Phips’s review published on Letterboxd:
I have been looking forward to this for years. I re-watched the LOTR trilogy in anticipation of seeing this..I wanted to pick up on the details of Bilbo's past with Gandalf that are given.
Well...I knew that nothing anyone could conjure, even Peter Jackson, could top the LOTR film trilogy. And I was right.
I don't really want to say that I was disappointed with this as I never really thought it'd be that great. Plus, I've heard that the book isn't really comparible to the LOTR books in terms of excitement and story; "The Hobbit" is the boring one they'd say. I wouldn't know, I've read none of them.
All that being said, this was an entertaining film and the ~3 hours or so flew by. When I was rewatching the LOTR films this week I was thinking, "Is Gimli (and the two dwarves who accompanied him to Rivendell) the only dwarf in middle earth?" Well, there's plenty of dwarves here and I enjoyed their overwhelming presence.
As I expected, they tied this film into the other three by having Bilbo recall it and have it be a flashback. I liked that this began literally right before LOTR 1 and the party that kicks it off. I gotta say, they tied this in well.
The best part of this film was the lengthy encounter between Bilbo and Gollum. It is hilarious. The comedy and drama combo is nicely balanced. Serkis, again, is masterful. I watched some behind-the-scenes videos of the filming of this scene and it is literally Serkis doing everything that we see Gollum doing..crawling around, cackling, screaming, and talking in that well-known voice. The man deserves truckloads of praise and acknowledgement for his role here and in the LOTR trilogy.
Visually and aurally this thing was amazingly epic. New Zealand is drop dead gorgeous and the CG was perfect, as expected. And we can't forget Howard Shore. Though not as awesome as the LOTR music (and nothing will be), this score was pretty epic. I listened to it before I saw the film and loved it. I also really enjoyed the recurring themes from the LOTR films that were present here. Nicely done Howard.
However, I don't understand the extremely different appearance of the Orcs and Goblins as compared to the ones we see in the LOTR films. These ones didn't look as cool and, frankly, looked pretty silly and bad.
I saw this in IMAX 3D and enjoyed it. While the 3D didn't seem necessary I had no issue with it. The IMAX screen was a must..I had to see this on a BIG screen.
Bring on the two sequels and the Extended Edition of this.