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Rated 3.03 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
The Magic Disappears
by Richard Jack Smith

First and foremost, I really loved The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Filmmaker Peter Jackson hit such a creative pinnacle with this first installment that, on some levels, its follow-up The Desolation of Smaug could only disappoint. I half expected the director to fall back on his Lord of the Rings safety net. Yet, he goes much further than that.
 
The quest to reach the Lonely Mountain continues, yet a careless shortcut sets alarm bells ringing straight away. Those large eagles at the end of the first film obviously didn't take the heroes far enough because Azog the Defiler has caught up with them. I don't plan on elaborating further. Suffice to say, this particular misstep represents the first in a series of cinematic hurdles which Jackson fails to overcome. Also, the abundance of new characters instils a stop-start flow in terms of his overall direction.
 
It's disheartening to witness an inspiring prelude fall apart in the middle stretches. Jackson definitely had the right idea with his initial layout. Beyond the mission, An Unexpected Journey was always about Thorin's acceptance of Bilbo as a fellow adventurer. However, the emotional core present in The Desolation of Smaug lacks this clarity of purpose. Both Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage display a curious detachment from events here, which doesn't exactly aid their performances.
 
The portrayal of Smaug leaves a lot to be desired. Benedict Cumberbatch's voice carries echoes of Sean Connery's Draco in DragonHeart. While Smaug comes across as a charming antagonist in Tolkien's novel, the same cannot be said for the screen adaptation.
 
Editor Jabez Olssen lets the tsunami of visual effects take over. If ever a picture was hijacked by overblown ambition, The Desolation of Smaug becomes a classic example.
 
On the plus side, there's an Oscar-worthy turn from Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, a fierce elf woman who makes short work of any spiders or orcs in her way. Even Orlando Bloom gives his best performance in ages. Also, I would urge viewers to keep a lookout for Jackson's walk-on part near the beginning.
 
In December 2014, the final part entitled The Hobbit: There and Back Again will be unveiled. Due to the radical difference in quality with the first two entries, it remains to be seen whether Jackson can turn things around for the finale. I remain hopeful.

(Released by Warner Bros. and rated "PG-13" for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.)


                                                                                                                                                                               
 
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