'The Desolation of Smaug' delivers the Orc-slaughtering, fiery dragon goods! Made for 'Lord of the Rings' geeks and fans of large-scale, fun, intense and great-looking blockbusters.

Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

When An Unexpected Journey hit theaters last year, I had hoped for the same all-out entertainment value of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Distracted by the nasty 48 frames-per-second High Frame Rate (HFR) presentation, I thought it was just okay. When I finally saw it again in plain and simple 2D, I loved it. I realized how fun and entertaining ‘The Hobbit’ was. Like the book, with songs and silliness, it was definitely more childish than The Lord of the Rings, but still absolutely entertaining. For some, those aspects were deal breakers. And to those people, I say, get ready for greatness again. The singing silliness is over. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is basically the Two Towers of The Hobbit trilogy.

As you can tell from every trailer and TV spot, The Desolation of Smaug sees Bilbo and his Dwarf company to the Lonely Mountain – the group’s final destination – where Bilbo must face off against the deadly dragon Smaug. Knowing that they’re going to make it there in this film, as opposed to having to wait until next year’s There and Back Again, it makes everything leading up to Smaug’s entrance feel slow – even though it’s really not. Darkness creeps into this installment, as do new villains for us to fear.

An Unexpected Journey left off with Bilbo, Gandalf and the Dwarfs escaping the Pale Orc and his Warg-riding warriors on the backs of giant eagles. We pick up with the enemies hot on the company’s tails, but not for long. The Pale Orc is called away on business, but other obstacles and enemies quickly come to the forefront – gigantic bears, huge spiders, Mirkwood Elves, dark beings, greedy men and another nasty Orcs villian. The Desolation of Smaug definitely isn’t lacking any action or intensity. Peter Jackson comes back with super styled action, giving The Hobbit a refreshing new tone that really kicks it up a notch. Considering how high it takes us, my anticipation for the third film is even higher than it was for this one.

I only have one complaint with Smaug – but you may not want to read it. It’s not exactly a spoiler, but it alludes to something small and expected that you may not want to know. If that’s the case, skip to the last paragraph now.

I like how each of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies leading up to this point have been self-contained films that add to a larger picture – a trilogy. For some reason, co-writer/director Peter Jackson has decided to end The Desolation of Smaug in the most impractical place. Yes, it ends mid-scene, creating quite the cliffhanger. I love these films and have a hard time waiting a year for the next one to arrive, so an ending like this is cinematically frustrating.

If you disliked the tone of An Unexpected Journey, dismiss your ill feelings and give it a shot. With more of a Lord of the Rings tone, I guarantee that you’ll find it absolutely worthwhile.

(Photo credit: Warner Bros.)

4 1/2 out of 5

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