The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Blu-ray)

April 9, 2014 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

The journey continues in this second chapter of the hobbit along with those lovable (yet sometimes annoying) dwarfs. After the first part of this trilogy, An unexpected journey nearly bored me to tears, I actively avoided this second chapter in theaters for fear of the same thing. I just couldn’t bear another “Journey” to the theater. I figured this chapter would probably work better at home with the wonderful invention of the pause button on remote controls. OK I’ll stop, but in all fairness let’s not forget that middle chapters often fall into that uncomfortable middle zone that simply bridges the first and third film. This is a problem I had with the recent sequel to Hunger Games sequel. Second chapters rarely stand on their own when viewed in hindsight. This chapter, The Desolation of Smaug at least hits the ground running, so to speak. All of the familiar faces are here and even a few surprises along the way. Orlando Bloom shows up as Legolas and Ian Mckellen returns as Gandalf. Once again Martin Freeman leads the way as Bilbo Baggins. He posses the magical ring and continues along with the others to reclaim their homeland from Smaug (Voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). They are fighting against the orcs. I won’t go through the long list of characters and their motivations as that would be quite a task for only a casual (I use that word loosely) fan and it would prove mundane.

Director Peter Jackson must’ve heard the cries from fans of the previous chapter as this does mark an improvement in many ways. For one thing; it’s paced much faster than the previous journey and does away with the lighter tone as well. It still comes with its share of problems, however. It’s still too long and drawn out and becomes repetitive after a while. The action is involving and in terms of visuals alone, the film is quite stunning. Bilbo does take a bit of a backseat here to the other characters and things build nicely as the climax has them battling the dragon, Smaug. I can’t say that this film won me over, but it is an improvement over the previous chapter and has more than enough action to keep things interesting. Fans should know by now that an extended cut is all but guaranteed to come out closer to the theatrical release of the third chapter, The Hobbit: There and Back Again. I feel perfectly fine with the theatrical cut, but I’m sure more die-hard fans will want to have that version as well.

Video: How’s it look?

Out of all the Blu-ray’s that came out last year, we ranked The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as the best Blu-ray of the year. Sporting reference-quality audio and video, there was simply nothing wrong with the transfer. To say the bar was set high with this second installment is somewhat of an understatement and Warner has once again delivered the goods with The Desolation of Smaug. Simply put, there’s nothing wrong with this image. Even at 161 minutes, every frame looks flawless. The detail is immaculate, the color palette though dark, has no signs of compression errors. Contrast is bold and solid and flesh tones (and monster tones) look amazing. I could go on, but there’s no need – you’ll know what to expect when you pop this in the player.

Audio: How’s it sound?

How many speakers are in your system?  7? 9? More?  Doesn’t matter – you’ll use them all.  Vocals are sharp and strong, but that’s just the beginning when it comes to this robust DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack.  While the front stage is a heavy, the surrounds are almost constantly churning out something. The LFE are used in several scenes, sometimes offering up the (middle)earth-shattering effects.  As with its predecessor, there’s simply nothing wrong with this soundtrack and it delivers on every level.  I can guarantee that viewers will not be disappointed with this.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Warner will no doubt milk this like they’ve done with, well, all of the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter films. So we’ll get a more robust version later this year with supplements galore – this is just to tide us over until then.

DVD Extras

  • New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 2 – Running a scant 7 minutes, we get some more views of the picturesque landscape that was home to the Hobbit films.

Blu-ray Exclusives Extras

  • Peter Jackson Invites You to the Set – The most lengthly supplement clocks in around 40 minutes and features tons of behind the scenes footage. We get some bits from the cast and crew and see more along the lines of a “day in the life” of Jackson and crew.
  • Live Event: In the Cutting Room – A Q & A session shot in 2013 with Jackson as he gives us a tour of the production studio.
  • Production Videos – Four in all and the first three are more technical in nature with the final one showcasing Howard Shore’s score.
  • Music Videos – “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran
  • Trailer
  • DVD/UltraViolet Copy

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