Day 289: A Sneaker Peek At The Extended Desolation Of Smaug

I spent almost an whole day going through the extras…

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I spent over nine hours yesterday watching all the extras on the new Extended Edition of The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug on Blu-ray, which I’m reviewing for SFX. When you factor in that I had already watched the film itself the day before (to see what had been extended) then watched it again yesterday with the commentary on, and offset that against how much I’m actually getting paid (which I won’t reveal because I’m not sure Future Publishing would like it known how little it pays writers) then I’m clearly earning way less than minimum wage per hour! Then again, I don’t have to buy the Blu-ray now, and I would have watched all the extras anyway out of choice if I had.

Because, yeah, I have some major gripes about The Hobbit trilogy (so far). There are things that irritate me (usually poor CGI, excessive action sequences and a lack of real emotional clout in far too many scenes). But as an overall phenomenon, I still have a lot of love for what Jackson is trying to do with these six Middle-earth films.

 

I’ve also enjoyed both Hobbit films more with the release of the Extended Editions. I think it has less to do with the extra footage adding more depth (I’m not sure the Goblin King song and dance routine from An Unexpected Journey added anything other than a reason to press the fast forward button) and more to do with noticing so much more that I’d missed the first time, when gurning dwarves and naff-looking liquid gold were distracting me.

Rewatching Smaug, I gained more of an appreciation Elven King Thranduil (he’s creepy), fell in love with Tauriel and suddenly realised what a rich and characterful setting Lake-Town is; The Master and Alfrid, especially, are a great double act, but the production design is awesome as well. Martin Freeman continues to impress and Bilblo and I’m beginning to be able to tell more of the Dwarves apart.

There’s also a great fight scene that’s been added to the Extended Edition, which I won’t spoil, but it significantly alters one section of the film, in a way the new scenes rarely have before.

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My main problem with Smaug, though, is Smaug. Not his look. Not Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance. Not the animation. But the fact he’s so bloody ineffectual. He’s a massive fire-breathing dragon and yet he can’t fry one little dwarf! The whole final action scene was, we learn from the Blu-Ray, one of the things that was added to the script when the The Hobbit was expanded from two films to three, so there’s a practical reason why none of the Dwarves could be reduced to cinders; certainly remaining faithful to the book wasn’t issue but the ending of Smaug had to retain continuity with footage already shot for Five Armies, so sudden, shocking deaths were impossible. But there’s a real lack of threat to the climactic scenes, which undermines Smaug’s declaration, “I am death!” Are you? Are you really?

Presumably there’ll be lots of Lake-Town extras eating flame in the final film, but at the moment I’m left with the feeling that Smaug’s bark is worse than his bite. It doesn’t help, either, that Desolation (even if you haven’t read the book) pretty much tells you how Smaug is going to be dispatched.

But overall I had a great day yesterday watching all the behind-the-scenes footage. Whether you like these films or not, you have to admit that the Extended Editions are bursting with goodness.

Oh and, Ryan Gage  (who plays Alfrid, and I suddenly realised I knew him from the BBC’s Musketeers, where he plays King Louis) is absolutely hilarious.

And if you know the film well, you’ll realise that all the fuzzy on-screen images in today’s pics are sneaky peeks at extended moments. And the near new Cons (black low tops, with lovely light blue trimmings) I got off eBay for 99p – no one else was bidding for them  because they came without laces. Luckily, I have a drawer full of laces, which may not surprise you.

See you tomorrow.

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