The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 3D review

Jackson's epic adaptation continues to walk a long and winding road to the Lonely Mountain

This second instalment in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy highlights the real flaws in the filmmaker's plan to spread the plot of what is a fairly slight book across three films.

Clocking it at 161 minutes …The Desolation of Smaug eschews traditional storytelling in favour of simply careening from one ridiculously bloated action set-piece to another. And, once again, it spares little-to-no time to fleshing out its characters along the way – despite having now spent over six hours in their company, we still couldn't tell you how many dwarves are in Bilbo's party and who most of them are.

It's only towards the end, when the crew finally confronts Smaug that things finally look to be getting back on track in terms of telling an actual story. But even then it quickly degenerates into yet another extended runaround, full of noise and fury but little substance. 

Picture: Not only does the set’s AVC-encoded 2.40:1 1080p 2D presentation dazzle with its rich colours and intricate detailing during brightly-lit scenes, but it also delivers with darker sequences.

Spin up Gandalf the Grey's exploration of the gloomy ruins of Dol Guldor in Chapter 29 and you'll be bowled over by the crispness and intricacy of the imagery – and that's before you get to his duel with the Necromancer, which fills the screen with swirling shadows and is equally well resolved.

And it will surely come as no surprise at all that the MVC 2.40:1 1080p 3D version is just as impressive. As with the first film, Warner Home Video has split the stereoscopic presentation across two Blu-ray platters in order to optimise the image quality. The depth and dimensionality throughout is simply awe-inspiring – and while this is a noticeably darker film that its predecessor, the clarity and sharpness of the encode ensures that this does not have a negative effect on the 3D presentation.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: Jackson's action-packed fantasy sequel pairs its flawless image quality with a equally spectacular DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack (the same track accompanies both presentations of the film).

Use of the surrounds is continual and forceful, yet always exceptionally controlled (just listen to multitude of audio elements whipping around your speaker setup during Chapter 13's barrel ride). LFE presence is also very strong, with Smaug's booming voice resonating with genuinely tactile bass.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: The sole extra accompanying the 2D presentation of the film is New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth, Part 2, a seven-minute tour of some of the film's locations. This is repeated (still in 2D) on the first disc for the 3D presentation,  while the second 3D disc gets stereoscopic teaser and theatrical trailers for …An Unexpected Journey and …The Desolation of Smaug.

The bonus disc of Special Features kicks off with the two-part Peter Jackson Invites You to the Set. Running just over 40 minutes, it gives viewers a taste of a typical day in the busy production of The Hobbit trilogy. This is supported by a quartet of online Production Diaries, three of which look at the pick-up shooting for the second and third films, while the fourth looks at the creation of the score. Also included is a music video, an archival 38-minute Q&A with Jackson from March 2013, and trailers for the films and their videogame spin-offs.
Extras rating: 2.5/5

We say: While the AV quality is simply second-to-none, the film remains a disappointing return to Middle-earth

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 3D, Warner Home Video, All-region BD, £28 Approx