With all due respect to the decades-old Star Wars and Indiana Jones, the Lord of the Rings series represents the best franchise entertainment Hollywood can provide. Set to conclude its second trilogy in just over a month, the franchise’s latest Blu-ray entry is The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition, a must-own set for fans of The Hobbit films. Not only is it a great product, as we’ll spell out in this The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition review, but it’s also a perfect primer for December’s triumphant conclusion of The Hobbit prequels.
The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition is “extended” in several ways. Most notably, the film includes 25 additional minutes of footage. None of this extra time takes the form of all-new scenes; rather, New Line and Warner Bros. have added frames and returned previously cut lines to certain important sequences.
Unlike in The Hobbit, which seemed to drag on interminably in several places, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition never feels forced or like it’s about to stall. That’s important in general, but especially for a movie that already clocks-in at three-plus hours.
I was particularly surprised to watch The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition in Blu-ray 3D and see the visual quality remain excellent throughout. Sometimes extended scenes or additional clips look or sound “tacked on,” but in Smaug’s extended look they all feel completely natural and match the incredible production values of the rest of the Blu-ray presentation.
Indeed, the 3D presentation of this film is second to none. Some of this is due to camera angles and cinematography that lends itself to dimensional frames, but even in scenes that seem otherwise “flat” the 3D effects are really good. The only disappointment with regard to the 3D is that the Blu-ray 3D version of the Smaug Extended Edition comes on two discs and requires a disc change partway through. The standard 2D version, which is also included in the Extended Edition set, has the entire film on a single Blu-ray disc, plus some bonus features.
Those bonus features are the second “extended” part of this release. While the third disc of the five-disc The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition set includes the 2D version of the film, the Audio Commentary track and a bonus feature called New Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth Part 2, the star of the bonus-feature show is contained on Discs 4 and 5.
Disc 4 contains The Appendices Part 9: Into the Wilderland and The Chronicles of The Hobbit: Part 2. Then on Disc 5, Warner Bros. has included The Appendices Part 10: The Journey to Erebor, bringing the total amount of bonus content to nine hours.
The content on Discs 4 and 5 are some of the most comprehensive behind-the-scenes features I’ve seen in years. Similar to the original LOTR trilogy’s Extended Edition box set release, these bonus features — if you can even call full-disc documentaries “bonus” features — go into exhaustive detail about the making of key sequences, stunts, special effects, 3D movie-making and Howard Shore’s score. If LOTR and The Hobbit fans weren’t already salivating at the impeccable 3D presentation, they’d flat-out need a towel by the end of these on-the-set experiences.
From the textured, thick cardboard case with embedded lenticular photo of Smaug to the closing 3D moments of the film, the Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition is a must-buy for LOTR fans and Blu-ray aficionados alike. If this The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition review sounds gushing, it’s because there’s simply so much to
adore about this release. Warner Bros. clearly outdid itself in trying to get movie goers ready to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies on December 17.