If you were a bit disappointed with the Extended Edition of An Unexpected Journey, then this new version of The Desolation of Smaug will more than make up for it – the extension of the two-film version into three movies evidently used some of the material that would otherwise have gone into the first film’s longer edition. There’s twenty-five minutes more footage – three new scenes, extensions to around a dozen others – which in some places alter the story, and certainly explain one or two quick jump cuts in the theatrical edition (Beorn’s appearance in particular). The commentary is, as ever, highly informative (even if Peter Jackson sometimes does seem slightly distracted by the necessity to work on the final part of the trilogy!).
For many fans, though, it’s the continuation of the Appendices that will grab the most attention – over ten hours of behind the scenes footage, covering everything from missing cameos (farewell, Peter Jackson…) to Howard Shore’s quest to maintain a continuity in the music of the Middle-earth films while still giving The Hobbit a separate identity. As much as Jackson’s films have moved movie-making forwards in some areas, it’s interesting to note that sometimes the tried and trusted methods are still applicable – look at the river barrel sequence, and compare it with footage about the making of the Indiana Jones films.
As ever, Jackson and his team have ensured that the films’ fans are served well, and this version should attract plaudits not just from them, but from Tolkien aficionados and all those interested in the creation of a blockbuster film.
Verdict: The definitive version of the film, with copious attractive extras. 9/10