The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition 3D Blu-ray Review
I’m not a Tolkein loyalist, nor did I particularly care for THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, so I won’t bore you with the problems between THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG and the book the Hobbit films are based on. The Hobbit films are definitely not up to the same level of filmmaking that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was, but I find them to be enjoyable all the same, even if they do have a few problems and limitations. Smaug is clearly a step forward for the series and overcomes some of the first film’s shortcomings by improving the special effects and improving the pacing of the film. The extended edition of THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG actually improves upon the theatrical release and creates an even better balanced film, which might be enough to bring anyone back to the series that bowed out after being disappointed with An Unexpected Journey.
In The Desolation of Smaug, we pick up with our heroes as they continue to make their way to Erobar to face the dragon Smaug. Legolas (Orlando Bloom) shows up this time to provide a much needed energy spark and we finally get a good look at Smaug, who was teased incessantly in the promotional material leading up to the film’s release. The scenes with Bilbo and Smaug were intense and director Peter Jackson did a great job of building the tension between the two and the slow reveal of Smaug was very effective. I also enjoyed the inclusion of Legolas, even though I know a lot of fans were not happy with his presence or the fact that he has such a big part. But Legolas is a very cool character and he added a lot to the film in terms of pure excitement.
The biggest improvement in Smaug over Journey was the pacing. The first film was just too slow and it felt like Jackson was stretching a 90 minute movie into three hours. Smaug has some moments that clearly could have been condensed, but overall it moved along quickly and kept the audience interested. We learned more about Thorin and what happened to Erobar and we got an easy set up for THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES, even if Jackson laid on the foreshadowing a little thick. But the characters of Journey that felt a little empty and underdeveloped were explored and expanded upon much better the second time around, making for a much more enjoyable film.
I don’t think The Hobbit movies have generated the kind of praise and acclaim that Peter Jackson might have been hoping for, but they’ve achieved decent box office results and I’m sure they’ve made Warner Bros. plenty of money. As with the Lord of the Rings films, I find myself enjoying the extended editions of these films more than the theatrical releases and once again, THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG’s extended edition is another incredible Blu-ray release and when you add in the impressive 3D experience, it’s hard to argue against picking this up.
3D BLU-RAY REVIEW
The 3D for THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is incredible, even if three hours is a little long to wear 3D glasses. But the depth was impressive and although Jackson thankfully shied away from gimmicks, the 3D in the scenes with Bilbo and Smaug really immersed the viewer into the world.
Video: This is another impressive addition to the Middle Earth films, featuring some beautiful scenery that really pops on Blu-ray.
Audio: The audio was also very well done.
Commentary with Peter Jackson and co-writer Philippa Boyens: Jackson and Boyens deliver a great commentary and dive into the details on just about everything you’d want to know about the film. They do keep things mostly technical, so you won’t get a lot of joking around, but they do touch on the decision to expand The Hobbit into a trilogy as opposed to the two part film they had originally planned.
New Zealand: Home to Middle-Earth Part 2 (7:10): The crew talk about how great New Zealand is.
The Appendices Part 9: A Long Expected Journey (5:01:31): Yes, you read that correctly; on the first disc of special features, there is over 5 hours worth of content. The first disc is heavy on the early stages of production, but also features some deleted and extended scenes as well as a featurette on a scene taken directly from Tolkien’s notes (A Chance Meeting) and a discussion on what Smaug would look like (Inside Information) where we get to see Martin Freeman act with an empty room (impressively, might I add). The content on disc one is exhausting, but it’s not even half of what’s on the set…
The Appendices Part 10: The Journey to Erebor (6:31:42): If you managed to make it through the five hours on disc one, then you only have six and a half hours to go on disc two. The second disc has longer featurettes, the first of which is over an hour and is all about Smaug (Summoning Smaug: Last of the Fire-Drakes). It’s a fascinating look at how much went into creating the dragon and how important the filmmakers realized he was going to be to the success of the film. This is followed by a handful of featurettes that go into detail about casting Benedict Cumberbatch and the personality they gave Smaug. The rest of the featurettes take an even deeper look into the making of the film and the research and development that went into every detail of the production.