Travis McClain’s review published on Letterboxd:
I saw the last Hobbit movie free using movie cash, and this one I got to see because I won some movie pass cards at a trivia night fundraiser. I quite enjoyed An Unexpected Journey, certainly more than I had anticipated seeing as I'm not much of a Ring, uh, whatever fans of the series are called. It was a lighthearted adventure story romp, a sort of ensemble road movie in its way.
The Desolation of Smaug is considerably darker, and I was relieved to discover that unlike its predecessor, it's rated PG-13 instead of PG, 'cause I got decapitation fatigue an hour into this one and that seemed excessive for a PG movie to this old codger. In fact, the whole film felt like one endless parade of perilous action scenes, an amalgamation of video games and Spielberg at his most destructive (think: the 15-20 minute long T. rex attack on the trailer in The Lost World).
Somewhere in all the carnage are characters, but only Bilbo shows much growth. Thorin features prominently throughout the story, but his arc - can he wield the power of his grandfather without being corrupted by it - isn't really resolved here (that, surely, will play out in the next film). Instead, here he's just a taskmaster urging everyone to keep moving - which is helpful in a movie that runs two hours and forty minutes.
Aside from being desensitized to the endless action sequences and the thinness of its characters, The Desolation of Smaug's other problem is that, because it's so long, we have too much time to zone out during the aforementioned endless action sequences and wonder about some conspicuous plot points.
For instance, why have the Lake People remained on the lake for generations with nothing, knowing that Smaug could reemerge at any time and turn their town into Pompeii? Or, if for some reason they were unable to move, if they know that black arrows can harm Smaug, how come they haven't made any more in all these years? These are very obvious tactical choices that should have been made years ago, or at the very least, explained away in-story.
Likewise, how is it that the Lake People all come out to cheer on our intrepid adventurers as they leave, but in the very next scene, none of them will help the dude with the poison in his blood? That's a pretty dramatic change of heart, with no given reason. How do you go from ticker tape celeb to persona non grata that quickly? Hell, even Chris Brown still has fans.
Oh, and kudos to the dwarfs for their astounding industrialization. I can't even get my laptop to boot up in under two minutes, but their dormant factory was working like [*snaps*] that! I guess maybe sometimes Smaug has them cleaned and maintained?
Speaking of Smaug, dude needs to watch The Incredibles and pay attention to Syndrome's admonitions about monologue-ing
instead of killing. I know he's portrayed as the villain in all this, but I can't help thinking he's really kinda lonely. Why else would he spend all his time chattering away instead of just killing the dwarfs and Bilbo? Smaug is misunderstood, methinks.
Of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, my favorite is easily The Two Towers, and I had hoped that the middle passage of The Hobbit trio would also wow me, but I must confess to overall disappointment. I enjoyed a lot of individual moments quite a bit - I laughed at several of the gags during the various melees, many of which were clever if over the top - but by the end of the story, I felt worn down without a whole lot to show for my investment of time. I'm still game for the next movie, but if I'm being honest, I'm hopeful I can find a way to keep alive my streak of not paying out of pocket to see this trilogy.
How The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Entered My Flickchart
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug > Eurotrip --> #804
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug < Barbershop --> #804
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug < Con Air --> #804
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug < I'll Wait for the Next One --> #804
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug < Valz im Bashir --> #804
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug > Scrooge (1935) --> #778
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug > Persepolis --> #766
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug < The Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion! --> #766
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug > Opera --> #762
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug > Tummy Trouble --> #761
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug > Bad Boys --> #760
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug entered my Flickchart at #760/1607