The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The first Hobbit was quite a success at the box office ($1 billion worldwide). But if we're being honest, we'd admit it was a little boring and a lot long, at 169 minutes. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a little less long and a little less boring. That's because after two hours of setup involving Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he hobbits along with the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and 13 dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), to win back the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, the dragon shows up. This Smaug is a dragon to die for. Director Peter Jackson performs the same kind of miracles with the digital Smaug that he did with Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Immortally voiced by Andy Serkis, Gollum seduced and scared you in equal doses. Ditto Smaug. As a digital creation, Smaug is a bloody wonder of slithering fright. And Benedict Cumberbatch gives him a voice to match. The scenes between Smaug and Bilbo imbue this bloated 3D movie with a sense of character and purpose. As before, there's a ton of padding. Orlando Bloom's Legolas shows up out of nowhere, surely not out of J.R.R. Tolkien's slender novel. And the elf warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) is pure invention. But, oh, that dragon. I'd endure another slog through Middle-Earth just to spend more time with Smaug.

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