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3 reviews, 12 user ratings

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Hobbit, The: The Desolation of Smaug
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by Lybarger

"Three hours doesn't feel dull if something is actually happening on screen."
4 stars

If Peter Jackson's first portion of his three-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkein's 'The Hobbit' felt bloated and languid because he was attempting to stretch the children's novel farther than it was intended to go, the second installment, 'The Desolation of Smaug' is lean and energetic, as if Jackson and his collaborators had suddenly learned that an audience's attention is nothing to take for granted.

"The Desolation of Smaug" has the foreshadowing needed for Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, but this time he doesn't waste time with pointless flash-forwards and flashbacks. He simply sends Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the army of dwarves he has for traveling companions through a long series of dangers until they finally come face-to-face with Smaug (played in motion capture by the ubiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch). If you remember from "An Unexpected Journey," the first "Hobbit" film, Smaug has claimed the dwarves' rightful fortune as his own.

When you're a fire breathing dragon with scales that repel most weapons, few are brave or foolish enough to contest your claim. With Cumberbatch's deep, resonant voice bellowing intimidating banter, it's not like Smaug has to work very hard to scare anyone who'd dare to take the mountain of gold and other priceless items back from him.

Dealing with an oversized enemy who can fly and singe opponents at will is quite a task for Bilbo, the wise wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the Dwarf King Thorin (Richard Armitage). Thankfully, Jackson, his usual partners in crime Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens and Guillermo Del Toro come up with lots of other precarious situations for our heroes to overcome.

They have to deal with the expected orcs but also a fellow who abruptly changes into a bear at inconvenient moments and with humans and elves who resent the dwarves almost as much as the orcs do. Fortunately, the bow master Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and a comely elf named Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) are sympathetic to the dwarves' quest and can take on multiple orcs at once.

There's also a ferryman named Bard (Luke Evans) who risks taking the party into his lakeside village even though the residents still fearfully recall an earlier attack by Smaug and have an autocratic ruler (an appropriately smug Stephen Fry) who seems unconcerned with right or wrong.

It would probably be fair to accuse Jackson of using "The Desolation of Smaug" as an excuse to show off all the cool things his Weta special effects shop can do. That said, he and his team come up with a long series of spectacular images. This time around, Jackson's multiframe photography doesn't look jarring or awkward, and the 3D usually serves the story. Even in 2D, the dragon, the battles and the chases are fearsome and awe-inspiring.

What's curious about "The Hobbit" so far is that Bilbo might be the title character, but he's often upstaged throughout the films. In the second chapter, he's less of a halfling nebbish, but Freeman isn't given that much to do, other than look concerned whenever some new dangerous looking CGI appears. In Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, viewers never lost a sense that Frodo was the protagonist and could easily follow him into the story.

Nonetheless, if you're going to be lost in a tsunami of special effects, it's wonderful to be deluged with enchanting sights like these.

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originally posted: 12/14/13 03:35:44
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User Comments

1/17/15 Dr. Lao Descended into camp comedy and Orlando Bloom showpiece. Was Tolkien's book not good enough? 3 stars
11/27/14 zenny ANCIENT WOODLAND NINJA ELVES? Pass. 2 stars
1/26/14 G Clunky sequel except for the welcome additions of Smaug and Tauriel 3 stars
1/08/14 Alice The first one was saved by Gollum. Nothing could save this one... 2 stars
1/07/14 Loopy Solid but lacks something inspiring 3 stars
1/04/14 Luisa Entertaining (loved the barrel scene) but too long, some parts dragged. 3 stars
1/03/14 allyson becker A Must See! Highly recommend! 4 stars
12/24/13 zenny better than the 1st, too many video game-ish chase scenes 4 stars
12/17/13 CMF Very enjoyable film to watch. 4 stars
12/14/13 KingNeutron Expected better; runtime too long, not as good treatment as LOTR 3 stars
12/13/13 Bob Dog A great story, stretched to the point of breaking - - worse than the last one. 1 stars
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  13-Dec-2013 (PG-13)
  DVD: 08-Apr-2014

  13-Dec-2013 (12A)

  26-Dec-2013 (M)
  DVD: 08-Apr-2014

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