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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
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Directing: B-
Acting: B
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-
Special Effects: B-



The Hobbit likely would not have been a disappointment if it had been made before the vastly superior Lord of the Rings trilogy, which had all of the grandness and gravitas that The Hobbit aspires to and does not achieve. Then again, it also likely would not have been stretched into three overlong movies padded with added material that was reportedly never in the books. After the wonder of the original films, which truly offered something never seen before, it's hard not to be cynical about The Hobbit and the pointlessness of it being made into a trilogy. Even the original plan of making it two movies was pushing it.

Maybe I've just been jaded by seeing too many movies, and it's getting harder for me to be pleased. I'm sick to death of superhero movies, after all. And honestly, we've had more than enough Peter Jackson movies based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

But, okay. Let's say you're watching this movie without being clouded by having seen the nearly perfect series of films released a decade ago. It's entertaining enough, if still too long. The special effects, which were astounding in the earlier films, leave a bit to be desired. This film is largely overrun with orcs which are slightly distracting with their obviously CGI-rendered movements. The same goes for the dog-like and bear-like creatures that are seen. There is some lovely cinematography, however, particularly a stunning shot of Bilbo (Martin Freeman) peeking his head through a canopy of trees.

Smaug, the title character, is a different story, and a bit of a conundrum. He is a dragon, and he is very well rendered -- clearly a lot more time was spent on him in post-production than on the orcs. On the other hand, he talks. A lot. I have never read any of Tolkien's novels, but I can only assume Smaug talks in the books. This probably plays fine on the page, but in a movie, it's a little hokey. And seriously, Smaug does not shut up.

The plot, this time around, concerns Bilbo on a trek with a group of dwarves, sent as a "burglar" to steal the "Arkenstone," a white jewel, from inside the mountain where the dragon resides. Why Bilbo is deemed better for this task than, say, the dwarf Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) -- who is the king we're to understand has rightful claim over the mountain -- is never explicitly clear. Bilbo and the dwarves travel through Middle Earth, with the requisite detours with familiar characters like Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom), on their way to the mountain. We even get a subplot absent from the books regarding a sort of love triangle between two elves and a dwarf, because the book was so lacking in female characters. Adding a female presence sounds like a good idea, but it never feels essential to the story.

It is fun, at least, to see Stephen Fry turn up as the Master of Laketown. But then, Laketown serves little purpose other than to provide a venue for yet another battle with orcs. And soon enough, Bilbo is inside the Lonely Mountain, facing Smaug in a strange and protracted battle that seems to focus largely on Smaug's arrogance. He spends a lot of time babbling and boasting when he could really easily just dispatch with all these little twerps.

Even fantasy has its limits, and the rules of its own world should be consistently followed. Jackson has taken a shine to cutesy sequences in which, say, an elf balances on top of the heads of two dwarfs riding in barrels through river rapids -- while slaying orcs. Okay, as ridiculous as it was when one of the dwarfs got pulled out of the river in his barrel and then rolled through a bunch of orcs like a bowling ball, I'll admit I got a kick out of that.

The entire movie, though -- not so much. By and large, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is fine. But "fine" is far less than what Peter Jackson has conditioned audiences to expect from him. These movies are merely good enough, until you realize they're also more than enough. By the time this installment's frustratingly pointless cliffhanger ending is reached, I've run out of my capacity to care.

Martin Freeman goes through the motions in THE HOBBIT; THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG.</i>.


Overall: B-
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