With the next instalment of The Hobbit due in cinemas next month, what better time is there to refresh your memory (and have some more added to it), with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition, due out on DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and digital download on Monday 3rd Novemeber 2014.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventure of Bilbo (Martin Freeman), the titular ‘person of diminutive stature’, as he journeys with thirteen slightly taller and rather more hirsute gentlemen, and one much taller, more magical and hirsute gentlemen (these films do have a lot of hair!), on an epic quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.
Having survived the beginning of their unexpected journey, the Company travels East, encountering along the way skin-changer Beorn (Luke Evans) and a swarm of giant Spiders in the treacherous forest of Mirkwood. After escaping capture by the dangerous Wood-elves, the Dwarves journey to Lake-town, and finally to the Lonely Mountain itself, where they must face the greatest danger of all–a creature more terrifying than any other; one which will test not only the depth of their courage but the limits of their friendship and the wisdom of the journey itself – The Dragon Smaug.
Whilst Peter Jackson’s take on The Hobbit might make some Tolkien purists ‘tsk’ and reel back in horror, I’m not one of those people. Jackson has been so invested in Tolkien’s world and mythology for so long now, the fact that he introduces LotR and entirely new characters, or plays with the plot, is done with such care and attention that they blend seamlessly into the narrative. These additions add some much needed drama and action, and help flesh out the world surrounding the event’s of the Company, without taking away from the main story – Bilbo’s first encounter with Smaug (expertly voiced by Freeman’s Sherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch).
This newly cut version of the film has an additional 25 mins of footage over the theatrical release, along with over 9 hours of extras about the making of the movie. The extra minutes are sprinkled throughout the film, with an new line here, or an longer shot there. However, there are a couple of more noticeable extended sequences in the house of Beorn, some additional bits between the Master of Lake Town (Stephen Fry) and his slimy sidekick Alfrid (Ryan Gage), and more Smaug towards the end. I’m not sure how much these really add to the story overall, but I’m never going to complain about more Fry or Cumberbatch. ;)
The extras are, once again, a massive treat for fans of Jackson’s Middle Earth movies, covering every aspect of the process they go through to make the films. From creating two exact copies of a set, with one a third bigger so things are in scale for the dwarves, to the painstaking job of manually tracking dots on the ‘mo-cap’ suits, or the practical joking and off camera antics. The extras allow you to see how much love and attention go into making Middle Earth come to life, and give you a taste of what it was like to be on the set, warts and all.
The transfer of the film itself is beautifully done. Like the first instalment, it was shot at 64 fps, but scales down perfectly well into standard frame rate, with the movement, tones and colour as sharp as ever. The 3D version is a beautiful as you could hope for, and the 2D loses nothing in translation.
If you’re not excited enough already for the final chapter of The Hobbit next month, then this release should send you over the top.
9/10 – A superb version of a great movie.