The Desolation of Smaug: Extended Edition Review

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug logo (header)

The expanded vision of the second installment bolsters Middle-earth’s richness and reinstates Peter Jackson’s masterful filmmaking that spans a 6-film saga.

As a theatrical release, The Desolation of Smaug was a significant improvement from the occasionally slow-moving sequences (which I personally find no objection to) in An Unexpected Journey.The Desolation of Smaug EE DVD

But whilst the first Extended Edition release (with a total of 13 minutes of extra footage) felt more like a financial (as well as traditional) move for fans (though I find the Hobbiton sequences the most appropriate), The Desolation of Smaug’s 25 minutes of new scenes marks a massive improvement in the scope of the two Extended Editions.

I can here formally extend my gratitude to Peter Jackson for re-recognizing the meaning of an Extended Edition – following the success of the format with The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

No matter whether it’s a new 5-minute scene or a 30-second extension to a previously known sequence, Peter Jackson’s cinematic Middle-earth just keeps on expanding and gratifying us eager fans, who want to continue exploring the characters and the world itself.

The 3 highly-anticipated sequences prior to its release (for the record: Beorn, Mirkwood and Dol Guldur) make a triumphant addition that reassert the pacing and evolving story of this middle chapter.

Queer Lodgings

Having been somewhat wounded by the fleeting presence of Beorn, and the urgency with which he was dealt with, this extended scene closes the wound completely (without leaving any scars).Bilbo and Gandalf meeting Beorn

We get a better look at the shape-shifting character, as well as his lodgings in the idyllic and aptly-named New Zealand locality of Paradise.

Beorn comes across as an even more imposing figure (as a man), chopping wood with dexterity and impact that makes even your TV set tremble!

The relationship between Beorn and Gandalf is further established and reference made to the wizard’s continuing exploration into the Dol Guldur subplot.

Flies and Spiders

This was yet again another scene that desperately needed the “extended” treatment for the theatrical cut. In having to show your characters plodding aimlessly through the claustrophobic and labyrinth-like forest, you need some time (even a few minutes) to establish and strengthen that atmosphere and sense of disorientation.Bilbo in Mirkwood (Enchanted Stream)

Fans of the book will also be delighted with the inclusion of the Enchanted river crossing, Bombur’s untimely repose and the beautiful white stag encounter. And all the while, Peter Jackson reaffirms his top-notch filmmaking skills in making the audience as equally bewildered as the characters. These added minutes are crucial to further portray this sub-world within Middle-earth and the madness that starts to creep over our protagonists.

A Warm Welcome

I’ve probably already stated this, but I’ve been in love with Lake-town ever since I saw glimpses of it in the trailer and several magazine articles. I was sure I would be amazed by its victorianesque, decrepit-looking shabbiness. Come December 2013, those expectations were confirmed and trebled.

Master of Lake-Town (Extended Edition)

Now, with this Extended Edition, we are treated to further exposition into the daily life of the inhabitants of Lake-town. No matter how little or insignificant the addition is, it helps to expand and give further breadth to Middle-earth.

At the same time, we get more screen-time with Stephen Fry’s Master – the golden nugget of this Extended Edition.

Thráin in Dol Guldur (Battle of Azanulbizar flashback)

Thrain (Dol Guldur)Perhaps the most eagerly-anticipated set of scenes was the much-talked about encounter between Gandalf and Thráin.

Making its debut appearance in the first teaser trailer of An Unexpected Journey almost 3 years ago,  it has finally made its way into the Middle-earth saga.

Peter Jackson has had to do some rather tricky re-editing in order to untangle the theatrical cut and add the sudden introduction of Thráin’s character. Needless to say, it is done skilfully and without any disruptions to the sub-plot. It fits seamlessly within the whole narrative and can now be recognized as being THE appropriate version of the Dol Guldur story-line.

One thing that helps me to say that is its particular brilliance.

Having been presented with hints and fragile narrative threads on the whereabouts of Thorin’s father, the Thráin-disappearance story arc comes full circle in this dynamic, fast-paced and thrilling sequence (even at the expense of Gandalf being knocked about rather harshly).

The encounter with the maddened dwarf king is supplemented by a flashback to the Battle of Moria, explaining the whats and whys established during An Unexpected Journey.

Yet again, apart from the enhancements to the story, we get to see further nooks and crannies of the Necromancer’s ruined fortress: complete with darkened alleys, sinister archways and an overall sense of being watched – aided once again by Jackson’s artistic skill at creating spine-tingling moments.

His experience in the horror genre reflects strongly in the execution of this scene.

Thrain at Azanulbizar

It is a Dol Guldur that becomes more visually alluring, twisted and repulsive (in a good way) – something which unfortunately remained largely absent in the first two theatrical installments.

No doubt we’ll be seeing more of the Necromancer’s abode in the final installment, but this is the perfect lead-up to the events that will follow.

Adding up the remaining minutes

So far, I have only watched the Extended Edition once (future viewings are most definitely planned) and I didn’t hold a stopwatch in hand to keep a record of the total amount of new footage. Suffice to say, apart from the aforementioned sequences, the 25-minute mark is also strengthened by a few extra shots scattered around the first half of the film.

Unless you’ve ingrained all the scenes from The Desolation of Smaug in your head (which I discovered I have, after viewing the extended edition), you’ll notice a few extra lines of dialogue here, or a character’s lengthened stare there. In general, it’s no major defining contribution to the film: however, it’s nice to see fresh angles to a particular scene, which further expand our perspectives on what’s going on at that point in the story.

Where be you, desolated Dale?Thorin in Dale

I was particularly looking forward to seeing a glimpse of the Dwarves travelling through the ruins of Dale. We know it was filmed (several promotional images and production videos have repeatedly shown the Company filming on set).

However, unlike the presence of Thráin in Dol Guldur and an extended look at Beorn, it was never reported as being included with the rest.

Speculations remained just that. Speculations.

Special Features … special in every sense of the way

One thing that has remained almost virtually unaltered since The Fellowship of the Ring’s extended edition was released in 2002, is the sheer amount of production videos and behind the scenes materials we get with the bundle.

Desolation of Smaug EE Box set (discs)The actual presentation and structure of these making-ofs may have changed between one trilogy and another, but both quality and quantity remain strong.

Following on the same trail as An Unexpected Journey, fans will lose themselves among the numerous cast and crew interviews: including a detailed look at making of every scene in the second film, spread over two discs. Furthermore, Disc 5 contains extra features relating to Shore’s music and the creation of Smaug.

Be prepared to assume a likeness to the old worm as you gloat over this hoard of riches.

The only problem with these features is that you get to witness a large amount of shots which never made it into the final cut (neither theatrical nor extended edition).

A real shame …  but do I smell an Ultimate Edition brewing?

Time will tell …

(Copyright of images belongs to Warner Bros. and MGM Studios)

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28 thoughts on “The Desolation of Smaug: Extended Edition Review

  1. I too was very happy to see the Beorn extended scenes! Beorn was my favorite character in the book and I felt jaded by the lack of his presence in the theatrical version. I loved your points because they complement the other ideas that I thought about this film. I will be doing my own post about this a little later after I’ve collected my thoughts, so stay tuned!

  2. I’m thinking there will have to be an ultimate edition at some point, given what Richard Armitage said about having filmed a scene where Thorin and Bilbo talk about how Thorin was raised, inside Erebor, without light … I just can’t stand the possibility that that scene will remain in an archive forever …

    Great review, and I very much agree with your assessment.

    • … and hoping that this Ultimate Edition also includes LoTR in its package.

      Though I wouldn’t be surprised if they first release the BOTFA EE, then the theatricals of LOTR and TH as a single collection, then the EEs together a year or so later, then TH Ultimate Edition and then TH/LOTR Ultimate Edition-end-of-story.

      In 15 years or so … 😀 hehe, really hope not!

      • Oh, of course — they’ll milk us for all we’re worth. However, if it takes fifteen years, the formats will inevitably change as well, so we’ll all want “new and improved,” lol. No one’s watching their VHS LOTR tapes anymore, I assume …

  3. Thanks for the review, James. My main, and very serious, criticism of the extended versions to date are that they are not extended enough. I need MORE Middle Earth! I just don’t know what I am going to do with myself after next year 😦

    PS: Give me more of Gandalf and the Balrog in the depths of Moria, more Dol Goldur, more, more, more!!!

  4. I loved the Thrain flash back from the battel of Mora. I love all things dwarven the dwarven orc war was so long and bloody in the book I love to seea 3hour movie just about it.

  5. I personally thought that DoS was a step down from AUJ because the theatrical version felt a lot like a video game (the river escape and the closing scenes with Smaug really stand out and ultimately contributed little to the over plots, characters and themes). I felt like we didn’t spend enough time with Thorin or Bilbo (especially the latter) so that what little development they got felt rushed. The ultimate sin DoS committed, for me, was leaving Smaug alive; the political aftermath and BoFA are enough to sustain the next movie in its entirety. I loved AUJ (with the minor exception of them cutting to Azog every twenty minutes when instead he could have been an amazing reveal- imagine that the first moment you saw him after Balin’s story was when he was sauntering up to the group on his white warg, flames crackling around, and you suddenly realize he’s been behind this ‘attack the dwarves’ thing from the beginning, just imagine it) because it had so much heart and good cheer.

    Thanks to you I might just buy the EE of Desolation, which I was seriously considering foregoing, because it seems that they put the real movie here instead of the theater.

    • You have to get EE it adds so much to the over all story. I can’t tell you anuff on much better it was the the theater version. For men the Thrain flash backs were anuffe for me. But I have a bit of a obsession when itcomes to dwarves.

    • Hey Annamaria thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

      I respect your differing opinion. I agree with you that Bilbo should have had more of a central role considering the film is called ‘The Hobbit’. I’ve managed to accept and even enjoy most of the changes made to the story, but I guess not everyone sees things in the same way.

      But I also urge you to watch the EEs. Who knows, you might even start of enjoy it! 😉

  6. This “comment” has turned out to be slightly longer than intended.

    I have just now watched the Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition, and also listened to the Commentary, though I haven’t yet been through the documentaries. I can find very little cause for complaint: I thought the same of the theatrical release, but the Extended Edition is even better. I don’t have a problem with the substantial deviations from the source material, though I recognise that some fans may take the position, as a point of principle, that an adaptation ought to make more effort to adhere faithfully to the book. As it is, I think the changes make dramatic sense in a film-making context, and that what we see on screen is a valid interpretation of the source material. That said, I can’t help feeling that in the Peter Jackson version of Middle-earth, however much the Necromancer might have benefited from the destruction that Smaug could have wrought in the north, he would have benefited just as much, if not more, from simply recruiting a couple of stone-giants (from the first film). Really, they could have reduced Minas Tirith to rubble in minutes.

    I wish the cup-stealing episode and its consequences could have been incorporated into the story. There would have been comedy value in the absurdity of Smaug immediately noticing that a single cup had gone missing from such a vast hoard, and I have always considered it a memorable image, of the dragon floating silently down over the mountain at night “like a monstrous crow” in search of the secret door and then smashing the mountainside to pieces when he can’t find it.

    When I saw the theatrical release, I felt that the film began to sprawl somewhat and lose momentum from Laketown onwards, but I didn’t have that impression with the EE. I’m not sure why that was; possibly it was because I was seeing much of the material for the second time, or possibly it was because the rest of the film was a bit longer.

    The addition of the enchanted stream was welcome, if only to prolong the journey through Mirkwood, which seemed far too brief in the theatrical release.

    I think it is regrettable that the Hobbit extended editions have not included commentaries from the production, design, and editing teams, which provided much fascinating technical insight in the LOTR extended editions. I also have to say, on this occasion, that in the director’s commentary, Peter Jackson is not on his best form; he rambles a bit, and sounds like he’s losing his voice at times.

    I also think that this is the least memorable score that Howard Shore has written for any of the Middle-earth films, but perhaps I shall change my mind about that when I listen to the CD.

    There is the impression that no one has done a sanity check on the dwarves’ aspirations: what exactly were they, a company of thirteen dwarves, intending to do about the dragon? In the book this is described as a “weak point” in their plans, which makes them seem rather stupid. In the films, it also isn’t exactly spelled out, though one might suppose (from Gandalf’s comments in Bree, and from Thorin’s purpose in sending Bilbo down alone into the dragon’s den) that the idea is initially just to recover the Arkenstone, with which Thorin will then be able to rally a dwarven army (though what difference would it really make? Everyone already knows who he is). However, I think it would have been unsatisfactory, on film, not to have engineered a confrontation between the dwarves and the dragon, and for such a confrontation to be plausible, the dwarves would require access to some means by which they might just hope to defeat the beast; hence the pyrotechnics in the foundry. Following such a battle, it would have been too much to have tried to build to a second climax with the attack on Laketown. Therefore I think the cliffhanger ending is justified.

    Lastly, the theatrical release in the UK was rated 12, but the Extended Edition is rated 15. Does anyone know why? The “bollocks” scene, perhaps? I didn’t notice that the violence was any more “intense”. Maybe the criteria for home and cinema releases are slightly different.

    • Great to read your thoughts Graham, and thanks for sharing!

      I like your idea about the Necromancer recruiting some Stone Giants. But I wonder how that would even be possible? It looks to me as if they are independent creatures who would not easily sway to one side or another – least of all with Sauron. Though I understand what you’re trying to get at. But Smaug would make much more of an impression with his fire display! 😉

      As for the cup-stealing episode, there is a very quick nod to it when Bilbo pulls out a goblet which results in an avalanche of coins: revealing and awakening Smaug. Ultimately, I think that much of that scene was avoided (including the circling around the Mountain by Smaug) due to time restrictions (that might sound a bit ironic considering the three-movie split).

      But I’m guessing the filmmakers didn’t want Bilbo to go inside Smaug’s lair, steal the cup, get out and then back in. They would rather move the story forward through a more action-oriented scene.

      What of the rating? Haha! I guess you’re right. It’s all about the bollocks me thinks and I also think it depends on each country’s guidelines too.

      • Having re-watched the film, it seems fairly clear to me now that the Dwarves’ initial plan *must* have been simply to steal the Arkenstone (preferably without waking the dragon!), so that Thorin could use it to rally other Dwarves to his banner and then return to the mountain with an army; Gandalf, Thorin, and Thranduil make statements that point towards that goal. It does get a little lost in all the other details of the quest, though, I think; and it’s still a little difficult to understand why the Arkenstone by itself would necessarily have made such a difference.

        Having now also watched the accompanying documentaries in the appendices, I think the 15 rating of the set (in the UK) might owe something to the occasional outbursts of profanity (mainly from Martin Freeman!).

    • The BBFC website says that the 15 rating was for the special features (specifically one called “Business of the State: The Master’s Chambers”), rather than for the main film. It doesn’t give a reason, and I must confess to not having ploughed my way through the special features yet, but I’m guessing it was down to some Stephen Fry rudery.

  7. This is bit off topic as it is a question about The Hobbit BOFA EE. I like all of you love all of Peter Jackson middle earth movies and the EE are all that I ever watch. I have only seen the EE for so long now I can’t even remember what parts are the extended scenes. For me the longer the middle earth movie is the better. So with saying that, I was watching the Torn Tuesday YouTube video from I believe 2weeks ago and in the episode it was said yhere is a rumor that BOFA was going to be 5 hours long. It was latter stated on theonering websites page that the running time of 5 hours was not true and just a made up rumor. But……. what if the BOFA EE was 5 hours long it could have the normal EE that Peter Jackson has done for all of his middle earth movies that could make BOFA EE around 3hour’s but what if he adds 2hours of the 60-70 years between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I may be wrong on how many years between the two books sorry if I am. But for me that would be amazing to see the rebuilding of both Erebor and Dale and to see King Dain Ironfoot ruling a new rebuild Erebor with his son Thorin Stonehelm. I also wwould love to see King Dain Ironfoot defense of Erebor and Dale alongside Bards grandsons fight the orc army from Mordor. I know that sounds a little crazy but it could be so cool if they did.

    • I’m pretty sure everyone here would love an extra 2 hours in-between film, Brian! 😀

      Unfortunately, I am also very much certain that this is not the case.

      However, that is not to say that a film following the events of the War of the Ring in the North can be completely dismissed. We have, after all, been introduced to the locations and characters that are part of that story (the Siege of Erebor by Sauron’s second army from Mordor).

      So there is hope yet that we might see a film about it sometime in the near future! (but without Peter Jackson this time) …

      • I know its just wishful thinking for a 5 hour extended edition but could we see some day Andy Serkis take over the director duties for more Middle Earth movies have Peter Jackson as A producer. I just don’t want this next movie to be the last Middle Earth movie and I greatly appreciate the replies to my comments it’s nice to know that somebody read them.

      • I think the two best candidates for another Middle-earth film (within the terms of the current licence) would be (1) as you say, the War of the Ring in the North, and (2) the Fall of Angmar.

    • Thanks David! I’m hoping we’ll get to see the deleted scenes (especially of the Dwarves in Dale) in a future edition … **fingers crossed**

      • But is that the only unreleased scene you saw? What was the Dale scene like from what you saw of it? Whenever I picture it I think of some emotional scene where Thorin reflects on how far he’s come and all the nostalgia and memories of Erebor.

      • Hey David it would seem like that as you describe it. I can image the Dwarves plodding through the ruins and Balin and Thorin reflecting on it’s previous spelndour – perhaps a flashback to the pre-Smaug days too…

      • Just remembered! They actually have a scene in the book where they go into Dale and in dominantly features Balin explaining to Bilbo the history of Dale and Erebor.

        I also heard that there was an extended conversation between Thorin and Bilbo in Rivendell that got cut for reasons beyond pacing reasons. Bilbo and Thorin’s conversation was supposed to go into greater detail about the halls of Erebor and Thorin’s lineage – Peter Jackson talks about it on the EE commentary, it sounded a interesting scene, perhaps it was too early in Thorin and Bilbo’s character arc for Thorin to spill so much of his inner thoughts?

      • Sound all so enticing! I like the Balin exposition scene in Dale – but at this point, I doubt we’ll be seeing that in BoTFA EE. It has got to be for a future Ultimate Edition me thinks :/

      • Oooo, do think they’ll include Beorn’s capture in Dol Guldur in the BOTFA EE, or the Ultimate Edition? I personally hope for the first one, that could really create some create some thrills and it would create more context for how he met up with Radagast.

      • I would so love that to be included in the EE. I wonder however …

        I heard that the scene, during the plan for a 2-film adaptation, was to feature during Radagast’s exploration of Dol Guldur in AUJ. The wizard, upon finding the Morgul blade also helps Beorn escape – which is why in DoS EE, when Gandalf asks Beorn if he heard of Radagast, he acknowledges that.

        It would be a fantastic scene in my opinion, but I wonder how they would make it work in BoTFA – unless they show he’s been captured and released during the White Council scene – which would still make sense to a certain extent.

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