I’m a conflicted Lord of the Rings Fan. I’ve seen Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy more times than I can count, and the extended edition special features a good few times, too. I own Sting (albeit, in letter opener form) and a small plastic Frodo guards my desk. I have been following the production of The Hobbit since it was no more than a twinkle in Peter Jackson's eye. I was more than excited to see The Hobbit. I was ecstatic. I was emotionally involved. I know now that this was a mistake.
In all my excitement, I never stopped to think about how having such high expectations for anything will always lead to disappointment. Understand that I loved The Hobbit, I just had a lot of feelings about how it turned out (I'm guessing that, as a SPACE fan, you might have experienced something like this yourself about your fandom of choice).
First up, the elephant in the room: 48 fps. Having now seen the film, I completely understand audience's reactions to the 10-minute sampling earlier this year. After just 10 minutes of The Hobbit, the 48 fps made movements seem faster (almost fast-forwarded), while the extreme clarity of the picture was a major change from the way our brains expect a film to look. Still, I wouldn't go so far as to say that it makes it less "cinematic" or that it took away from the overall experience. On the contrary, it made the 3D action scenes much easier to follow, since the brain is given double the information it usually gets about what’s occurring onscreen. The unfortunate side effect of all that extra info is that sometimes the digital effects look out of place. Luckily, this was not at all the case with Gollum, but it’s certainly something I hope the post production team keeps in mind for the next couple films.
Howard Shore's musical score is beautiful—as expected—but seems almost rushed. Several times during the film, I noticed themes and even whole sections of a piece of music that seemed directly lifted from LOTR. In the case of the introduction, the use of the now very familiar "Concerning Hobbits" theme is welcome, as it makes us feel a sense of nostalgia for the Hobbiton we know and love. However, a certain scene seems to have used an entire chunk of "The Breaking of the Fellowship," which took me out of the moment. The new theme written for the Dwarven company is used to great effect, and you'll recognize it right away— we've already gotten a great feel for it in the trailer.
Andy Serkis as Gollum is possibly one of the best parts of the film (kudos to the team at Weta who brought him to life—even his wittle chin hairs). The Riddles in the Dark scene had me riveted, laughing, and even alternately being creeped-out and empathetic for Gollum.
Of course, there's the extra elements that Peter Jackson has so famously added that stretch this into an almost unbelievable three films, but luckily they fit right in. Sylvester McCoy's Radagast the Brown is wonderful and Gandalf's side quest—while mostly non-existent in this first instalment—is established well so that it will make sense later in the trilogy. From an entirely fan-girlish perspective, it’s a real treat to see more of Hugo Weaving as Elrond and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel. Keep an eye out during the Rivendell scene for another familiar face. I won't spoil it, but I promise you'll love it.