Söze moment here … one of the dumbest red herrings I have ever seen.

REVIEW CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS

The season finale of Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power finally reveals the identity of Sauron, we see the forging of the eponymous rings, and we (probably) find out who the Harfoots’ Stranger friend is.

one of the dumbest fake reveals ever

The episode starts with the reveal that the whole season has been centred around and building up to: the identity of the dark lord Sauron. Except who he is revealed to be makes no sense. For a second I was like “No!” in open-mouthed astonishment at the scriptwriters’ genius. And then a moment later, I was like, “Oh, actually, no” in open-mouthed astonishment at their stupidity. No Keyser Söze moment here, I’m afraid. This is one of the dumbest fake reveals / red herrings I have ever seen. It’s supposed to make the actual reveal of Sauron at the end of the episode all the more shocking as we are meant to think we now already know who Sauron is. But Sauron so obviously isn’t the person the episode opening would have us believe, that we simply don’t believe it.

Michael Palin lookalike Celebrimbor

That’s not the only thing that’s impossible to believe in this episode. The greatest elven smith in history, and therefore the greatest smith in history, the legendary Michael Palin lookalike Celebrimbor, doesn’t know about alloying metals. I am an English teacher with almost no practical skills so to speak, and yet even a lowly bug such as I know about the concept of alloying metals, and how this can be a beneficial process. Also, the plot point that the elven race will die if the tree dies, and that somehow the metal mithril will stop this, makes less and less sense the more you think about it.

The dodgy acting that has been a hallmark of this show continues. Sadoc tries to save Nori from, something, in a quite unbelievable way. Celebrimbor seems to be becoming seduced by powah. The three witches, or whatever they are, have a final stand-off with Probably-Gandalf, and it’s totally ridiculous again.

Galdriel suspects … that Halbrand isn’t the king that, err, Galadriel made him out to be

The characters and plot are still weak. Galdriel suspects what most people have suspected for a few episodes now: that Halbrand isn’t quite the king that, err, Galdriel made him out to be. Indeed, he might be thoroughly naughty. So she does her usual thing of rushing around and causing chaos. This time she gets a spy to look into Halbrand’s past. But then she has her top secret spy simply walk in in front of everyone, Halbrand included, and present her a scroll. Not suspicious or attention-drawing at all. Everyone looks around at her, as well they might. Dumbest. Sh*t. Ever.

This is a kind of “Darth Vader” situation, isn’t it?

The show ends on two big reveals. Probably-Gandalf is, indeed, probably Gandalf. And Halbrand is… hang on a sec. Halbrand. Hal Brand. Hal. Hell. Brand. Like fire. Literally, his name is “Hell Fire.” This is a kind of “Darth Vader” situation here, isn’t it? Yes, Halbrand is Sauron. Dumber than that is how Galadriel doesn’t tell anyone. Dumber still is how The Artist Formerly Known as Halbrand Currently Known as Sauron doesn’t kill her when he has the chance, merely opting to scarper.

the disappointing and fairly nonsensical ending that this poor first season deserves

Bad plotting, a lack of characterisation, poor acting, shoddy dialogue, stuff that just doesn’t make sense. But apart from all the show, the show isn’t half bad. Honestly, this is the disappointing and fairly nonsensical ending that this poor first season deserves.

2/5

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://static1.cbrimages.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/sauron-and-ruler-ring-from-lord-of-the-rings.jpg

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E7 Review “The Eye” #AmazonReview #LOTR #RingsofPower

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

Bad lines badly delivered

Episode seven of The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, “The Ring”, opens with Hellish scenes, and beautiful, evocative and compelling visuals reminiscent of the Fassbender version of Macbeth. Absolute carnage, apart from Galdriel who is somehow still standing. Effective, shocking and wonderful imagery. But seriously, how is she still alive?

The problem as ever is that all the flabby dialogue and acting ruins anything remotely good. “He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone” and “Soldiers, soldiers, the roof’s about to fall down” and “what cannot be known hollows the mind, fill it not with guesswork” inspiring stuff that was surely homaged (a.k.a. nicked) straight from the pages of Macbeth or Henry V. Indeed, I sensed the tongue of Lawrence Olivier on the brain of some of these players and screenwrights, or so the showrunners and the showrunners alone clearly think. Bad lines badly delivered: this is a case where two negatives don’t make a positive. The way they almost got crushed by a tree was so bad, the acting so comical, that it completely ruined the beautiful visuals. So terribly discordant, once again.

An emotional moment between Gimli 2 and Legolas 2 was probably the best moment of the season so far. This is probably the most interesting relationship along with that between Gimli 2 and his Dad. Indeed, the best acting comes from Gimli 2’s Dad played by Peter Mullin. But they still managed to ruin this mini-success in the show by Gimli 2’s wife being more of a man than him in almost every single way. Gimli 2’s wife indeed has suddenly become Lady Macbeth in this episode, although I’m not sure where the character arc was that led to this. Although that surely would have been a good character arc had they actually bothered to do it.

Fundamentally, the problem remains that we’re just not that invested in the characters, and the odd good moments only serve to highlight how truly awful everything else is. Probably-Gandalf is handed an apple by Female Frodo, swell of music, but we just don’t care no matter how loud they lay that score on.

WHICH YARDSTICK?

When this series began, I was determined to not compare it to Tolkien’s original work, but to evaluate it on its own terms. Tolkien is a high bar to meet, and I feel that would be a handicap for any show. Indeed, that’s why I esteem the Jackson-Boyens-Walsh trilogy so much, as their work was not only excellent on its own terms but also on the terms laid down by Tolkien. Yet even by my looser desire to merely see a great show, rather than a great show which does true justice to the beloved late Professor Tolkien’s works, and despite being someone who desperately wants this show to succeed, I just cannot give any episode more than a three out of five, and even then the threes are being scraped; indeed, I wonder how much my misplaced loyalty to the world of Middle-Earth is colouring my views and pushing me towards lenience to this show.

This series has some good moments and some bad moments. But the overall vibe is an amateurish fanfic, but a fanfic not even set in Tolkien’s universe but set in a universe designed to nod to Tolkien’s. I’m not sure why or how a great company like Amazon with a great IP like this has managed to produce this substandard piece of work.

SILLY STUFF

And why does Galadriel love doing stuff “at first light”? It’s really getting silly now. Oh wait, hang on, it’s gets sillier still: the way the name reveal of Mordor was handled has to be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. It was absolutely stupid.

Oh, and actually, how did everyone survive a volcano going off in their face? The writers didn’t even go with the cop outs of a deus ex machina or the “it was all a dream” tosh. The characters just… survived. That’s all.

IN SHORT

The episode makes no sense. The characters are not characters and they have no arc. The series doesn’t hang together.

2/5

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://static1.srcdn.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Galadriel-Rings-of-Power.jpg

FILM REVIEW: 12 Years A Slave

note: review originally published 2014

 … isn’t fit to tie the emotional and dramatic boots of Toy Story 3

12 Years a Slave is the third film from young British director Steve McQueen. Adapted from the diaries of Solomon Northup, the film is set before the American Civil War and tells the true story of a free black man from the northern United States who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the south, subsequently spending 12 years trying to get back to his family.

There’s a big buzz around 12 Years a Slave. It seems to be this year’s in vogue film, dealing as it does with controversial subject material (blacks, slaves, impregnated black slaves). But let me tell you a secret, dear reader, something nobody dares speak, that nobody even dares think: the film, err, isn’t that great.

So it’s bad, then? Not at all. It’s actually fairly solid. But the glowing praise and universal acclaim that it’s garnered, along with the multiple Oscars that it will land**, have simply not been earned. Sadly, this film is exactly the kind that the lovies and wannabe intellectual journalist-types adore. Nobody wants to say the Emperor has no clothes because they’re scared it might make them look insensitive or, worse, uncultured(!) Gulp. But the film just doesn’t work. And how I desperately wanted it to work, how I crave to say this blew my mind.

So what is wrong with it?

It all comes down to one thing: you just don’t care what happens to Solomon. He’s clearly a good man, but his struggles and the eventual conclusion of the film leave you feeling rather cold. Crescendo, big moment, obstacle overcome at last, tears on screen – and yet I was left unmoved. Time after time. I thought: Am I bad? Have I become desensitised? Do I not care enough because he’s not white? Am I secretly heartless and/or a racist? Some of my best friends are… I looked around the cinema to see if someone, anyone was crying. But thankfully, my white middle-class liberal angst was for nothing, because nobody in the cinema cared either. All I could see in the half-light were puzzled faces looking around as if to say, “Oh, okay…?”. It’s not that the film’s bad – it’s not. It’s more that we simply don’t give a monkeys what happens to Solomon. He’s a good, upstanding man, sure, no real evil in him. He doesn’t deserve his plight. And he doesn’t do a single bad thing in the whole film. But then again, he doesn’t do a single good thing either. Indeed, he doesn’t do a single thing at all.

The film can be summarised thus: Solomon gets kidnapped, sold into slavery, keeps his head down and does a whole lot of nothing for two hours, Fin. Sad fact though it may be, a heart-rending true story does not a heart-rending drama make. Drama isn’t life, and we the audience need more reasons to emotionally invest in the guy and his journey other than, “he’s a normal bloke who gets kidnapped”. What kindness does he show his fellow slaves? What friendships does he make along the way? And, if you can forgive me a wanky film critic moment, how is the drama of the piece advanced in any way whatsoever by his actions be they instigating or reactive? Answer: it isn’t.

True story or not, the screenwriter and director needed to give us a reason to cheer for Solomon even if that means not being “true” to what really happened. The film presents Solomon with many opportunities to show his kindness, to forge relationships with others that we can really emotionally invest in, and yet he doesn’t. And no amount of understated performances, subtle plays on the material, or beautiful cinematography can disguise the fact that the central narrative of this film violates one of the fundamental rules of drama uncovered as long ago as by Aristotle: things shouldn’t just happen to the characters, but it should be through the characters’ actions that drama unfolds. Unfortunately, in 12 Years a Slave, stuff just happens to Solomon, and he just doesn’t do anything about any of it except occasionally to serve his own ends (and even then, in the most undramatic and inept fashion). The effect is we sit through two hours and thirteen minutes, and we just don’t care. A commanding performance by Chiwetel Ejiofor is nowhere near good enough to rescue the material.

But it’s not all bad. Indeed, and here’s the real tragedy: it’s most fairly good.

The film features relative unknowns in the lead roles, but also some heavy hitting A-listers in support: Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, and Benedict Omnibatch (I mean Cumberbatch: sorry, didn’t you know? New Hollywood rules state that a film is not allowed to go ahead unless Benedict Cumberbatch is cast… in any role… somewhere).

Fassbender in particular is mesmerising as slaver Edwin Epps. He’s a borderline alcoholic with conflicted emotions about his slaves. Yeah, they’re his property, but he doesn’t delight in brutalising them. He seems more a victim of his alcoholism and his henpecking wife (played well by Sarah Paulson, despite a lack of material to work with). And slave girl Patsey is richly portrayed by newcomer Lupita Nyong’O. The film is worth watching for her performance alone. Yet Brad Pitt’s cameo was slightly jarring: I couldn’t stop thinking, “Look! It’s Brad Pitt doing a Brad Pitt!”

Much to the film’s credit, it also does not slide into the predictable tropes of the slave genre. No, the slavers are not all evil; no, the blacks do not all form loving bonds with each other and sing Kumbaya round a campfire; no, the pretty black slave girl does not get knocked up by the white slave master. And for this, the film is to be commended; it gives us a fresh take on a familiar story. It shows the shades of grey that the situation engendered whilst still leaving us in no doubt as to the brutality and unspeakable wrongness of slavery. And yet it also doesn’t show caricature slavers joyfully lashing slaves for the yeehaw of it, nor does it go for sensationalism.

The direction was gripping. A reveal of one character’s whip wounds early on produced a collective gasp from the screening room. And there’s one particular shot in the field where the camera is locked on the scene for what seems an age without moving: the effect is disturbing and brings home the evil of slavery better than a thousand lashes ever could.

In short: I desperately wanted to say “best film since Schindler’s List”. But this “one of the best films ever” [Telegraph] isn’t fit to tie the emotional and dramatic boots of Toy Story 3, and was, sadly, much, much less than the sum of its mostly majestic parts.

**The film did indeed go on to win three Academy Awards.

3/5

review originally published in 2014
featured image from http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1329181/images/o-12-YEARS-A-SLAVE-REVIEWS-facebook.jpg

© 2014-2020 Bryan A. J. Parry