Running Time: 2 hours 41 minutes
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug picks up the tale of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf the Grey (IanMcKellan) and the Dwarves of Eribor as they continue on their quest to reclaim the Dwarven kingdom stolen from them by the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). They must pass through the domain of the unwelcoming woodland Elves and strike a deal with the people of Laketown while a pack of bloodthirsty Orcs dog their every step. The reward waiting for them at the end of their journey is a showdown with the seemingly invincible Smaug.
These movies are undeniably well made. No one creates an immersive fantasy world like Peter Jackson, but the fact that they have stretched one book's worth of story into almost 9 hours of movie means that there is a lot of filler. The movie is essentially a collection of long chase scenes and though they are inventively staged, they go on and on. The actors are doing good work but there is just not enough for them to do to fill all of this screen time.
I did like the return of Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and the introduction of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Bard (LukeEvans). Lilly was born to play an elf and the highlight of this film comes when she and Bloom go to battle against the Orcs. The fluidity of the combat is both balletic and brutal. I also enjoyed the animation of Smaug and Cumberbatch's voice has a velvety rumble that drips with playful viciousness. He toys with Bilbo Baggins like a cat with a mouse. I liked this movie, but it is hard not to think of the original Lord of the Rings films which were nearly flawless adaptations of classic fantasy literature. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is just a lesser offering and it suffers in comparison. B-