It doesn’t just seem like a decade since Peter Jackson had a cinematic high note—it really has been. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was released in December 2003, and then swept the Oscars. Jackson has struggled since and last year’s Hobbit movie was, at best, a misfire. But it’s not just in comparison to that film that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug looks good. It stacks up favorably to all the Tolkien stuff and shows that Jackson still has a fire for this material. Even more surprising is that this is a bridge film, the second movie in a trilogy, and those are usually very safe and uninteresting. But Smaug is electric, well paced and a lot of fun. It’s nothing short of a trilogy-saving movie; now let’s see how Jackson can wrap this thing up.