NEW YORK (AP) — Has Peter Jackson reflected on the massive chunk of his life that he's devoted to Hobbits?

"You're not going to make me are you?" he winces. "It's a long time. A long time."

The 52-year-old New Zealand director still has another movie to go, so he can be forgiven for not wanting to ponder too deeply the 16 years he's already spent in the service of J.R.R. Tolkien. The latest installment, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," is his fifth Tolkien film (part two in the three-movie "Hobbit" prequel to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy) and approximately hour 84 in the Middle-earth saga.

That may be a slight overestimate, but in any case, it's been a lot of Orcs.

The journey has largely been a smooth one. Each "Lord of the Rings" film was received rapturously, averaging about $1 billion a pop, and the trilogy culminated in the Oscar steamrolling of "The Return of the King."

But when Jackson turned his attention to Tolkien's first book, "The Hobbit," things got bumpier. He and New Line feuded over merchandising revenue from "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" was held up. Initially, Jackson was to executive produce with Guillermo del Toro directing a two-film adaptation, but after delays raged on, del Toro dropped out and Jackson returned to the director's chair.

When Jackson and Warner Bros. opted to make "The Hobbit" three films, a feeling of Hobbit overdose — and claims of overreaching — began to surround the project. The first film didn't enjoy nearly as warm a response from critics or filmgoers.

"An Unexpected Journey" made another $1 billion, but it was derided for its lengthy running time (182 minutes), its prolonged introduction of characters and its innovative use of 48 frames-per-second, double the industry standard. Jackson had already broken new ground with technical effects like the motion-capture technique used to create the hobbit mutant Gollum, and he hailed the higher frame rate as the future of filmmaking — a sharper image that could attract moviegoers like 3-D had.

But the 48 fps wasn't well received. Critics said the film seemed overamplified and that the increased clarity yielded a discombobulating hyper-realism that contrasted poorly with the set design.

With "The Desolation of Smaug," Jackson hopes to be righting the "Hobbit" ship. But he's resolutely sticking with 48 fps as the definitive way to see the movie: "It's by far the best way to see it," he says.

Yet Jackson and Warner Bros. have declined to show film critics Jackson's preferred version, instead only screening in advance the film in 24 frames-per-second.

"I was part of that decision," says Jackson. "We did feel that last year, we split focus in a way. People were reviewing the frame rate as well as reviewing the movie. I felt the technology dominated."

The director, though, says he's also worked to improve how the higher frame rate feels.

"I spent a lot of time in the color-grading room really putting my head into how we make the 48 not have a video feel," says Jackson. "Some of the criticism of the 48 frames was not actually to do with the frame rate per se, which is just making it easier on your eyes, reducing motion blur. It was to do with the fact that it felt like TV, like soap opera."

Moviegoers will get to choose. They can see "Desolation of Smaug" in 24 or 48, as well as in 3-D. Warner Bros. is increasing the number of theaters showing the film in 48 fps: 750 theaters, up from 450 on the first "Hobbit" movie. Internationally, it will play in 2,500 theaters, an increase of more than 800 screens.

The film, meanwhile, is finding much better reviews. Along with Benedict Cumberbatch's titular dragon created with motion-capture, Jackson has added a notable new character to Tolkien's tale. Evangeline Lilly plays the female elf, Tauriel, who's the fighting equal of Orlando Bloom's Legolas.

"It honestly was a cold-blooded decision to write a good, strong female role because there aren't any," says Jackson.

Earlier this year while shooting pickups from the original shooting of "Desolation of Smaug," Jackson also wrapped up leftover production for the third film, "There and Back Again," to be released next December. His time with Tolkien is finally coming to an end.

But Jackson's life is fully entwined with the films. He makes them with his wife and creative partner Fran Walsh. Their pugs make a cameo in "Smaug." Jackson, too, has regularly made appearances in the films. Since the timeline is about 60 years earlier in the "Hobbit" movies, he says his briefly glimpsed character in "Smaug" is the grandfather of his "Rings" cameo.

"I care so much about my cameo, I even map all the connections between the films," he laughs. "It's just silly fun."

___

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle

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  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Martin Freeman arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • Peter Jackson

    Director Peter Jackson, right, poses with his daughter Katie on the red carpet at the premiere of his new film "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Martin Freeman

    Martin Freeman who plays Bilbo Baggins poses on the red carpet for the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at Embassy Theatre in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • James Nesbitt

    Cast members James Nesbitt who plays Bofur, left, and Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly pose on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

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    Cast member Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly waves to audience on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

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  • Sylvester McCoy

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  • Andy Serkis

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  • Richard Armitage

    Cast member Richard Armitage poses on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Mark Hadlow

    Cast member Mark Hadlow poses on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Martin Freeman, Peter Jackson

    Cast member Martin Freeman, left, embraces director Peter Jackson at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Richard Armitage

    Cast member Richard Armitage poses on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Hugo Weaving, James Nesbitt

    Cast members Hugo Weaving, left, and James Nesbitt pose on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • Elijah Wood

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  • Cate Blanchett

    Cast member Cate Blanchett poses on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," at the Embassy Theatre, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Director Sir Peter Jackson emerges from from a Hobbit house before delivering a speech at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Jed Brophy, who plays Nori, arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Dean O'Gorman, who plays Fili, arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • NZEALAND-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-HOBBIT

    Actress Evangeline Lilly arrives for the world premiere of 'The Hobbit' movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. Huge crowds swarmed into central Wellington on November 28 for the world premiere of Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit', an event that has sparked Middle Earth mania in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Cate Blanchett arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Evangeline Lilly arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • NZEALAND-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-HOBBIT

    Actor Andy Serkis walks out onto the stage at the world premiere of 'The Hobbit' movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. Huge crowds swarmed into central Wellington on November 28 for the world premiere of Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit', an event that has sparked Middle Earth mania in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Elijah Wood arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Director Sir Peter Jackson arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

  • NZEALAND-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-HOBBIT

    Director James Cameron (R) and Suzy Amis pose for a photo upon their arrival at the world premiere of 'The Hobbit' movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. Huge crowds swarmed into central Wellington on November 28 for the world premiere of Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit', an event that has sparked Middle Earth mania in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

  • NZEALAND-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-HOBBIT

    Actor Andy Serkis who plays the character Gollum speaks to reporters at the world premiere of 'The Hobbit' movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. Huge crowds swarmed into central Wellington on November 28 for the world premiere of Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit', an event that has sparked Middle Earth mania in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

  • NZEALAND-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-HOBBIT

    Actress Cate Blanchett speaks upon her arrival at the world premiere of 'The Hobbit' movie in Courtenay Place in Wellington on November 28, 2012. Huge crowds swarmed into central Wellington on November 28 for the world premiere of Peter Jackson's 'The Hobbit', an event that has sparked Middle Earth mania in New Zealand. AFP PHOTO / Marty Melville (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere

    WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 28: Sylvester McCoy, who plays wizard Radagast the Brown, arrives at the 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' World Premiere at Embassy Theatre on November 28, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)