The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

Not much happens in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, not that anyone would notice. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and company head toward the Lonely Mountain, hitting every tourist trap along the way, from giant spiders to distracting elves, stuffing the simple story with elaborate set pieces and action scenes. If The Lord of the Rings was a five-course meal filled with character, ambition, and design, this Hobbit sequel is nothing more than empty calories.

Unlike The Two Towers or The Empire Strikes Back, Smaug does nothing to raise the stakes of the first film. Its script doesn’t test character, and instead Bilbo and the dwarves flow down river from one impressive escape to another, without anything to challenge what they’ve learned. Director Peter Jackson assumes by reuniting with composer Howard Shore or perpetual deus-ex machina Gandalf (Ian McKellan), he’ll find the right rhythm, but the notes sound flat. There’s no Jedi training for Bilbo or Battle of Helm’s Deep for Thorin (Richard Armitage), just sound and fury signifying nothing.

Smaug has its merits, though, as the director’s technical wizardry hides the script’s diversions well. When we finally meet the dragon Smaug (the baritone Benedict Cumberbatch, Jackson swings his camera around the his lair in a frenzy as Bilbo hides, editing their battle of wits like an action sequence and making it appear more exciting than it is. These two-and-a-half hours fly by; however, while the return to Middle Earth is entertaining, Jackson gives us no reason to go back again. 

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