Yep, right, it's better than the first one. Yeah, no, it's not as good as The Lord of The Rings still, but shut up. It's not LOTR, it's The Hobbit. It's not a LOTR film, it's a Middle-Earth film. That's a different thing.
And yes, they didn't need to split it up into three films. And yes of course it's a grab for money and Peter Jackson seems tired of the series. Of course. And I'm not sure why the CGI looks glitchy in some bits and the 'Shire' score just doesn't make me tear up like it used to. Also, Legolas doesn't look younger. He looks older. And why are his eyes different?
Shut up, look, all of these aside, it's a perfectly good epic fantasy film. And you don't see many of those. I'm shocked that Game of Thrones remains the only other contender in the mainstream pop culture of epic fantasy, given the literary wealth there is to draw upon for greedy money-making TV and film execs. (Terry Pratchett, Robin Hobb, David Eddings, Ray Feist...) It's hard to get right, of course, as The Hobbit films are now proving, but that doesn't seem to stop Hollywood from eternally putting out streams of mediocre sci-fi films that do moderately well every year. Less robots and more dwarves and elves please.
Either way, you should see the film. It's good fun. The barrel sequence has quickly become one of my favourite in all five Middle-Earth films. It's up there with the best of them. Fast, funny, gripping - everything The Hobbit should be. Overall, it doesn't have the pace issues the first film had, but the structure still feels off. It somehow manages to both end too soon and be too long.
I've read the book too long ago now to remember how faithful the adaptation is, but I suspect I wouldn't be pleased. The films aren't an adaptation of The Hobbit, however. In fact, Bilbo spends much of the film being little more than a supporting player. The various plots that have been added or transposed by the writing team are ok, but I spent most of the third act just wanting to get back to Bilbo and the dragon. (Or Sherlock and Watson, if you think about it.) The elven/dwarf love triangle, Gandalf's tired prophecies of doom and concerned looks, and the Aragon-like Bard against a lovingly portrayed Master of Laketown (by Stephen Fry), couldn't ever really compete against some sweet Dragon dungeon action.
I have most trouble forgiving Jackson for his constant use of CGI. In particular, all orcs appear to be graphically rendered now, robbing us of the fantastic make up work we had in LOTR. Why, Peter? Most criminally, the CGI doesn't even look that good...
The third film promises to be better, I think. But overall, the trilogy will not be anywhere near as lovingly remembered as the the first. It was always going to be that way. I can only hope it keeps the door open for other epic fantasy worlds for film makers to draw upon. Middle-earth, after all, is just the beginning.