Let me back up. One of my favorite things about going to the movies is the trailers. I love a good trailer. We did not buy tickets to the IMAX 3-D version, so we didn't get the 9-minute scene from the upcoming "Star Trek" movie (much to my disappointment) but we did get a great trailer for that film, as well as a handful of other geek-heavy trailers including those for: Stephenie Meyer's sci-fi novel-movie "The Host"; "Pacific Rim" (which looks like a modern robots-and-monsters take on Godzilla-- only very cool!!); and "Oblivion" (a sci-fi thriller starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman).
They also showed a promotional spot for the new Dolby Atmos sound, which is in the brand-spanking-new Valley Fair Mall's Megaplex theater complex. That theater is fantastic, by the way, and gorgeous. The theater we were in was e-nor-mous and the leather still smells new. The bathrooms are shiny and clean and there is actual leg room in front of the seats. It was super nice.
Anyway, the trailers were great-- for a moment I forgot what movie I was there to see.
The film itself is enjoyable. It's true to the flavor of the LOTR trilogy (naturally) and Martin Freeman is brilliant as Bilbo Baggins. He's adorable (naturally) and sweet and funny and very true to the character the way Tolkein wrote him. The dwarfs are funny, rambunctious, rowdy, and also true to the book. The story is where things got off track. I haven't read "The Hobbit" in years, so I can't be sure, but I don't remember orcs chasing the dwarfs and Bilbo all over Middle Earth, one a pale-skinned orc with a personal vendetta against Thorin. I don't remember Radagast, either, and I think he should have just been left out of the whole thing.
It appears that Peter Jackson was given free reign and went a little overboard. Including external Tolkein story bits may have seemed like a good idea, but I would have much preferred a single "Hobbit" movie (or even two 2-hour films) and another, separate film chronicling all the other miscellaneous elements that tie all the events in Middle Earth together. This was three hours of... very little.
It is visually stunning and very well cast-- the actors are all excellent, but the story seems to be trying to do too many things at once. In fact, it is easy to lose track of just what the dwarfs and Bilbo originally set out to do.
Gandalf is remarkably good at showing up just in time, and his giant eagles are moderately helpful (why they can't just drop people off where they need to go, though, is beyond me.) But all his close-up knowing looks into the camera were distracting at best.
"The Hobbit" was written by Tolkein for younger children-- lighter and with a lot more humor than LOTR, but I wouldn't take younger kids to see this movie. I was glad I didn't take my 10-year old daughter to it. She hasn't seen the LOTR movies yet, and though this isn't as dark or violent as those, there are some scary monster-creatures and quite a lot of stabbing, slashing and fighting.
BUT, it is a good movie for Tolkein fans. If you are not a fan of the books or the LOTR films, you might want to wait for this to come out on DVD. It is overly long, even for a middling Tolkein fan (I LOVE "The Hobbit" and only mildly liked "The Lord of the Rings" books). I walked out after the movie thinking "That was an awful lot of movie for not very much story." Too bad. I am looking forward to the second film, however, as there will, hopefully, be some dragon action, and that will be exciting.
*If you don't know, LOTR is short-hand for "The Lord of the Rings". You're welcome.
UPDATE: I neglected to mention how GREAT the scene with Bilbo and Gollum is. Very, very good. Love those riddles.