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on September 24, 2014
The extended edition for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug will contain 25 minutes of new scenes, in contrast with An Unexpected Journey's 13 minutes. It also has over 9 hours of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, detailing the monumental task of bringing the incredible world of Middle Earth to the screen. Here is some stuff we'll see in the Extended Edition:

1. A LOT MORE OF DOL GULDUR. Specifically, we get to meet Thrain, Thorin's mad father. A sad twisted wreck of a dwarf, he reveals dark truths about the Necromancer (and hey, great performance!). The makeup and prosthetic effects for Thrain are just amazing. Wait till you see it. Richard Armitage also promises glimpses of a vast, bloody battle in Moria.

2. A LOT MORE OF MIRKWOOD. I was surprised and pleased to learn that two scenes from the book were actually filmed: Bilbo, Thorin and company crossing a slimy, enchanted river in Mirkwood. Contains some humor, some amazing sets, some amazing Martin Freeman acting, and a little bit of dark magic. Another sad scene contains a beautiful stag and Dwarvish target practice.

3. MORE OF BEORN'S HOUSE. And we know what that means: more of that glorious New Zealand landscape that we all love. All we know is that we see Beorn with big muscles and a bigger axe. We also get to see a whimsical scene ripped straight from Tolkien's pages, as Gandalf introduces the 13 dwarves and 1 hobbit in his care.

4. BEORN AND GANDALF. Beorn has a conversation with Gandalf about the dangers that lie ahead of the Company.

5. MORE THRANDUIL - SPECIAL FEATURES. Peter Jackson smiles upon us and gives us more Thranduil, including a conversation between father and son, and the dwarves, paraded in front of his mighty throne. Anticipate some elvish hubris and the bitemarks from Lee Pace's scenery-chewing. Note that the Thranduil scenes aren't in the Extended Edition, but in the Special Features. For more from that regal and bitter Elvenking, wait for Battle of the Five Armies.

6. MORE OF THE LONELY MOUNTAIN. The Lonely Mountain gets less lonely as Bilbo and Company explore the ruins of Smaug's desolation - Dale. Some awesome cinematography I can't believe we missed!

7. STEPHEN FRY, SCENERY CHEWER. Stephen Fry promised us last year that he would eat testicles in The Hobbit. He fulfills that promise. At the very least, he shows what a scheming conniver he is, expressing his hopes that "Old Smaug dines on dwarf for a day or two..." Poor Master of Laketown...

8. MORE EVIL ORC ARMIES. Honestly, who doesn't want to see more shots of an orc army marching to doom and a red dawn? Even if its just two or three shots, this filled me with sheer awe!

9. "THE WORLD OF MEN". Most of Laketown was a stunningly detailed set built for real, and we get to see more of the workings and tradings and the men that live there, through the eyes of a hobbit very far from home... Including a new chase scene never before seen! We also see the orcs attack the men of Laketown.
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on February 26, 2014
I have read absolutely everything that JRR Tolkien has ever written, and consider myself a Tolkien fanatic. This is my perspective on The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. Please stick with me to the end, and I'll try not to lose you. Let's begin. So...if The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was Peter Jackson giving the purists their dues with a relatively straightforward and book-faithful film, then THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is Peter Jackson saying: "You've had your fun. Now stand back and watch what I can do."

And the ride he takes us on is absolutely exhilarating. SMAUG is darker, moodier, and more mature than any Middle Earth film we've seen thus far. Evil hangs over our heroes like a black pall (literally). Beset on all sides by revenge-seeking orcs, wargs, terrifying spiders, pale creepy-crawlies, double-crossing elves, treacherous humans, a growing Evil in a ruined Elvish citadel, and a huge, vain, fire-breathing dragon...both the heroes and the audience are plunged into a terrifyingly new world. And there's a lot of new stuff to feast your eyes on along the way.

Castwise, Tauriel is a welcome female addition to the gang, played with charisma and spunk by Evangeline Lilly.Lee Pace's regal and scheming elf-king Thranduil is absolutely astounding, delivering a tour-de-force in a few minutes of screentime. Luke Evans could not be better as Bard, simultaneously grim and noble. But of course, the real draw here is Benedict Cumberbatch, wearing two very villainous hats. The first is as the Necromancer, who, in addition to manifesting himself as an inkblot, is really quite scary. And the second...is the reason that you came here in the first place: Smaug. The Terrible. Smaug just so happens to be the greatest dragon ever! He is everything I wanted him to be and more: vain, seductive, manipulative, terrifying, and of course, absolutely huge. I'd just like to congratulate Cumberbatch and the conceptual crew on his tremendous design.

Our returning cast is also fantastic. Richard Armitage's Thorin Oakenshield is electrifying, with gravitas and stage presence enough for a character twice his stature. His grave eyes and deep voice tell of a lifetime of war and sorrow, and every line he speaks could be delivered by a king. Martin Freeman continues to be perfect as Bilbo, and Ian McKellen's Gandalf is just as crusty and warm as you remember him. Oh, and Legolas? Legolas is awesome. Like, web-swinging, spider-slaying, arrow-shooting, orc-killing awesome!

Speaking of orc-killing, The Desolation of Smaug has, in THIS Tolkienian's perspective, the best action scene of the year: the barrels. The breathless, crazy, confusing, insane three-way-battle sequence (don't tease me for it) had me LITERALLY crying with sheer unadulterated glee! The rest of the action, including a hard-hitting spider attack, and a sprawling, rather one-sided battle between 10 dwarves, a hobbit, and a dragon shows that Jackson has absolutely outdone himself!

Well, now for the cons. If Desolation of Smaug has a con, it's that it really, really wants to keep moving to newer, darker territories, so whenever it slows down it feels, well...like an intermission between set-pieces. And the ending will divide the audience: you'll either love the breathless cliffhanger, or hate that you have to wait another year to find out what happens! And as a Tolkien purist, I have to address the fact of accuracy. SMAUG really isn't that accurate to the books. But you know what - I actually like that! I enjoy having absolutely NO IDEA what Peter Jackson has cooked up next. God knows what he's got cooked up for Part Three!

So in conclusion, The Desolation of Smaug is a terrific ride. Filled with amazing action, excellent performances, and the requisite gorgeous New Zealand landscape shots and Howard Shore score, SMAUG is everything I hoped for and more. My rating? Five Kings Under the Mountain - an absolute must-see! I hope you've enjoyed my (completely subjective) perspective on the film. Drop a line in the comments to tell me what you thought.

P.S. Remember that the like/dislike buttons are not for saying whether or not you disagreed with the reviewer, but for whether the review was helpful in your decision to purchase the film. If this review was helpful to you, please give it a like. Cheers!
P.P.S. Check out this same Tolkinian's perspective on The Battle of the Five Armies + BOFA: The Extended Edition: http://www.amazon.com/review/R332GZMMJ79MM4/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
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on July 21, 2014
I do have some misgivings about The Hobbit being split into three parts, as I'm sure many others do too. If it needed to be split at all, two parts would have done just fine, as the book is also divided into two parts. Still, I can't complain with most of what I've seen. Visually and in terms of spectacle, Peter Jackson continues to outdo himself with every successive film. Still, that doesn't change the fact that these movies have been padded with extra material in an effort to tie them more strongly to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, what Peter Jackson has given us is just fine and quite enjoyable. Riveting even.

This film begins a year before Bilbo and the company start off on their journey at a meeting between Thorin Oakenshield and Gandalf. While this might have been more at home in the previous installment, it does add character depth and clarifies the motivation behind wanting to take back the mountain. The film then proceeds to continue where the last one left off. On their way to the mountain, they encounter all manner of creatures, from giant spiders and orcs, to elves and humans. At times it feels a little episodic, with the company going from one setpiece to another, but the overall narrative thrust and ultimate goal keep the story going along at a nice pace.

If there's one major complaint I have, and not just with this installment, it's that Peter Jackson has grown very reliant on CGI to augment, and in other cases completely replace practical effects. In no case is this more apparent as in the orcs, which are largely CGI. They worked very well in the Lord of the Rings as actual people with makeup, and I don't understand why they couldn't have continued that way in this Hobbit trilogy. Still, I digress slightly. There were also moments where it was clear that they were on sets. It took a little bit out of the magic of it all, but I was still wowed by the depth, breadth and level of detail in the landscapes. Also, for a movie with a lot of walking and talking, the action, when it came, served its purpose well. I kind of wish I had seen this in theaters for the sheer spectacle of it all. Two sequences that stand out in particular were a barrel escape from the elves, while being attacked by orcs, and the moment when the company finally meets Smaug. These two sequences stand out as being among the best in the trilogy so far, full of action and tension.

Acting-wise, everyone gives a great performance, although I still can't really distinguish between most of the dwarfs. I'll also give major props to Benedict Cumberbatch for some outstanding voice work as Smaug. However, there were also a couple of small roles, one in particular (which I won't spoil) which kind of took me out of the movie. One final positive I'll mention is the incredible (as usual) score by Howard Shore. It really helps to set and maintain the epic tone of the film. Overall, while not perfect, THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG is a stellar production of a classic story (or at least part of one) and sets up the finale quite nicely. Any serious film fan should want to see this, and I highly recommend watching it.
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on December 2, 2014
This is a review of the (3) disc Blu-Ray extended edition of The Hobbit part 2: The Desolation of Smaug, which finally came out a few weeks ago, and I just finished watching today. There's also one of those "ultraviolet" vouchers you can use to view it on other devices. Keep in mind, at pretty much the same time there was also released a FIVE disc version containing extended Desolation of Smaug in 3-D (2 discs), extended Desolation of Smaug "normal" Blu-Ray (one disc), and the same 2 discs of Appendices called 9 and 10.

I've had so many versions of Lord of the Rings, and now the Hobbit, that I kinda lost track of the numbering for these appendices. I think the way it ends up, with the extended edition of Lord of the Rings, movie 1 had appendices 1 and 2, movie 2 had 3 and 4, movie 3 had 5 and 6, and with the extended first film of The Hobbit had 7 and 8, which gives us 9 and 10 with Hobbit film 2.

As the manufacturer's review and dust jacket and other reviews all say, the extended edition of the film itself adds 25 minutes-for a total of 3 hours 6 minutes for the movie. There's also a very short "filming in New Zealand" feature, only 7 minutes long, which recaps some of the spectacularly beautiful exterior locations they used in Desolation of Smaug (clearly Paradise, where they located Beorn's house, must hands-down be the most beautiful, but the river which they used for barrel-ride scenery in my opinion would be a second.

As for the extra 25 minutes: without dwelling on them at length, I would say that while not all of it may be quite from the books, it was all very well-done and well-integrated with the rest of the film, and might help someone who never read all the books (that is, both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings) understand a little better what is going on in the story.

As for the Appendices 9 and 10, this is what is really new to the extended version. One is 5 hours total, and the other is 5 hours 6 minutes. Adding those, plus the movie, plus the short-short gives us a massive 13 hrs 19 minutes of viewing time. And I must say, I enjoyed virtually every minute of it (though that's why I spent about a week getting through it all. The Appendices to this film are a very extensive "making-of", but not the kind of "making of" that you so often see in other films, half of which consists of clips of the movie itself, and the other half consisting of the director and actors and cinematographer etc. all congratulating themselves on what a great job they did. No, no, no, this was (in typical Peter Jackson style), a mixture of him and members of his crew showing us how they tackled filming various scenes, interspersed with snippets of casting interviews and the actors talking about how they got selected, interspersed with the actors goofing off with each other on-set in between takes, and sometimes with the actors giving Jackson a hard time (or him getting them back, often as he talks to us, the audience). I haven't been in the film business but it seems an open secret that often actors HATE directors (and vice versa) for a variety of reasons: often it's because the director has a very strict vision of what he wants to see in the film and won't tolerate any deviation from what he's trying to get, even if the actors don't understand exactly what that is. On the other extreme are directors (especially comedy movies with great comedians) who let them ad-lib as much as they want, and often use whatever parts they like the best. Or (another type of director actors don't much care for) the ones who are very into the technology of the filmmaking, but lousy at giving actors explanations of what they want from them in a scene. Jackson clearly has (almost always) clear visions of what he wants to see, but he also involves the actors in the process, particularly in how they deliver their lines. Which leads to what I suspect would be the one universal complaint the actors would have, if they had to pick any complaint about working in these films: SO MANY TAKES. The appendices (long as they are) only hint at how many takes are actually done for many scenes, but he'll do it over and over again until he finds one performance he feels is perfect (or synthesizes pieces from several takes into the perfect sequence). And if there's one thing I think the actors, the crew and we audiences alike can all admire about Jackson is his absolutely incredible attention to details. So many fine details appear in many of his sets---unfortunately stuff the audience will never even SEE (except you get to see some of it in these appendices) but which, in the "real" sets, are all there to make the actors feel they're in a real middle-earth world. There are many quite memorable moments in these appendices: Steven Colbert and his family visiting and all being put into the move; Ian McKellon fooling Peter Jackson; Jackson's disastrous attempt at a cameo appearance in Laketown; the unbelievable insanity of the rush to produce the final 20 minutes of the film (which were delivered late in the end); the problems of converting a 2-film plan into a 3-film plan; some erudite discussions by scholars of the derivation of some of Tolkien's ideas which first appear in the Hobbit, and so much more. The appendices are alternately fascinating, funny, touching, enlightening, but almost always great watching for anyone who enjoys the movie.

Yes there are always problems turning books into movies (typified by complaints I think I've heard 1,000 times "the book was SO MUCH BETTER"). I read the books, I imagined the scenes myself, and I've watched the movies (except the final Hobbit film). All 3 are excellent. Jackson's vision of Middle-Earth is superb. Even where you find that some actor isn't quite how you pictured them, or some detail in the book was left out, or some dialog in the film was added, as far as I'm concerned it all produces the effect of bringing the books to the screen in a way which nobody else could ever do. These will, I think, remain the definitive film versions of both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. When I first heard that little book, the Hobbit, was to be 3 whole films, my reaction was "NO WAY!" After watching just the first film, that had already changed to, "Way!" Now, before even seeing it, I'm already sad that the third Hobbit film is probably the last of Tolkien we'll see directed by Jackson and with this cast. Almost everyone already knows whether they like or don't like The Hobbit. If you do like it, do yourself a favor and get the extended editions of all 3 films.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon December 16, 2013
Peter Jackson's second installment of the Hobbit trilogy is a nice step up from the somewhat disappointing "An Unexpected Journey." The film is still a bit long and would have been helped with crisper editing, but it is still full of exciting action sequences. After a brief prequel which shows how and why Gandalf (Ian McKellen) comes to meet with Thorin (Richard Armitage), the story picks up where "Journey" ends.

The dozen Dwarves led by Thorin, Gandalf and the Hobbit recruit, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) continue their journey toward reclaiming their Lonely Mountain home. The hollowed mountain is now occupied by Smaug, a fierce dragon who sleeps under mountains of gold. With the ever present Orcs always on their tale, the Dwarves must pass through a barren forest that is also the home of the Elves. The Dwarves and the Elves consider themselves enemies as the Elves retreated years earlier rather that help the Dwarves fight Smaug. The Dwarves encounter a nest of giant spiders before being captured by the Elves. Their capture is short lived however thanks to Bilbo's ingenuity and of course "Precious" the gold ring that he possesses.

Evangeline Lilly enters the story as Tauriel, an Elven warrior and potential love interest for Legolas (returning Orlando Bloom). Tauriel, however becomes smitten with Kili (Aidan Turner), one of the Dwarves. As she says, "he seems tall for a Dwarf." There is an intense, if overly long, action sequence during this section where Legolas and Tauriel fight with the Dwarves against the marauding Orcs. I've come to the conclusion that as ominous and fierce as the Orcs appear they are only at their best against children and old men and women. They couldn't kill a Dwarf or an Elf unless they were unarmed.

Eventually, our heroes make their way to Lake-town which sits near the Lonely Mountain. This is a village that Smaug desolated after driving out the Dwarves. With help from newcomer Girion (Luke Evans), the Dwarves obtain weapons and make their way to the mountain and their confrontation with the sleeping Smaug. I've always liked dragons and Jackson and his crew have concocted a good one. Voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch (he also does the Necromancer), Smaug and Bilbo have some great scenes. Freeman shows his acting chops here. Watch his facial expressions as he interacts with the dragon. The film is beautifully shot and the fantasy world of Tolkien looks magnificent. At times, I thought the first installment was just a little too CGI. Lilly and Evans are nice additions and give the story a bit of emotional drama. I'm looking forward to the concluding episode.

(BLU RAY 3-D UPDATE)

This is another look at the second chapter of "The Hobbit" trilogy which will conclude in December, 2014. I was anxious to see it again, this time on Blu ray 3-D. I was impressed enough with the 3-D ness of the picture to raise the rating half a star. And as is often the case, I liked the film better the second time around. For someone not immersed in the books and intricate details, a second viewing makes things a little clearer. The overall picture is impressive even in 2-D.

The 3-D version is spread out over 2 discs. The video resolution is 1080p and the film maintains the original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This version runs 161 minutes. The film as a whole runs darker, both in theme and visuals, from the original "Unexpected Journey." Still the black levels are excellent, the colors are beautiful and the detail is crisp and nicely focused. I was very impressed with the 3-D version. Rare are those shots I hate. The ones seemingly shot over the shoulder of one of the out of focus characters in the foreground. Instead with get luxurious longs shots of the forest, the river and the castles provide depth to the scenes. I'm not usually a big fan of 3D, but this is one of the best I've seen. The audio includes a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. It is excellent throughout although I did think the deep bass (LFE .1) was lacking without adjusting by subs. Otherwise, the surrounds were active constantly. The whole experience was very convincing. Well done. Here are the extras:

*Peter Jackson Invites You to the Set (HD, 41 minutes): Two parts
*Production Videos (HD, 37 minutes): Four production featurettes are included.
*Live Event: In the Cutting Room (HD, 38 minutes)
*New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 2 (HD, 7 minutes)
*Trailers & Previews (HD, 12 minutes)
*Music Video (HD, 2 minutes): "I See Fire" by Ed Sheeran.
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on February 1, 2015
There are two types of people: those who think that Tolkien fantasy should be limited to a reasonable amount of your life (or none of your life) and those who cannot conceive of a universe in which there is too much Tolkien. If you're part of the latter, then I'm preaching to the choir. If you're of the former lot, then you wouldn't read this review and so I'll not waste time addressing you any more.

Does this film stay true to the original work? Of course not! Does this film give you hours of elf-y ork-y fantasy bliss? Heavens yes! I for one love the original Tolkien, and I love these films which are not true to the spirit or letter of the books. Go re-read the books - they are wonderful! Watch this endless beautiful fantasy. It's very different and very wonderful too. The books are full of wit. The films lack wit, but they offer a visual masterpiece, which is a tremendous thing. Tolkein's Gandolf and Bilbo were characters full of terrific British cleverness and luck. Kippling, and Dahl and Milne taught us to love this thing that Tolkien gave us too and it is a thing of books...not a thing of film. If film is our modern theater then let these movies be judged as such and in that court they are great works. Enjoy this three hour indulgence of theater and art. Also...go re-read the books they are great too.
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on October 3, 2017
Arrived fast, good movie. I try to watch the lotr and hobbit movies and not think of them as Tolkien works, just new movies of their own which makes me like them more. They took serious liberties editing out great parts, as well as adding in things that were not in the story line ever. I was irritated after the first hobbit movie, but tried going in from there on thinking of them as some new random fantasy movie instead of a butcher job of a classic story I grew up loving. They are well done and well acted, just try to enjoy them as something new, as they are no where close to the story line.
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on March 21, 2017
A very impressive sequel to the first film of the prequel Hobbit trilogy that makes space for a lot of action and the incredible entry of Smaug into the story. The dragon is a true success in the film, being personalized at a level that is quite remarkable and very believable. As its predecessor the film suffers from some weak and too long moments that are caused by Peter Jackson's wish to go into too many details.
The barrel scene will remain one of the most impressive epic scenes of film history, being shot and felt like a video game.
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on October 22, 2014
I'm a huge Tolkien fan, so seeing "The Hobbit" on the big screen is and always will be a treat. That being said, I found myself liking the first film better than this one. "Desolation of Smaug" wasn't bad, but it wasn't great, either. I enjoyed the movie up until Thorin and company were giving Smaug the run around at the end. By then it was just too much action that just seemed to drag.

There were plenty of highlights, though. Smaug was greatly done and the banter between him and Bilbo was entertaining. The effects on Smaug was also well done and I have to say the CGI team did a great job in bringing the great dragon to life. Of course, Benedict Cumberbatch did excellent voice work for the role, and his chemistry with Martin Freeman (Bilbo) only made the scene better. Another highlight for me was Mirkwood. Loved Thranduil and the presence he gave to the film. I just wish those scenes were longer and didn't mostly concentrate on the romance between Fili and Tauriel.

For Tolkien purists who are looking for a retelling of the book, you'll notice some significant differences in the film. If you're not bothered by that, however, the film is still enjoyable.
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on December 27, 2014
The film improves upon "An Unexpected Journey" through two primary features. The first is a relationship between characters that can involve the audience. The group's youngest dwarf and a female elf develop a relationship in the film that make's the films intermission between action sequences viewable and somewhat interesting. The film's other saving grace is an awesome villian, Smaug the Dragon. He may surmount Gollum in being the greatest character in the LOTR film world. He's clever, cunning, and a visual wonder. You almost want to see him talk as much as you want to see him fight. He comes in rather late in the film, but it's well worth the wait.
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