Thursday, December 27, 2012

‘Star Trek’ Director J.J. Abrams Explains Why He Declined Disney’s ‘Star Wars’

It’s common knowledge at this point that Lost creator and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams declined an early offer to be involved with Disney’s forthcoming Star Wars sequel trilogy, but a new interview in Empire Magazine reveals that Abrams was initially toying with the idea of trekking from “where no man has gone before” to “a galaxy far, far away,” and even had meetings on the matter with Star Wars’ new overseer, Kathleen Kennedy. However, the lifelong Star Wars fan felt strongly that he’d rather enjoy the new films from a distance.

“I quickly said that because of my loyalty to Star Trek, and also just being a fan, I wouldn’t even want to be involved in the next version of those things," Abrams told Empire. “I declined any involvement very early on. I’d rather be in the audience not knowing what was coming, rather than being involved in the minutiae of making them.”

The first of Disney’s Star Wars sequels is slated to hit theaters in 2015, while Abrams’ follow-up to his 2009 Star Trek reboot, titled Star Trek Into Darkness, will be released on May 17, 2013.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

First Look at Bilbo Baggins in ‘The Desolation of Smaug’

 In a move that tells fans absolutely nothing we don’t already know about Peter Jackson’s next Hobbit film — but nevertheless sends us into a speculative frenzy — the trilogy’s official Facebook page released this first look at Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, slated to hit theaters Dec. 13, 2013.

In the photo, Bilbo is wearing some fancy new duds on a massive pile of gold, no doubt during his confrontation with the dragon Smaug within the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo could also be doing his Scrooge McDuck impression, but I don’t remember that from the book.

Three Reasons to Love ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’

 It shouldn’t be all that much of a surprise that, yes, I really enjoyed the first film in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. But rather than bore you with a long-winded and hyperbolic explanation as to why An Unexpected Journey is worth your cash this holiday season, here are three reasons why you geeks out there should see it in theaters, whether in 3D, 48 FPS or otherwise.

1)  Martin Freeman is a perfect Bilbo Baggins
Before The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I admittedly knew very little about the work of Martin Freeman, save for his starring role in the middling 2005 film adaptation of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Now that I’ve seen him as Bilbo Baggins, I can’t picture anyone else playing the overly cautious son of Belladonna Took. He captures Bilbo’s polite outrage incredibly well at the beginning of the film as the dwarves invade his pantry, and his transformation to unlikely action hero during the film’s climax is pretty convincing (even if it is a bit abrupt). On top of all that, Freeman even looks at times like a young Ian Holm, who plays the older Bilbo in the Lord of the Rings films and the prologue to An Unexpected Journey.

2) The Riddle Game sequence lives up to expectations
The entire Lord of the Rings saga hinges on Bilbo’s discovery of The One Ring and the ensuing Riddle Game with its previous bearer, Gollum, so it’s only appropriate that the fifth chapter of The Hobbit is among Tolkienites’ favorite pieces of the lore. Fortunately, Peter Jackson is one such Tolkienite, and made Bilbo’s tense battle of wits as creepy in this film as we all imagined it would be. Kudos to the Weta Team (and returning actor Andy Serkis) for reminding us why Gollum is one of modern cinema’s finest digital creations.

3)  The Hobbit films are better Lord of the Rings prequels than the book
This isn’t a knock on J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel, but the original children’s story was never really intended to be a prelude to the far more epic story that would be its sequel, The Lord of the Rings. In fact, the author went back and rewrote portions of the book’s fifth chapter “Riddles in the Dark” (which features the aforementioned Riddle Game), to better match up with the The Lord of the Rings, and Tolkien allegedly intended at one point to rewrite The Hobbit entirely as a more serious story to supplement Bilbo’s more childish retelling of his Lonely Mountain adventure.

Since that never happened, Jackson was tasked with making The Hobbit “fit” with the mythology established in the previous films. As a result, many of the darker elements of the story are tied more directly to the imminent return of Sauron, and portions of Middle Earth’s history are culled from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings appendices and supplemental writings. Making the story feel “bigger” not only serves to connect The Hobbit with The Lord of the Rings (which benefits fans), but also allows the story to be spread over three films (which benefits the studios).

So, there you have it! If you disagree with any of the points made here, let me know on Twitter by following me @JamesWortman.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

‘Fantastic Four’ Reboot Release Date Set for 2015

Determined to cling to the rights of one of Marvel’s most beloved properties, Fox has announced that The Fantastic Four  —  a reboot of Tim Story’s misguided film series starring Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, The Human Torch and The Thing  — will hit theaters on March 6, 2015, reports.

Details on the upcoming film are nearly nonexistent, but we know that it will be helmed by Josh Trank (Chronicle) and written by relative unknown Jeremy Slater. Other Marvel films on Fox’s slate include The Wolverine (July 26, 2013) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23, 2014).

I don’t want to wish ill on The Fantastic Four, but this is one franchise that would flourish with the fine folks over at Marvel Studios, and aside from X-Men: First Class, Fox hasn’t produced any worthwhile Marvel films since X2: X-Men United nearly a decade ago. Will Trank’s reboot be a film worthy of Marvel’s First Family? Or will we have another X-Men Origins: Wolverine on our hands? Stay tuned.

For the full story, click here.

Stephen Colbert Talks Tolkien with ‘Hobbit’ Director Peter Jackson

Most geeks are feverishly anticipating the Friday release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, including Comedy Central political satirist Stephen Colbert. On the Dec. 6 edition of The Colbert Report, Colbert — who has already seen the first installment of the Hobbit trilogy — had a geekified discussion with Jackson about all things J.R.R. Tolkien, including the author’s retconning of certain events in his 1937 children’s fantasy novel The Hobbit after the completion of The Lord of the Rings and the author’s abandoned plans to rewrite The Hobbit entirely.

Check out the video below, and be sure to pre-order your tickets before The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hits theaters this weekend.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Pundit: Or Colbert and Back Again - Hobbit Week Night Four
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‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Teaser Explains Very Little

If there’s anything to be said about J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, it’s that Paramount is taking an economical approach to its marketing. We still have no concrete information as to who the antagonist will be — even though many signs point to Khan Noonien Singh — and even the first trailer that’s been making the rounds online raises more questions than answers.

In any event, check out the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer below.