My thoughts on The Hobbit.
I loved returning to Middle-Earth. I loved seeing Hobbiton and--a smoking--Gandalf the Grey again. Gollum was amazing. The visuals were beautiful, the colors vibrant. I especially enjoyed the bits of the movie taken from Tolkien's appendices: the Witch King of Angmar, the Necromancer, and the council with Elrond and Saruman. They made the movie feel like a real prequel to The Lord of the Rings, and helped bring back the feeling of the first trilogy.
I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed the movie as a whole the first time around. I had no problem with the myriad dwarves, since we'll be get the opportunity to know them better in the coming installments, and Martin Freeman as Bilbo was excellent.
However. I did have some hang ups. Despite the lengths I go to describe them, they didn't ruin the movie for me. Not quite.
First off, and most importantly, I believe the music was terrible. Now, let me preface that: I absolutely love the music from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I think Howard Shore is a genius and I listen to all three soundtracks at least once a week without fail.
But he must have tossed in the towel for The Hobbit. The music has all the subtlety of a hammer to the head, it's spotty and inconsistent, seemingly lazily written. The first half of the movie consists of badly remixed themes from the original trilogy crossed with longs phrases of single, drawn out notes that fill the background with no melody, only sound that doesn't have anything to do with the images on the screen. When any action ramps up, the dwarves' theme song suddenly blares to life and blasts you with "epic", even when it doesn't fit the mood. In contrast, the music in The Lord of the Rings maintains a coherent structure throughout, providing consistent backing when needed, and emotional heft when demanded. At no point is there a melody or harmony in the original trilogy that makes me wince. There are plenty in The Hobbit.
To sum up, I am severely disappointed in the music. In my honest opinion, it was the worst part of the movie. In fact, it almost comes close to ruining it for me.
To a lesser extent, I also disliked Radagast the Brown. I was excited to see him finally, having missed him in The Lord of the Rings. For some reason, meeting another of the wizards always sparked my imagination. The version of Radagast in the movie however, was nothing like I expected him to be. Now, I can't fault Peter Jackson and company for having a different vision than me. But, I would have hoped that someone would have nixed the dried bird poop dribbling down his face, toned down the pot jokes, and generally made Radagast a little less of a high-pitched moron.
Thorin Oakenshield? Way too overdone. He was acted well, but he wasn't given the proper buildup for some of the emotions we were supposed to feel for him. Felt a bit melodramatic.
The one other thing--aside from the music--that nearly ruined the movie for me was the voice acting. I was so used to the voice acting in The Lord of the Rings--full of believably gruff dwarves, barbaric Uruk-hai, and disgusting-sounding orcs--that The Hobbit's cast of high-pitched and nasally-silly goblins made me shudder. That's not to say that there wasn't good voice acting, because there was. The Pale Orc was particularly good. But the Goblin King? Come on. Not to mention the three cave trolls that try to eat the dwarves, which were terrible. The snotty idiot of the three was actually painful to listen to, and by the time I saw it a second time, I hated that entire scene.
Too much silly in general, not enough badass. In The Lord of the Rings, the orcs felt super dangerous, and you actually felt afraid that they would kill the good guys. Not so in this movie. Aside from the Pale Orc, I didn't much feel any fear. The Goblins were just too silly.
Side note: the movie needed more black orc blood. There was next to none. All cuts and scrapes were completely clean, almost like slicing through rubber.
Moving on to the 48fps 3D version, I want to start with a warning: see the traditional showing first. You'll thank me later. Like I mentioned, we went to the 48fps version a few days after seeing it the first time, and I'm very glad we waited. The high frame rate sucks the magic right out of the movie while making everything look like the props they were. It's too clear. You see too much and it yanks you out of the illusion. If you've ever watched a BBC television show, you'll know the feeling. It was distracting and actually made me feel like the movie was too long, and *gasp* I eventually got tired of watching The Hobbit.
The 3D was excellent. I do recommend that part.
Once again, I enjoyed the movie, it was more than I ever hoped to get after Return of the King came out, so there's no overall complaints, just nitpicking.
I will say this though, and you can decide: what does it mean when The Hobbit simply leaves me dying to watch The Lord of the Rings again?