The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 

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So you thought The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey wasn't exciting enough? Get ready for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: Check Out Our Cumbersome Titles trilogy, where the camera swoops and whooshes over meticulously constructed and choreographed scenes of battles, derring-do, death, brushes with death, more battles, thrilling escapes, unlikely alliances, quips, even more battles, gorgeous scenery, the biggest, baddest, best CGI dragon ever created, and yet still even more battles!

It's like the climax of The Adventures of Tintin, except better, because most of you actually know these characters and their eyes don't look dead like the characters in Tintin. But why am I talking about Tintin when I should be shouting about Jackson's super whiz-bang epic-a-go-go!? Gosh, how could anyone complain about a two hour and forty minute avalanche of thrills and chills!?

Actually, I'm going to complain a little. Here's the deal: I've never read anything by J.R.R. Tolkien. Nothing against the man or his works; I just never felt the need to wade into novels requiring me to learn about the history, peoples, and cultural and political relationships between the nations, factions and colorful figures of fantasy worlds. I have enough trouble keeping up with this planet.

The first Hobbit flick put me to sleep. This one almost did. I got through the first two hours due to the wham bam factor, especially during an over-the-top but undeniably dazzling escape/pursuit scene set on a raging river. But despite the great-looking visuals, I was acutely aware of the film's lack of story. What I was watching seemed less like a quest for the ages and more like well-shot footage of a mega-cool amusement park ride or next-generation video game. When the travelers finally reached a town and the pace slowed, my eyelids began to droop and I had to fight to stay awake, until the best dragon ever (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) appeared and I perked up.

Understand, I enjoy spectacle as much as the next person, but I need substance as well. For too much of the time, Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who I believe is the central character of the whole shebang, seems like just another member of the gang. The wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is off on some side-task. He does that a lot, doesn't he? A relationship between a female archer named Tauriel (Evangeline Lily) and hunky dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner) is promising, but won't be resolved until the next installment.

I get that Jackson views this movie as simply the middle portion of a nearly nine-hour story. But I nodded during the first part and won't see the finale for a year, leaving me with a beautifully imagined thrill-fest with too little personality and too many situations TO BE CONTINUED next year. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is going to be a massive hit with fans of the book and of Jackson's uber-productions, but for me, viewing it as a movie unto itself, it's eye candy without enough flavor.


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Rated PG-13 · 161 min. · 2013
Staff Rating:
Official Site:
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson and J.R.R. Tolkien
Producer: Carolynne Cunningham, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh
Cast: Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lee Pace and Richard Armitage

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What others are saying (15)

The Coast Halifax The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug We're in the home stretch now, kids by Jacob Boon 12/12/2013
East Bay Express The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Smaug gets in your eyes. by Kelly Vance 12/11/2013
The North Coast Journal Weekly Fire Beats Paper Sequel Smaug smokes Book Thief by John J. Bennett 12/19/2013
12 more reviews...
LA Weekly The Great and Terrible Hobbit Elves snore, it turns out. Their maidens make teensy-peen jokes and pine for the hottest of dwarves. And Bilbo Baggins, so concerned about his doilies just three hours of screen time ago, now punches his sword right through the trachea of a goblin -- and then looks rather proud of... by Alan Scherstuhl 12/12/2013
Connect Savannah Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Flows more gracefully than its predecessor. by Matt Brunson 12/18/2013
Tucson Weekly Dragon Drama You might find yourself enjoying the second Hobbit film more than the first, although still avoid the HFR 3-D by Colin Boyd 12/12/2013
Creative Loafing Tampa The Hobbit heads into the dragon’s lair Peter Jackson’s new trilogy is looking up with The Desolation of Smaug. by Joe Bardi 12/11/2013
The North Coast Journal Weekly American Underbelly Out of the Furnace goes into the darkness by John J. Bennett 12/12/2013
Colorado Springs Independent Desolation of Smaug may as well be Lord of the Rings If The Hobbit is beginning to feel exhausting, it's not because the movies are long; it's from the strain of watching a movie devote so much energy to being something it's not. by Scott Renshaw 12/11/2013
Inlander The Middle Part The Desolation of Smaug makes up for the slow start to The Hobbit trilogy by Ed Symkus 12/12/2013
Portland Mercury Hot Elf Action! Holy shit, you guys! The Hobbit is incredible! by J.R.R. Tolkien 12/11/2013
Creative Loafing Tampa What To Watch For: Movies American Hustle highlights an exciting season of movies to come. by Joe Bardi 08/29/2013
Charleston City Paper The Hobbit's second installment is better than the first Jackson and his team of writers, including Pacific Rim director Guillermo del Toro and Jackson's wife Fran Walsh, seem bent on creating mayhem out of what is actually a simple quest story. by Tom Meek 12/11/2013

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