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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug [Extended Edition] - Blu-ray Review

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The Hobbit: The Deolation of Smauh - Movie Review

2 stars

At 161 minutes, Peter Jackson‘s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug isn’t exactly brief to begin with. But for those who’d like to spend still more time in Middle-earth, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Extended Edition promises nearly half an hour of additional footage.  Want more of Thorin’s backstory, Gandalf’s badassery, or Bard’s cunning?  Extra time in Mirkwood, Lake-town, or Beorn’s house?  The Extended Edition has got you covered.  The biggest problem with The Hobbit Trilogy and its Extended Editions are that – unlike with The Lord of the Rings – the extra material adds ZERO to the overall film.  It’s simply material that is better served on the cutting room floor.

Perhaps Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) says it best because there literally is “no place to hide” from this nearly three-hour continuation of Peter Jackson’s overwrought three-picture adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s beloved pint-sized children’s book The Hobbit.  Seriously, there is nowhere to hide from this mega cinematic onslaught.  If only the resulting movie was worth the price of its merchandising and endless marketing campaign like The Lord of Rings series (which I loved) was.

Once again, Jackson loses grip on the straightforward narrative with even more exposition and backstory for even more characters.  Quite literally, this film is bursting at the seams with an endless barrage of characters that simply sideline the pace of the story for the sake of expanding what could have been a seriously GENIUS two-picture series into a NEEDLESS three.

The good news in all of this noise is the seriously solid action beats Jackson churns out this time.  The jealous scowls of Legolas (a returning Orlando Bloom) might be annoying but there are a lot of Errol Flynn-like moments for him to shine as he does what he does best and fights, fights, fights.  There is also a solid barrel escape sequence and a dark spider attack scene in Mirkwood that Jackson, always a capable action director regardless of the genre, continues to flex his muscles with.

Unfortunately, when Jackson settles down all the action and begins the story with one Middle Earth distraction after another, there simply is not a solid story made apparent.  My point is that The Desolation of Smaug might be balanced with more action (when compared to what came before, it’s downright a rip-snorting serial adventure) but that doesn’t mean it’s actually telling a coherent and promising storyline with its near 3-hour running time.

While rousing and rollicking at the beginning, Jackson’s The Desolation of Smaug is fan fiction at its most … frustrating.  Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) gets sidelined for large parts as Jackson and company inject Tolkien’s narrative with a convoluted plot, an army of characters – including the Jackson-created elf-warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) designed solely to create a paper-thin love triangle for all those bored by the actual story – and the return of Sauron and his orcs.

It’s the middle part of the journey to get the riches guarded by the evil Smaug but first let’s talk about Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), the future Dwarven king for a bit so you can understand the context of this perilous journey.  Then, let’s dwell on Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and his side mission before settling in Laketown, presided over by an amusing Stephen Fry.  Oh, you want Bilbo?  You want more Smaug?  You’re going to have to wait until next December.  Annoying, isn’t it?

I am not a Tolkien purist.  I simply understand the fundamentals of storytelling and what makes reviewing this film frustrating is that Peter Jackson does, too.  Yet, like George Lucas before him, he’s lost control of the basics and gives audiences soap opera instead of real moments of fantasy.  Yes, The Desolation of Smaug is a runaway train.  A shoe-horned love triangle between Tauriel, Legolas, and the doomed Kili (Aidan Turner) is an absolute insult.

It is the only sure fire hit of the holiday season that fewer and fewer people are talking about.  Excitement level is at an all-time low for the sequel to last year’s abysmal The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and for good reason.  The first film in this new trilogy was a true buzzkill.  This one is a hint at what could have been in the first one had Jackson stuck to the plan.  The third film we’re likely to see solely out of obligation (and maybe for a better look at Smaug, which is truly a fantastic-looking creation).

The problem is that Tolkien’s fun-filled children’s story has been turned into a joyless path that will lead right up to the front porch of The Fellowship of the Ring and we will NEVER have the version we really want to see.  So far, there simply is very little joy in these two pictures.  I’ll take Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games over this extended teaser trailer for The Lord of the Rings and that statement, if you know anything about me at all, is the biggest shocker of all.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.
Runtime:
161 mins
Director
: Peter Jackson
Writer
: Peter Jackson: Fran Walsh
Cast:
Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage
Genre
: Fantasy |Sci-fi| Adventure
Tagline:
Beyond darkness... beyond desolation... lies the greatest danger of all
Memorable Movie Quote: "You have no right to enter that mountain!"
Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Release Date:
December 13, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
November 4, 2014

Synopsis: The Dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf have successfully escaped the Misty Mountains, and Bilbo has gained the One Ring. They all continue their journey to get their gold back from the Dragon, Smaug.

The Hobbit: The Deolation of Smaug - Movie Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - November 4, 2014
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Three-disc set (3 BDs); UV digital copy; Digital copy
Region Encoding: A

This is essentially as good as it gets right now, folks, when it comes to video quality.  The MPEG-4 AVC coded picture is a sumptuous feast for your eyes, with flawless crisp vistas, day or night, natural or unnatural flesh tones, as per the need.  Whether the brightest of day scenes or the blackest of night scenes the detail throughout is incredible.  This is home video, folks, so any lean you may have had on the whole 48 frames per second debate is a moot point here: you get 24 beautiful effective frames per second here in both the 3D and 2D versions, and it looks slick and – with no depth to the effects – fake as hell.  Everything is too bright and too slippery.  The 7.1 DTS-HD master provides full immersion.  Base is robust, subtleties consistently dance between speakers at any moment; the dialogue is clear; the surround channels are given a hefty workout.  This is a stunning offering.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens provide the detailed commentary.  I may not agree with the overuse of CGI here in The Hobbit films but I do enjoy his commentaries.

Special Features:

Not disappointingly, one can get as lost in the extras as the film. There’s of course commentary from Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens (co-producer and screenwriter), The Appendices which takes a multi-part in depth look at the history and making of the film and a special feature looking at New Zealand, the beautiful landscape Jackson has long decided to transform into Middle Earth on film.  Standouts are the creation of Smaug evolving from a bloated four legged dinosaur to the fearsome bat winged Serpent of the finished film, a set visit from comedian and chat show host Stephen Colbert, who turns out to be a massive Tolkien nerd, and the various fish related calamities Jackson inflicts on his dwarf cast. Strangest revelation is how much more charismatic Orlando Bloom is off camera than he is on.  As to Warner's second Blu-ray release of The Desolation of Smaug, well, you get what you have come to expect.  There is quite simply LOTS OF INFORMATION.  With an excellent video presentation, powerful DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track, and more than 13 hours of extensive special features, fans couldn't ask for more.

  • New Zealand: Home to Middle-Earth Part 2 (7 min)
  • The Appendices Part 9: A Long Expected Journey (5 hours)
  • The Appendices Part 10: The Journey to Erebor (5 hours)

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