I’m lucky enough to live in New Zealand so I watched the movie today.
The characters were very endearing. There was some lovely bantering between Old Bilbo and Frodo. Smeagol was especially well played in the Riddles in the Dark scene. Young Bilbo exceeded my expectations. The scenes with the dwarves at Bag End were especially wonderful. Goblin-town made for a fun sequence.
Unfortunately, I felt let down by the additions to the story.
The worst was the addition of Azog as the overarching villain in the film. In Tolkien’s Middle-earth, Azog had already been killed by Dain at the Battle of Azanulbizar, but the movie resurrects him and paints him as Thorin’s archenemy. Early in the story there’s the unnecessary addition of the dwarves being chased by Azog and his warg riders. The film culminates in a ridiculous reimagining of Out Of the Frying-Pan Into The Fire where Thorin climbs down from the tree (which incidentally is about to fall off a cliff), confronts Azog amidst the flames and almost dies.
I was really looking forward to the movie revealing lots of backstory about the orcs and dwarves, as well as integrating the story about the Necromancer and the White Council, but it felt to me like all the additions just bogged the film down.
Of course it’s premature to pass judgment. I’m really looking forward to seeing how all the extra elements resolve themselves over the course of the trilogy.
My friends seemed to like the movie more than me. One of them thought the additions were good because they made the movie less predictable for people who have read the book.
I was disappointed by some cheesy special effects for the Arkenstone and the writing of the rune on Bilbo’s front door.
I watched the movie in 48 fps. The jerkiness of 24 fps is something that has annoyed me for quite some time, so I was thrilled just to see the Warner Bros animation appear so smoothly. However, it became clear in the prologue that people’s complaints about 48 fps peeling away the illusion of cinema, making everything look more like a TV movie, were fairly true. Certain sets (especially Dale) felt quite uncinematic at the high framerate. Like Peter Jackson says, it takes some getting used to. Slowly you come to notice the bizarre realism of 48 fps less and less. Where possible, I intend to watch movies at the high framerate from now on. Realism seems odd when you’ve been used to poor-quality cinema for so long, but I think it’s worth getting used to.
In general 3D wasn’t abused in the movie. The only exception in my mind was a troll’s tooth which seemed to shatter into the audience. The combination of 48fps and 3D was certainly quite immersive.
It will be interesting to see what other people think of the film. While parts of it were brilliant, I found parts of it too melodramatic (in the vein of Hollywood not Tolkien), and I thought some of the tinkering with the history of Middle-earth was unnecessary. But such criticisms were also levelled at Lord of the Rings, which turned out to be both a critical and commercial success.