I finally got around to seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey yesterday. A great deal of what people are saying about it is true. It's a bit padded -- the entire Azog storyline could have been removed and the Radagast bits cut down without much detriment, and almost certainly some improvement. Parts of it are simply cheesy -- the Great Goblin was just silly, and while there was something a bit fun about, the entire scene with Radagast and the orcs had something extraordinarily surreal about it as well, as if a fragment of some very strange movie had accidentally been inserted into this one. But there were also genuinely excellent parts. Martin Freeman is a near-perfect Bilbo, and handles the all-important riddle scene beautifully. I was afraid that the dwarves would be played too much for comic effect, but while there was some of that, it wasn't generally beyond the bounds of the sort of thing in The Hobbit itself, and they managed to do here what they failed to do with Gimli in LOTR: you can see very clearly that, whatever their quirks and comic weirdnesses, the dwarves are not people to be messed with. And there are other nice touches throughout. Fili and Kili are handled surprisingly well throughout. Thorin at several points shows special concern for Fili and Kili, which is exactly right, given that they are in fact the sons of his sister, and that they are his heirs. They also clearly took care to link their clothing and mannerisms to Thorin's. I think it is quite clear, in fact, that for all the dwarves both the costume department and the actors really went out of their way to try to get them right, but this is especially clear for Fili and Kili, who are, besides Thorin and Balin, the dwarves about whom we know the most. This sort of detail does a lot for the movie.
I think it's important to grasp the fact that Jackson is not, despite the title, making a movie for The Hobbit. He is making a prequel series for his LOTR movies, and using The Hobbit as the primary structure for it. The non-Hobbit material that attempts to stay fairly close to Tolkien, like the Council of the Wise, for the most part works, although there are things that could be done better. Given how this movie was structured, I suspect that the second will consist of two lines of plot: getting the dwarves from the Misty Mountains through Mirkwood to Erebor, and the assault of the Council of the Wise on the Necromancer. And, frankly, if the latter is handled well, it will be worth it. It would certainly be spectacular -- we know from side comments in The Lord of the Ring that the Council of the Wise were partly able to drive the Necromancer out through the use of Saruman's cunning war machines, his last great act for the good guys. In any case, that would leave the third movie actually to cover Smaug and the Battle of Five Armies, as well as getting home and final set-up for LOTR.
In a movie that is necessarily part of a series, a great deal depends on how the rest of the series goes. It's nice that we get the subtle Fili & Kili touches, for instance, because we actually know that Fili and Kili will die at the end, defending Thorin's body. If this is handled well, it will give this first movie a strength that can't be seen at present. In any case, it is, despite some odd choices, worth seeing.