The Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey writes, "In the wake of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,' last year's dreary, dense, disappointing slough through Middle-earth, 'The Desolation of Smaug' comes as a relief. Peter Jackson's newest installment of the Tolkien trilogy is set afire by the scorching roar of a dragon." (That would be the eponymous Smaug, voiced by
While the visual effects are "fabulous," Sharkey says, "the storytelling trumps the technology. Jackson's latest go at Tolkien's treasured 'Hobbit' story gets closer to that rich alchemy of fantasy, adventure, imagination and emotion that made his 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy such a triumph."
Joe Morgenstern of the
Michael Phillips of the
Not every critic is fond of "Smaug," however. The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle, for one, gives a scathing review: "Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' should never have been made and doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Jackson's 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy." It is, he says, "a 161-minute would-be epic, in which the strain to stretch and inflate is apparent in virtually every frame." LaSalle adds, "'The Desolation of Smaug' fails in almost every way, as a story, as an adventure, as a piece of art direction and as a visual spectacle."
Like it or not, the final film in the trilogy, "The Hobbit: There and Back Again," is scheduled to open Dec. 17, 2014.