04 November 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition Is Now In Stores! (Review)

May contain spoilers  
All images & review copy courtesy of Warner Bros.

The extended edition of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is out on DVD, Blu-ray™,  and Blu-ray 3D™ today! Featuring an additional 25 minutes of footage and more than nine hours of new special features (including commentary with director Peter Jackson, The AppendicesThe Appendices Parts IX and X, and New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth – Part 2), this edition is a must-have for any Hobbit fan.

While my opinion of the Hobbit films is still rather mixed (I have enjoyed them as standalone films, but not so much as adaptations), I found I enjoyed – for the most part – the extended edition of The Desolation of Smaug. As per usual, Peter Jackson's extras come in small pieces here and there as well as in wholly new scenes. Whatever their form, the extra footage adds more depth to a few characters and situations within the film, hearkening back to Tolkien's original story and enhancing the overall narrative.

One of my favourite scenes was the introduction of the Dwarves to Beorn. Where his presence in the theatrical cut was very limited, almost to the point of being unnecessary altogether, his character in the extended version is deeper and more in keeping with Tolkien's distrustful skin-changer. When he speaks to Gandalf as the Company prepares to depart for Mirkwood, it is clear that he is not just a skin-changer, but instead a being connected more deeply to Middle-earth and fully aware of the growing darkness; hence his willingness to help those he distrusts. Though brief, this conversation adds a heightened sense of dread – not just to the forest but to the film as a whole – which is something I thought was lacking in the theatrical cut. 

The extended Mirkwood scenes are another important inclusion, in my opinion. The Company's journey through the forest was so fast-paced in the theatrical cut that it hardly felt like they had spent any time there at all. Their exposure to the forest's enchanted waters and their ensuing drowsiness helps to prolong the scene and create the illusion that they have been there for an increasingly long time.

Not found in Tolkien's The Hobbit, but still a welcome addition to the story, is Gandalf's encounter with Thráin. I think my favourite scenes in the Hobbit films are those in Dol Guldur: Peter Jackson and his team accurately and appropriately portray the darkness that is overtaking Mirkwood. When Gandalf finds Thráin, he is initially under the Enemy's hold; when he comes to, he is still deeply disturbed by whatever he has endured in the fortress of the Necromancer, but his focus remains on his son, Thorin. For a moment or two, we all probably hope for a father-son reunion – that is, until the Necromancer intervenes and reclaims Thráin.

The only characters to not benefit from the extra material are Alfrid and the Master of Lake Town. While we are given more of a glimpse into just how greedy and materialistic the two characters are, neither of them are in any way likeable – or even pitiable. To see an actor as amazing as Stephen Fry reduced to a character almost as looney and repulsive as The Lord of the Rings films' Denethor is a real shame. There is little room left for sympathy if and when the time comes (spoiler alert!) when the Master succumbs to the dragon-sickness and ultimately dies of starvation after being abandoned by his friends and followers. 

Overall, I enjoyed the extended cut much more than the theatrical. The extra scenes provided more character and setting development, and were engaging enough that the additional runtime is barely noticeable. While I have not yet watched any of the behind the scenes footage, I am looking forward to doing that over the next few days!


For more details on the extended edition, please view the press release I posted back in August!

Will you be picking up a copy of The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition (or have you already)? Leave a comment and let me know why/why not!

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