The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug 3D Extended Edition Blu-Ray Review
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventure of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, as the merry band of dwarves along with Bilbo and Gandalf attempt to reclaim the land of Eribor from the villainous Smaug.
The Desolation of Smaug is an adventure on the grandest of scales, with the visual set pieces becoming a thing of beauty, and the attention to detail by Peter Jackson becoming ever more apparent. But where the film suffers is in it's pacing. Granted, The Desolation of Smaug feels tighter and more crucial than An Unexpected Journey, but it still feels as if it hasn't quite found its rhythm and that Jackson is taking too long in getting to the point.
Whereas the original Lord of the Rings trilogy felt like each installment was a benefit to the others, The Hobbit series has thus far come across as if Jackson has had an abundance of ideas and felt that he could not hold any of them back from appearing on the big screen. Some events during the film simply recount what happened in An Unexpected Journey, while others serve little purpose, amusing as they may be.
These moments become frustrating, as the audience expects the film to finally get into gear, only to then suddenly be held up by a misstep or an introduction of a new character into an already stuffed cast. Perhaps this is all to act as a build up to this years The Battle of the Five Armies though? The final installment in Peter Jackson's prequel trilogy will surely have learnt the lessons from the first two, and leave audiences wholly satisfied.
The introduction of several new characters is hit and miss throughout the film. Evangeline Lily's Tauriel proves to be excellent with an arrow, but feels shoehorned in, which becomes even more apparent when you find out that the character was indeed created by Peter Jackson and his writing partner Fran Walsh. There is also a nice cameo from Orlando Bloom's Legolas, but it feels as if his character is just waiting to have a bit more to do, which is a problem that will hopefully be solved in The Battle of the Five Armies. On the other hand, it is always a pleasure to see Stephen Fry in anything, and his appearance as the Master of Lake Town is a warmly received one. While Luke Evans is brooding as Bard the Bowman, but again will likely feature more heavily in The Battle of the Five Armies.
Despite the issues that both films have faced so far, the thing they do deliver on is spectacle. Jackson has an eye for rip roaring action, and consistently delivers in this regard. The many chase sequences are quickly paced and bring a seriousness to proceedings when the film threatens to become too light. The escape scene in the barrels is a particular delight, as is a capture and attack by giant spiders. It's these scenes that make up for the deficiencies that The Desolation of Smaug otherwise encounters, and save the film from becoming an unforgettable entry in the overall Lord of the Rings series.
The Disc and Extras
The Desolation of Smaug is quite simply one of the most beautiful Blu-Ray presentations available right now. The film is stunning in high-definition, mixing the various colours into an eye melting palette. When watching on Blu-Ray, Smaug in particular shines as a prime example of the great work that Weta have put into creating this fierce creature.
Of the 25 added minutes on this extended edition, they do little to really enhance what was already a solid story, but they are welcome nonetheless and provide a few more entertaining moments throughout the the film. Some scenes are pure dialogue, whereas others, like the scene outside Beorn's home are a treat, and provide some interesting viewing. Fans will likely lap these moments up, but casual viewers may be put off any extra viewing, in what was an already long running time.
As with any extended edition by Peter Jackson, The Desolation of Smaug is positively rammed with special features. The whole set is presented across five discs, which house the film in 2D and 3D as well as including commentaries and various makings of.
The extras encompass roughly ten hours of footage, and are an immersive look at the making of the film. The filmmakers commentary is often the best aspect for any film fan, but there is so much to get into here that fans will be hard pressed to know where to start. Seventeen documentaries feature across discs four and five and vary in length from 8 minutes to 94 minutes and detail every aspect of the film.
The commentary itself is as detailed and thorough as any Peter Jackson commentary. Here he goes into everything from scripting the film, to the various set designs and his love affair with Tolkien's work. If this were the only extra attached to the film, it would likely suffice but there is so much here for fans to delve into. Some extras, like "Into the Fire" are short pieces (8 minutes) that don't take up much time but take a look at the crew filming a scene for the third entry in the series. While "Inside Information" (26 minutes) is a nice look at Martin Freeman performing a scene with an imaginary dragon, that takes place in Smaug's lair.
The other features vary in length, but disc five presents us with four documentaries that are all over 60 minutes long. "Realms of the Third Age" (94 minutes) is by far the most exhausting of the four, and takes a look into the production design. While, "Summoning Smaug" and "The People and Denizens of Middle Earth" last 77 and 72 minutes respectively. And take a fully detailed look at how Smaug was to brought to life via cgi and motion capture, and how each character was was costume fitted, which weapons they would be given and how the cast members performed their roles. "The Music of The Hobbit" (61 minutes) does exactly what it says, and shines the spotlight on Howard Shore's score.
The film may have its faults, but does enough to feel necessary as an inclusion to the series as a whole. Collectors will likely already have this film on their Christmas lists, but for anyone currently unsure then the sheer amount of extras and excellent presentation should persuade any fan to part with their hard earned.