Parts of this review are from my review of the first Hobbit movie as much of it still holds true.
It's great fun to return to Middle Earth but the awe and magic of "The Lord of The Rings" trilogy is gone. Director Peter Jackson and his team of writers, so anxious to film the prequel and satisfy millions of fans have overstuffed a wonderful tale with unnecessary sound and fury. They have super-sized the enchanting story so much that it was necessary to split it into three films. And now we have part two...
The CGI work and the New Zealand landscapes are remarkable. At times, it's hard to tell the real actors from the computer images...and that's still not a good thing. Only Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and Thorin, the dwarf King have any personality. Some of the other characters are better defined as we move through part two but for now, it's all a noisy set up for what's to come. It's basically run, fight, repeat but with more imagination.
Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Wizard and he hasn't missed a beat. He wears his wizard hat proudly. Thorin is played by Richard Armitage and he smolders beautifully. Our reluctant Hobbit hero, Bilbo is played by Martin Freeman and he is perfectly cast in the role (although he is basically playing the same part he played in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy" albeit with bigger feet). A fun aside is that the voice of Smaug the dragon is done by Benedict Cumberbatch, Mr. Freeman's Watson to his Sherlock Holmes (on BBC). It's that dragon thats really impressive in this episode with fantastic CGI work. Of course you would expect nothing less from Mr. Jackson for such an important part of the film although in other fight sequences the CGI suffers.
A familiar face appears in this installment (although he was never in the book) in the elfin form of Legolas, played with heroic abandon by Orlando Bloom (amazing how many Orcs he can kill without getting a scratch on himself). And the fresh face in the cast is the female elf, Tauriel played by Evangeline Lilly. This character is completely new but fits in nicely as a fierce woman warrior.
See it in Imax 3D for the best experience as it looks and sounds great. As for the overall film, you can't really review this as a finished work since we are only two thirds into the story. It is certainly exciting though and does it's job setting up the big finale, next year.