The ghost of Superman hovers over much of Justice League. You might say Superman’s ghost has always haunted Warner Bros’ big-screen DC Extended Universe, though the haunting is more pronounced now that Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel is dead.
Batman v Superman is even more charged with theological language and iconography than Avengers: Age of Ultron. Even the Good Friday opening may not be an accident.
Changes like these are sadly typical of the Hobbit prequel trilogy, which is far cruder and less sensitive to the charm and beauty of its source material than the Lord of the Rings films were. As bad as Christopher Tolkien’s fears in 2012 about The Hobbit films might have been, the reality is worse.
What I can say is that The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (a title strangely stuffed with too many the’s, at a time when movie titles often dispense with articles) includes — amid overinflated spectacle and cynical fan service — some of the best stuff of any of this prequel trilogy.
Now, two installments into the epically epic trilogification of Tolkien’s slender fairy tale for children, it seems Jackson and company have only one abiding goal: to keep one-upping themselves with ever more preposterous action sequences, nastier violence and more inappropriate humor.
There is an early moment in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey that captures the evocative poetry of Tolkien’s songs — something that The Lord of the Rings films, for all their achievements, never did. By the time the credits roll, that moment feels like it belonged in a very different film.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is such a tour de force homage to the serial adventures of yesteryear that viewers who know nothing of those old cliffhangers are swept up in its nostalgia. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull plays to nostalgia for the earlier Indiana Jones films. In that capacity, it delivers more or less what one would expect, disposable popcorn entertainment and a reunion with a few old friends. Enjoy it for what it is, but don’t hope for more.
It doesn’t help that this is now the second Star Wars movie in a row in which the "wars" alluded to in the series title are still basically in the future (one climactic skirmish aside). Lucas should never have gotten bogged down in political debate, let alone given two whole films of it.
Crippled as he is by the decisions of the first two films, Lucas still manages to invest the final chapter of his sprawling space opera with the grandly operatic spirit of the original trilogy. It’s still cornball, yes, and with all the usual weaknesses. But Episode III at last has heart.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.