There are two kinds of trilogies. There are the ones where the first film is a smashing success and they have to build it out a bit, like Back to the Future, Indiana Jones or, ahem, Star Wars. Then there are films that are naturally structured that way, for example Lord of the Rings (and probably the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when they get round to it).
The Hobbit would have made a really successful single film. It is a rather thin book and there is plenty to sustain a hundred action packed minutes. But one film means one ticket sale. So it is now a trilogy. The first film did a good job of setting up the characters. The job of the second film is to get them into a horrible mess and the third film will hopefully tie everything together. The good news is that “The Desolation of Smaug” does a good job as the second film.
It is a bit on the long side, but manages to pack in plenty of action, character development and even a bit of romance. And it leaves things balanced on a cliff-hanger that will have us all go back and buy the third ticket to find how it ends.
Everyone gets into their role with gusto, although Gandalf the Grey seems a bit tired this time out, which is not surprising I suppose as he is quite literally old before his time in this outing of the franchise.
If you enjoyed any of the earlier films you will love this one. It has all you would expect, including helicopter shots of earnest warriors of difference sizes striding over hill tops and running through caverns and over stone bridges with no handrails.