The second part of The Hobbit movie trilogy is much more fast paced than the first. Unlike the Lord of the Rings, where the second movie was also the best, I felt this installment lacked a little something compared to the first. Characters got a little short shrift throughout; I felt we hardly heard from Bilbo, the titular Hobbit, at all!
And here is where the addition of new material, not in the book, really shows through. I don’t mind, but it also reminded me of what a perfect little gem the novel is. The movie, unlike the book, is burdened with the history of the later/earlier movies. It must match up with story told in the Lord of the Rings movies, whereas the novel, while taking place in Middle Earth, was content to be a fun adventure for children (and for adults to read to remind themselves of childhood). The ring could just be a magic ring that made the wearer invisible, but this movie cannot escape the knowledge of what the ring will in the future continuity of the story and, more importantly, already was in movies that were released a decade ago.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug is too restrained by the technology that modifies his voice for him to really be the villain I know he is capable of being.
But it’s an exciting ride, nonetheless, and it’ll be a long wait until next Christmas to see the final installment. And I more eager than ever to re-read The Hobbit, which was first read to me by my mother when I was seven years old.