WARNING: If you haven't seen Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug and don't like spoilers, wait until after you've seen the movie to read this...
I must admit, when I first heard that PJ was adding a completely new character into Hobbit: DOS, I was skeptical. But, having seen the movie twice now, I really like what he did with her character overall. I had a couple raised eyebrows with the whole Legolas-Tauriel-Kili love triangle, but other than that I think her character was very well done.
One of the other things that surprised me was just how...feral...the Mirkwood elves were. I know that Tolkien has described them as less wise and more dangerous, but I did not expect quite what I saw in the orc questioning scene. It took me a little while to reconcile what I've seen in LOTR with the almost vicious elves (including Legolas) in DOS, but remembering that they survive only on their own strength with no ring to aid them helped a lot.
Thranduil was...intriguing. He came off as rather arrogant at some points ("I can wait!" after throwing Thorin back into his cell) and his isolationism bothered me a bit. But, considering what he's seen in past (his father slain and the army decimated) I can't really blame him for not wanting to stick his army in other people's problems.
And Smaug....What can be said about Smaug? In my opinion, he lived up to and exceeded the hype built around keeping what he looked like a secret. Benedict Cumberbatch and Weta make a killer combination. He is so sneaky! And his voice gives me the shivers. It very nearly doesn't sound like Mr. Cumberbatch, which impresses me quite a bit, especially since he has such a distinctive voice. The moment when he leaves to ravage Laketown covered in gold and spins in the sky, raining gold, just wow, Weta, wow. Wonderful.
Finally, Martin Freeman's physical comedy and character development of Bilbo. Oh my word, all the little gestures and facial expression just had me laughing so hard, particularly in the escape scene when he finally realizes that he forgot himself in the equation. They make the character for me.
But I think the most powerful developmental scene in the movie is where he kills the freaky larvae-spider thingy for the ring (of which the spiders weren't as scary as I thought they would be- Aragog was far scarier, but the spiders were still very realistic and well done). Mr. Freeman's portrayal of Bilbo's thoughts as he realizes what he's done is downright powerful. I'm really not sure what else can be said about that moment. Just amazing.
In my humble opinion:
Most powerful images in the movie: landscape of Erebor in the mist, Bilbo above the trees of Mirkwood with the butterflies fluttering around him, and Smaug raining gold as he leaves the mountain
Best character development: Bilbo's realization of what he just did for the ring, Bard's attempt to rise above Girion's legacy, Thranduil's reasons for what he did/didn't do
Overall, wonderful job to PJ and all those involved in Hobbit: DOS!
Listening to: Gaudete: Celtic Thunder's Christmas Voices
Watching: Sherlock when I can steal the time
Eating: Food (when I'm hungry)
Drinking: Hoping for sparkling apple cider/OJ soon