Fabian’s review published on Letterboxd:
Whereas the biggest flaw of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy remains the fact that it's a trilogy, not one standalone film, my undiluted love for Jackson's realization of Tolkien's source material in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, to a lesser extent, also these Hobbit films, makes it a difficult task for me to objectively criticize The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
As everyone might be aware, it's a problem when the story only offers enough room for one third of the time spent with the LotR trilogy, yet is stretched out over the exact same time frame. Too much of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey feels like unnecessary filler material (not to mention the special extended edition, which I watched this time around, that offers little of additional interest even to die-hard fans of the universe), and it's a damn shame because both the material and the production values theoretically make this look like an absolute winner on paper.
Trimming the story down (and possibly even releasing the rest of the material as an, admittedly extremely long, extended director's cut) would have served in its benefit and might have ensured that it wouldn't be looked down upon in the unfavorable, yet unavoidable comparison with The Lord of the Rings. Those are some of my favorite films of all time, and this return to Middle Earth is entertaining and well-made enough to turn it into a decent fantasy adventure film, but it simply pales too much in the direct confrontation to its predecessors.
Long story short: this is not as great a movie as it could have been, but the casting choice of Martin Freeman in the role of Bilbo is nothing short of outstanding, and the Gollum sequence is among the finest parts of the entire Hobbit trilogy, thanks to Andy Serkis' continuously breathtaking performance. The visual effects are terrific, but simply not enough to entertain a lacking story that seems more dedicated with stretching out thin material in order to maximize profit generation, rather than actually creating a good and riveting story.