DISCLAIMER: I watched this movie in D Box. If you have the chance to watch this in a theater that has D Box I highly suggest that you do.
Man what can I say about this one. Well here's the thing I am a fan of both the books and the movies, saying that I can understand how some "purists" will take issue with this movie. I didn't have those misgivings. Peter Jackson has made some changes to the story that don't hurt the story. Some of the changes I thought were actually pretty good, others were just so-so, not really hurting but not helping either. The movie starts out where the last movie ended, with Thorin and his company being chased by Azog the pale orc. This is why I like Peter Jackson's vision, because they way that this movie is shot is exactly how I pictured it in my mind when I read the book. The movie is also paced very well, by now you know these movies are going to be three hours long. The way Jackson paces the movie, I never found myself bored or wondering if a particular scene is going to get the 'point'. One thing that I liked in this movie is that he is letting creatures talk. In the last movie and even in the original trilogy he never had the creatures of Middle Earth talk. In this movie they let them talk and I am very appreciative of that. One of the things that I liked was how they went into the madness that is present in Thorin's family and why there is some animosity between the wood elves and the dwarves. I think Lee Pace did an excellent job as Thranduil, King of the Wood Elves. He plays the character in a way we haven't seen the elves portrayed before, the guy is a ruthless liar and that's saying it nicely. He isn't a man to be trusted but at the same time you kind of understand his point of view as he is trying to protect his kingdom. If you have seen the trailer then you know that Legolas is in this movie and yes he is still a badass. He steals the movie just like he did in the original trilogy. Another character they brought in was Evangeline Lily as Tauriel. This is the character that was completely made up for the movie. I didn't mind her story in the movie. Although I will say this there is a scene that they did with her that they lifted straight out of Fellowship of the Ring. Normally that would make me mad but its his own work so I can't really get mad about it. That brings me to Smaug. Let me just say this, when you see him on screen you will understand why people are afraid of him. They made him huge and the effects that they used to make him come to life were pretty damn good too. My favorite sequence in the movie is the battle of wits between Smaug and Bilbo. It is an amazing sequence as Bilbo begins to understand exactly what he has gotten himself into and you get the sense of just how evil Smaug is. Benedict Cumberbatch continues to impress as the voice of Smaug. I used to think that no one could match the Rankin/Bass cartoon but Benedict nailed it. There are a couple of things that I did not like in this movie. First, while I didn't mind Tauriel I think that they really didn't need to bring her in to the story. With her they are trying to start a love triangle/interracial relationship with her and one of the dwarves. Since they did that a change was made so that they could make the story flow properly and I just didn't think that they needed to do that. She could have just been a badass and left it at that, but then again that is just my personal opinion. Like I said before it doesn't hurt the movie but it doesn't help it either. Another thing that I didn't like was the nercomancer story that they go into with Gandalf. Its in the book but in my opinion it was handled better in the book. Some of the scenes just seem choppy and more than likely will make sense when the extended edition blu ray/dvd comes out. The last thing I didn't like was how it ended. Talk about a cliffhanger, I hate when Peter Jackson does this because now I have to wait until next December and it will be excruciating to say the least.
Just in case you couldn't tell this is a FULL PRICE movie for me. Better if you can catch it in D Box. For parents, there are a couple of jump scares in the movie, one very early on and the other at the end in the confrontation with Smaug. Other than that its your standard Lord of the Rings action. Not a lot of blood but they do have scenes with beheadings and arrows through skulls. Just so you know.