I was one of them, before I saw it. By "Critic," of course, I mean here people who criticize. One camp started criticizing the film because of the decision to film it in the new 48 frames per second format. They said it was just too much--sensory overload, made some people nauseous. Another camp attacked the notion that one book turns into three movies. Surely this would mean that the thing will drag unnecessarily.
I saw it today in 48 frames per second and in 3D. There were many moments in which I was convinced that the action taking place was actually going on just beyond the rectangle of screen before me. It was simply stunning what I saw.
Martin Freeman is a revelation. No actors won awards for Lord of the Rings. This needs to change. His performance stole the movie. And that was no easy feat, given the terrific story-telling going on through the rest of the cast and presentation.
As for the story dragging, I became increasingly convinced that the typical Hollywood movie had sacrificed good story-telling for a single frenetic act. The pace was relaxed finally, with the ability to really get to know who these characters are and what their motivations are as the story unfolds.
I can't say enough how much I loved this movie and look forward to the next two installments. And I certainly now want to rewatch the Lord of the Rings in the full Peter Jackson extended version.