Steve Tothill’s review published on Letterboxd:
With his LotR trilogy and King Kong remake, Peter Jackson owned Christmas for four consecutive years. His return to Middle Earth has also brought back my festive family cinema trip tradition (last year's Girl With The Dragon Tattoo just wasn't the same). I'd wanted to go to the 48fps 3D version, but decided that would be too radical an experience for my ageing parents so settled for 2D - thought I'd mention that now since it's been quite the talking point. Will get into that if I rewatch in the controversial format, which I do intend to soon. Should also say that unlike LotR, I've not read The Hobbit so was looking forward to a new, fresh adventure set in a familar world...
Yet this was not to be. From the moment the title screen appeared with the LotR theme playing it was pretty apparent that this was going to be an extension of that trilogy. Great moments are reused with far less impact, presumably to evoke memories and help tie The Hobbit into the wider franchise, but simply were not needed. I mean it was one thing to have Gandalf banging his head on the chandelier again, but to go all dark and powerful to make his point again felt like an over reliance on old tricks. Not to mention the ring being thrown up into the air and landing on a finger...is that meant to be some weird power the ring has or just a very odd coincidence? All the linking to LotR took away a great deal of The Hobbit's own identity.
Martin Freeman, was Martin Freeman. At times he managed to conjure up Ian Holm, but I never warmed to his character and his performance was rather one note. The group of Dwarves provided some great comic relief, but were unable to convey the friendship and camaraderie of the Fellowship. The whole ensemble just lacked heart. Ian McKellen is as great as ever as the knowing wizard, but he seems to be guiding events and destinies in a far more obviously controlling way than in LotR and I'm not convinced that I like this particular interpretation. There was also a great deal of peril being presented that, without the loss of any characters, lacked teeth and became a little tiresome.
That said, the original moments were absolutely fantastic from the tale of how Smaug took up residence in the Dwarves mountain, to the introduction of Radagast, and the audience with the Goblin King. Hopefully next Christmas there will be more of these new, exciting and unexpected moments on the journey.