Let me begin with an admission: I’m a Lord of the Rings fan. Not a let’s-attend-Comic-Con-dressed-as-elves kind of fan, but I read the books, watched each of the films during their first run in theaters and, as a teen, hung a framed poster from the “Fellowship of the Ring” on my bedroom wall. I confess to a childhood crush on Aragorn as played by Viggo Mortensen but not necessarily Viggo himself as I’ve viewed enough scenes from “G.I. Jane” to be slightly disturbed by his short shorts and mustache in that film.

I consider myself quite fortunate to be traveling New Zealand just as “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” screens worldwide. For more than a week, we’ve driven around the South Island whistling and humming what little we could remember of the main “Lord of the Rings” theme (yes, the country is just as beautiful as portrayed in all the Tolkein-inspired films). And so it was with utter jubilation that I entered the Embassy Theatre in Wellington a few hours ago to watch the blockbuster in 3D, 48 fps at the same venue that hosted the world premiere a few weeks prior. We spent $22.50 each for a pair of surprisingly stylish 3D glasses and an assigned leather seat in the “platinum” section of the main auditorium.

“I’m sitting in Peter Jackson’s seat,” I whispered to Him as the previews rolled. “I just know it.”

And then the film started.

I enjoyed “The Hobbit.” I just didn’t love it. Martin Freeman puts in an admirable performance as the young Bilbo Baggins, a homebody reluctantly thrust into helping 13 dwarves reclaim their rightful kingdom from a dragon. And it was a delight to reunite with old friends including Gandalf (Ian McKellan appearing significantly aged since “Return of the King”), Frodo (Elijah Wood reprising his role for a short intro scene) and the ethereal Galadriel (Cate Blanchett). But try as I might, I couldn’t forge any real attachment to the dwarves — no matter how much sexy leader Thorin (Richard Armitage) smoldered or his eyes glistened with thoughts of revenge. J.R.R. Tolkein’s book includes too many dwarves for any one but Thorin to show much individuality on screen. In fact, I’m not entirely certain Stephen Hunter, the actor portraying the fat, red-headed Bombur, uttered any lines. Even Ian McKellan’s Gandalf is reduced to repeatedly shouting some variation of “Run!” or, slightly more descriptive, “Run, you fools!”

Some moviegoers and critics have complained that the innovative 48 fps technology induces motion sickness. Him and I didn’t experience any ill effects, though the incredible detail often made it seem as if we were viewing the action while running alongside the characters. As the camera followed the dwarves escaping a band of murderous orcs, we did too, as if riding a roller coaster behind them. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the folks at Disney or Universal capitalize on that feeling to build a real, film-inspired roller coaster in the near future.

Unlike “The Lord of the Rings,” which Tolkein divided into three books and Jackson justifiably adapted into three movies, “The Hobbit” is a single, slim novel. The story doesn’t lend itself to three installments of three hours, as Jackson has segmented it, and there are times when scenes feel drawn out and the dialogue just a little too jokesy, as when the dwarves banter while destroying Bilbo’s hobbit hole and then deliver a joyous, Disney-worthy tune while cleaning it. Instead of LOTR’s Merry and Pippin offering brief comic relief to lighten the solemn nature of an epic quest, Jackson is saddled with one overly intense dwarf leader and 12 Merry and Pippin substitutes. It’s almost as if the mood has been softened to appeal to cartoon-fed kids. (To read about how Jackson and crew took some liberties padding the story, read this CNN article.)

Ironically, it is the CGI-generated character of Gollum (portrayed in life by the wonderful Andy Serkis) who brings the magic back to Middle Earth. The subterranean banter between the saucer-eyed, multiple personality-plagued creature and Bilbo offers by far the best dialogue of the movie and that which earned the most laughs in our theater. Mesmerized by Gollum’s sad, watery eyes, you can’t help but feel pity for him — or refrain from unnecessarily pluralizing words long after the credits roll.