Unfortunately New Line Cinema, MGM, and Peter Jackson wanted to make some money and was thus, in my opinion the downfall of this movie. The Hobbit was not a long book and could legitimately break down into 2 movies. However greed took over at the studios and this one story is being stretched out over 3 movies. The shear greed of stretching this just to make more money starts my experience off soured. Next classic Peter Jackson gives us not just part 1 of 3, but a 2 hour and 49 minute part 1 of 3. There are some movies that are long and don't feel that way (Lincoln, Avengers, The Dark Knight), but this one did.
Visually this movie was stunning. But let's call it what it truly is- a near 3 hour documentary on how beautiful New Zealand is. It's like Peter Jackson has never heard of a cutting room. Important scenes get cut all the time from movies, but not Jackson's. We experience scene after scene of watching a hobbit and 12 dwarfs walking through a valley, walking on top of a mountain, walking in snow, walking in grass, etc. Only to come to end of the movie, and almost comically see their goal- still far off in the distance. While the scenery is beautiful, its just too much fluff. I will say that the often heard complaint that the way the movie is shot seems like it is more a Bennie Hill show with the characters running around like on fast forward, was not something I experienced. I thought it looked great. I saw it on a DLP screen and in 3D and both versions looked really good.
Along with the daunting swoopings of scenery, the opening scene at Bilbo's house was way too long. It was clear quickly that he was annoyed by the dwarfs, but it just continued on and on and on.
One thing I loved and thought Jackson did brilliantly, was add in appendices from the other books that explained where Gandalf disappears to. In The Hobbit, Gandalf would always just disappear, and you couldn't help but think this was the most unreliable wizard ever. But Jackson spends some quality time following Gandalf's quest which was left out of the Hobbit books.
The main complaint here is that the movie is just way too long, especially when you have 2 more to look forward to. If each one is almost 3 hours, I am already sure I will be annoyed. However, there is something to be said about the magic of Middle Earth. Because even though I was not impressed with this first installment at all, I am determined to see the next too, and in fact, still a little excited.
I give this movie 3.5 stars. While the large set pieces and breathtaking scenery are incredible, I wouldn't say its a must for theaters. A good big screen experience at home with a decent surround sound system and a mug of ale.
Movie poster from: http://www.thehobbitblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/HAUJ_Bus_Dwarves_DOM.jpg