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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
December 16, 2013, 2:05 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Peter Jackson
3 Stars
The Hobbit The Desolation of SmaugThe discussion regarding the decision to split J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit into three films has been exhausted by now–many agree that it feels like a cynical cash grab, overextending a short novel into tiresome, bloated epics. Sitting through three hours of the latest plodding installment only makes one want to have the conversation all over again. As much as The Lord of the Rings films were teased for featuring endless scenes of walking, at least there was always a sense of progression. The Hobbit films have had their pleasures here and there, but just as frequent as the successes are scenes of Gandalf (Ian McKellen) walking around in creepy ruins to discover the threat that audiences are already familiar with. Nonetheless, The Desolation of Smaug is a small improvement over the first installment, even if it feels similarly overstuffed (this time not with merry meals, but with endless action sequences). As Bilbo, the enormously likable Martin Freeman continues to be the series’ best asset, bringing his much-needed comic chops to what can often be dour material. His reaction at the first sight of Smaug is a memorable piece of physical comedy, earning a well-timed laugh that accentuates the sense of awe. That late scene–like the interaction that Freeman has with Andy Serkis’ Gollum in the preceding film–is an impressive, suspenseful set-piece that gives a much-needed reprieve from beheadings and their ilk. Jackson might salvage the series if he reshoots the third film to be nothing more than three hours of Bilbo attempting to outsmart a creature that wants to eat him. As for the ending, it feels lazy–like the most recent Hunger Games installment, one feels excited about the next movie in the series but not so much satisfied with what they just paid for. While a cliff-hanger is inevitable, there were opportunities for closure that would have made the film more coherent as its own story rather than a simple bridge from one movie to another.