I have a confession to make. While I’m a huge fan of all things Lord of the Rings, I was not overly enamored of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I enjoyed it the first time I saw it and was still interested enough to compare the mountain-crossing scenes to the end of Sound of Music on the second viewing. But by the time my folks back home decided that it was our best shot at finding a movie in theaters that we could all agree on, I was starting to lament that it would be too dark in there to just read the smegging thing and ignore what was going on up on the screen (largely many shots of dwarves walking places).
With all that in mind, I was a bit concerned going in to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Granted, I get giggly whenever I hear various British actors pronounce “Smaug” with two syllables, but two hours and 40 minutes is a long time, people. Even with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman sharing the screen (more or less).
Thus was I pleasantly surprised at how quickly that time passed. Unlike its predecessor, Desolation of Smaug moved right along at a good clip for majority of its runtime. The pacing was tight and kept me engaged and enthralled throughout. I feel as though I jumped and gasped and “aww”-ed everywhere Peter Jackson intended me to do so.
In all 161 minutes, I had but two qualms. The first (and I’ve heard many a diehard LotR fan harp on this already, so I’ll keep this brief) was the addition of Tauriel and her subsequent storyline. To me, it really felt as though Peter Jackson was having trouble filling three movies and so threw this in to stall. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take any excuse to watch Aidan Turner use Soulful Eyes, but this just felt like padding. Pretty, pretty padding.
The second was the change in how the 3D cameras were used. Desolation of Smaug seemed to have a lot more things flying at the screen in an attempt to show you how 3D the movie really was. There were parts where it was gorgeous and gave the film a fantastic depth, but I felt there were too many cheap tricks throw in just for the sake of making you flinch. Also, giant spiders should never be in 3D. Ever.
So tl;dr: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is much better than the film that came before. The 3D is pretty, but not essential to your enjoyment. Aidan Turner is still gorgeous, but no one needed the new elf.
PS: Keep an eye out for a cameo by Stephen Colbert. He’s somewhere in Laketown and one of the screenwriters, Phillipa Boyens, says that he’s wearing an eye-patch.