More driven than the meandering first episode, but still hampered by uneven pacing and far too much plot, much of which still feels inconsequential two films in. As in the first film, the abundant action too often looks like a video game – not so much in the special effects as in the ridiculous actions that characters are performing onscreen. (One sequence has them Chun-Li-stomping on heads one minute and Mario-hopping into barrels the next.)
The dragon Smaug is impressive, as are the cavernous underground vistas (enough almost to make me wish I’d seen it in 3D). And the ending does set the stage for a climactic conclusion. Whether Jackson can provide that in the third and final film remains to be seen, but judging by these first two episodes I’m guessing not.