The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug marks Peter Jackson’s fifth cinematic trip to the Tolkien well. While there may have been some fatigue with moviegoers after a fairly pedestrian introduction to The Hobbit, in An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug packs in enough action to hold its audience over to the finale. As a matter of fact, Jackson actually added a fair amount to the classic tale, which no doubt infuriated the Tolkien purists. Despite the additions though, The Desolation of Smaug does occasionally struggle with the transitions between the action sequences.
As the second film in the trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug does seem to follow the pattern established in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, where the first film mostly sets everything up, the second film gets it all going, and the third film is non-stop action, barely allowing the audience a chance to catch their breath. Those that didn’t read the source book might have wondered where this story was really going, after the first film. Overall, this second movie obliges. Most notably, The Desolation of Smaug reintroduces Orlando Bloom’s Legolas and gives us all really good look at the dragon itself. Considering everything Jackson has added to this chapter, There and Back Again will have to run at a breakneck pace, to wrap it all up.
There are a couple of different Blu-ray sets available for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but the copy provided for review is the three-disc Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack. There are also two different five-disc 3D blu-ray offerings and a two disc DVD edition. In this set the DVD is packaged on the left side, while the two blu-ray discs are stacked on the right. One of the blu-rays is primarily occupied by the film and the second has the majority of the special features. The highlights of the extras include “Peter Jackson Invites You to the Set” and another half hour’s worth of production featurettes. The deleted scenes are fairly underwhelming along with two game tie-in trailers.
The studio portions of The Desolation of Smaug, as with An Unexpected Journey are practically reference quality transfers on blu-ray. The vast majority of the film is so sharp that it’s almost eerie. A few of the scenes were filmed with a lower resolution camera, and those that are looking for it will find differences in quality flash in and out. Considering the number of components used to put this film together, the 1080p is really quite breathtaking. The 7.1 channel audio is equally adept with good dialogue separation and a heavy dynamic bass track.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is offered in a 2.4:1 widescreen aspect ratio, and as mentioned before in 1080p resolution. The primary audio track is DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 French and Spanish. The movie itself does run about 160 minutes and the majority of the extras are also presented in high definition. While Peter Jackson takes the most liberties with the source material in The Desolation of Smaug, his efforts should prove successful enough to pique everyone’s interest in the ending. If you’re a fan of Jackson’s treatment of Tolkien’s work, there’s no reason not to pick this up right away.
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