Review Roundup - Totally expected schlock

LOCKOUT (2012)

You know when you hear a premise, and what you think of is almost exactly what you get? It's a strange blend of satisfaction and at the same time the lack of surprises drag you down a little. So when they say this is where Guy Pearce is forced by Peter Stormare to go on a rescue in a space prison, it's no shocker when the result is a low grade adventure where the characters talk in sound bites at each other. Evil thugs, back stabbing corporate suits, a smoking anti-hero, it's all stock material. That's not to say the results aren't mostly pleasing in some way or another - some of the quips are pretty fun and our hero Snow (just Snow) does the whole trash talking and frowning act pretty well.

It offers a reasonable b-movie ride, and for your time you get a few silly sci-fi moments, some action, a pair of Scottish convicts and couple of really bad cheap CG sequences. The comic style characters work for their purpose, the future technology is given a couple of neat moments, and the art direction is fairly nice considering the low budget setting. Just don't expect any kind of moral discussion about the actual prison itself and how the inmates are being stored in deep freeze in orbit away from society, as they quickly give up on it after a brief mention early in; despite the promise of some deeper plot about using them as data for new space travel methods. That's not the film you're getting.



I have time for schlock when it ticks the right boxes and doesn't go too far on sleaze or stupidity. Most of the time here it does all that stuff well enough to keep the momentum going, so it's a shame when the finale falls short on anticipated action beats, and throws in moments that try to be less simplistic than it has been until there as the story unravels into some unnecessary tangents. The one dimensional aspects are what kept it easy to follow and best of all stop you thinking about what a big anti-climax it all came to in the last few scenes (and how much had been taken from Escape From New York). Compacting the issues right at the close left me wishing they'd just have gone with a more clich├ęd ending. Which is just madness considering the rest of the film, but an easy show down without the extra sub plot would have suited me fine. Break some heads, save the girl, easy. But no... it actually feels like something was lost on the cutting room floor in a few places. That being said the ride is mostly what you'd expect, so if you feel throwaway entertainment it could be worth a shot. Fire and forget.

3/5

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (2012)

Speaking of getting what you expect, remember that announcement they'd be doing a trilogy based on well loved children's book The Hobbit instead of a two part adventure? I thought this was very strange considering the source material, what are they going to squeeze into another 2 hours or more? There's a beautifully illustrated comic that did it very well and some great audio books after all. That sinking feeling followed me into the movie itself unfortunately, where the easy going treasure hunt plot has been expanded a great deal to include epic battle prologues, plus a lot of extra characters, melodrama and fantasy violence. Some of it's to be expected from the makers of Brain Dead, but other things I can't rationalise.

The tone of The Lord of The Rings series was something I could credit the makers for - there were a few silly comic relief bits here and there and some strange inclusions I guess to cover that lowest common denominator mindset (looking at you Lighthouse of Doom) but the desaturated, earthy texture and overall mood was for the most part well realised. Trimming the material to fit a cinematic pace worked much of the time, and they stand up after all these years as high points in fantasy film. As if there's a lot of competition. Here it's as I'd imagined after hearing they'd be editing together a third chapter for what is a much shorter story - a lot of extra things have been thrown in to fill the run time (which is still pretty lengthy) and where previously the action beats and character moments had kept the Fellowship moving along, the characters seem to get bogged down and side tracked once to often. Many of these things are details and sub-plots relevant to the overall world... but whoever thought bringing them up here makes for a compelling story needs their head examined, and it makes no sense to add so many grim and sombre moments to what is a colourful, straightforward tale after all - it's supposed to be all songs and talking beasts.


It could be what's perceived as audience expectation coming into a prequel at this late stage, is the scale demanded now? Or maybe this is just the kind of extravagance that comes with success. Either way I didn't see why extra wizards, extra race relation stresses and extra dismembered heads needed to be added to the proceedings. I appreciate they need to have arcs where rifts between characters are created and resolved, but the whole Elves and Dwarves tension idea doesn't need repeating, not in this story, and the idea Bilbo is a risk or a burden to the journey comes up once too often. Bringing things like this up as well as being distracted by outside plots and back story moments feels slightly artificial. The way it fluctuates from light moments to the darker material simply doesn't make for good pacing, and instead it drags during one scene and explodes with goblins in another. 

Speaking of which - I did enjoy most of the overblown action despite the lack of practical creatures, and many of the characters are fun and performed well by staples of theatre and television, both new and returning. The highlights of Gollum's cave towards the end and Bilbo's gate crashers early in made for some great moments of both drama and fun. As expected there are some rousing quest themes and a lot of nice fantasy design work to be seen, if that's your kind of thing. It's just strange to think when some viewers had a problem with ending the last three with so many subsequent epilogues, here things take forever to get moving - more than once. On top of this several characters don't even get speaking parts in this chapter, despite the run time being this excessive. Things don't add up, and it's a shame that in the end this is the overall feeling I was left with despite finding much of it entertaining. I think I will revisit that adaptation with the David Wenzel artwork in the meantime and so should you.

3/5