Let's get the negatives of the movie out of the way first. The big one is the pacing; the movie clocks in at 3 hours, and a lot of that is introduction, padding and exposition. In particular we are treated to a long, boring rehashing of the first few scenes of Fellowship.
We don't get the actual movie underway until around the 10-15 minute mark. In addition, the 48 FPS experiment falls flat in a few areas, and the 3D struck me as tacked on. The treatment of the movie series as a prequel to The Lord Of The Rings
, while probably inevitable, is also likely to irk fans, though being a young 'un it didn't irritate me too much.
That said, a lot of the padding is quite enjoyable; the scenes exploring the dwarves' background are particularly interesting, and the scene near the beginning when they tear up Bilbo's house is extremely entertaining. Fans of the book, beware: you'll find some stuff you weren't expecting in this movie, and you'll like a good chunk of it.
The movie looks fantastic—despite a few failures mentioned above, 48 FPS was by and large a great choice—and the action is impeccably choreographed. The fight scenes are as epic as you could play out in your head. The soundtrack is even better; your blood and adrenaline will rush every time you hear the "Misty Mountains Cold" Leitmotif
that plays every time the dwarves start kicking ass. I don't know if they actually recorded it on live orchestras, but it sure sounds like it. Music and visuals fans will absolutely adore this movie.
But the movie's main strength is its acting. Ian McKellen is a charmer as usual, but the ones who make this movie are Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage. Anyone who's seen Freeman's previous work
will know just how well he can play the guy who's in way over his head, and he once again shines in that capacity as Bilbo; his acting as a hard-to-explain quality that just clicks
with the character. Armitage, meanwhile, brilliantly portrays the bitter, determined, stubborn, and proud Thorin as if he himself had fought off an orc with a log. When you see and hear Armitage as Thorin, you immediately
want to pick up an axe and go follow that guy, even if you do have to sign a grim contract.
Overall review: 8.5/10. Go see it, you'll be glad you did.