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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 

We're in the home stretch now, kids

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The epic children's story continues, at great length, in bridging sequel The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Martin Freeman returns briefly as the titular hobbit, Bilbo, still wandering towards a dragon-filled mountain with his indistinguishable dwarf companions. Wizard Ian McKellen frigs off to investigate a more interesting plot, leaving the proto-fellowship to deal with elves, goblins and other creatures who speak in silly, made-up languages. Given how much heavy lifting middle chapter The Two Towers did for the original Lord of the Rings franchise, it's disappointing director Peter Jackson can't make Desolation work. Introductions are minimal, fight scenes perfunctory and special effects tiresome. That nothing concludes via a pop-up ending after three hours is all the more reason this light-hearted adventure shouldn't have mutated into a trilogy. Pointlessly, The Hobbit will conclude next year with hopefully surer footing and more to say than the empty Desolation of Smaug.

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