Overseas critics are giving glowing reviews of Peter Jackson's latest Middle Earth installment.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was shown to reviewers on December 3 in Los Angeles and the reviews are filing in, and so far, most are positive.
Movie magazine Empire gave it a five-star rating.
"Middle-earth's got its mojo back," said reviewer Nick de Semlyen.
"A huge improvement on the previous installment, this takes our adventurers into unchartered territory and delivers spectacle by the tonne," it said.
A narrative whipcrack took it from a meandering canter to a tremendous gallop, said a Guardian movie critic.
Scoring the movie a four out of five, Guardian movie reviewer Peter Bradshaw said the movie "sets off at full pelt and maintains its energy, charm and mystery throughout."
Though the first movie tried viewers' patience, the second "never sagged once" in its two hour 40 minute running time, said Bradshaw.
He said the Desolation of Smaug was a "cheerfully entertaining and exhilarating adventure tale," and a "supercharged Saturday morning picture."
To top it off, he said Jackson was an expert in big-league popular movie-making to rival George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and the New Zealand landscape had a "storybook beauty."
Slightly less gushing, but still good, is the review from The Hollywood Reporter.
Writer Todd McCarthy said nearly everything about The Desolation of Smaug was an improvement over the first installment.
McCarthy also noted Jackson getting the "drama in gear" with a sense of story telling that "possesses palpable energy and purpose."
He said near the end, Jackson's "perennial tendency to let bloat creep in" became an issue.
Justin Chang from Variety said after the bumpy beginning with An Unexpected Journey, the film found its footing in a "much more exciting and purposeful second chapter."
Meanwhile TIME declared it one of their top ten films of the year, saying it was a splendid achievement.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug premieres in New Zealand on December 12.
- The Dominion Post
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