The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has the difficult task of adapting to screen a much-loved book, functioning as a prequel to Peter Jackson's established Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and laying the groundwork for yet another film trilogy. Needless to say, something had to give when trying to navigate these varied and sometimes conflicting goals. Fans of the book will note the many liberties taken to the plot in order to make it fit with the preexisting films. Fans of the film trilogy will enjoy the sensation of revisiting a familiar world. Not everyone will be satisfied with the attempts to balance the lighthearted quest story of The Hobbit with the world-spanning epic of Lord of the Rings. The film is rife with flashbacks and jump cuts, and most of the scenes feel drawn out and repetitive, especially the action set pieces. After awhile, the orc attacks start blending into one another. The dinner party near the beginning in particular seemed to go on forever. Protagonist Bilbo Baggins comes across as the everyman hero he's supposed to be, and the confrontation between him and Gollum is everything I had hoped for. But his personal story often gets lost in the shuffle. All that additional material results in a rambling story that constantly shifts back and forth between the Dwarves quest to kill the dragon Smaug and the White Council's investigation of the Necromancer threat. I'm not sure if Jackson's desire to cram the film with so much minutiae or the studio's hunger to profit from the franchise was more important in the final decision to produce a trilogy, but the film ends at about halfway through the book, leaving me to wonder just how effectively can Jackson stretch things out to have enough material to produce two more films.
But this franchise is still a veritable juggernaut, and it's going to perform well enough at the box office to earn its keep. And for all it's flaws, I enjoyed The Hobbit. I'm admittedly too much of a Tolkien fan not to want to watch every film twice.