I just saw The Hobbit on Christmas Day and thoroughly enjoyed it. For the most part I felt it was a glorious adventure story that was fabulously entertaining. The two major criticisms I've heard were not problems for me at all. First is that it is too slow and "padded". As a fan of opera and especially Wagner I am used to slo-o-o-w and drawn out storytelling. When I listen to Wagner I appreciate the full immersion and the total lack of any rush in getting through it. I think Jackson's treatment of The Hobbit was similar. It's a great story and deserves to be told and enjoyed at leisure. I felt the slow pacing built the suspense nicely for the action sequences, which were brilliant. As for padding, Jackson inserted a comment in Gandalf's dialog early on that beautifully excused any such tendencies, "A good story deserves embellishment."
The other criticism is the double frame rate 3D and it's hyper-real look that supposedly exposes the details too much and ruins the movie magic (props are too obviously probs and makeup is makeup, etc.). I was forewarned and saw the 2D 24fps version which was gloriously immersive enough for me.
For anyone who hasn't seen it yet, I don't want to reveal any spoilers, but I'd like to share an insight from another of Gandalf's lines later in the movie that shouldn't be a betrayal of any surprise plot points. Still don't jump over the orange curliques if you are highly spoiler sensitive.
It was following Gandalf's conversation with Galadriel just before the party left Rivendell. He was commenting on his chief difference of philosophy with Saruman regarding how to combat evil. Since I'm terrible at remembering quotes I'll have to crudely paraphrase. He said that Saruman believes that great evil must be defeated solely through the exercise of great power, while he, Gandalf, was of the opinion that it is the little things done by kind and ordinary folks that ultimately succeed in undermining evil. This is why Gandalf knew that a simple Hobbit was key to the success of the enterprise.
It immediately jumped into my mind how beautifully this counters the NRA's armed guard in every school mentality. Wayne LaPierre is voicing the philosophy of Saruman; the favored viewpoint of the fearful and insecure, and the worldview of those who are most prone to evil themselves through the unwise exercise of such power. Gandalf (Obama?) is of the view that if we trust our better, innocent and ordinary natures we can live in a more peaceful world (yes, I know. drones are evil). I wish I knew how to make that the prevailing view of an emerging generation, but I'm pretty sure it's not by turning the world into a police state with high explosive killing force at all times within reach. Maybe Gandalf's message will help a little bit - if the audience is paying attention amidst all the orc and goblin gore.