I didn't race out to the cinema when The Hobbit was first released. In fact, I waited a full year, and watched it on DVD. This was not because I'd read bad reviews, in fact I don't think I read any. Nor was it lack of interest. I loved the book when I was a child, and enjoyed all of the Lord of the Rings films as well. I'm not normally one of those people who wants to book to make an exact picture image in my head either.
However, there was something suspicious about them splitting what was a rollicking tale of some 95,000 words into more than one movie. It didn't feel like a decisions born of a desire to do the book justice (as would have been the case with the TV series they should have made out of the recently released Ender's Game), but felt as if the project had been taken over by either accountants wanting to squeeze every last cent out of the franchise, or nerdy Tolkien types who weren't ready to let go of Middle Earth yet and who knew they would never get the opportunity to make anything from the Simarillion. Or perhaps both.
The end result for me was the transformation of a great tale of adventure into a bit of a bleak wade through a grey and grungy world. Bilbo seemed neither sufficiently uncertain, nor did the Dwarves seem as sure as I recall. Gandalf had none of the humour and gentle care and respect of Bilbo that I always saw in the story.
There seemed more time spent on past events that present, which seemed to be an attempt to reuse all of the techniques used in LOR. The book wasn't about great battles of warring armies. It was a story of the battle we fight with ourselves, our uncertainty of who we are and where we belong, of whether we can meet our own expectations or those of others.
Many films think they can cover up a lack of story substance with special effects. In this case the original story had the right stuff, but has been diluted so as to be only lightly flavoured with the original.
The great shame is that it will be a long while before someone tries to remake this film in the from that it deserves.