“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” ended with a brief glimpse of the Lonely Mountain in the distance, a shining beacon of hope for the company. “The Desolation of Smaug” begins with a brief flashback to when Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Thorin (Richard Armitage) first meet before cutting to the present where the company is soon engaged in a life or death race from Orcs. This burst of energy that is hyped up within the first five minutes of the film continues to flow throughout the remaining 2½ hours.

Director Peter Jackson leaves behind the lighthearted singing found in the first film as the story takes a darker turn through the forest of Mirkwood, Laketown, the seemingly abandoned castle of DolGuldor, and to the kingdom under the mountain Erebor. Each well-created place is utterly recognizable and completely unique in its own way.

Martin Freeman returns to the screen as the brave hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the “burglar” of the company who continues to prove his worth to his companions. The company returns in full led by Thorin Oakenshield, agonizingly well portrayed by Armitage, who continues to battle between his blinding desire for his kingdom and the right thing to do.

Lee Pace carves out a bigger place in the story, reprising his role as the proud, elfin king Thranduil. Orlando Bloom briefly returns to his role as Legolas and fights his way back onto the big screen alongside female elfin character Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), the captain of King Thranduil’s guard.

Luke Evans gives us a fresh face in Bard the Bowman, a resident in Laketown who is weighed down by the so-called mistake of his father. Joining Evans is Stephen Fry, who steps up as the gluttonous and greedy Master of Laketown. Mikael Persbrandt also joins the cast as the gruff skinshifter Beorn, who walks the earth as a man and other times as a bear.

Probably the most anticipated newcomer is the dragon Smaug the Stupendous, the Impenetrable, the Magnificent and the Terrible, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. Digitally created, Smaug cuts an impressive, terrifyingly accurate figure on the screen. Cumberbatch brings Smaug to life as his deep, resonating voice rattles around the theater, seemingly coming from everywhere.

In this new age of digital technology, movies like “The Desolation of Smaug” leave viewiers wondering whether they are watching a realistic movie or a video game.

The plot strays from the path of the original text as Jackson meshes in the original “Hobbit” with the appendixes written by J.R.R. Tolkien to create a more accurate story of everything that was happening in this time period. On the other hand, plot changes such as the seemingly unavoidable and unnecessary love triangle that always appear in every modern franchise cannot be excused so easily.

However, if one overlooks such minor details, “The Desolation of Smaug” still comes across as a phenomenal movie. With an ending that makes your heart ache with pity, you’re frozen in your seat as the credits roll and Ed Sheeran’s fitting song “I See Fire” sounds through the speakers. In the words of Bilbo Baggins, “I’m going on an adventure!” and if you head to the local movie theater to see “The Desolation of Smaug,” you most certainly will be going on one, too.

Maia Gallagher is a sophomore at Buffalo Seminary.