The appeal of the Grand Adventure is clear and incontestable: the epic scale; the sense of mystery and adventure; the thrill of discovering what challenge, adversary, or ally awaits around the next bend. Thing is, the whole point of the exercise is to reach an ultimate goal, and that’s where Peter Jackson’s HOBBIT movies — both of them, to date — have been having problems. Picking up where the previous film, AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, left off, THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, seeks to continue the J.R.R. Tolkien tale of a band of dwarfs, key among them Thorin (Richard Armitage) and Kili (Aidan Turner) — aided and abetted by the hobbit Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) — as they challenge the fearsome dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) and attempt to reclaim their kingdom, but gets so lost in its tangents, side-histories, and ancillary characters that it manages to botch even the key confrontation promised in the title.
Once again, the Cinefantastique Online trio of Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons diverge widely in their opinions of how well this second installment manages to deliver its ambitious tale, leading to an energetic and thought-provoking discussion. Click on the player to hear the show.