The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as a franchise, is one of the highest grossing movie productions in history, taking 6th, 20th, and 29th in that list, so it's no wonder that the first of the prequel trilogy, by Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, almost makes its audience quiver with anticipation. However, intial reviews have been distinctly lukewarm.
Variety's verdict is that "it doesn't offer nearly enough novelty to justify the three-film, nine-hour treatment," adding "The primary advance here is technical, as Jackson shoots in high-frame-rate 3D, an innovation that improves motion at the expense of visual elegance." Apparently, the movie starts incredibly slowly- which isn't really surprising given that Jackson is making a full three films out of just one novel. The reviewer remains intrigued about what could have been, saying "it would have been fascinating to see del Toro's take on The Hobbit."
Likewise, The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy was really unimpressed, summing up his review by saying "More is less in Peter Jackson's gargantuan first instalment of his second J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy." He also comments on the time it takes for the story to take off, but praises Martin Sheen for his role as the young Bilbo Baggins, saying that he "grows into the part, giving hope that the character will continue to blossom in the two forthcoming instalments."
Indie Wire was more satisfied with the film and Jackson's role in it, writing that "The Hobbit" proves [Jackson] can still do justice to the tricky blend of fantasy and action that made the earlier entries such enjoyable works of popular entertainment."
These reviews betray the difficulty not only with creating highly anticipated movies, but those films with predecessors. Not only does everyone have an idea of the heights they want it to reach, but there's a greater clarity of expectation for all the critics, which in turn passes for greater scrutiny when the film is released. Most critics seem to remain unimpressed, but with the kind of following that LOTR has, The Hobbit will undoubtedly be a box office success, although this may not., unfortunately, transcend into acclaim or awards. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be out on December 19th 2012.