THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Ian McKellen as GANDALF
Martin Freeman as BILBO
Richard Armitage as THORIN
Benedict Cumberbatch as SMAUG
Orlando Bloom as LEGOLAS
Evangeline Lilly as TAURIEL
Luke Evans as BARD THE BOWMAN
Lee Pace as THRANDUIL
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Peter Jackson
BY KEVIN CARR
In a certain respect, I was looking forward to “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” more than I was “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” a year before. That led to a slight disappointment when I saw it in theaters, which most likely resulted from wanting wall-to-wall fire breathing with one of the title characters. But “The Desolation of Smaug” was never meant to be a showcase for the dragon’s destruction. Instead, it was always meant to be a bridge between the first and the last “Hobbit” films.
Armed with a greater understanding of the film’s place in the “Lord of the Rings” series, I enjoyed “The Desolation of Smaug” much more on Blu-ray than I did in the theater itself, even if the screen wasn’t as big and impressive as the previous viewing.
After a brief prologue which features Gandalf (Ian McKellen) meeting Thorin (Richard Armitage) to plan for their journey, “The Desolation of Smaug” picks up with the dwarves and Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) on the last push of their journey to reclaim Erabor, the dwarves’ home which had been laid waste by Smaug the Dragon. However, they encounter new challenges, including escaping the clutches of the Wood-elves, stealing their way through the human city of Dale, and finding their way into Lonely Mountain to steal the Arkenstone from the sleeping Smaug.
Don’t look for traditional storytelling in “The Desolation of Smaug” any more than you would looking for the same in the middle chapters of a novel. The film is meant to continue the journey, set up the previously-known background for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and prepare everyone for the final battle we’ll see in the final film. In this sense, it might play a bit dull for an audience, but there’s still plenty to enjoy in this 2 hour and 40 minute film.
Chief among the selling points are the obstacles of escaping a nest of giant spiders, as well as escaping from the Wood-elves’ city. It’s not as thrilling as the escape from Goblin-Town in the previous film, but it is still quite fun to watch. We also see some development with a potential love connection between and elf and a dwarf (even if this doesn’t show up in the original book).
Of course, the film comes alive again near the end when Bilbo comes face-to-face with Smaug. There’s a lot to Smaug’s monologues, but they are supported by some amazing visual effects and nice action as the dwarves and the Hobbit must try to avoid the dragon’s billowing fire breath. Sure, it all ends rather suddenly with a cliffhanger shot, but we were all expecting that, weren’t we.
In the end, “The Desolation of Smaug” does not feel as complete as the previous film, even though that is also a truncated story in the greater trilogy, but it does offer some exciting moments and a nice set-up to the conclusion.
Even though there is sure to be an extended edition of this film in the fall of 2014, the Blu-ray is not stripped down, and that’s a nice thing to see. There’s a nice slate of bonus content on the Blu-ray, most of it included on a second disc.
“New Zealand: Home of Middle-Earth: Part 2” is a relatively short featurette included on the primary disc. The rest of the content is on the bonus disc. This includes Peter Jackson’s invitation to the set, which includes 40 minutes of production information in multiple parts. As with other “Lord of the Rings” films, this includes extended production diaries for a fly-on-the-way look at the way the production works.
There’s also a 40-minute Q&A with Jackson from earlier in 2013, as well as a music video and various versions of the film’s trailers. Things are wrapped up with trailers for the extended edition of the first film and the Lego game.
Finally, a DVD of the film is included, along with a digital download via UltraViolet.