I don't think The Hobbit was too long. I'm looking at it from a perspective of wanting to see as much of the books come to life come as possible. I love 'em. So when Bilbo mentions the Sackville-Baggins stealing his stuff at the beginning, it was great to see. Everyone always cuts that out of The Lord of the Rings, so it was great to see it here. I understand why, of course, because its incidental and doesn't matter to the principal plot.|
I just don't agree that incidentals and details that make for richer characters, better foreshadowing, help fill in the sense of where we are and what's around us or give us a better idea of what happened in a scene need to be cut. Those were primarily the things that were added in. It's nice to get some sense of who Gandalf was in the vast scheme of Middle Earth and adds quite a lot of dimensions to his character, when you see him interact quite differently to Galadriel, Thorin, Elrond, Radagast and Saruman. It is certainly a pleasure to see some scenes that give us more of an idea of why there are only 13 dwarves going back to take this wondrous realm back and why there are so loyal to Thorin. It's also something of a miracle that for me, 5 out of the 13 dwarves had recognizable characters that had some sort of development and I imagine the other eight will get more as we go along. It must be a nightmare juggling that. No, obviously, in order to tell The Hobbit you don't need a Necromancer in anything other than a brief suggestion, and you don't need Gandalf consulting with the other greats, nor added conflict with dwarves and orcs. But given the reality of film and how often it will be that a Hobbit adaptation of this scale can be made, I'm glad they strived to give me something truly different than the book, because I can always have the book whenever I want it.
It isn't just fan glee either. I wasn't particularly impressed with the actual material from the book as it was represented in Rivendell. The only real good scene there was the one that wasn't in the book. I thought Bilbo's quick wit and Gandalf's ruse with the trolls had quite a bit more bite to it in the book as well. Both these felt just "okay" to me. Eh, oh well. I also at first thought it was a bad idea to stick Frodo in, because I thought they would take some contrived way for him to actually be there in that time period, but luckily it wasn't what I thought. In general, messing around with the source material so much makes for poor adaptations, I usually think, but I was impressed here.
Some of the scenes are taken slowly so they could have a good amount of impact, like the Gollum encounter or the dwarves arriving. I feel if you don't take your time with them, they will often feel like a trivial launching point into the "good stuff," when really, speaking of story, that IS the good part of the Hobbit. The whole book puts quite a large focus on Bilbo fighting with his Took and Baggins' side, so the leisurely development of his conflicted character at the beginning was a much better visualization of that central conflict than past adaptations have.
I realize there is a group out there who thinks it is necessary to cut out of all the stuff that doesn't need to be there so the pacing can be quick and mince along to the end. This group always tends to use an expression similar to "the pace was slow" with nothing else before or behind it. You get the feeling they just think a slow pace is automatically a bad thing. I could never in a million years agree with this type of thinking. I think it is one that has developed in the last ten years very rapidly with the expansion of the internet, cellphone culture spreading worldwide and a Facebook/Twitter-obsessed populace.
That's why I'll always for movies like The Hobbit. I can see bloated blockbuster syndrome getting weary in properties that either don't have as strong of character development as The Hobbit does, or are not based on amazing written works with a huge amount of material ripe for adapting. But I want more slow movies that revel in the details and other than this franchise, that doesn't look like its the popular thing.