I seriously wanted to dislike this film.  I went into this IMAX high frame rate 3D presentation expecting it to be a complete and utter waste of my time.  I wasn’t very impressed with the first Hobbit film, so the title that I was planning on using for my review was “Hobbit 2: Middle Earth Boogaloo.”  Only problem is … I liked it.  A lot.

My main complaints with An Unexpected Journey were: 1) it did not engage me the way The Fellowship Of The Ring did the first time I saw it and 2) it felt overly padded, way too slowly paced and was just plain dull.

Our original plan was to sit down with the family the night beforehand and watch the extended cut of An Unexpected Journey prior to seeing The Desolation Of Smaug, but I was just way too apathetic to make that happen.  So apathetic, in fact, that I ended up waiting a solid three weeks before seeing this film.  (In contrast, I made a point of seeing all of the other LOTR/Hobbit films the first day or first weekend of their release.)

So … yeah, it was better than I expected it to be.  Much better.  A lot better.  The spider sequence was more enjoyable (although less scary) than I expected, the barrel riding sequence was great, and the final confrontation with Smaug was fantastic.  Benedict Cumberbatch, in particular, was awesome as Smaug.

My reaction to and enjoyment of this film makes me want to take the time to sit down and re-evaluate An Unexpected Journey.  And now I’m actually looking forward to the final film in the series.  Peter Jackson, you’ve redeemed yourself.  For now.