‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ looks grand, grows tedious

Martin Freeman in ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.’ Rated PG-13, 161 min. Warner Bros., 2013.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” plays well to hardcore J.R.R. Tolkien enthusiasts, but others are not given a chance to catch up before the action picks up where the first film abruptly stopped. Director Peter Jackson, by creating three lengthy films, apparently chose not to cut anything from the novel – and even added a new character, Tauriel, a warrior elf played by Evangeline Lilly. She certainly seems to fit into this world, but it’s hard to argue that what the already-crowded, adventure-packed story needed was even more characters to follow.

After Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the dwarves cross paths with Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and the elves, their escape down a river while battling orcs is the film’s standout showpiece. The kinetic, flowing action gives you something thrilling to see in every shot.

But therein lies the stumbling block in such a sprawling fantasy tale: When the action is so non-stop, it grows tedious. When there is a heroic narrow escape every 30 minutes, another abrupt ending – even one with a magnificently-animated dragon voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch – feels anti-climactic.

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