I was a reluctant fan of Lord Of The Rings - reluctant because when I was in high school. LOTR and Dungeons & Dragons were so popular as to be extremely annoying! (I didn't mean to offend by lumping the two - but to me, at the time, they seemed indivisible...I know better now.)
And then my wife and I were given LOTR on VHS. I was hooked from the start. Peter Jackson's vision of the story, and his meticulous execution, were of a standard of technical competence and engaging production that I was simply amazed. We recently got DVDs...and it's so much better!
I was initially expecting something great from The Hobbitt, but was a bit cautioned by the less-than-stellar reviews. I thought I might be disappointed.
No fear. The Hobbitt is better than any of the LOTR films. The characters are more clearly drawn, the conflicts more nuanced, and the arc of the plot is clear and clean. Production values are better, and the occasional obvious blue-screen moments in LOTR are completely missing (at least to me).
But most important - The Hobbitt is different. The tone is less serious, more certain. It knows you're going to have a good time, and doesn't have to impress.
Perhaps this is a lesson for all of us.