+ + + ½
(Best of the series)
While we are not big fans of the books or movies, we do recognize the second movie in the Hobbit trilogy is very well done and will hold the interest of the non-Middle Earth fans. The characters are well drawn, easier to follow and have distinct personalities. The story is easier to follow. And the New Zealand scenery, enhanced with special effects, is stunning.
Bilbo (Martin Freeman) comes out of his shell, gaining confidence with a golden ring he has found and actually showing some leadership skills. The dwarves and the elves team up on their quest as they travel through the dark forest, fight off giant spiders, and have a number of adventures before confronting the overpowering dragon.
Gandalf (Ian McKellen) appears and disappears, giving advice and direction. The movie becomes one long chase scene after another as the group ends up in Laketown after a wild ride in barrels down a river loaded with rapids.
There are handsome heroes and a heroine, the elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), who is both beautiful and brave.
The dwarves have many narrow escapes, getting help from places they least expected it. A knowledge of the book would certainly help, but is not necessary to enjoy their many exploits.
It all comes down to confronting the dragon, a closing scene that goes on much too long and, like the second sequel in “The Hunger Games,” leaves you literally hanging in anticipation for the third installment.
Rated PG-13 with violence and intense scenes.