See, now, THAT was more like it.
biggest problems, IMHO, were the erratic pacing and the flat-out uninteresting sequences that were newly added to the story; D o S, on the other hand, handles these issues in a much better way. Most of the expanded story is integrated seamlessly into the narrative - Bard's backstory adds much more depth to the tale, the confrontation with Smaug is satisfyingly action-packed, and even Kili's romance sub-plot works pretty well; not least because there is some good, believable chemistry between him and Tauriel, who impressed me a lot more than I thought she would.
The dwarf actors continue to deliver a superb (and underrated, since I don't know any of their IRL names and I doubt you do either) performance, so quite unsurprisingly, the movie is at its weakest when it deviates completely from Thorin & Co. Thankfully it doesn't do this very often, and we are only subjected to Radagast once.
As with the Gollum confrontation, the Smaug scenes have also been changed, but this time it's done well
. The 3D was especially good here - at times during the close-up shots it actually felt
like the dragon was looming over me right there in the theater. The blatantly overt use of Convection Shmonvection
(actually, I'm pretty sure riding a metal
wheelbarrow RIGHT ON TOP of a river of molten gold makes it Conduc
tion-Shmonduction) turned me off a bit, but other than that, it was pretty awesome. Smaug was animated, voiced and characterized spot-on, too. And it ends exactly at the spot where you're left wanting more.
That said, some things could've been done better - Beorn, for example, was a wisecracking badass in the books but here, is now a humorless grumpy-face. Also, it wasn't
a trap, Gandalf, they were surprised to smell you coming. Really, what was he thinking, walking in alone? Did he seriously expect a different outcome than the way it turned out?
What most bothers me, though, is that at this point I have no idea how they're going to do a full-sized movie with what's left of the story, which means the expanded stuff with Gandalf, Radagast and the Necromancer will occupy a much bigger chunk of the concluding chapter. Not optimistic on how that's going to play out. Hopefully I'm wrong.