Liked the second Hobbit movie better than the first, and while I didn’t hate the first, I wouldn’t say that it’s improved upon subsequent viewings. The Desolation of Smaug probably has the fewest “coming of age” moments in the entire Jackson-Tolkien cycle, and since I find the iteration of these moments pointless and exhausting (I mean seriously, how many times does Sam have to realize his own worth?), the story could take center-stage. I also found the Tauriel character mildly less annoying than I expected, although I expected to be extremely annoyed.
With respect to Matt’s point, I think that the in-universe answer would run as follows; the death of Smaug leads to the restoration of the Kingdom Under the Mountain, the Kingdom of Dale, and the dominion of the Beornings. It also helped open access to Mirkwood by making Thranduil less paranoid. These developments substantially increased the opportunities for trade in the north, while also (in combination with the destruction of goblin strength in the Battle of Five Armies) helping to create reliable expectation of future stability. Trade increases, investment increases, and the massive supply of gold (literally) pouring out of the Lonely Mountain provides the monetary foundation for a strong, bustling northern economy.
The four allied dominions prove to be a pillar of Western strength during the War of Ring, requiring significant diversion of Sauron’s allied forces. And so really, the Hobbit is mostly about Gandalf attempting to generate economic growth by loosening monetary policy.