Having survived the beginning of their unexpected journey in the first Hobbit film, the Company travels East in the second installment, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (rated PG-13 for action and intense battle scenes; and with a running time of 141 min., and it will be shown Friday and Saturday night only, with no show on Sunday due to the Super Bowl), encountering along the way the skin-changer Beorn and a swarm of giant Spiders in the treacherous forest of Mirkwood. After escaping capture by the dangerous Wood-elves, the Dwarves journey to Lake-town, and finally to the Lonely Mountain itself, where they must face the greatest danger of all—a creature more terrifying than any other; one which will test not only the depth of their courage but the limits of their friendship and the wisdom of the journey itself—The Dragon Smaug.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," the first film in "The Hobbit" Trilogy, was released in late 2012 and became a billion dollar success worldwide, inspiring fans from every generation and spawning renewed interest in the timeless masterpiece by J.R.R. Tolkien on which the Trilogy is based.

"The world of Tolkien is so rich," says Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson. "It’s almost like you’re turning the page of a history book, going back into that world to a new chapter and seeing new characters, creatures, and places that you haven’t been to before."

In adapting The Hobbit into three fully rounded motion pictures, Jackson and his screenwriting collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, along with Guillermo del Toro, found they had the freedom to avoid having to cut or condense the narrative of the book while also incorporating material from the 125 pages of appendices that Tolkien included at the end of The Lord of the Rings. With these extensive notes about the environment and politics of Middle-earth during the time of The Hobbit, Tolkien provided vital connective tissue between Bilbo Baggins’s journey and the ultimate struggle for Middle-earth chronicled in The Lord of the Rings.

For the filmmakers who a decade ago brought that three-volume opus to the screen with "The Lord of the Rings" Trilogy, "The Hobbit" Trilogy presented them with an irresistible journey of their own: to fully explore the mysteries and dangers both hinted at and fully described in both the appendices and The Hobbit, while not compromising the tone of what was essentially written as a book for young people.

"The challenge of making these films is remaining true to the spirit of the book while also transitioning to the flavor and style of ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ and we were very aware of the tonal differences," notes screenwriter and producer Fran Walsh. "The Hobbit is a much more playful book, but in the latter half of the novel, some of the heavier and darker themes that Tolkien developed in the later trilogy are really coming into play—the nature of power and courage, of greed and sacrifice. So it felt natural that the second film would have that slightly darker tone."

With the film’s 15 primary characters already introduced in the first film, Jackson and his collaborators were also able to embrace what Jackson describes as the book’s "breathless pace" in the second. "You can step straight into the story from where the first film left off, so there’s little need for exposition," he says. "At the same time, with the second film, the challenge was to deepen the conflict and increase the difficulty for our characters. I wanted it to feel a bit like a thriller, as the events intensify and the stakes go up. That’s what’s so exciting to me about this film—it’s a continuation of the story but takes you into a whole new world. We travel to new places, meet new people, and, of course, we get to see the iconic Tolkien moment of Bilbo’s confrontation with the Dragon."

The film’s title refers to the destruction and ruin left in the wake of the Dragon Smaug’s powerful and vicious attack on the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, a fallout zone of charred lands, ruined cities and desperate people. "Dragons love gold, and this particular Dragon, who was mean and hungry at the time, was called Smaug," explains Philippa Boyens, the avowed "Tolkien geek" among the screenwriting team. "He came down unexpectedly upon the Dwarves, and destroyed not only the Kingdom of Erebor but the City of Dale, which lay at the foot of the Lonely Mountain. It was a day of such destruction that it literally scarred the earth for miles around, which became known as the Desolation of Smaug."

—taken from the production notes of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures