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Movie Review: ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

HAMBURG — Peter Jackson is a genius. How he manages to accomplish such magnificent films, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s richly detailed and complicated books, simply amazes me.

His second movie, continuing the epic tale of hobbit Bilbo Baggins, is truly awesome. It is not that it is better than the first hobbit movie, “An Incredible Journey,” but, with this sequel, the story gets better, thereby affording Jackson many opportunities to shine.

And what a story it is!

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is an exciting roller-coaster ride full of danger, menace, glory, drama and humor. Battles aplenty, magic and even romance – interspecies yet, between an elf and a dwarf – are just some of the thrills delivered with great gusto.

Innocent, brave Bilbo Baggins provides extra charm and delight, as he fusses with that magic gold ring and saves the day, more than once.

This second installment of the Hobbit trilogy is deliciously scary. It picks up where the first movie in this series ended.

There are gigantic spiders – hundreds of them! The repulsive and frightening orcs return on those awful animals they ride.

Then, there is the fabulous monster dragon, Smaug. Wow, what a creature! I loved the confrontation between Bilbo and Smaug – a battle of wits – which was funny and intense.

The wise wizard Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen, is once again on hand, to guide the adventure. The dwarves, led by Thorin (Richard Armitage), are still on their quest to regain the mountain, defeat the dragon and reclaim their homeland, Erebor.

They seek the secret door and the key that will unlock the precious, stolen treasures the fierce dragon Smaug hoards.

On their journey, along with the many battles, the spiders and other assorted creatures, they encounter the eerie elves and, for the first time, humans. Viewers experience edge-of-the-seat excitement, at every twist and turn.

“The Desolation of Smaug,” with all of its high energy and commotion, is strangely infused with lots of heart. There are also moments when the story reaches Shakespearian heights. The screenplay, co-written by Jackson, is literate and acted with classical aplomb by the incomparable McKellen and a very diverse cast of extremely interesting actors.

I especially liked Martin Freeman as the lovable hobbit Baggins, Luke Evans as the human Bard and Evangeline Lilly as Tuariel, the lovely warrior wood elf. who is smitten with the handsome dwarf Kili (Aiden Turner). When mocked for her attraction to the diminutive Kili, Tuariel defensively counters, “He’s tall, for a dwarf.”

The heart, soul and breath of all the hobbit films is the great McKellen. As the wizard Gandalf, McKellen supplies warmth, humor and storybook wonder that stirs this rapid boiling pot of a movie.

The look of the film is beautifully organic. Mountains and caves, castles and oceans are displayed, not for picturesque beauty, but evocative horror and fantasy. It isn’t pretty, but it is spectacular.

I saw the movie in 3-D. It is also being shown in regular 2-D, IMAX and HFR 3-D. Avoid HFR, for now. This high resolution process works well with large-scale scenes and vistas, but gives the appearance of video taping, in smaller, more intimate scenes and settings. This process is promising, but needs improvement and is not worth the extra money. Stick with the regular 3-D, 2-D and IMAX.

Three-time Academy Award® winner Howard Shores’ score and expert film editing by Jabez Olssen, with a huge production crew of special effects, animators and set designers, have brought Middle Earth strikingly to life.

I love this movie!

“The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug” adds a great big notch to Jackson’s director belt. Thanks to its cliff-hanger ending, I truly look forward to the final installment of “The Hobbit.”

If Jackson remains consistent, “The Hobbit: There and Back Again,” coming next year, just might be a great and wonderful finale to this great and wonderful Tolkien tale.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is currently playing in theaters, including Joylan Theatre in Springville. The Joylan Theatre is located at 11 West Main St. in Springville and will play “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” until Jan. 2.

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