Blu-ray review: The Hobbit- The Desolation of Smaug 3D
(MGM/Warner Brothers, M)
Reviewed by Chris Gardner
There's one thing I don't like about the release of The Hobbit- The Desolation of Smaug on Blu-ray.
That's that we are half way through Sir Peter Jackson's second, and probably last, Tolkien trilogy. I say that not because I have insider knowledge, because I don't, but I think it unlikely the director will take to adapting any more of Tolkien's work to the screen. They are just too difficult, both narratively and structurally, to make films of . . . but then that's what many said about The Lord of the Rings.
The 3D version on Blu-ray is one of the most stunning renditions I have seen in a home cinema set up, and all kudos goes to everyone involved in making the film and getting it out on Blu-ray like this.
As the middle film in The Hobbit trilogy I expected something darker than what we got, for the most part it's an adventure filled romp through Middle Earth towards the Lonely Mountain, but Jackson did darken it up a bit with a confrontation between Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellan) and the Necromancer (Benedict Cumberbatch) dripping with evil.
I wonder how Cumbebatch, whose star has risen with the BBC series Sherlock, got the parts and whether his co-star Martin Freeman had anything to do with it?
Some doubted Freeman's ability to carry off Bilbo Baggins, but he is just sublime in this film. You can see him inching closer and closer to darkness as the One Ring, which he stole from Gollum in the last film, begins to consume him.
But the dragon Smaug himself, also voiced by Cumberbatch, is this film's crowning glory. Cumberbatch's performance, translated to the screen in a similar fashion as the Oscar winning Gollum, deserves many times the Academy Awards Gollum got. He's big, he's menacing and he steals every second of every scene he is in. So convincing is the work of Weta Digital that you forget you are watching a special effect. And that's exactly how it should be.
At 161 minutes The Desolation of Smaug doesn't feel overly long, and I'm looking forward to the director's extended cut which will no doubt arrive around Christmas.
There's a few hours of special features to finish off the package. The best is Peter Jackson Invites You To The Set. It's a 49 minute day in the life of style documentary, although it is several minutes before the director appears on the screen. It starts with an early morning breakfast for actors, before detailing getting into prosthetics, blocking scenes, building sets and shooting. After lunch there's more shooting, afternoon tea, the wrap and then the night art crew's activities preparing for the next day.
The Hobbit involved 1100 crew, 1200 costumes, 11,862 prosthetics, 99 sets and 214 days of shooting. That's probably more than a season of most television series.
The only good thing about the approaching end of The Hobbit trilogy is that Jackson will go on to do other things, like the much anticipated episode of Doctor Who and The Dam Busters.
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