1) Guillermo del Toro, although no longer director, is still working closely with Peter Jackson on these movies. Let me explain what that means. First, Guillermo del Toro is a) a genius, b) a champion, and c) a golden god. He's a big advocate of practical effects and puppetry, which I think always hold up better than digital effects. Compare his Faun and Paleman from Pan's Labyrinth to Gollum. Gollum is impressive as a digital creation, but he is obviously a digital creation, whereas Pan and Paleman are astonishingly organic. Guillermo is maybe the most poetic director working today. His movies are beautiful and powerful. I think he'll do a really good job of pulling in Peter Jackson and helping him refrain from excess.
2) On a related note, this reigning in of Jackson is good because The Hobbit is not The Lord of the Rings. The former is a much more quaint story of treasure hunting and goofy adventure. It's not an epic. Frankly, I get weary with the Lord of the Rings movies these days because they are simply too long. Also, they are often guilty of melodrama of the first degree. I feel that there's less room for that in The Hobbit, which hopefully will result in a more enjoyable movie.
3) The cast for this looks amazing. All the regulars are back on: Ians McKellen and Holm, Christopher Lee, etc. But also joining the cast are Martin Freeman (from the Hitchhiker's Guide movie and Watson in BBC's new Sherlock series) as Bilbo and Benedict Cumberbatch (who does such a fantastic job playing Sherlock in BBC's new Sherlock series) as an unknown character. Frankly, I don't care who Mr. Cumberbatch plays; he's just fantastic. Also Stephen Fry and Leonard Nimoy are supposed to be joining the cast. Fantastic. Also Howard Shore, whose excellent score I wrote about here, is back on. I can't wait to see what new things he does with this movie. Seriously, he treats these things like they're operas.
4) The fanboys of the interwebs are going to attack me for this, but I think this might actually be a prequel that surpasses its trilogy. Better looking, shorter, less melodramatic, and all the things that made the first movies great. Plus, GUILLERMO DEL TORO!!!!!
Also, I think Peter Jackson lost all that weight so that the cast and crew would be able to tell him and Guillermo apart. They looked too much like hobbits anyway:
Post weight loss:
And more fun pics just for kicks: