Whereas the "Rings" films developed Tolkien's characters and unfolded an epic journey meticulously, "The Hobbit" feels more like watching someone play a really cool video game at an electronics store.
There's no heart in the storytelling or characters.
Fortunately, "The Desolation of Smaug" is at least more kinetic and entertaining than the first "Hobbit" movie, but it definitely feels repetitive. They walk, they run into monsters, they fight, and they escape - again and again.
Orlando Bloom returns to the role of the Elf Legolas, who wasn't in "The Hobbit" book, and there's a completely new character called Tauriel played by Evangeline Lilly.
Oddly, Hobbit Bilbo Baggins feels largely absent from his own story this time out, until the final quarter of the movie where he faces the dragon Smaug.
The movie is very often a lot of fun to watch. Director Peter Jackson certainly has an eye for fantastic creatures and immersive worlds. And speaking of how the movie looks, you can opt to watch it in the high frame rate 3D, which makes the images even more detailed and lifelike. Jackson says it's the best way to watch his movie]. And while it is great for actor close-ups and sweeping shots of landscapes, the trade-off is some of the CGI effects look so much more artificial.
But the real problem with these "Hobbit" movies is they just don't have the urgency or passion of the "Rings" films. Even with all the technological advancements, it feels like we've seen all of this before.