‘Hobbit’ saga takes shape with sequel

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Second verse, same as the first, a little bit shorter and a little less worse. With “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” the heroes of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy saga find their footing, and so does Peter Jackson’s epic telling of their tale.

The jury is still out on whether it was a smart idea to turn the novel (ostensibly a children’s book that served as Tolkien’s run-up for the far more ambitious “The Lord of the Rings”) into a three-movie three-ring circus, the final installment of which will arrive next Christmas. But where 2012’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was bloated and aimless, the sequel has shape, forward momentum, and excellent B-movie giant spiders. With Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, and the usual elves and dwarves.

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