Peter Jackson earned a fair amount of ire when it was announced he had taken a book that has all of 320 pages, and broken it up into the same number of movies as The “Lord of the Rings” which comes in at almost 3x the size (nearly 1200 pages). How could he possibly take 9 hours to tell a story? To answer, it would seem he has used the opposite of what he did with LoTR, in that he’s expanded areas previously only touched on in the book, unlike in LoTR where entire sections were cut (Tom Bombadil, for example). (Un)fortunately he’s also added characters from LoTR that were unmentioned in “The Hobbit”, which we’ll get to.
The movie starts out pretty much exactly where the previous one left off… which was expected. Obviously it would behoove the viewer to re-watch the first movie a few days/hours before viewing this installment, as otherwise a year has passed, and some information may have been forgotten. The movies were all filmed at the same time, so there are no instances of the actors looking different between the movies, which is quite pleasant. What was a bit disconcerting is how much Orlando Bloom aged between LoTR and this movie. In LoTR he was in his 20’s. In this movie, his face had filled out and he looked very different. So maybe Elves age and then de-age. =)
Special Effects and video quality looked much improved from the first movie. There was one specific scene in the first movie (in the goblin mines) where everything looked very soft. I think this was due to the convertion from 48fps to 24fps. They seem to have fixed that in both the DVD/Blu-ray release, as well as this new movie where this didn’t ever seem to be the case. Everything looked quite sharp.
Much like “Two Towers”, this movie had a lot of action in it, but unlike many action oriented movies, it had few instances where the action seemed to drag, unlike “Two Towers”. The only overly long action scene was unique enough that is stayed interesting. Smaug himself was introduced in the movie, and is voiced and played (motion capture) by Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock (which also has Martin Freeman as Watson), “Star Trek Into Darkness“). Smaug was, extremely well done, and extremely well acted.
All and all, the continuation of “The Hobbit” from Peter Jackson is a worthy sequel, and by all accounts, a better movie than it’s predecessor. The movie lacks the incessant gross-out humor of the first movie, and also feels much more rounded with a clear goal ahead. There were no points in the movie where I felt the plot strayed enough from the book to be a bother, and it felt like a better movie than the first, which I couldn’t say about “Two Towers” vs. “Fellowship of the Ring”. I would recommend seeing it.