The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Blu-ray 3D+2D+DVD+UV Digital HD (2013)Cast: Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Orlando Bloom Directed by: Peter Jackson Studio: MGM/Warner Brothers Home Entertainment [4/8/14] (4 discs) Video: 2.40:1 anamorphic/enhanced 1080p HD 3D Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HD MA; French, Spanish, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese Extras: (3D Blu-ray): “New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 2” featurette; Trailers for “An Unexpected Journey” and “The Desolation of Smaug”. (2D Blu-ray): “Peter Jackson Invites You to the Set” two-part featurette; “New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 2” featurette; “Live Event: In the Cutting Room” featurette; Production videos; “I See Fire” music video by Ed Sheeran; Trailers and previews; DVD copy; UltraViolet digital copy Length: 161 minutes Movie Rating: ****1/2 3D Video Rating: ***** 2D Video Rating: ***** Audio Rating: *****
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the second film in The Hobbit trilogy. Picking up where An Unexpected Journey left off, hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) joins wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan), and thirteen dwarves (led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), in an effort to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. [Strange because it opens with a meeting of Gandalf and Thorin in a tavern as though they had never met before…Ed.] As the group continues East in their travels, they encounter a skin changer called Beorn, giant Spiders in the Mirkwood forest, more Orcs, and Wood-elves before finally reaching the Lonely Mountain. Here they face their greatest challenge to date, the terrifying dragon, Smaug.
Purists may be disappointed that director Peter Jackson has strayed from J.R.R. Tolkien’s book by altering characters and key events for the sake of making The Desolation of Smaug a bigger and grander movie. While I can certainly appreciate the purists’ point of view, I have no issue with the changes and I thoroughly enjoyed this film. There is more action in this sequel than was in An Unexpected Journey, and the injection of some humorous moments is a welcome touch. The film ends on a cliffhanger which leaves me eager to see the final chapter: There and Back Again which will be in theaters in December of this year. With reference-quality audio and video, along with over two hours of special features, this release is easy to recommend. My only caveat is that an extended edition will be available in the future, so plan accordingly if you don’t intend to purchase both releases. Very highly recommended!
The overall high-definition video quality of the 2D Blu-ray presentation is excellent. Images are crisp with exquisite detail. Black levels are deep and dark throughout the movie. On the whole, this is a much darker picture in terms of color palette than An Unexpected Journey, but colors remain accurate with appropriately-saturated hues. Picture defect mastering is perfect with no major flaws or compression artifacts. The 3D video was shot in native 3D. Colors and black levels are on the same level as the 2D version. Separation, dimensionality and depth of the 3D image are superb. There are several pop-out effects that appear to extend beyond the screen (such as spiders, swords, bees, and arrows), but the majority of the 3D effects are inward-looking rather than outward-extending.
The overall audio quality is also excellent on the English DTS HD-MA 7.1 track. The soundtrack is dynamic, powerful and makes full use of all discrete channels. Dialogue is natural sounding, intelligible and properly positioned among the forward soundstage. The surround channels are actively employed for the sound effects and Howard Shore music score, plus include multiple split rear effects and directional pans. The low frequency effects channel is powerful and has plenty of rumble.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is compatible with the “D-BOX” Motion Code™ System, meaning that if you have the necessary D-BOX equipment, your movie viewing experience will be enhanced by adding both motion and vibration to your chosen seating. This is a wonderful D-BOX movie. Motion and vibration effects are present throughout the film, but noticeably more so in the second half of the movie. The variety of impacts range from very subtle to potent. My particular favorite D-BOX moments are: (1) the dwarves’ barrel escape down the river (there is plenty of four-axis D-BOX movement that synched well with the river rapids; (2) Gandalf’s battle with Sauron (powerful vibration nicely mimicked the force of the competing good versus evil spells); and (3) the many impacts that are felt from the climatic battle sequence within The Lonely Mountain between Smaug, and Bilbo and the dwarves. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a must-experience D-BOX movie.
—Calvin Harding Jr.