The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Blu-ray Review
What’s It About? Picking up right where An Unexpected Journey ended, timid Hobbit Bilbo and the company of dwarves continue their quest to Erebor where they hope to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the clutches of the Dragon, Smaug.
Along the way they encounter shape-shifter Beorn, some big-ass spiders and a group of elves (one of whom is a familiar face to the audience). Meanwhile, Gandalf continues to worry about strange rumours of goings-on in Dol Guldor.
Verdict: Let’s be honest, everyone was a little disappointed by Journey which promised so much. This time, director Peter Jackson is close to his Lord of the Rings best, crafting an epic adventure which draws you in over the 161-minute running time. It helps a lot that the story really focuses on the key characters, meaning some of the more peripheral dwarves fall by the wayside – some barely even speaking during the film. But that does give our hero Bilbo (Martin Freeman) a chance to shine, and Freeman really takes Bilbo on a journey in this film as he begins to find his courage and become the Hobbit that Gandalf and the rest of us know he can be. The scene where Bilbo thinks he’s lost the ring particularly stands out – each emotion flickering across Bilbo’s face in a 30-second sequence, showing Jackson’s insistence that Freeman was the right man for the role was entirely justified.
The big talking point in Smaug is the writers’ decision to include Legolas (who never appears in the book) and introduce new character (gasp), she-Elf, Tauriel. Are they needed? Well, it’s always fun to see Legolas doing his super-elf thing, but I’m not sure the ‘Tauriel has feelings for Kili’ plot line really works. We’ll see what happens with that in There And Back Again.
Smaug isn’t all fighting-spiders-that-are-as-big-as-your-house or shadowy Necromancers, there’s a lot of fun and humour here too. The stand-out scene of the whole film is the dwarves’ escape from Mirkwood in barrels. It’s a roller-coaster sequence with the camera rolling around just as much as Bombur in his snug barrel. Interestingly the sequence was put together by Andy Serkis, who worked as Jackson’s 2nd Assistant Director on the films (as well as returning as Gollum). The other light relief comes from Stephen Fry who joins the cast as the unctuous Master of Dale. Oozing faux-sincerity and self-importance, Fry feels like perfect casting.
And what of the desolator himself, Smaug? We always knew he’d be a feat of Weta VFX brilliance and we were right. After glimpses of the Worm in the trailers, Smaug The Magnificent is revealed in all his glory – a fire-breathing monster straight out of Bilbo (and Jackson’s) nightmares. Blessed with a metaphorical silver tongue, and voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, Smaug has some of the best lines in the film – not least the final ‘I am fire…I am death’, which leaves a shudder running down the viewer’s spine as the final credits role.
Extras: As well as the production videos posted online during the lead-up to the film’s theatrical release, Smaug also features a number of behind-the-scenes production videos following the cast and crew from day break to sundown (and beyond). They’re a nice glimpse at some of the fun the cast had during production including Stephen Hunter ‘dramatically recreating’ how he used the toilet whilst in full Bombur costume. We’re also given a behind-the-scenes tour of Jackson’s offices including his collection of classic film posters – which includes a nice nod to his long-planned dream to remake the Dam Busters. The extras also include a 30-minute film on how the filmmakers made full use of the amazing New Zealand scenery plus Martin Freeman’s own advert for the country’s tourist board. Other extras include the special webcast for fans that took place in March 2013, how the film was scored, trailers and a music video for Ed Sheeran’s title song.
Final Words: A return to form for director Jackson, Smaug is more than just the ‘middle-film’ of the trilogy. It thrills and scares in equal measure and takes the viewer deeper into the world of Middle Earth. It left me counting down the days until There And Back Again.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is out on DVD and Blu-ray on 7 April 2014.
Check out Flicks And The City’s video of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug world premiere in Berlin: