If you've stayed away from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" after being burned by Peter Jackson's unengrossing big screen video game "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," you may want to finally give it a look before it leaves the theatre. This second installment is still not up to "The Lord of the Rings" but it's decidedly better than the first one.
Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and their band of dwarves continue their long and treacherous journey to reclaim the great dwarf kingdom laid waste by the awesome dragon called Smaug. Aided by some new characters they encounter along the way, their journey culminates with Bilbo venturing inside the dragon's treasure laden den to retrieve something called the Arkenstone.
Yet this movie is an ensemble piece with Bilbo being less central to the story. He's actually the least interesting of the characters, but that's in no way a bad thing. It's just that the story elements are so much richer this time, particularly the segment involving a tragic human named Bard (Luke Evans). The action sequences are inventive and exciting and hit a great high note when elves run across a river by stepping on the heads of dwarves floating in barrels during a fierce battle with orcs. There is also a very unsettling and scary sequence with a forest full of giant spiders.
Benedict Cumberbatch chillingly gives voice to Smaug and his appearance is very much worth the wait. You should be warned, however, that this movie shamelessly and frustratingly ends very abruptly forcing you to buy a ticket to the next one. Still, this is adventurous entertainment definitely meant for the big screen.