When last we saw Bilbo Baggins (Martin
Freeman) and his band of dwarves, they were headed to confront a dragon.
But along the way, they also took an awful lot of time to do the dishes
and sing songs seemingly stolen from Led Zeppelin. That was a central
complaint about Peter Jackson’s first entry in his Hobbit
trilogy, and it made fans wonder whether swelling J.R.R. Tolkien’s
shortest book into three films would result in stagnation. That fear
goes flying out the window like a decapitated orc head in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,
which justifies its nearly three-hour runtime not by cramming in tons
of story, but by allowing the action pieces to play out with the lunacy
of an ultraviolent Looney Tunes short. And so we have our heroes
floating downriver in barrels as a battle between elves and orcs rages
overhead, and a freaky showdown with an army of spiders. It all leads up
to a confrontation with the titular dragon, who instantly becomes the
most terrifyingly beautiful winged beast ever put to film. It wouldn’t
be a Tolkien film without the self-seriousness, but The Desolation of Smaug
never loses its sense of fun, forgoing the confusingly labyrinthine
setup of its predecessor in favor of watching its heroes escape
ridiculous peril time and time again.
Critic’s Grade: B+
SEE IT: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is
rated PG-13. It opens Friday at Bagdad, Cedar Hills, Eastport,
Clackamas, Moreland, Bridgeport, Division, Lloyd Center, Pioneer Place,
Roseway, St. Johns, Oak Grove, Cinema 99, City Center, Mill Plain.