Action goes on and on for second ‘Hobbit’ film

Gandalf (Ian McKellen, left) suspects something is not right in Middle-earth in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

Gandalf (Ian McKellen, left) suspects something is not right in Middle-earth in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

After his monstrously successful “Lord of the Rings” trilogy of films, director Peter Jackson couldn’t help making another trip to the mystical land of Middle-earth.

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” takes place before the “Lord of the Rings.” It tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, who gets drafted to join a crew of dwarves anxious to reclaim their homeland from a dragon.

Most hobbits prefer safety and security, but Bilbo (Martin Freeman) has a taste for adventure unleashed by an unexpected visit from Gandalf the wizard (Ian McKellen).

We meet a dozen new dwarves, and Thorin (Richard Armitage) is their leader. He’s in line to be king, but has plenty to prove before he can set things right.

“The Hobbit” also includes characters from the other movies, including Frodo (Elijah Wood), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Saruman (Christopher Lee).

By far the best scene in the movie is when Bilbo meets Gollum (Andy Serkis) in an underground lair. It’s funny and creepy, and rich with importance because that’s when the “Ring” first comes to the Baggins clan.

Some of the action scenes are exhilarating, but others make the dwarves and Bilbo out to be super heroes. A lot of death and destruction swirls around this small band. I would’ve expected more casualties among the travelers.

The story doesn’t end when the credits roll. Jackson decided to turn J.R.R. Tolkien’s one book into three movies. This installment feels bloated at times, and probably could’ve used better editing.

“The Hobbit” is a dark ride at times, but it’s also infused with light-hearted moments, as Bilbo adapts to the larger world. There’s a pretty nasty sight gag involving a wizard and a pair of birds that I’ll have a hard time forgetting.

As with the earlier films, Middle-earth is beautifully rendered on screen thanks to a mixture of sound stage sets, natural New Zealand scenery and computer animation. I’d definitely like to visit a few of the less exciting locales.

On the whole, I enjoyed my return to Middle-earth and have high hopes for the next two movies. I give “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” a B minus.

It’s showing at the Cinemark in Tupelo, as well as Malcos in Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville and Movie Reel 4 in New Albany.

Look for movie reviews in Scene on Thursdays, and listen each Tuesday morning on Wizard 106.7 between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.