Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
The movie lacks majesty. Grand in parts, the movie is too often grandiose or grandiloquent; and the running time is indefensible.
I found that it provided a pretty convincingly immersive experience, and I look forward to the technology's evolution/refinement. Which I guess also means I look forward to the next two installments of the trilogy.
New York Times:
Tolkien's inventive, episodic tale of a modest homebody on a dangerous journey has been turned into an overscale and plodding spectacle.
[The] elements are in place again, but the story feels less substantial than the Lord of the Rings tales.
Mary Ann Gwinn,
Though at two hours, 50 minutes it feels overstuffed, the first "Hobbit" film holds its own thanks to inspired acting and some jaw-dropping technical innovations.
At its best, it recaptures the Rings movies' breadth, detail, and staggering sense of beauty.
Little about the storytelling suggests a beating heart beneath the visuals; once the journey has begun, the characters find themselves in life-threatening danger with stupefying regularity.
When, in Jackson's film, someone describes a character's "love of gold" as having become "too fierce," you wonder if the warning might apply to "The Hobbit" in other ways.
An Unexpected Journey is a major comedown, a muddle-headed and cumbersome piece of filmmaking that betrays Jackson's mercenary motives -- Tolkien's book, too.
Dallas Morning News:
I was impressed with how much of the story's good humor Jackson and Co. manage to weave into the spectacle. It's there in the close shave with a gang of hungry trolls, and it really lifts off once Andy Serkis' uncanny Gollum enters the picture.
To its own narrative detriment, "The Hobbit" works hard to lay the framework for what will follow. Certainly that's one way to set out on a trilogy, but it's surely not the best.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram/DFW.com:
His first installment of The Hobbit, Tolkien's relatively slim precursor to the sprawling "Rings" saga, is a technically impressive but bloated adventure that makes you feel every one of its 169 minutes.
Vital as they are, Gollum and Bilbo can only do so much to keep us enchanted. Is Jackson able to sustain the magic in two more installments? I peer into Tolkien's Misty Mountains and embrace the journey.
There are elements in this new film that are as spectacular as much of the Rings trilogy was, but there is much that is flat-footed and tedious as well, especially in the early going.
Los Angeles Times:
Solid and acceptable instead of soaring and exceptional, [and] unnecessarily hampered in its quest to reach the magical heights of the trilogy.
San Jose Mercury News:
In a bit of irony, Bilbo Baggins says at the end of the movie: "I do believe the worst is behind us." We can only hope so.
There are people who claim to see no difference between 24 and 48 frame rates, and to them, I'd recommend an unexpected journey to the eye doctor.
On balance, honor has been done to Tolkien, not least in the famous riddle game between Bilbo and Gollum, and some of the exploits to come will surely lighten the load.
"The Hobbit" becomes what it was originally meant to be - not a cut-from-the-same-cloth prequel, but its own, individual thing.
Between its lighter tone and a decade's worth of improvements in digital film techniques, there should be enough of a novelty factor to delight most fans.
New York Daily News:
The movie itself is a lot of fun. And if you can separate yourself from the visual distraction, you'll find plenty to enjoy.
New York Post:
Piles on enough eye candy and action sequences to please fans, plus more humor than the three "Rings" films - even if it only occasionally achieves the trio's grandeur.
This is not about a reluctant hero drawing courage from some deep personal well. It's not about dread and danger. It's about visual effects.
An Unexpected Journey is a competent, entertaining effort but it neither enthralls nor amazes in the way its predecessors did.
There's no denying the majesty in Peter Jackson's visuals but he's taken a relatively slim children's book and stretched it beyond the limits.
Part One of director Peter Jackson's planned film trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit forces audiences to run an obstacle course before the fun kicks in.
I'm afraid that whoever it was in the New York Film Critics Circle who voted for "The Hobbit" as best animated film had a point. And so did the people who suspected that this whole thing was a bad idea.
San Francisco Chronicle:
If you loved the earlier films, these are moments you will hold on to, but they're very few, and they're not enough.
It's hard to overstate the degree to which the 48fps format interfered with my ability to get lost in this movie's story.
Tolkien's brisk story of intrepid little hobbit Bilbo Baggins is drawn out and diluted by dispensable trimmings better left for DVD extras.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
At nearly three hours long, "An Unexpected Journey" has moments when the caravan seems both overstuffed and out of balance, but it's such a scenic trip that only a stubborn homebody could complain.
It frequently seems as though Jackson was less interested in making The Hobbit than in remaking his own fabulously successful Lord of the Rings series.
Globe and Mail:
The repeated iterations of fight, flight and respite here get wearing. Especially perhaps because, with Jackson's fetish for detail, they take more time to watch on screen than to read about.
The film is worthy of both your attention and of the Tolkien legendarium in which Jackson, his actors and his Weta Workshop technical crew are so firmly situated.
The more dark it becomes, the more 'The Hobbit' becomes compelling as a story, and finds a fitting tone.
Even though this installment is mostly a prelude, Jackson's eccentric mixture of low humor, earnest foreboding and digitally processed pageantry is consistently engaging and immersive.
Fulfilling just a fraction of J.R.R. Tolkien's "There and Back Again" subtitle, The Hobbit alternately rewards and abuses auds' appetite for all things Middle-earth.
Even once Bilbo and company take to the hobbit highway, the pacing is leisurely verging on lethargic ...
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" has finally arrived, not on wings of gossamer fancy but with a hairy-footed thud.