First off, let me state that this type of movie isn't really my favorite. I saw all three Lord of the Rings movies in theatres and it took everything in me to stay awake. I'm not completely sure what it is that isn't appealing to me. I think it's hard for me to completely let myself go into the story and the magic of it all and not realize the whole time that it's unrealistic. Even as a kid, I didn't really like movies like The Neverending Story because it just weirded me out.
So, this review is somewhat partial to the fact that, despite graphics or story or anything, it's hard to impress me with this genre.
That being said, even if I was remotely interested in this movie (which I actually was, because I read the book in high school), I was really disappointed with The Hobbit as a whole. Peter Jackson returned to his roots by bringing this epic tale of adventure to, not just one, but three movies. This was the first problem. The joys of a sequel are rooted in knowing the complete story and being surprised with further travels involving the same characters. This is why movies like Toy Story 3 work. We weren't expecting a continuation of a story, so it made it that more exciting. And, this is also why the second Pirates of Caribbean tale was kind of bland. Disney had announced that they filmed parts 2 and 3 at the same time, meaning the $10 I spent to watch part 2 was kind of pointless, knowing in advance that I was about to watch an incomplete story. And, it showed when the movie was released and, while still raking in the dough, most people were a little underwhelmed. This doesn't apply to trilogies or sets of films like the Lord of Rings trilogy or the Star Wars saga or even (I hate that I'm saying this) the Twilight series. With the exception to the final two Twilight movies (where they split up one book into two films) and the last Harry Potter films (where they did the same thing), the stories are complete in their own right, which means it makes sense to know there will be more films, but each one is complete in its own right. The Hobbit is one story, on its own. Why in the world, besides money, are they splitting it into three films? And, on top of knowing there are going to be two more, this was almost 3 hours long. I'm not a stickler for long movies. I enjoy a great, epic film. But, knowing that, if I want to see the whole book (which isn't very long) made into a film, I'm going to be devoting 9 hours of my life and about $30. That's a lot for a sub par film.
And, that's my biggest gripe with the whole thing. The movie wasn't really that good. Yes, it's a beloved story and the characters are heartwarming and it leads to one of the most-loved, most-respected, and most-revered stories of all time. But, where the Lord of the Rings surprised us with its mix of dark tones and incredible effects, The Hobbit relies on cheeky humor, not-as-impressive effects, and an overall rushed feeling. Jackson devoted a long part of his life in the first three Tolkein tales. This time, especially since he wasn't even supposed to direct this, it feels a little more like a paycheck film for him.
It's also interesting to see how critics and Hollywood are taking this film series, so far. The last trip to Middle Earth was award-worthy and completely awe-inspiring. This turn is feeling a little more like your standard "epic movie" fare.
In defense of the story and Jackson, I think it was more of a studio decision to stretch it out to three films. But, if you're going to expect your audience to devote so much time and money, the reward should be equal. The effects were nothing spectacular. The twist on the story was almost too lighthearted (which I know seem harsh to say). And, because this 3 hour tale only goes through the first 7-ish chapters of the book, there's a lot more story to come that would've made this film more complete.
For the few good things, the movie picks up during its third act and delivers its best attempt at somewhat matching previous Lord of the Rings status. This can probably be attributed to the introduction of Gollum. Andy Serkis really does some great work here.
Overall, The Hobbit is definitely not the worst film of the year and is probably worthy of making a Top 25 list, but it's definitely not the best movie of the year and will indelibly be called that by many people who are more blinded by the idea of how awesome the movie should be, than by realizing how underwhelming it actually is. It's one of those movies. We're supposed to like it, so we say we like it, when in reality, if we really thought about it, we'd realize we expected more.
Feel free to blast me or throw me over a cliff. Like I said, it's really hard to sell this type of movie to me. And don't take that to mean I'm not appreciative of the art, because I respect the time and talent invested in it. The bottom line is, though, that if you're going to invest so much, you deserve a better outcome.