Check out our review of this Extended Edition of the continuing adventure of the title character Bilbo Baggins as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, on an epic quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.
Studio and Year:
The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )
Audio/3D Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Warner - 2013
Feature running time:
English DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
> English SDH, French, Spanish
Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Orlando Bloom Evangeline Lily, Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans
> Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, Peter Jackson , Guillermo Del Toro
Blu-ray Disc release Date:
November 4, 2014
"Beyond darkness…beyond desolation…lies the greatest danger of all"
I reviewed The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
when it was released on Blu-ray in March. I will include my comments from that review and add my thoughts on the newly integrated footage.
The Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug is the second chapter in Peter Jackson’s new epic trilogy set in Middle-Earth 60 years before J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings saga. Follow Bilbo Baggins as he’s swept into a quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield.
In the first installment their journey took them through treacherous lands swarming with Trolls, Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs. Along their route in the goblin tunnels, Bilbo met the creature Gollum who unwittingly became forever tied to by gaining possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities, tied to the fate of all Middle-Earth. Several key talent members from The Lord of the Rings trilogy reprise their roles, along with exciting new cast members and that continues here. The film picks up where it left off with the group being actively pursued by a pack of Orcs led by Azog whose hatred for Thorin is fueled by a vengeful thirst.
Their flight leads them to several encounters beginning with Beorn, the skin-changer who provides them with shelter as well as security while in his form as a large ferocious bear that even the Orcs won’t tangle with. With Beorn’s help they make it to the borders of Mirkwood the woodland realm of the Wood-elves. There they encounter giant spiders before being rescued and imprisoned by the elves lead by King Thrainduil who has a deeper understanding of the foreboding evil that threatens Middle-Earth but whose actions remain purposefully unclear.
With Bilbo’s “stealthy” aid the Dwarves make their escape but not before another brutal exchange with the pursuing Orc pack. After being smuggled into the Lake-town of Esgaroth they find themselves in the shadow of the Lonely Mountain. With the assistance of elves Legolas and Tauriel who followed them from Mirkwood they stave off another Orc attack before heading to the base of the mountain. Their plan is to utilize the talents of their “burglar” to recover the Arkenstone out from under the sleeping dragon Smaug. In the Meanwhile Gandalf investigates the portending darkness emanating from the Dol Gudur ruins to south. What lies in wait is the culmination of his darkest fears. Upon entry to catacombs of the Lonely Mountain Bilbo finds himself face to face with the most imposing, vile and bloodthirsty villain to pose a threat to Middle-Earth in ages. How do you stop the unstoppable…?
I saw The desolation of Smaug in the theater with my daughter back in December and really enjoyed it. The pacing versus “An unexpected journey” was smoother and I found myself engrossed in the plot, the action and the characters both old and new. The building storyline includes snippets of humor, engaging banter and elements of drama/action as it steams toward a rewarding final act and cliffhanger that segues into the next installment. Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey, with Martin Freeman in the central role of Bilbo Baggins, and Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield. The international ensemble cast is led by Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt and Orlando Bloom as Legolas. The film also stars Mikael Persbrandt, Sylvester McCoy, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Graham McTavish, Adam Brown, Peter Hambleton, John Callen, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, William Kircher, Stephen Hunter, Ryan Gage, John Bell, Manu Bennett and Lawrence Makoare.
This extended cut of The Hobbit: the desolation of Smaug
includes 25 minutes of extra film footage that extends individual scenes. The sequences that contain the bulk of the additional material are the opening segment that takes place in the Prancing Pony, the encounter with Beorn (the skin changer), traversing the woodland realm of Mirkwood and Gandalf’s encounter at the Dol Gudur ruins. The extended sequence in the film’s opening features Thorin recounting to Gandalf the events surrounding his father’s involvement in the infamous battle with Azog. The sequence with Beorn involves Gandalf breaking the news to him that he has uninvited houseguests, that just happen to be Dwarves, followed by each introducing themselves (much to his dismay). The extended Mirkwood sequence follows the group as they contend with the forests maze and in particular crossing a dangerous stream, forewarned to them by Gandalf prior to his departure. There is some minor connective tissue in each of these extended scenes but neither adds anything appreciable of note save for some entertaining levity during the Beorn exchange.
The Dol Gudur sequence is one that I was surprised to see cut from the theatrical version. It includes a character that would seemingly carry some weight within the storyline (especially in light of the newly added sequence in the film’s opening), and in watching it I am amazed how the editor was able to cut around it without leaving the sequence in tatters. I am not certain what direction that aspect of the story will take, perhaps it goes nowhere, which is why it was omitted. I have decided not to reveal details as I don’t want to spoil it. Any remaining footage were remnants that had less of an impact. Overall, aside from the Dol Gudur sequence, I didn’t feel that the reinstated elements adding any noteworthy depth to the film however they didn’t detract from it and integrated well enough to be complimentary.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition
will be available as a 5-disc Blu-ray 3D set (which is the subject of this review) that features the Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray versions of the Extended Edition; and a 3-disc Blu-ray both of which include a digital version of the movie on Digital HD with UltraViolet.
The nine-plus hours of new special features boasts audio commentary with Peter Jackson, the film's director/producer/screenwriter, and Philippa Boyens, co-producer/screenwriter, as well as “The Appendices,” a multi-part documentary focusing on various aspects of the film and the Trilogy.
I can’t wait for what comes next and commend Peter Jackson for his attention to detail and handling of the production design/elements and well-chosen cast.
The rating is for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
3D Presentation: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency effects:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
- Low frequency extension * (non-rated element):
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition 3D comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 1080p MVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 4.2 Mbps.
* My comments here will be the same as my 3D review of The Desolation of Smaug as the presentations are identical. *
- Depth (Onscreen):
- Dimension (Beyond the screen):
- Color Reproduction:
I have watched a variety of 3D high definition video both animated and live action. Prior to experiencing 3D in the home environment on Blu-ray, 3D wasn’t something that appealed to me. I had always found the gimmicky nature of 3D off putting and the imagery combined with the uncomfortable glasses always seemed to give me a headache. I must admit that over the last two years I have enjoyed its implementation on Blu-ray and the better quality releases have elevated the experience. I am pleased to report that The Hobbit The desolation of Smaug is just such an example and looks terrific in 3D. Detail is well preserved as the image retains its high level of clarity as objects within the frame are delineated and sharp. I was drawn in by the depth and realism of the three dimensional imagery. The separation of objects and or characters layered in the foreground/background creates an involving sense of virtual space occupied by things of various sizes and shapes. This is done to superb effect.
Shot in 3D there is an incredibly natural sense of dimension and any use of screen popping effects never feels overtly gimmicky but rather serves to enhance the storyline. Just such an example occurs just as the Dwarves enter Beorn’s compound. There are plants, trees and small buildings as well as several giant Bees hovering and flying about. At one point the Bees circumnavigate the frame flying toward the camera and seemingly out into the room. The effect is really very good. Fidelity is intact as the film’s gorgeous array of colors, defining contrast and rich blacks bring Middle-Earth to life with visually arresting results. If I had to describe the experience of watching The Hobbit The desolation of Smaug in 3D I would describe it as natural and engaging. I didn’t notice one instance of Ghosting or video related anomalies.
* My comments here regarding the audio mix will be the same as my review of The Desolation of Smaug as the presentations are identical. *
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is reference quality and is sure to please those who like to play their systems loud. I enjoyed the audio presentation in the theater and looked forward to hearing it in the familiar confines of my theater room. I was treated to an impeccably detailed, dynamic, and rewarding listening experience. Multi-layered sound effects are appropriately placed within the soundfield so that their purpose is definable yet not overstated. The mix makes effective use of the surround channels to elongate the front soundstage as it reproduces the spatial and discrete sounds contained in soundtrack. The front and rear sound fields are integrated with precision which enables a seamless transference during sequences involving sounds that travel through the room. Dialogue is supremely articulated with excellent focus, clarity and descriptive intonation.
Early to the middle parts of the film much of the bass response remains in the upper registers with occasional dips that engage the room. Once the third act begins, when Bilbo awakens Smaug things open up and shake quite nicely. Low frequency effects are reproduced with authority, coinciding with the recording’s excellent dynamic range resulting in room energizing bass transients that are palpable. Smaug’s footsteps, growling voice (love Benedict Cumberbatch!), bursts of flame and the rumbling/crashing of his pursuit of the “invading “ Dwarves illuminates the listening area with tactile bass response. I couldn’t say with certainty that there has been some filtering applied to the LFE channel but the lack of skin tingling infrasonic bass is notable. That shouldn’t be taken to mean that the soundtrack has anemic bass response. There is ample depth and richness to the low end however it rarely descends into the ultra low frequency realm.
It’s easy to sometimes overlook the intricacies that go into the design of soundtracks such as this. In this case even seemingly inconspicuous minutia within the recording is detectable. The end result is a terrific audio presentation that compliments the source material. Be sure to give the volume knob a couple of extra clicks, sit back and enjoy the ride.
2D Video Quality:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Brothers Home Video featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 19 Mbps.
* My comments here will be the same as my 2D review of The Desolation of Smaug as the presentations are identical. *
- Black Level/Shadow Detail:
- Color Reproduction:
This film utilizes a stylized visual design that has a varied color scheme that works aesthetically well for the subject matter. The nature of the photography isn’t lent to high gloss imagery and razor sharpness however there is an enriching and film like quality that abounds. High definition’s increased resolution is readily apparent as textural nuance and subtle refinement is apparent, especially during close-ups. Wide angle vistas views tend to look gorgeous more often than not but can be limited by the film’s post production effects. The color range is comprised of earth tones, shades of dark blue, brown, gray and black with splashes of crimson and green/blue hues. Like the color palette fleshtones shift accordingly to coincide with the mood, lighting and scenic theme. The overall result works perfectly within the film’s narrative construct. Uneven light and shading are prevalent. Contrast is boldly applied which empowers whites and grays with minimal loss of detail. Blacks are dynamic and gradationally revealing and shadow detail is equally discerning. The film’s deep grays, rich contrast and stimulating visual aura makes for a perfect companion to the story‘s elements. The use of CGI/green screens and photographic effects innately softens some elements but doesn’t detract in my opinion. I didn’t see any signs of video degrading artifacts or extraneous noise. The result is a gorgeous high definition rendering that mimics that theatrical presentation.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
- Discs 1&2:
- Parts 1&2 of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition 3D Blu-ray
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition 2D Blu-ray
- Audio commentary with Director Peter Jackson & co-writer/producer Philippa Boyens
- (HD) New Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth – part 2
- (HD) The Appendices part 9 – Into the Wilderland (13 segments totaling 5 hours):
- 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
- (HD) The Appendices part 10 – Journey to Erebor (7 segments totaling 5 hours):
- Summing Smaug: Last of the Fire-Drakes (3 segments)
- The people and Denizens of Middle-Earth
- Realms of the Third Age: From Beorn’s house to Lake-Town
- The music of The Hobbit
- Ultraviolet Digital Copy
is the second chapter in Peter Jackson’s new epic trilogy set in Middle-Earth 60 years before J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings saga. To sum up my feelings on the film both in its original form as well as this new Extended Edition, it would be fair to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, reveling in its epic scope, familiarity and Peter Jackson’s flair for storytelling. The Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug Extended Edition
comes to Blu-ray featuring superlative and faithfully rendered high definition audio/video in both 3D and 2D flavors and a bountiful supplemental set that will give fans their fill. Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has delivered a terrific Blu-ray offering that delivers an enriching home theater experience. I look forward to the next installment The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
due to hit theaters in December.
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews
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JVC DLA-RS4910 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6 Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8801 11.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103D Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (With Darbee video processing)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package