“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” – Blu-ray Review by Matt Marshall

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (2013) - Blu-ray Review (We Live Film)

Desolation of Smaug Blu-ray Satisfies Until Extended Edition

by Matt Marshall

Like the theatrical editions of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is an incomplete film. Don’t get me wrong, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug improves greatly upon the previous chapter, An Unexpected Journey. But you should know down deep, an extended cut is on the horizon by year’s end.

This second chapter immediately picks up where An Unexpected Journey left off. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and company evade doom yet again thanks to the eagles. Instead of flying all of them to the Lonely Mountain and essentially dropping 90 minutes of Smaug, they’re dropped off still far from their destination. But contrary to what our hobbit hero says, the worst is not behind them.

Before even reaching the Lonely Mountain, Smaug is one episodic incident after another. The film kicks off with a run-in with an undeveloped bear man who take them in for a night. Follow that up with talking spiders, xenophobic elves, a barrel ride right out of Disney and already we’re over an hour in.

But it’s not until the final confrontation with the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) that there’s finally a sense of the film’s accomplishment. Second chapters are always difficult to pull off. With no real beginning and no definitive ending, Smaug has to stand on its own as a film.

In many ways it does, but it’s also a 161-minute prologue to the final chapter, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. With countless characters littering the screen, there’s little time dedicated to advancing these characters, just the plot. Bilbo’s a whole lot braver compared to his An Unexpected Journey counterpart. But that’s his major change this time around. Richard Armitage is travelling down a darker path as dwarf leader, Thorin. That only makes sense having seen the extended cut of the first movie.

Fans of the Tolkien novel will continue to argue that stretching a 300-page story into three films is overkill. However, judgment should be reserved until the trilogy is seen in its entirety. It’s no secret Jackson has added plenty of new material to make this new trilogy come off as The Lord of the Rings. Evangeline Lilly’s elf warrior Tauriel is a fine addition minus the romantic subplot. The same goes for Gandalf’s mission to enemy fortress Dol Guldur. The only drawback is revealing crucial plot points of The Lord of the Rings way too early.

The Desolation of Smaug is a solid entry that deviates from its source material. It doesn’t quite match up to any of The Lord of the Rings films. But it’s still a visual spectacle that we come to expect from Peter Jackson. By the end of the year, we’ll all have a much clearer insight of this middle chapter with all that extra footage included.

Video

Warner Bros. issues yet another strong transfer to capture the fine details of Middle-earth in The Desolation of Smaug. The color palette has descended into darker territory from the previous film. That’s completely understandable as a similar situation happened in The Lord of the Rings. And the GoPro Camera shots from the barrel sequence and seemingly unfinished molten gold sequence are less glaring on a smaller screen. But they still need to be tweaked in the next cut.

Audio

Warner’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7. 1 surround track is superb. For a film that’s action-heavy, Smaug pulls out all the big guns to convey its plethora of audio effects. Most impressive here is the dragon Smaug and the battle inside the Lonely Mountain. The barrel ride nearly an hour reaps the rewards of the track, focusing on the endless splashing and endless arrows blazing. Howard Shore’s unforgettable score is equally a treat.

Special Features

Back when the original three films were released on DVD, New Line Cinema went all out on packaging and supplemental materials. The same cannot be said about Warner Bros. and The Desolation of Smaug. Bonus materials clock in at a mere two hours – many of which can be found online. The menu design is a far cry from the beautiful care put into The Lord of the Rings DVDs, reusing the trailer as the main menu.

Verdict

The Desolation of Smaug isn’t a necessary pickup with the extended cut due out in six months. Still, it will keep the die-hard fans at bay for now.

  • Movie: A (10/10)
  • Video: A- (9/10)
  • Audio: A (10/10)
  • Special Features: C (5/10)

Grade: B (8/10) – Recommended

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Matt Marshall is a YouTube movie reviewer who hosts MNMreviews. He has a B.A. in Communications/Journalism from St. John Fisher College and resides in Rochester, NY.

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