Love it or loathe it, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" has at least one big win going for it — and it's spelled out right there in the title.
Director Peter Jackson's second of three "Hobbit" films hits theaters on Friday (December 13), and already, the reviews are in. While the overwhelming majority agree that "Desolation of Smaug" is an improvement in every way over its "Unexpected" predecessor, the sequel does have its detractors — but even those critics widely agree that Smaug, the fire-breathing dragon voiced by "Star Trek Into Darkness" and "Sherlock" actor Benedict Cumberbatch, is a rousing success.
Below, we've provided excerpts from three positive and three negative reviews of "The Desolation of Smaug," all certain to appease your dragon-sized appetite.
From Positive Reviews
"[The] standout new character is, predictably, the titular beast. He's played Khan; now Benedict Cumberbatch draws on Shere Khan for his performance (vocal and mo-cap) as the blazing-eyed, honey-voiced, spike-helmed 'serpent of the north.' We've seen many a dragon on screen before, but nothing with this much personality: Smaug is a startlingly well-executed creation, toggling between arrogance, indolence and rage as he uses his wyrm-tongue to try to draw out Bilbo. And once he does, the film kicks into full throttle for an immense, half-hour finale that threatens to bring down the mountain itself. It's Jackson once more at the top of his game; God knows what he has in store for part three." — Nick de Semlyen, EmpireOnline.com
"[While] spiders, bear-men and Elves are all well and good, the key reason to shell out for a ticket has always been Smaug, and after a film and a half of build-up, he's certainly worth the wait. ... A gloriously vast creation, with red-tinged scales, bat-like wings and an elongated jaw set in a permanently sly grin, he's easily the year's most magnificent beast. He has a way with a fearsome one-liner too, and Benedict Cumberbatch hisses out his words with cold-blooded vitriol." — Matt Maytum, Total Film
"There have been dozens of dragons onscreen, but the long-awaited arrival of Smaug — performed in a particularly effective, sneering basso profondo voce by Benedict Cumberbatch — lives up to even heightened expectations. The animation is extraordinary, and while it won't quite get the plaudits that the (revolutionary) Gollum/Smeagol work did, it's still mindboggling for me to think how in my lifetime I've seen the evolution from ILM's superb go-motion work on 'Dragonslayer' to this latest incarnation of this onscreen beastie." — Jason Gorber, Twitch Film
From Negative Reviews
"The dragon of the title — voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch and rendered by the furthest advances of computer science — is the bomb. Smaug is, undoubtedly, the coolest movie dragon ever. He's sly and foreboding and his massive stature is quite palpable. My disbelief was suspended like a kid setting off firecrackers in study hall. ... Too bad it takes about two hours to get to him. Before that you've got a whole lot of nothing." — Jordan Hoffman, ScreenCrush.com
"Smaug the dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) ... [is] a visual effects spectacle to behold (a CGI marvel, really) — nasty, mean and a massive threat, but the character doesn't add up to more than an infuriated bad guy who chases people around and burns their bums with fire because they've woken him up." — Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist
"Awesome to behold, the thick-scaled, fire-bellied, fluidly enlivened dragon is one of the single most magnificent creations to emerge from effects house Weta Workshop, which is to say it's one of the greatest CG creatures to hit the screen. ... Sadly, it's still a rare pleasure in a once-precious franchise's weakest installment, which forgets these adventures' magic was never conjured by bells and whistles." — R. Kurt Osenlund, Slant Magazine
Even if "The Hobbit" sequel sucks, its dragon is awesome. By all accounts, it sounds like Smaug is more than enough reason to bring some "Desolation" to your life this weekend.
Are you looking forward to seeing "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" this weekend? Let us know in the comments section below!