*** out of ****
In this second film in the Hobbit trilogy, a group of dwarves, with the help of hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), continue in their attempt to reclaim their homeland from the wretched dragon known as Smaug (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch).
These prequels don't quite have the epic feel of the Lord of the Rings movies, so they really do feel overlong. This one runs about two hours and 41 minutes, but it doesn't seem like we burn through much story. I think the Hobbit films would have benefited with being only a lean two hours each.
With that said, there is much to like in this fantasy adventure. One action set piece in particular - the barrel chase through rapids - is fantastic. And the design of Smaug is a sight to behold. He is probably the coolest looking movie dragon since 1981's Dragonslayer.