3 1/2 Stars
Age of the Hobbits A.K.A. Clash of the Empires is a mockbuster by the infamous Asylum of the Peter Jackson big budget version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. If that’s not enough big name dropping for you just add Warner Bros to the mix and what do you have? A lawsuit. The Asylum is known for its mockbusters – rip-offs of bigger budgeted films that often have little in common with their Hollywood counterparts other than in name. These are designed to ride the wave of the multi-million dollar ad campaigns for the studio films and pick off whatever unsuspecting consumers that are stupid enough to mistake The Asylum’s fare for Hollywood’s. Hence the name change from Age of the Hobbits to Clash of the Empires (or The History of Mankind in Cambodia and Lord of the Elves on Vudu – which didn’t stick probably because there’s Elves in The Hobbit). For those that have come to enjoy The Asylum’s flicks, such as myself, these lawsuits provide a colorful back-story to the new age of b-movie cinema – the age of the mockbusters.
When the Hobbit Goben’s (Sun Korng) village is attacked by the merciless Java Men, his mother is captured and enslaved along with many others. Accompanied by his father and sister, Goben must travel across an enchanted land full of poisonous plants, giant lizards, big ass spiders and of course humans to free his mother and fellow villagers. Along the way they team up with a few humans (Christopher Judge, Bai Ling), or giants as the mini-Hobbits call them. Outmatched they take on the Java’s – will they be victorious?
This movie has the look and feel of earlier 80’s Corman sword and sandal / exploitation type flicks. Deathstalker and Barbarian Queen jumped into my mind almost immediately. It’s clear this movie is shot digitally, but it does capture that filmic look at times and might be the best looking Asylum flick at this time. That includes competent CGI all around. The bar continues to rise for these cheap b-movies and The Asylum is setting the heights. The dubbing of the Hobbit voices also gives this flick an edge on charm – it helps solidify an 80’s schlock feel.
Director Jodeph J Lawson is clearly the new talent at The Asylum and I hope they keep this guy working as a director and not just doing special effects. I was a big fan of his last effort Nazis at the Center of the Earth and look forward to whatever he’s got next. Much credit must also be given to Eric Forsberg’s tight and briskly paced script. Of course it probably helps that Age of the Hobbits is a mere hour and a half compared to the three hour long Jackson epic. Regardless Forsberg keeps his Hobbits busy as they travel to their destination so we’re not saddled with five to ten minute montages of walking. I have to call out Rob Pallatina’s editing as being a deciding factor for how good this flick plays. A few of the scenes (such as the village attack) appear to have been created in the editing room. The casting is perfect, with the Hobbits being true Cambodian little people and native Cambodians cast elsewhere where appropriate. Christopher Judge (Stargate SG-1) and Bai Ling blend in well as the humans, but it’s really the Hobbits that are the stars.
Age of the Hobbits A.K.A. Clash of the Empires is worth watching if you’re a true fan of b-movies. It harkens back to the days of exploitation cinema when Roger Corman flicks still had that low-budget yet artistic charm. Had this had the bigger hundred million dollar budget of The Hobbit, it might be the better movie, but in its current state most will call it crap. I choose to call it a gem; they rarely make movies like this anymore.
Director: Joseph J. Lawson
Stars: Christopher Judge, Bai Ling, Sun Korng