I finally saw it yesterday. Hey, I've been busy.
I have to say that I was disappointed. It just wasn't that great as a stand alone movie.
Story: It's alright I suppose. I haven't read any of the books so I'm going into this series "fresh." Most of the story is so cut and dried black and white that it gets boring. You know who is good, who is bad and there's no drama built around that. When the end came, I inadvertently blurted out "that was it?" in the middle of the theater. Not too many people were there, thankfully. I don't have any "need" or "urge" to see the next films because I already know that the good guys will succeed. There's no doubt whatsoever.
So the fun is in watching "how" the good guys win, you say?
Characters: I didn't care about any of them. Peter Jackson had the story laid out for him, but he failed to make me "care" about any of the people. I watched them move from one scene to another, but there was no concern for any of them. The wizard died (but didn't have to) but I didn't find myself caring. Jackson didn't set up the little Hobbit's "need" for the old man to be around. It was too bad, but "oh well", they managed to get along just fine without him. Besides the fact that he used his "magic" at convenient times and didn't use it when it would have been quite helpful, like when the swarms of bad guys come at them....
Bad guys: Which leads to the bad guy hordes. I haven't seen an army so ineffective since Stormtroopers. One guy (the one that got shot with the arrows) could have dispatched the entire invasion himself if it wasn't for the "supreme" bad guy with the archery practice.
I suppose I could go on if I could actually remember specifics of the story, but nothing about it was that memorable.
Basically, just a very unemotional telling of a story with very little real drama. Pretty much what we saw in The Phantom Menace. Maybe these stories are only for little kids.