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    The Hobbit: 5 Ways the Middle-Earth Sequel Is More Action-Packed

    Martin Freeman, The Hobbit The Desolation Of Smaug Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

    Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves continue their epic quest to slay a dragon and reclaim a homeland in Peter Jackson's second Hobbit film: The Desolation of Smaug.

    The good news is a more action-packed adventure that leaves 40-minute dinner scenes back in the Shire. Also great: We finally get to know Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his gang. The downside? While the incredible standoff between hobbit and dragon is amazing, Martin Freeman's Bilbo is not so much at the front and center this time, which is a little odd since he's the titular hobbit of the series.

    Here are the five ways (plus a few spoilers) the Hobbit sequel will leave you clamoring for more:

    PHOTOS: See more big movies in theatres now 

    The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Warner Bros. Pictures

    1. Barreling Down the River: One of the best scenes comes as Thorin and his band of merry dwarves—plus, one hobbit —escape an elvish dungeon. Jackson pulls out all the stops: our heroic band of heroes, some arrow-slinging Elves and hot-on-their-trail angry orcs all down an icy stream. At one point, a lone barrel ping pongs like a pinball in one glorious shot. A marvel.  

    2. Elvish Evangeline Lilly: By now fans know that Jackson added elf guard Tauriel to the tale. Tolkien purists might scoff, but she hits the mark. As a possible love interest for Legolas (Orlando Bloom) her presence is more than just eye candy for nerds. Lilly's fight scenes impress and she's defiant against the isolationist leanings of Elf leader Thranduil (Lee Pace) who wants no part of those pesky dwarf's journey.

    PHOTOS: Hot men of The Hobbit

    The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug Warner Bros.

    3. More Wonders Than Just a Talking Dragon: The film's highlight, the big moment every fan of Middle-earth hopes doesn't disappoint is Bilbo's encounter with ginormous fire-breather Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). The dragon's lair of gold is awe-inspiring, but it's the little surprises that leave the biggest impact. Like a coin that falls to Bilbo's feet which signals...danger. Meanwhile, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and friend to of the forest, Radagast uncover the great eye of Sauron. 

    4. Bard Core: As Bard the Bowman of Laketown, Luke Evans (Immortals) is introduced late in the film's hefty 160-minute running time after the dwarves hire him to sail closer to the Lonely Mountain. Like LotR's Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) he's of the race of men, but he's no Aragorn. Here's hoping his dragon-slaying skills get fierier in the third and final installment. 

    5. This Is a Trilogy: So, expect great action...and a cliffhanger. Did the abrupt ending of Catching Fire leave you excited for more—or just plain annoyed? You'll find no final conclusion here, either. Bring on There and Back Again stat!

    Are you ready to return to Middle-earth? Sound off in the comments!

    PHOTOS: Your first look at The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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