The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a visual delight and a miracle of special effects and CGI.
Sets and costumes and props are both inventive and suitably derivative, with stereotypical elfin villages with steep roofs and wide eaves and narrow streets. Enormous cities and temples are carved out of cliff walls or inside humongous caves with peculiarly level floors. Narrow passageways offer distant vistas of rocky mountain trails, and nobody has every heard of guard rails.
Costumes remind you of children's fairy-tale books of the 19th century, weapons run from standard Robin Hood longbows to inflammatory halitosis on a stupendous scale. Everything is meticulously detailed, and just check the closing credits for the number and variety of artists who were involved.
And I saw The Hobbit in 2-D. In 3-D, I suspect that the lofty precipices and deep-down vistas would have made me seasick.
But the story is the same old "quest" material, with travels from one exotic land to another, a succession of battles and captivities and escapes and rescues, one after another, with episodes like the encounter with the spiders largely independent of everything else, contributing little, if anything, to the development of either story or theme-- or, more seriously, characters.
Much has been made of the development of Bilbo Baggins and the creation of a new heroine for Orlando Bloom to get involved with. But Bilbo is developing in totally predictable ways for a hero, and Evangeline Lilly's heroine is a standard warrior princess with no individualizing characteristics.
Some of the scenes, especially those with Smaug the dragon, go on and on, and the final one on and on and ON, and then keeps on a little longer before it finally goes on to the end.
The Hobbit is visually awesome and full of action, but that's about all you can say for it.