Ok so I finally got around to seeing the Hobbit (since it came out very late here and I've been away a bit), so I figured I might as well post my thoughts on the movie:
Despite worrying a bit about the opening with Bilbo and Frodo, I actually quite liked it- Frodo's part was short and not drawn-out, and everything looked much as it did in Lotr (except that Ian Holm had so much prosthetics that it looked like he had had a vey bad allergic reaction to something). The flashbacks to Erebor and Dale I didn't like that much, though- Erebor looked very video-gamey and they made the same mistake with Thror as they did with Denethor, by omitting the dwarves ring they just made him look like an insane old bastard (although they still have 2 movies to fix this). Also, did I see beardless dwarves women? Come to think of it, why were there so many survivors? Surely it would have been more effective if everyone had died (except Thorin, who wasn't there, and Thror and Thrain, whose mysterious escape nicely sets up the secret passage). Even the destruction of Dale was (I think) done poorly. I feel like PJ tried to get the best of both worlds- to show huge scale destruction but also show as little as possible of Smaug (which is a concept that I think is vital- only that it calls for a scene that is more subtle and restrained, which is not what we got). As it was, the scene was no longer 'look at the destruction' but rather 'look at the dragon we're NOT showing you- *evil laugh*'. It pulled me right out of the scene and made that whole part of the movie seem contrived and less 'real'. Also, why did Dale have a giant warning horn? Surely lotr had enough horns. I would have thought bells (as in the book) would have more atmosphere and be something different (and then in true PJ style the bell tower could have been levelled to the ground).
I also liked, for the most part, the initial scenes at bag end- the initial exchange between Gandalf and Bilbo was well done (although why they didn't finish the good-morning bit I don't know). I also noticed that the market scene which had been mentioned in reports as well as glimpsed in the trailer never made it into the movie. The dwarves' arrivals were done well, I thought (although why was Gandalf's rune glowing?), and their first song was one of the bits I really loved, which is odd, because I was actually very disappointed by the second. I had loved the tune since the first trailer, yet the actual scene in the movie was... ok. There was nothing wrong with it, but I had thought it could have been much more, had much more atmosphere. And the song itself felt cut short. I mean, no one expected all of it, but only two verses? Just imagine if they had included some of the others- "The bells were ringing in the Dale, and men looked up with faces pale"- in fact that would have been a great place to include the flashbacks, intercut with the dwarves' singing so Smaug's absence was less obvious, as well as disembodied noises cutting in and out of the scene would have been awesome.... but oh well.
The problem with The Hobbit was that, like lotr, it got worse as it went on. Why did Bilbo decide to leave on his own? The rest was all right for a while, up until the troll scene, which was quite good (except the snot gags- plural!) until the very end. It's like PJ and co. said to each other "lets make Bilbo the hero by using the kind of argument a 4 year old could use." "But won't fans be upset that Gandalf isn't as involved?" "Then let's give him a Moses style split-the-rock moment!" "Great idea!" "But wait- won't the entire scene now contradict Bilbo's account of what happened in FotR?" "Who cares- when have we ever given a damn about continuity?" and so on. I'm also not sure why they had the bit with the ponies- don't get me wrong, I didn't mind it, but I just don't get the point. At first I thought 'hey that's a good idea- get the audience invested in the ponies wellbeing so that it makes it more brutal and disturbing that they get eaten by the goblins later', but since the ponies bolt just a few scenes later and are never seen again, the whole investment just seems pointless.
One bit that did make me laugh was Gandalf mentioning "the blue wizards, I don't remember their names" or something like that. On one hand, it was funny to see how clumsily PJ had gotten out of mentioning their names, which are strictly off limits. But on the other hand it is also funny to picture PJ and co patting themselves on the back for their 'clever solution', completely oblivious to the fact that they could still wind up in trouble since even the term "the blue wizards" is also off-limits. Oops.
Which brings me to Radagast. He was horrible, although not like I was expecting. His first scene was truly terrible, he looked like a Mad Hatter on some sort of mushrooms (oh wait...), but although his bulging eyes and crap-stained beard continued to look terrible, the character sort of grew on me. I hate to admit it, but the terrible line about "Rhosgobel Rabbits" made me smile, since it was delivered so perfectly by Sylvester McCoy. And even the bunny sled stopped looking bad after a while. But I never liked the pipe-weed/ mushroom references- a bit like Gandalf's 'smoker's cough' scene in RotK. The only impression I got from the Dol Guldur scene was that it was... odd. Neither good nor bad, just odd. Like it was from a different movie or something (the one shot of the Necromancer was done in a style, the likes of which hasn't been seen anywhere else in TH (so far) or LotR).
Azog. Grrr.... I knew I would hate him before I saw the movie. I'll start at Azanulbizar (or however the hell you're supposed to spell it). The entire battle was disappointing. Instead of a dramatic decapitation (followed by an equally drastic speech from Dain as to why the dwarves would never enter Moria), we simply get Thorin lopping off a hand (and then believing Azog to be dead for no apparent reason). I'll never understand PJ's need to include Azog- surely at the very worst he could have used Bolg and had him hunt Thorin to avenge his dad's death (or did PJ not like the idea or orcs copulating?), but everything about the sub-plot was cliche- from lame phrases like the repeated "we've found the dwarf scum", to the big orc with the hook for a hand, to the line "these are no wolves, they are wargs" (when I'm pretty sure Tolkien said they were the same thing)- even the use of Weathertop as a setting. While as a base for the orcs, it would have been a strategically brilliant place to stay (it lay near the road, was supposed to hold a wide view all around), I have a feeling it was only included to provide a link with LotR- a shame, as it gives the impression that there is no more to see of Middle-Earth than was already seen in LotR.
And, to make matters worse, I wasn't overly impressed with Rivendell. In a way, it was actually close to the sort of the thing I imagined from the books, but because of that, it stood out like a sore thumb (and how did Gandalf know there was secret writing on the map if no one, including him, could see it?). But my big problem here was Galadriel. I feel the problem with her character goes back to Boyen's ignorant comment that she was the most powerful being in middle earth. And so she had been beefed up to become this godlike character (who had to give Gandalf permission to go on the quest) with her standing ominously at dusk, and not participating in the later council scene (standing separately and only communicating telepathically with Gandalf). Maybe they just wanted the only woman in the movie to outshine the males (probably why Celeborn wasn't there, not to mention Cirdan and others. But maybe only purists like me are bothered by the fact that the White Council, the council of the wise protecting Middle-Earth only had 4 members?)
Then we get a ridiculously over-the-top stone giant scene (Surely even stone giants weren't that big? And how could a permanent path survive if part of it was attached to a giant's legs?), although the actual design of the giants looked cool (if only they could have been smaller). But why does PJ insist on hanging his characters of cliffs (TWO characters do this in this scene alone, not to mention that half the company are 'crushed' by a giant but turn out to be perfectly fine. And then we get some of the best scenes in the movie (riddles in the dark) intercut with what are probably some of the worst (goblin town).
First, Goblin Town. The idea of mechanical trap doors in the floor was unexpected, but not too bad (except the fall that everyone survives miraculously unbruised). The Great Goblin looked bad, but his voice was better than I had expected. And the fight scene was odd- the violence looked just... wrong. I don't mind decapitations, but if you decapitate someone and there's no blood or mess and the cut is so clean that the orc's head could sit there and then just be knocked off with only a perfectly even and bloodless slice, there's something (very) anatomically incorrect which I just find disturbing. Plus the whole "chaotic" escape through goblin town looked so acrobatic and perfectly rehearsed (not to mention the rubber dwarves as I believe others have mentioned) that it was just beyond believable.
But there are some good scenes. The gollum bit starts of badly (Why couldn't they just have had Bilbo pick up the ring in the dark???? Once again not only does it remove the 'chance' aspect of suddenly putting your hand onto a ring in the middle of a dark tunnel, but it is completely different to what is shown in FotR- not that they should be bound by that, but something similar would have been nice). But the actual riddle scene was brilliant- they kept enough of the riddles, and also the same dangerous and sinister atmosphere. Sure, I could have done with the scene not so brightly lit, and with less (or even better no) Smeagol/Gollum, but on the whole, it was well done. But the lack of guardroom scene was sad, and Bilbo's sparing of Gollum was so drawn out it actually became funny (which is never a good sign), although it was a nice attempt.
Even the Frying-pan had some (very few) good moments, like the pinecones, but on the whole it was bad- a climax simply for the sake of climax. I also laughed out loud as soon as I saw the pine tree on the edge of cliff- I knew instantly that everyone would be on that pine tree and in serious danger of falling of a cliff (for the 68th time), and I wasn't wrong. And WHY is Bilbo suddenly a warrior?????? NO No nononononono no no NOOO!!!!!
The bit with the butterfly was a bit surprising. Does it make me sick that I originally thought Gandalf was going to set it on fire, before I realised he was using it as a messenger? Then again, I also thought he was going to eat the moth in FotR. It was a nice moment, but it dehumanises the eagles, and makes them dogs that just come to rescue people on Gandalf's call rather than a race with a mind of its own who were investigating (and trying to intervene in) the affairs of the wolves and orcs of their own accord? I'm actually glad he didn't show the eyrie scene- while I like to think that eagles can still talk in PJ's version, I wonder if PJ could actually have shown it on-screen in a way that satisfied me.
So that's the plot done (and sorry I only just realised I've written a bloody essay), but I have to mention the effects. I saw it in 2D and 24fps (I presume, since I didn't notice any difference)- but I thought the whole look of the film was disturbingly 'fantastical', and less like the realism we all know and love (or not) from LotR. Also the wargs still look bad. Just bad in a different way from LotR. And the orcs look worse (what the hell was wrong with the flying-fox imp that took the message from the Great Goblin to Azog?) Even the way Sting glowed was sad (although I didn't like it in LotR either) - too much like a lightsaber, less of a 'shininess that cast light' than what I imagined. And that's not mentioning Glamdring or Orcrist. And the use of CGI instead of miniatures was very obvious (especially in Rivendell). But at least the trolls and stone-giants looked cool (although I would have liked to have seen a good deal less of the stone giants).
Even the score had its bad moments. While I loved the main theme (the scene of the dwarves in between Rivendell and the Misty Mountains was stunning, the music made that scene amazing), I felt the music had less variety than LotR, with the same themes repeated over and over more, and sometimes some odd choices (why did the Lothlorien theme play when Elrond and the Rivendell Elves fought off Azog? And more importantly why did the Ringwraith theme play during Thorin and Azog's final showdown?). But the new Radagast Theme is nice.
And finally, a word on the casting- Sylvester McCor did a good job (of a very badly written character), and I admit I liked Fili, and even Kili, more than I thought I would (Kili still needs a beard though). Those two along with Balin were easily the best dwarves (although probably because they got more screen time than any of the others. They were also my favourites in the book too). Bofur wasn't bad either. But I didn't like Ori (what was he even doing there? And why did they say he was the youngest dwarf there when Fili or Kili was in the books- was there really a point in changing that small a detail?) or Bifur (I'm still not buying the axe). Thorin I simply maintain should have been older (or at least a longer beard and some more grey hair). Also Martin Freeman did a really really good job- I think one of his finest moments is his face at 0:51 in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tU2nI58hNa0
Anyway I'm sorry to have written so much and I'm sorry since I'm fairly sure others have brought up similar points (but I've avoided this place for a while until I saw the movie and even now I haven't exactly had time to read everything written since then). Also one final question- did anyone manage to spot PJ's cameo? I missed it- I suppose a refuge of Erebor or Dale in the prologue probably makes the most sense for where he was (I did see a Dale woman who looked suspiciously like Boyens though).