- Apr 16, 2008
- Hawthorne, NV
- Real Name
- Todd Erwin
Splitting J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, a book that is shorter than the shortest book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, into three movies may seem like stretching the story too thin. That was the case of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Peter Jackson’s second film in the series, The Desolation of Smaug, helps to erase the disappointment in the first film by giving the audience almost non-stop action. This extended edition deepens the characters and storyline, and adds a wealth of special features sure to delight fans of both the series and movies in general.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 1080P/MVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Other
Run Time: 3 Hr. 6 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, UltraViolet5-disc Black Amaray Blu-ray keepcase housed in cardboard slipcover with lenticular cover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 11/04/2014
As we last left our troupe of travellers, Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Bilbo (Martin Freeman), and Thorin (Richard Armitage), along with his band of dwarves, are being hunted by Orcs as they journey to reclaim Erebor. At Gandalf’s insistence, they seek shelter for the night at the home of Beorn, a skin changer who doesn’t much care for dwarves. Since he detests Orcs even more than dwarves, he loans them ponies and horses so they can continue their trek while Beorn tries to hold the Orcs at bay. The troupe arrives at Mirkwood, but Gandalf receives a vision from Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) to leave the dwarves and head to Dol Guldur, a castle fortress where the Necromancer has taken up residence. Bilbo and the dwarves continue on through Mirkwood, a haunted forest overrun by giant spiders, and are eventually saved by Wood-Elves Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom), only to be taken prisoner by them. Bilbo, with help from the ring, breaks the dwarves out of prison, only to be chased by Orcs (in a thrilling chase in barrels down the rolling rapids). Bilbo, Thorin, and the dwarves eventually make it to Erebor, sending Bilbo on his quest to steal the Arkenstone, which is hidden inside the chamber of a sleeping dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), perhaps one of the most realistic dragons ever created for a film since Dragonslayer.The theatrical cut of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was a thrilling ride from start to finish, starting with a flashback sequence where Gandalf and Thorin meet for the first time at a pub in Bree, essentially bringing the audience up to speed from the previous entry. Extended editions of movies that are already well over two hours has the potential to bog a movie down with its additional sequences, slowing the pace of a good film. That is not the case with this Extended Edition, which adds 24 minutes of footage, bringing the running time to just over three hours. Much of the new footage consists of a subplot with the capture and incarceration of Thorin’s father at Dol Guldur; an alternate (and humorous) version of Beorn meeting Gandalf, Bilbo, and the dwarves; an alternate journey through Mirkwood; and various scene extensions. These all flow quite smoothly, and are never distracting or slow the pace of the film, often adding to the richness of the story and character development. For those familiar with the theatrical cut, this extended version never feels longer. The 3D version is spread over two discs (much like the theatrical cut), with the disc change coming at a nice intermission break. The 2D version is contained on one disc.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
The overall video quality of the extended edition mirrors that of the theatrical cut, with excellent color reproduction (even if it was tweaked during post production) as well as detail. Blacks are nice and inky, while whites are often bright but never clip. Although shot in native 3D at 48 fps, Smaug has a much more film-like appearance than its previous entry, An Unexpected Journey, which often looked too much like it was shot on digital video (which all three Hobbit films were). The 2D version is on one BD50 disc (as noted above), and presents the film in 1080p with its intended 2.40 theatrical aspect ratio, using the AVC codec.The 3D version is spread over two discs (as noted above) to maximize bitrates, and also mirrors the 3D version of the theatrical cut, using its 3D more for a sense of scale and depth rather than relying on gimmicky pop-outs (although there are a few instances of swords and such breaking the plane, resulting in what I like to refer to as the flinch test). This becomes even more evident when Bilbo enters Smaug’s chamber, and we (the audience) realize not only how large the chamber is, but how enormous Smaug is when he eventually fills the frame. Ghosting and crosstallk was virtually non-existent on my Samsung 60F7100, especially after adjusting the 3D settings on the TV and using XpanD Universal RF 3D glasses rather than Samsung’s included battery-operated ones.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: 4.5/5
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is another go-to disc to demo my sound system, even folded down to 5.1 by my Marantz SR5008 receiver. The action sequences are immersive, with excellent placement of discrete surround effects and a very aggressive low-end (especially when Smaug speaks) that will give your subwoofer a good workout. Even with such an aggressive mix, dialogue remains clear and understandable, never getting drowned out by sound effects or music.
Audio Rating: 5/5
The special features are spread across four of the five discs in the set (disc two of the 3D version has no special features). Sadly, there are no teaser trailers for the final installment of the series, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, or any trailers whatsoever for any of the Hobbit or LOTR films. With the exception of New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 2, none of the special features from the theatrical cut edition have been ported over to this release, following the formula used for the LOTR DVD theatrical and extended editions.New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 2 (1080p; 7:11): Ported from the theatrical cut edition, and accessible from disc one of the 3D version and disc three (which contains the entire 2D version). The featurette is basically a promo for tourism in New Zealand, masquerading as a documentary on the filming locations for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.Audio Commentary by Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens: Jackson is joined by one of his longtime writing partners, Philippa Boyens, and this is an almost non-stop chat fest as they discuss adapting the book, the challenge of expanding from originally two movies to three, detailing some of Guillermo Del Toro’s contributions, and many of the differences between the theatrical and extended cuts. The commentary track is accessible on the 2D version only.Disc Four:The Appendices, Part 9 - Into the Wilderland: The Chronicles of The Hobbit - Part 2Disc four contains over five hours of behind the scenes content, accessible through a Play All option or as individual featurettes.Opening (1080p; 3:22): The cast and crew briefly discuss the challenges of creating a middle film quite literally at the last minute.A Warm Welcome (1080p; 29:23): Chronicling many of the sequences set in Lake-town that were shot in February 2012, featuring Orlando Bloom battling green-screen suited Orcs.Business of the State (1080p; 15:24): Shooting in the Master’s Chambers in August 2011, including a glimpse at the now restored sequence in which actor Stephen Fry has to eat “mountain oysters.”Shelter on the Long Lake (1080p; 20:18): Shooting in the multiple scale Bard’s House sets, chronicling actress Evangeline Lilly’s first days of shooting.In the Halls of the Elvenking (1080p; 29:17): Features two deleted scenes with actor Lee Pace as the Elvenking.Flies and Spiders (1080p; 29:43): Shooting on the Mirkwood Forest sets.Queer Lodgings (1080p; 27:02): Shooting on the Beorn’s House set.On the Doorstep (1080p; 18:28): Shooting at the entrance to Erebor.Inside Information (1080p; 26:12): Creating and shooting in Smaug’s Lair in March 2012.Down the Swift, Dark Stream (1080p; 15:42): Shooting the barrel-riding sequence along the Pelorus River in New Zealand.Barrels Out of Bond (1080p; 30:08): Many of the tricks used to create the barrel rafting sequence.A Chance Meeting (1080p; 20:37): Shooting the prologue sequence in Bree.Erebor Rekindled (1080p; 27:59): The challenge of creating a new ending to Smaug less than five months before the release date.Into the Fire (1080p; 7:58): A behind the scenes sneak peek at The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.Disc Five:The Appendices, Part 10: The Journey to EreborDisc five contains another five hours of behind the scenes content, accessible through a Play All option or as individual featurettes.Summoning Smaug: Last of the Fire Drakes (1080p; 1:16:31): Broken down into three parts (also accessible as individual featurettes or a Play All option), this is a fascinating look at the creation of Smaug, both by the effects team at WETA and through use of motion capture with actor Benedict Cumberbatch, as well as creating Smaug’s lair.The Peoples and Denizens of Middle-earth (1080p; 1:11:48): Broken down into three parts (also accessible as individual featurettes or a Play All option), this documentary “focuses on the design and creatures making their debut in Film 2, as well as the actors who bring these characters to life.”Realms of the Third Age: From Beorn’s House to Lake-town (1080p; 1:34:07): Broken down into four parts (also accessible as individual featurettes or a Play All option), this documentary “follows the creation of Middle-earth locations, from conceptual design to fully realized practical sets and digital environments.”The Music of the Hobbit (1080p; 1:00:54): Broken down into three parts (also accessible as individual featurettes or a Play All option), this documentary “focuses on wide range of new themes that comprise The Desolation of Smaug’s score, composer Howard Shore’s writing process, and the recording of the score by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.”UltraViolet Digital HD Copy: Redemption code must be used by November 4, 2017.
Special Features Rating: 4.5/5
As a moviegoer, I had almost written off Peter Jackson’s attempt at bringing The Hobbit to the big screen after the disappointing first film, An Unexpected Journey, due to its slow pacing. The Desolation of Smaug, in its theatrical form, was a complete 180 from that first film, a truly engaging experience. The extended cut of Smaug is just as entertaining, perhaps more so, with its deeper character and story development that never slow the film down. The 3D presentation is just as immersive as the theatrical cut, with much of the same clarity and richness. The special features included in the extended cut will please any fan of Peter Jackson, movie making, and the Hobbit and LOTR series. Recommended.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
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