An Expected Journey
I could have done without the added bits from Tolkien's other works. It made for a lot of talking, giving the film an uneven pace, and the moralizing was awfully blatant (what, he HAD to face the camera for that bit?), and Jackson's bad habit of having a character describe what the camera's already showing us is annoying.
There were a couple of changes outside of the additions: one that was really jarring. But only one, so I'm okay with it.
Basic physics, as per usual. But that's a fairly minor quibble with action/fantasy stuff.
Liked the "riddles" scene - I felt like the stakes were high for the characters, and Bilbo doesn't feel as invincible as the other protagonists at this point. Which brings up the reason I'll be seeing the other two films outside of simple curiosity:
What Peter Jackson missed in the Lord of the Rings trilogy was that the hero is the person the audience can relate to. The story is about Aragorn's return to power, with Frodo and company off to one side - that just happens to be the bit the books cover, using the gimmick of the tale being from Frodo's book. But without a protagonist the readers can relate to, one that can look around and say "this is weird", and have it explained to them and (most importantly) have them accept it, then you've got nothing for the audience to grab on to. There's no heart. And in LotR that heart is Samwise Gamgee.
If that's not who you were thinking, well fair enough, Tolkein himself missed it too; but read it again and see if I'm not right.
In any case, that leads us to Bilbo Baggins of Bag End, and the brilliance of Martin Freeman's performance. There had to be 90% of this movie as a greenie-screenie, making it all the more difficult for an actor to try facing down a goblin or battling a warg believably when it's actually a tennis ball on a stick. But you believe in every one of Bilbo's actions and reactions in the movie, because that is simply what he would do. But looking at Freeman's other cardinal performances (Doctor Watson of the BBC series Sherlock and the painfully self-aware Tim of the original The Office) , I suppose being the keystone for an insane world is something other folks have noticed he's really very good at...