The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (2013)

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Peter Jackson hasn’t directed a film that I’ve found unenjoyable. That includes The Lovely Bones (as highly flawed as that movie is). But it seems that he’s determined to test the patience of all cinema audiences, including his biggest supporters, with this ill-conceived epic adaptation of The Hobbit, set within a sprawling cinematic landscape that allows him to add more and more to his vision of Middle Earth and its many inhabitants.

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It’s not that The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug is bad, because it isn’t. It’s just all getting too much at this point. A view expressed by many people during the multiple endings that made up the end of The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King. While there were many pleasures throughout this movie, there were a number of moments that simply had me thinking: “please stop, just stop showing me lots of people wandering over some pretty hills while the camera swoops and glides over and around them.”

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What’s the story for this instalment? Well, as it’s the middle part of the trilogy, and runs for about two and a half hours, you may think that Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the dwarves that he’s helping out (led by Thorin, still being played by Richard Armitage) have much to do and numerous hurdles to overcome. That’s not true. In fact, most of this instalment is based around three main set-pieces: some giant spiders, the famous moment involving a number of barrels floating downstream, and an encounter with the magnificent and deadly dragon who lends his name to the title, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).

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The acting is on a par with the acting in the previous instalment, though Evangeline Lilly is particularly good in her role (one created specifically for the movie, to the consternation of some Tolkien purists), and the special effects also remain just as good, but my earlier comment/complaint is valid. When do the many flourishes and CGI details become more of a distraction than the essential texturing needed to create such a faithful, and LIVING, depiction of Middle Earth?

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At this point in the non-stop delivery of grandiosity, Jackson has created a rock he must carry on his back towards the very end of the whole grand adventure. The fact that he still provides viewers with great moments of cinema is something worth praising, as is the fact that actors such as Freeman, Armitage, Ian McKellen (still owning the role of Gandalf, of course), Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom (reprising his role as Legolas) and a few others still manage to make a good impression amidst all of the technical and visual wizardry. No pun intended.

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It’s wonderful. It’s beautiful. It’s busy, busy, busy. It’s a movie I will own, because I’m a completist. I’ll watch the next instalment, and I’ll be hoping that everything concludes in a cinematically satisfying manner (and, speaking of which, the last 45 minutes of this movie makes up for a LOT of shortcomings elsewhere). But, at this moment in time, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug is the weakest of the five Hobbit-filled epics so far. Which still doesn’t make it a bad film.

DIRECTOR: PETER JACKSON
WRITER: PETER JACKSON, FRAN WALSH, PHILIPPA BOYENS, GUILLERMO DEL TORO, BASED ON THE WORLS OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN
STARS: MARTIN FREEMAN, IAN MCKELLEN, RICHARD ARMITAGE, KEN STOTT, GRAHAM MCTAVISH, WILLIAM KIRCHER, JAMES NESBITT, STEPHEN HUNTER, DEAN O’GORMAN,  AIDAN TURNER, JOHN CALLEN, PETER HAMBLETON, JED BROPHY, MARK HADLOW, ADAM BROWN, EVANGELINE LILLY, LEE PACE, LUKE EVANS, ORLANDO BLOOM, BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH
RUNTIME: 161 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA/NEW ZEALAND

Film Rating: ★★★☆☆

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