HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition 3D
HTS Overall Score:89
Let me say this first off. I’m a HUGE Tolkien fan, and have been an avid reader of his novels since I was in single digit years. I read “The Hobbit” and its associated books so many times that I had to buy a second set of the books, which I then left unopened, in case my original set became irreparably damaged with some many hours spend pouring over the dog eared pages. So, as a film fan, and knowing that books and movies rarely are perfectly adapted to each other; I have to take a breath before I watch a Tolkien adaptation and tell myself to forget the book for a few hours so I can enjoy a movie. As an adaptation of Tolkien’s book, "The Desolation of Smaug" fails in an utterly spectacular manner. The amount of liberties taken in this installment far outweigh the liberties taken in its predecessor. Characters have been taken out, other characters from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy have been added in, and new characters have been created from scratch, let alone the inclusion and twisting of entire portions of the book. Now, with that laid out on the table, I have to say that if you can look past the difference between celluloid and text, Peter Jackson has created another wildly rousing film that will entertain people of all ages.
“The Desolation of Smaug” is a much faster paced film, being the 2nd act of a full trilogy it has none of the hindrances of the first film where we had to deal with a full hour of exposition and character building before the story could really take off. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and crew are past the mountains and headed right into Mirkwood forest. Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is still deeply disturbed with the increased Orc invasions and the report of his comrade Radagast the brown. Giving the dwarves and young Hobbit strict instructions to stay on the path, Gandalf must go and find out just what is going on with that Morgul blade that was found in the last film. Checking out the tombs of the Nine wring wraiths he finds that there is nothing left but empty coffins and deadly fear that evil has once upon been unleashed upon the land.
Back in Mirkwood our merry band of travelers must get through the forests of Mirkwood, fighting gigantic spiders and even the forest Elves along the way. Amusingly enough, this is where we meet a much younger Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and his captain-of-the-guard Tauriel (Evangeline Lily). Captured by the Mirkwood elves, the dwarves are detained by the Thranduil (Lee Pace), the same Elven king who turned his back on the Dwarven race in their time of need. With the help of Bilbo, the Dwarves escape the clutches of the Elves and venture out to the Mountain. Unfortunately, their problems are far from over, for they must sneak past the broken city of Laketown, ruled by a despotic noble who is clutching onto what little power he has left (Stephen Fry) and face up against their most terrifying foe yet. The incredibly powerful Smaug the Dragon (Benedict Cumberbatch).
Being that this is an EXTENDED edition I’m sure you’d like me to expound upon the extended scenes. Much like the 1st movie, the extended scenes take a large chunk out of the first 90 minutes of the movie, mainly dealing with the talk between Gandalf and Thorin, the travel through Mirkwood forest and adding a good chunk of time with Beorn, the skin changer. The opening scene with Gandalf and Thorin is the most unique as it delves into the storyline that Thrain, Father of Thorin is still alive out there and the possibility of his return. Peter Jackson isn’t shy about adding in things to the movie that weren’t in the novels and with this added plotline I’m wondering if he’s going to go anywhere with it in the third movie, or whether it will just serve as filler. I guess the only way to really know is wait another few months and find out in the theaters. The scenes with Beorn are a bit half and half, as some of the time it actually worsened the impact of the encounter, but at the same time, Peter Jackson further solidifies his reigning theme of Sauron being the underlying villain that all the world is preparing for. The same goes for the Mirkwood sequences, as the euphoric confusion that happens both enhances and detracts from the film. In some ways the sequence felt a little bit out of place, but at the same time you can tell that there was a lot left on the cutting room floor that made a lot of sense when put back in, especially with Bilbo climbing up to the top to find their bearings.
The Rest of the added scenes are just little bits here and there, some of little importance, such as the eating of bollocks with the Master of Lake town, and others that are of great importance like the encounter at Dul Gudor, which actually is shockingly different from the theatrical release as you get to see a HUGE addition to Gandalf and his encounter with the necromancer. That, in particular, is my favorite added scene of the whole movie, and really makes you wonder why it was cut in the beginning. Besides that sequence most of the rest of the added scenes didn’t really do much for the story wise, but rather had little impact overall. They were nice to see and some were really cool, but don’t feel bad if you got the theatrical cut, as it flows a little nicer in my opinion. I do have to say that the extras for this release are just as phenomenal as the previous extended editions and are the real pull for rebuying this set. The theatrical cuts have a few extras, but these extended editions really pull out all the stops as you get 5 – 6 times the amount of in depth featurrettes, commentaries and little nuggets in to Middle Earth.
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=31137[/img]The Video score here is lifted from the regular edition review as it is identical to the reviewed video track there. Peter Jackson is nothing if not a master of style, and “The Desolation of Smaug” is just tingling with the sensation of the master’s touch, and the 2.40:1 AVC encode is magnificent to look upon. As with the first film we have a nearly flawless transfer, a good bid darker than its predecessor in tone, the video decides to follow suit. Bathed in deep shadows from the wreckage of the abandoned fortress, to the dwarven kingdom home, to the misty forests of Mirkwood, shadows and blackness ooooooze from every corner and crack, permeating everything. Throughout this deep, dark world the black levels are literally as perfect as you can get. Shadows are well detailed, but retain enough depth to make you feel as if you’re going to be swallowed up by the darkness. The mist makes you squint your eyes to try and see through the fog, but still retain all of the accuracy of real life. When you feel like the entire film is black, we shoot to the open fields, resplendent in golds and greens and blues, shining in the sun of Middle Earth. As you can imagine, the long sweeping shots are stunning to behold, but every bit as stunning is the fine detail in the close ups. You can actually see the dirt and grime ground into Bilbo’s skin, each pore absorbing a different color and texture depending on how dirty the skin is, and the Elven clothing is picture perfect with each thread and fiber showing through. Contrasts are good, and skin tones are very pleasing, albeit a little bit pink at times. The only real flaws I saw were a few instances of softness in Mirkwood and a few POV shots during the barrel escape, mostly caused by lower quality POV cameras used to capture the mayhem up close.
Now, being that the 3D discs are split across 2 BD-50's due to the amount of data I analyzed them piecemeal to see if there were any major differences, and I have to say, unless you're looking at the movies back to back you wouldn't tell a difference. Under really really close scrutiny it's noticeable that the black levels and details is a HAAAAAAAAAIIIR bit better on the 2 3D discs, but it's mainly due to the increased bitrate and even the most snobbish videophile would be able to tell the difference between the 2D disc and the 3D discs unless it is for bragging rights.
As with "An Unexpected Journery" the natively shot 3D presentation is near flawless. The depth and clarity shown in the 3D is mind boggling as gigantic 3D bees buzz around Bilbo's head and seemingly shift across every plane that it can, feeling as lifelike and as in front of you as one could wish for. even though the film was shot in 48 fps 3D that can't be translated into Blu-ray due to specifications, but the 24 fps 3D shown here is just about as good as the theatrical feeling (besides the extra smootheness that 48 fps provides the home presentation may actually be a bit better). I couldn't detect any crosstalk in the image and only a minor bit of shimmering upon the armor or any other reflective surface. I'm actually not one to enjoy 3D films, but "Gravity" and now "The Desolation of Smaug" has given me a new take on the genre. If more films were shot as delicately and intricately as this one I might actually put on the glasses a bit more often.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=31145[/img]The Audio here is lifted from the regular edition review as it is identical to the reviewed audio track there. Like the first film, the 7.1 DTS-HD MA is simple jaw dropping. The design of the Middle Earth sound tracks has always been something to aspire to and “Desolation of Smaug” is no different. The hauntingly beautiful score by Howard Shore winds itself and intertwines itself with the film itself, creating an inseparable synergy between visual and auditory story telling that feels incomplete if one is missing from the mix. The immersive power of the track is unmistakable and breathtaking, sucking the viewer into the center of a whirlwind of sound. The surrounds pulse with energy, rippling around the listener from all angles, giving the sound track a truly enveloping power. Dialogue is crystal clear and carries with it some very solid directional queues that allow the presence of the track to felt from any corner of the room. LFE is powerful, MUCH powerful than the first one, albeit this is where the flaw of the sound track is. The mid bass is crushing at times, generating a much more visceral low end than the first movie had, but there is STILL a high pass filter at work here. I don’t think I ever heard the LFE dip below 30 hz once the entire film. That deeeeeeep extension that can push a great track into awe inspiring just wasn’t there. Don’t get me wrong, there was PLENTY of midbass, but the lack of really low extension was disappointing, but unfortunately expected considering the first film had the same issue in both theatrical and extended editions.
Disc 1 and 2
The 3D version of the film
The 2D version of the film
The Appendices part 9 – Into the Wilderland
• A warm welcome
• Business of the state
• Shelter on the long lake
• In the halls of the Elvenking
• Flies & spiders
• Queer lodgings
• On the doorstep
• Inside information
• Down the swift dark stream
• Barrels out of bond
• A chance meeting
• Erebor rekindled
• …Into the fire
The Appendices part 10 – Journey to Erebor
• Summing Smaug: Last of the Fire-Drakes
• The people and Denizens of Middle-Earth
• Realms of the Third Age: From Beorn’s house to Lake-Town
• The music of The Hobbit
Peter Jackson certainly loves Middle Earth, and these movies are a sort of passion for him. The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was an epic trilogy of immense proportions, and I still feel that the “Hobbit” movies were stretched a bit far by about one movie, in an effort to try and make it as epic as the before mentioned movies. However, even weaker Middle Earth is better than a lot of other fantasy movies, and the scope is quite impressive and will leave you with a smile on your face. The audio and video are resplendent and the extras copious, so if you’re a fan of middle earth I highly recommend checking out this edition. My only complaint for the extended cuts is that if you’re a fan of the theatrical cut, the only way to get the extras is by buying BOTH this cut and the theatrical edition. Still, highly recommended.
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 186 minutes
Own The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition on Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD and Digital HD November 4th from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Buy The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended 3D Combo Pack Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended 2D Combo Pack Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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