Full disclosure, I absolutely loved the Lord of the Rings (LotR) films. There was something that I realized after watching The Hobbit. With the LotR, there was a building crescendo that culminated with Return of the King. Every film was bigger and more exciting than the last. So, I think subconsciously I was expecting a continuation of that pattern.
In reality, I should have been expecting something more like Fellowship of the Ring, the first in the LotR trilogy, and that's more what this first installment of The Hobbit was like. There was back-story to get acquainted with and there were characters to be introduced ... a lot of characters, many more right off the bat than in LotR. There were some familiar ones like Gandalf, and the elves Elrod and Galadriel. It was nice to see them again. It was like seeing old friends.
But it wasn't all a trip down memory lane. We get to see why the dwarves have the reputation of being such fierce fighters. Battle scenes, witty dialogue. The orcs and goblins are considerably more pleasant looking while maintaining the general feeling of "bad guy-ness." They're actually developed more as characters here. They were a bit of cardboard representation of mindless evil in LotR. Sometimes in The Hobbit, they were downright sympathetic.
I did enjoy it. I will be seeing it again to catch the parts that I missed. These films are so dense that it's impossible to catch everything in one viewing. I felt the same thing about most of the Harry Potter films, too.
Were some of the introduction scenes too long? Yes, Peter Jackson films are not noted for their brevity, but once we get into the adventure, it compares favorably with Fellowship.
And, it really was beautifully photographed. ;)