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"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

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Synopsis

Part Two of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy continues with Thorin Oakenshield’s quest to reclaim the desolated Dwarf kingdom of Erabor. With him are 13 other Dwarves and one Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo has already found the Ring of Power and uses it to great benefit as he helps his Dwarf comrades evade murdering Orcs, paranoid Elves, and hungry giant spiders. The band meets a strange man named Bard who smuggles them into a town near Erabor.

The Dwarves finally make it to the secret entrance into Lonely Mountain where Bilbo is sent in alone to retrieve the Arkenstone, Thorin’s royal legacy. In the ensuing battle, the dragon Smaug is awakened. Pursuing the Dwarves and Bilbo, he frees himself from the mountain and heads towards Lake-town. And we are left hanging until Part Three!

Specifications

  • MGM/New Line Cinema
  • 2013, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hrs 41 mins
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: AVC
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master
  • Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage
  • Directed by: Peter Jackson
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Only Peter Jackson can spend three long films to tell the tale of a medium-sized novel. After watching this and Part One, I think he’s more interested in creating Middle-Earth on screen than actually telling the story. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is very entertaining and I enjoyed watching it, as I have all his Tolkien films. Jackson is a master at drawing the viewer in to the point where you almost don’t perceive the passage of time; until you discover the sun has set while you were in your theater! I loved the production design and how easily I could tell the scale of all the characters. I’m still impressed by how Hobbits and Dwarves, though played by normal humans, appear so short compared to Men and other creatures. And the CGI constructs like Orcs or Spiders are truly a sight to behold.

Technical

The image is nearly reference-quality, and there is no real fault with the transfer. I just found there was a little too much smoothness in many faces. The Elves for instance always have a subtle glow about them but that means there is no texture or dimension in their skin at all. Then you cut to Gandalf and you can see Ian McKellen’s every pore and wrinkle. It just seemed a tad inconsistent, therefore the one-half star deduction.

The sound is super-detailed and crisp but I felt it was a tad polite. The battle scenes were fairly intense but not as bombastic as they might have been. The best part is the lush musical score utilizing a full orchestra; kudos to Howard Shore for another triumph. Your surrounds will get a fair amount of use but the sub doesn’t really wake up until the scenes with Smaug. Then Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice takes on a new definition of basso profundo.

Extras

Bonus features are light for such a blockbuster film. All you get is a behind-the-scenes documentary with Peter Jackson, a few production shorts, and a seven-minute featurette about the New Zealand location used to shoot the movie.