In the prologue to this second instalment of Peter Jackson’s sweeping Tolkien trilogy, the director makes a brief cameo, wandering through night-time streets on the borders of the Shire.
It’s a fleeting glimpse - a rare moment of brevity that, sadly, eludes the rest of this over-bloated epic.
Admittedly, there is a greater sense of urgency to The Desolation Of Smaug than its prequel, by virtue of a time limit imposed on the characters reaching the Lonely Mountain before the last light of autumn to locate a secret door that leads into the dragon’s lair.
But that doesn’t stop Jackson and his co-writers from padding the script, introducing a gung-ho female elf, who doesn’t appear in the book, in order to establish a dwarf-elf-elf love triangle that will presumably be resolved in next year’s final chapter.
Legolas (Orlando Bloom) also becomes embroiled in various skirmishes here, even though he doesn’t appear in Tolkien’s source text.
The treading of narrative water is particularly noticeable during the climax when Bilbo (Martin Freeman) comes face to snout with the eponymous dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).