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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 

Much of Smaug feels like padding to keep the fans in their seats until they gotta cough up another $10 for the conclusion

Swordplay: Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) on defense

Swordplay: Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) on defense

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and crew continue their looonnng journey in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Part 2 of Peter Jackson's three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's adventure novel. If you're a Tolkien-by-way-of-Jackson fan, presumably no film can be too long, but for citizens like myself, this middle outing to Middle Earth fell somewhere between pointless and interminable.

That's not to say it isn't mildly entertaining, but this episode quickly falls into a pattern of our heroes getting chased, fighting something (giant spiders, elves, orcs) and then moving on to a new location to repeat this set-up. (Is it a video game yet?)

While there is some attempt at advancing the meaningful parts of the plot (who hates who, what the goals are), much of Smaug feels like padding to keep the fans in their seats until they gotta cough up another $10 for the conclusion. As if Jackson were shaking out his closet of curious creatures, dramatic landscapes and odd comic bits into a big oh-just-watch-this-while-we-finish-up-the-best-part jumble. Characters are shifted into place for Part 3 (one or two of them are literally held in place), and the big highlight is the unveiling of the dragon Smaug in all his fearsome, monologuing CGI glory. You could probably skip Part 2, but I know you won't: See you all at the final showdown. In 3-D in select theaters.

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