First came the original trilogy, critically acclaimed fare. Some years later - a prequel to the original - a second trilogy began. The Hobbit is the first installment of this second trilogy. Critics aren't lapping this one up though. Here's what some reviewers felt about Peter Jackson directed The Hobbit, starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage:
When young Bilbo Baggins finally exclaims "I'm going on an adventure!", it's at the end of a long, leisurely and retrospective introduction in Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," an extremely long film that introduces the rest of the projected trilogy. If not for the production's peerless visuals, the pace of its first 45 minutes or so would be soporific...An overlong adventure enlivened by wonders."
- Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal
Fans won't want to hear it, but "An Unexpected Journey" is a major comedown, a muddle-headed and cumbersome piece of filmmaking that betrays Jackson's mercenary motives -- Tolkien's book, too....I haven't seen the movie screened at 24 fps, but at 48, the grain of film has been replaced by the gloss of high definition video, which gives everything and everyone a fake, plastic sheen....In fairness, there are redeeming features: The movie does sputter into life in the last 45 minutes, especially during a lengthy battle of wits between Bilbo and Gollum. And Ian McKellen miraculously, alone among the cast, transcends the picture's artificial surface and imposes himself on such drama as he can find.
- Tom Charity, CNN.com
Howard Shore's beautiful theme music, reprised from the previous trilogy, filters in. We see the idyllic Middle-earth countryside and are introduced to Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins - Freeman was born to be a hobbit; he is ideal casting - and we settle in for a magical experience. And then, slowly, a fatal distance opens up between what we're hoping and what we're actually seeing....If you loved the earlier films, these are moments you will hold on to, but they're very few, and they're not enough.
- Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
First, you need to get past the look of it.The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is making a bizarre kind of history by going out in limited release at 48 frames per second (double the usual standard). Couple that with 3D and the movie looks so hyper-real that you see everything that's fake about it, from painted sets to prosthetic noses. The unpleasant effect is similar to watching a movie on a new HD home-theater monitor, shadows obliterated by blinding light – yikes! – reality TV. Second, there's the length of it. The 169 minutes of screen time...It's Middle-Earth overkill, and perhaps a bit craven....What saves the day is the spidery, schizoid Gollum, again performed by the great Andy Serkis through the craft of motion capture. Though Serkis works on set with the actors, he has been denied Oscar recognition because of the computer-animated involved. Fie on you, Academy!
-Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Gets off to a decent start for this next trilogy, but it's not the epic, genre-redefining event of the one that preceded it.
Jeffrey Lyles, Lyles' Movie Files
The overgenerous running time is somewhat to the film's advantage, but there are warning signs that Jackson might be stretching the tale to its limit.
Kent Turner, School Library Journal
Just because you can do three movies doesn't mean you need to do three movies.
Rebecca Murray, About.com
With approximately six more hours to go, it's tough not to shudder at the sheer lengths director Peter Jackson is about to go to stretch this story into paper-thin taffy.
Dustin Putman, DustinPutman.com
Okay but nothing spectacular as a whole and certainly not unique.
Jim Judy, Screen It!