Set in Middle Earth sixty years before The Lord of the Rings, the movie is about the adventures and journey of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, amiable as usual). The opening scenes in which Bilbo's home in the shire is hijacked by Gandalf and the thirteen dwarves are pretty comical and set the tone nicely for the rest of the movie. Bilbo is made aware of his duties as the burglar if he chooses to help the dwarves in their quest to reclaim their home, the opulent Lonely Mountain from Smaug, the dragon. Why a dragon would want to spend its entire life surrounded by gold, I cannot comprehend. The flashback also describes how the unwillingness of the Elves to help the Dwarves in their time of desperate need led to years of loathing. And I always thought it was due to the disparity in looks. Although initially wary, Bilbo agrees to help out the dwarves in their adventure.
The movie then goes on to capture all the locales that make New Zealand the prized holiday destination that it is today in stunning 3D. Interspersed in the middle are Bilbo and the dwarves' escapades with mountain trolls and their chance encounter with Radagast the Brown, the oddest of wizards, who tells them about a mysterious presence that's been poisoning everything in its vicinity. This is followed by the return of the orcs. And yes, they look even more gross in 3D. The tragic backstory that's made the leader of the dwarves vow to not rest till he's exacted his revenge on the leader of the orcs is revealed and the movie goes on for another hour with the introduction of the Elves and some other known faces from LotR.
The most enjoyable moments of the movie occur toward the end when Gollum is finally introduced after Bilbo is separated from the dwarves who've been captured by the Goblins. Gollum has once again been beautifully crafted and voiced and his puzzle game with Bilbo makes for some real fun scenes, before Gollum's world falls apart on separation from his precious. Bilbo isn't so bad a burglar after all.
My only problem with the movie is that since most of the characters are seen in LotR, you are always aware that there is no real danger to them (and that all potentially deadly situations will be solved with Gandalf remembering that he's a wizard and chanting some spells). Otherwise, it's a nice movie to catch (especially with younger siblings who will definitely enjoy it more than you will) with some humour, beautiful visuals in 3D and lovable characters.