The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ★★

Still terrible, although the weird look works better on a small screen than in a theater. The lighting and colors seem to be designed to avoid realism and make it look more like the illustrations of a book for children. The reality aversion does pay off in a few more fantastical scenes, especially when Gandalf is fighting dark shadows with his unnaturally white magical light.

That is also the most appealing storyline, which is unfortunate since it's just a short tangent that may not fit entirely well with the old trilogy. It's a bit strange how this Hobbit trilogy matches the Star Wars prequels in that they are more overtly geared toward a younger audience visually and comedically while the overarching story is one of doom and inadvertent self-destruction.

That storyline could be strong in a trilogy that allows itself to be about that. Perhaps the jolly adventure is necessary to make the final realization of how ill-conceived the whole quest was more of a gut-punch, but there is too much distraction around it and the contemplative moments are never about the things that matter. Instead the movie tries to be about heroic moments and characters when the actual underlying story makes all the heroics wasted on a quest of greed and deceptive nostalgia. It all feels like a flailing desire to make marketable movies rather than tell the story, and the result is a frustrating mess.

Carl liked these reviews