More storied than the first and without the sometimes-nauseating visuals but still WAY too long.

How is it possible that it takes 3 movies (2 of them clocking in at close to 3 hours) to depict one 310-page young adult novel???!!! Oh yeah, that’s how Hollywood rakes in the Benjamins, especially since all are in 3-D. But it sure does explain why most of these films are slow-paced. Peter Jackson had a lot of padding to do.

Once again, we follow the travels of brave, heart-of-gold hobbit Bilbo Baggins as he tries to help the dwarves reclaim their homeland. The whole troupe is again led by Gandalf , with Ian McKellen giving another rich performance. Thankfully, There’s more going on than in the first film, thanks to the addition of Evangeline Lilly as a fierce elf who falls for the best looking dwarf. Her character doesn’t even exist in the book. If you blink, you’ll miss elf Cate Blanchett. So Lily is a much-needed dose of estrogen in this testosterone-filled trilogy. But really, did they have to go the love triangle route??!!!

The dragon in the title of the movie ( exquisitely voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) doesn’t show up til close to the end. By the way, the movie is mis-named, given the cliff-hanger ending.

The special effects and scenery are glorious. But like the first, this Hobbit epic is hobbled by a dragged-out story.

2 stars