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December 19, 2013

Despite flaws, 'Smaug' still a rousing adventure

Rarely has so much been made of so little.

Other than the occasional children’s story (“Where the Wild Things Are,” “Polar Express,” etc.), the ratio between written pages and filmed minutes doesn’t get higher than it is in Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit.”

Taking a beloved young adult novel of 300-something pages (my copy has 333), the “Lord of the Rings” director has gotten to 340 minutes of film when combining the just released “The Desolation of Smaug” with last year’s “An Unexpected Journey.”

No one knows how long part three will be, but Smaug the dragon still hasn’t quite reached the nearly helpless village of Lake-town — and Jackson loves a lengthy epilogue.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is an epically padded film that suffers from second movie syndrome (“that’s the ending?”), and it is certain to raise the dander of J.R.R. Tolkien purists with its added characters and invented situations.

Still, despite its flaws, “Smaug” is also a rousing adventure with impressive effects, and it almost demands that the ticket-goer lines up for the finale.

Picking up where the first film left off, our plucky band of 13 dwarves, and one hobbit, finally makes it to the Lonely Mountain and gets a chance to confront the enormous fire-breathing dragon Smaug, who long ago chased the dwarves from their ancestral homeland and commandeered their giant pile of treasure.

The trip, of course, is treacherous, with the dwarves set upon by giant spiders, suspicious elves and bloodthirsty orcs, just to reach the death-dealing dragon.

Interestingly, there were no orcs in the book “The Hobbit,” but here they are around every corner, looking very scary, but dying very easily.

Also not in the book is popular LOTR elf Legolas (Orlando Bloom), who glides into this version and wracks up an impressive body count. Legolas is teamed with a brand-new female character, elven warrior Tauriel (“Lost’s” Evangeline Lilly), who kills just as many orcs and manages to sneak in a chaste love triangle that includes a dwarf.

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