Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.
I wrote the review for the first film in The Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but something bugged me while I was writing and it wasn’t the beer nuggets from Emil’s I picked up after playing some Laser Tag Saturday night. Those were great … nothing like deep fried bread lathered in cheese with pizza sauce after not eating anything for 24 hours. But I had seen Journey earlier that afternoon and something kept bugging me that I wrote on in the review.
This is a franchise that doesn’t need or warrant three films.
I may not have read “The Hobbit” nor have I read any of the long term spoilers but we all know how this ends. They go to the old Dwarf kingdom, slay the dragon and divide the spoils. And I actually went online and looked at it and yeah … that’s how it ends. The final details are to be determined, of course, and I’m perfectly fine with seeing the journey unspool over three films, but here’s the thing. I’m not sure how much material you can really effectively mine for three films.
The first film felt padded significantly and I thought you could make a sleek three hour film, all things considered, and there’s too many moments in An Unexpected Journey that feel like they’re only there because Peter Jackson needs nine hours of film for three good films as opposed to a three and a half brilliant masterpiece. I can see why Lord of the Rings needed three films because it was by necessity a nine hour film that needed to be spit up.
Say what you want about the inability of Return of the King to end, which was my only complaint with the entire trilogy, it at least wrapped up every loose thread possible in the series. I mean seriously … there were like two dozen fake endings that made up like an hour of material after the big eagle thingy picks up Elijah Wood at the volcano. I thought that was the logical ending point, it had a fade to black and I thought “that’s a badass ending.” After the eagle pick up I got up and walked out because I thought it was the end; a movie usher stopped me and advised there was still a bunch of material to go through. But I understood why it existed and frankly LOTR was the series that could get away with that sort of extended ending sequence. That was a film series you couldn’t condense into one short film.
It was an insane risk from a commercial perspective; fantasy films of any note generally don’t tend to draw at the box office. It padi off in spades because it was a great film and had great word of mouth as well. The crazy thing is that the film was one of the few massive blockbusters of the 2000s that didn’t need the 3D gimmick to bring in audiences and artificially inflate box office grosses. I bet New Line and Peter Jackson looked at how much money Avatar made and thought about how much they could’ve made considering they released three great films instead of one horrible one. That extra three bucks per ticket would’ve made them a considerably amount more money and it explains why The Hobbit was primed to be a 3D film.
Jackson probably will make more money on three films than one as well, of course, and the cynic in me thinks of that as an explanation for a Hobbit trilogy. But I see why Jackson wants to craft this trilogy in addition to his original career-making trilogy: it gives it a similar epic feel and it gives the fantasy genre a dual trilogy to match Star Wars.Eventually there’ll be a sequel trilogy to Star Wars in the books.
It’s something Tolkien didn’t write and thus one imagines won’t have a LOTR sequel trilogy. It’s gutsy to make more Star Wars films but that’s Disney capitalizing on their investment. It’d be insane to try and continue on LOTR because the story is wrapped definitively. So I get why Jackson would want a trilogy of films, and get everything about “The Hobbit” on film over nine hours, instead of making one great film. This is his last great run in Middle Earth and three films that are wildly successful are better than just one.
One of the shows that still makes for appointment viewing to me is Dexter; I rarely watch television but when I do it has to be for a specific reason. The big one is sports, of course, and the other is for engaging episodic television. Burn Notice, The League, Justified, Archer and South Park are the only other shows I watch as first views; everything else is either Hulu’d or DVR’d.
Dexter is one I don’t miss unless it’s for Sunday Night Football with the Bears. And even then I watch it immediately after the game is over. So this season’s finale intrigued me because it’s the beginning of the end for the show properly. It has to be as well; there’s no other way around it. We’re looking at the denouement of Dexter because all roads have led to this. And the character of Dexter Morgan has always fascinated me because of the dichotomy of who he is against the traditional psychotic killer in American television.
If you missed last night’s show … well … Dexter got accused of being the Bay Harbor Butcher and arrested but LaGuerta is a tricky gal. When finally being able to track down the evidence that led to Dexter and Deb being at the scene of last season’s finale he broke the code and set himself up to kill her. Deb ended up pulling the trigger … and if you want a full recap go read on Inside Pulser Jill Mader’s website. She kind of rocks when it comes to TV stuffs … so yeah. Open it in a new browser and come back here.
The one thing about Dexter has always been a show about a killer who’s found ways to cover up his tracks. It’s why Captain LaGuerta tracking him down, not believing Doakes was the Bay Harbor Butcher, was so interesting. She doesn’t have the usual sort of incompetency the Miami Homicide PD on Dexter exhibits when it comes to catching killers. It’s why the finale was so intriguing and the path forward becomes that much more finite in how it can turn out.
The one thing about Dexter Morgan is that we want to think of him as a good guy when he’s essentially a homicidal trash man; he takes out the refuse in the ways we wish we could. It’s the Boondock Saints type of punishment in that you want to think of as justice. We want to see the worst of us put down like we would an animal but we’re too civilized to do so. No matter how you square it up Dexter is the type of person people would look at as a necessary evil and wouldn’t want to know what he does, or how he does it, but you want to see the streets with less criminal types in them. What you don’t know and such, right?
One imagines that the people of Miami would be conflicted about Dexter’s status despite him being a serial killer who’s remarkably violent and savage. He hasn’t killed anyone who, in the craw of your mind, would think “man, they shouldn’t have died.” It’s the old adage of “they were bad so it’s not like the world lost someone who mattered” and that’s why the show has been able to have a protagonist who would normally be the villain Miami Homicide hunted down.
Dexter kills bad people to quench his thirst but he’s not a good guy by any stretch of the imagination. He’s an acceptable level of evil because it’s being used for a higher end. It’s the whole “means to an end” argument. Yeah it’s wrong and killing anyone is never right but murdering a violent sociopath who adds nothing back into society? Well … then it’s still wrong but it’s not like you’re eliminating someone of worth, either. A serial killer who kills people on the cusp of humanity changing discoveries is bad; a serial killer who murders drug lords, sociopaths and others along those lines is still bad but it’s a sort “lawful evil” villain straight out of Dungeons & Dragons (Miami Edition) that makes Dexter Morgan a hero.
He’s principled and not your garden variety serial killer: he’s a knife wielding, homicidal trash-collector. In any sane world and television show he’s the guy the hero is trying to bring down. He’d be an insanely fascinating villain with his code and such but flipping the script, making him the hero and Miami Homicide as an almost de facto villain, is why the show is so endlessly fascinating to me.
It’s why the show works; we want to see Dexter kill bad people because it’s a sort of visceral thing. But like any type of person who’s done the sort of violence he’s done the end game is never retirement to the serial killer nursing home. He doesn’t get the happy ending in the same way Tony Soprano doesn’t. It’s why my guess is that there’s only one season left of the show; the ending is in sight and it’s certainly not going to be a happy one.
And it’s absolutely been set up the past couple seasons. Rita was always set up as a false redemption; he could never have the family and be a soccer dad while also being a killer. Lumen was a flash in the plan, someone there to find their path through him but never stay. Hannah McKay is the actualization of someone who would accept him as a killer and as a family man … but she’s his reflection, not his equal. She’s the ugly truth the show’s been getting around to all these seasons.
There’s ugliness to her character that makes the downfall of Dexter Morgan, which is where the show is heading, that mirrors his own. It’s like a Green Bay Packer fan sobering up and realizing they live in the Mississippi of the Midwest and it’s almost a year since their grown-ass man of a quarterback joined a college fraternity (at my alma matter nonetheless); this is the ugliness of his own soul mirrored back to him. We see her in prison, society trying to begin the process of exacting justice upon her, and Dexter’s path is following hers. Eventually you get caught and pay the price; fictional serial killers don’t get to walk into the sunset.
This Week’s DVD – Assault on Precinct 13
I’ve been on an odd John Carpenter fix for the column as of late. I blame Black Friday where a whole crap ton of his films were on sale and I had Amazon Credit to burn.
Fairly simple premise to the film, which is a near remake of Rio Bravo. A bunch of gangbangers get killed by cops … and their buddies decide to declare war on everything moving in response. When the father of a dead girl killed by the hoodlums winds up killing the one responsible, and then into a police station after a foot chase, it’s up to Bishop (Austin Stoker) to defend his ground. He’s at the station overnight to close it down, his only company a handful of personnel and a killer (Darwin Joston) who winds up helping him for the good and the welfare.
It’s already been remade, with Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne, and it’s an interesting film. It’s all about atmosphere as Carpenter brings a horror film tone to what’s essentially an action film. The gangbangers are this horde that just wants to kill them all, like a zombie horde, but it’s all over too soon. This is a 90 minute film that made me want 30 more minutes of it; by the time the precinct is invaded the film’s almost done. It’s almost perfunctory at that point. It’s something that was rectified in the remake, of course, but not done particularly well though.
What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club
Jack Reacher – Tom Cruise is a badass crime fighter for the government
See It – Cruise is usually bankable for quality films and so far this looks quite good.
This is 40 – A sort of sequel to Knocked Up about getting old.
Skip it – I love Knocked Up but Judd Apatow is quickly approaching John Walsh territory when it comes to exploiting his kids. Considering the only thing Walsh hasn’t done with his son’s headless corpse is place it on a horse with a Jack-o-lantern on it, then send it through downtown L.A, that’s pretty remarkable territory for Apatow.
The Guilt Trip – Seth Rogen and his mom go on a road trip.
Skip it – I love Rogen but this just looks awful in every single way.
Monsters, Inc (3D) – Pixar’s monster franchise gets re-released in 3D.
See it – It’s a chance for another generation of kids to fall in love with this film like the last did; why not?
Cirque de Soleil: Worlds Away (Limited) – Those Las Vegas performers do all sorts of crazy stunts for 90 minutes or something.
See It – It’ll be visually interesting, at least.
Zero Dark Thirty (Limited) – The tale behind the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
See it – It’s the darling of awards season so far and an Oscar candidate.
Amour (Limited) – A French film about an old couple who go through old people things.
See It – It’s the favorite for foreign language Oscar, apparently.
On the Road (Limited) – An adaptation of the Kerouac novel.
Skip it – The novel is insanely overrated and I can’t imagine the film being any better.
Do you follow “A Dose of Buckley” on the YouTube? You should … and here’s his bit on the worst songs of 2012 is below. It’s funny, came out Saturday and you should give it a listen.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .