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Has Peter Jackson Mastered the Art of the Trilogy?

Second episodes like "Smaug" are for having fun, says the director

Peter Jackson never expected to be an expert on trilogies, but now, having two under his belt, he believes he has the three-parter thing down cold.

“The first movie is generally the setting up and the getting on the road, and getting to know the characters,” he says. “The third one is is obviously the climactic episode where you can really just go crazy. The middle, in a way, has the least pressure on it, because you’re not having to kick the whole thing off, but nor are you having to wrap it up. So you can just sort of have fun with it.”

That’s the spirit he and his crew took into both “The Two Towers” and “The Desolation of Smaug,” says the director of the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” franchises.

Early reviews agree that “Smaug” is more fun than “An Unexpected Journey,” and that the pic also raises the storytelling stakes. The script grafts J.R.R. Tolkien’s story “The Quest of Erebor” onto “The Hobbit,” making this trilogy a full-on prequel to “Lord of the Rings,” complete with an appearance by uber-baddie Sauron.

While “The Hobbit” pictures are a return to the Middle-Earth milieu Jackson explored in epic fashion in “The Lord of the Rings,” filmmaking tools have evolved quite a bit since those earlier movies were in production. The helmer used a virtual camera to shoot much of “The Desolation of Smaug’s” third act.

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“I was inside the film,” Jackson says. “Literally, I’d entered the movie as a camera operator. It let me walk in amongst (the action) with this camera with the lens I wanted. I’d be able to move as fast as I wanted, crane up and down, be handheld. I was able to shoot almost like a combat photographer inside the mayhem in that last act.”

Asked how the final installment of “Hobbit,” in 2014, can top this one, the director belly laughs, “I have no idea,” he says.

But on further reflection, he adds: “The thing I’d say with the last episode, as it was with ‘Return of the King’ — it has a lot more emotional impact than the first two.”

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