|Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.|
This second entry into the LOTR prequel series is a little less inspired than its predecessor and appears to act mostly as a bridge between the first film and the finale, "There and Back Again," which is due one year from now.
For the sake of contrast, watch "Catching Fire," the second "Hunger Games" film, and, one the one hand, see how that film continues the story from the first film in its franchise and then sets the scene for the finale, but - on the other hand - actually further develops its characters, reinforces its themes while adding new ones and gives a fresh spin to the material, whereas "The Desolation of Smaug" comes off as just more of the same.
And by more of the same, I mean more epic, drawn-out battles, more creepy villains (although those spiders in the trees were kind of impressive), more dramatic line readings in fictional tongues, repeated references to places that mean something to the story's characters but not so much to anyone else and loads of expository dialogue.
That being said, "Smaug" is a better example of the big budget style of storytelling we've come to expect from our blockbusters and Jackson does it better than most. The film is littered with CGI effects and they are mostly impressive.
But what's missing in these "Hobbit" films, especially this second entry, is the heart and soul as well as the character development from the original trilogy. "Smaug" is, essentially, one narrow escape or battle after the next, but without a sense of purpose.