I absolutely loved the thing, once I set aside my disdain for those who would tamper so mightily with a Tolkien product.
Having said that, had we seen Tolkien's never-effected reworking of The Hobbit after LOTR, I suspect that what Jackson and Co., is very much along the lines of where Tolkien would have gone. Hints of Saruman going bad 60 years earlier (a hiccup in Wiz time) make much sense.
(and one can never have too much Galadriel)
Martin Freeman was stunningly good as Bilbo (if you haven't seen his work in BBC's Sherlock Holmes series, you should catch it).
Some of the battle scenes raged on perhaps a bit too long,but the CGI work was stunning.
And I loved lots of the banter.
The only two characters that seemed off were Thorin, who for some reason is "handsome and manlike," whereas all the other dwarves are somewhat caricature-like. And the Orc king who spoke Etonian English just made no sense at all (and his similarity to Jabba The Hutt, I'm assuming, was no coincidence).
Recent reports from "The Hobbit" set in New Zealand put the cost of the new trilogy currently at $561 million
I don't see it as a cash-grab, as much as a paean to a much-beloved book, brought to the screen with no expense spared! Peter Jackson's directorial vision may be unsurpassed in modern cinema, which is not to say he's the best director (C Nolan has that locked down in my book), but that what he sees in his mind and then puts on the screen is AMAZING!
The Peter Jackson curmudgeon here. I saw it with the kids Friday and I will actually give it about a 7. Lots of good things about it. Bilbo's personality works pretty well. The spider scene is really creepy, which means it's good, as spiders should be creepy. Smaug is a great bit of computer animation. The scene between Bilbo and Smaug is excellent, till it drags on too long. And the dragging on too long is a frequent problem in this 3+ movie-hour book turned into three 2 1/2 hour movies. I almost fell asleep during the opening party scene in #1, and the chase-battle scenes in #1 and this one (the barrel scene) just go on and on and on with far too many implausible battle acrobatics. Finally, I won't get over Jackson taking too much artistic license, such as in creating new characters like Tauriel (though we do get this as a side-bene: "Tauriel is part of Lego set No. 79001 titled Escape from Mirkwood Spiders, together with minifigures of Legolas and the Dwarves Fíli and Kíli.")
That said, it was more enjoyable than the first movie, and the time was ripe for me to give each of my two kids their own four-book boxed set of The Hobbit and the LOTR for Xmas, along with a 32" map of Middle Earth so they can follow the adventures as they read.