Ever since wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), and their thirteen dwarf companions led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) were flown to safety on the backs of giant eagles at the end of 2012's 169-minute "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," director Peter Jackson's three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's comparatively brief 300-page novel has all but entirely collapsed with a plot discrepancy that cannot be overlooked. Had Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo Del Toro tackled Tolkien's source material in a single, three-hour epic, perhaps such narrative stumbles wouldn't appear so egregious. When turgidly stretched out to almost nine hours, however, the realization that said eagles could have easily been called upon at the start of these characters' travels to transport them within moments to their destination in the Lonely Mountains renders the first two films all but pointless. As blatantly padded as "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" was, it is no match for the frustratingly inert, drawn-out, snail-like pacing which middle chapter "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" is guilty. Were it not for its typically first-class production values, this lugubrious trilogy could easily be confused as the cinematic equivalent of derivative, threadbare fan-fiction from someone who's seen Jackson's own "The Lord of the Rings" series too many times.
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