We are in the golden age of epics and grand mythologies in film making. The second Hobbit film is an excellent follow up to the first installment. There are a few deviations from the book, though in my opinion the changes only made the story more interesting. And those with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the book will have something new to look forward to.
Spoiler alert. Don’t read on if you care about spoilers.
The casting is top notch. Stephen Fry makes an appearance as the Master of Laketown (he has a wonderful portrait hanging, picture below). Benedict Cumberbatch, who seems to be everywhere nowadays, gives the voices to Smaug and the Necromancer/Sauron. And the main cast of Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage and the rest continue to be wonderful.
Orlando Bloom makes a surprise appearance as Legolas. He is (consistent with Tolkien) the son of the Elven king of the woods, but if Bilbo had met him wouldn’t they have had a word or two to say to each other in the Fellowship later? And what about Legolas and Gimli then? Evangeline Lilly (from Lost) plays another character written into the movie, Tauriel, an Elf who is in the middle of an interesting love triangle. I suppose they needed a female character as The Hobbit famously is all-male.
Overall well worth a watch. It makes a lot of sense to have re-watched the first movie to get a sense of continuity.