Monday, 30 March 2015

The Desolation of Smaug Special Features & The Battle of the Five Armies Soundtrack

For the last couple of years I’ve known exactly what at least one of my birthday and Christmas presents will be. This is because around April the theatrical version of the latest Hobbit film is released, then the Extended Edition is out in time for Christmas. So last Christmas I knew, without a doubt, that the VHS-sized box under the tree was definitely going to be The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition, on blu-ray.

And I was right.

The version I got has the holographic cover, with the 3D blu-ray, just so we’re prepared for when we get a 3D blu-ray player. We watched the extended version of the film right after Christmas and I blogged about it on the 3rd of January. Since then I’ve been working my way through all the special features on the accompanying ‘Appendices’ discs.

It’s become a bit of a tradition, when Mr Click goes up for a bath on a Saturday afternoon, I’ll watch another two or three special features. It’s been interesting to see how they stretched out the film from two movies to three; it seemed like an awful lot of the special features brought this up and explained why things were done in a particular way because of it.

I also couldn’t help but think that Peter Jackson spent a lot of time filming green screen shots which then got pieced together into a film. In a way it looked like he was making some sort of high budget independent movie. I imagine that must have been kind of hard for the actors to do, but they obviously rose to the occasion. Watching the film I never would have thought that it was filmed in such a bitty way.

It seemed at time that Jackson was actually kind of out to push the actors as far as he could, in the most good-natured of ways. In particular, the scenes involving the barrels and the fish. You see those fish that the dwarves and Bilbo end up buried under? Those were real. Apparently the smell on set when they were filming was something else!

One of the things I love about these behind the scenes looks at films is seeing the actors interact with one another. You can really see how much fun they had, even through all the crazy stuff they had to do during filming. I especially liked the featurette on Martin Freeman’s approach to filming, which is to do each take slightly differently. There’s a compilation of all his different takes as the dragon wakes up in Erebor and it was funny to see all the different ways he played it.

There wasn’t so much in the way of grand sets in this film. I think it’s because so much more of it has been done doing CGI than the Lord of the Rings films. I loved to look at the Laketown set, that looked like you could just move in! Other sets, like the Mirkwood prison weren’t as big as I was expecting. It seems that Jackson has gone a lot more towards green screen than in the past. It’s kind of a shame because I loved the great big sets from the Lord of the Rings days. Though, admittedly, the increased use of CGI isn’t all that noticeable in the Hobbit films; I’m sure that’s partly due to the huge improvements in technology.

As with the first Hobbit blu-ray, this one has a commentary. Again, it’s just the one, which is a shame because I would have loved an actor commentary. It’s always been my favourite part of the Lord of the Rings special features, it’s fun to hear the stories of the things they got up to during filming.

This commentary is Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens and it’s just as good as the first. Don’t get me wrong, I like to hear the director talking about making the film, but a lot of it covers the same ground as in the featurettes. All the same, it’s interesting to take the film scene by scene and hear them talking or reminiscing about things, as well as explaining why something was done in a certain way.

I just don’t feel so compelled to play the director commentaries over and over again in the same way as I do with the actor ones. That’s probably more me than anything else though and I suppose that logistically it would be very difficult to get all fourteen dwarf actors, plus Martin Freeman, plus Benedict Cumberbatch, plus Ian McKellen, plus Lee Pace, plus Stephen Fry, etc, etc, etc, together to pull off a commentary.

That and the fact that Stephen Fry could probably do a commentary all on his own through the whole film (plus some). It’d be an editing nightmare. There’s even a series of clips of Stephen Fry talking and talking and talking and talking, as he tells these stories in cut bits of interviews. Peter Jackson comments on it as well; Stephen Fry is definitely a guy with lots of stories to tell. I’d definitely invite him to my fantasy dinner party.

One of the only things that really bugged me about the special features and the commentary is the fact that Peter Jackson keeps on pronouncing Smaug as 'Schmaug'. Everyone else said it right and every time he started talking about 'Schmaug' I cringed a little. Only a teeny tiny minor little complaint.

On the whole, I love this set. The commentary and documentary features are really interesting and I think they give a good insight into the making of the films. I’m not likely to watch the commentary again so soon, but I think that once the extended edition of The Battle of the Five Armies has been released, I’ll definitely go back to the beginning and watch all the special features again because I’m sure there are bits that I’ve overlooked or will have forgotten by then.

I also never actually posted a review of The Battle of the Five Armies soundtrack, so I’m just going to lump it together with this special features review. With the previous Hobbit films I’ve been quick to buy the soundtrack, but with the last film we saw it before Christmas, instead of in January. I announced that I loved the soundtrack and needed to buy it but held off in case Santa, or someone else, got it for me.

When it didn’t show up on Christmas Day I still held off buying it, in case it showed up during my second Christmas in Wales. Then I put it off because I was saving my money, it slipped my mind, it had gone up in price, I wanted to get the same version as the other two soundtracks. Each time I thought about it (or didn’t) there was some reason why it was better to wait.

Until Mr Click told me to just hurry up and get it since I wanted it so much.

So I got it about a month ago.

The good thing about Amazon and having a Kindle Fire is that if I order it through them I can get it delivered instantly onto my Kindle. That means no waiting around and that evening I was able to go straight home and enjoy the soundtrack, even though it was another four days until the physical copy arrived.

It’s tricky to comment on it at the moment because I’ve only seen the film once, so I don’t find it as easy to place all the music as I can with all the others. That’s not say I’ve not got favourite pieces. I love the theme for Tauriel and Kili, it’s a beautiful piece of music and has to be up there with Aragorn and Arwen’s theme.

The Last Goodbye is without a doubt, the crowing glory of this soundtrack. It’s a wonderful song and you get the sense of not only saying goodbye to the three Hobbit films, but also the world of Middle-earth as well. I can’t help but wonder if in the future someone will get it into their heads to remake these films, or if someone will adapt some of the stories from the Silmarillion or something. But even if they do, it’s never going to be the same as this.

Plus it’s very pretty to look at, all leather effect case and all. It’s really made out of cardboard so is slightly prone to scuffing but it matches my two other Special Edition soundtracks. It’s a two disc set, complete with a couple of bonus tracks that aren’t on the standard CD. It comes with a little book as well, with information about the production of the music and a whole bunch of pretty pictures of the cast.

I’m looking forward to listening to it for the first time after I see the film again (which is out just a few days before my birthday, perfect timing again) so I can pick out all the bits of the film when I hear the music.


  1. Spud here from the A to Z , Sorry I'm not going to read though your review on the film as I just watched it the other night. I loved it and that is good enough for me. I just can't wait for the last one now

    1. Thanks for stopping by. :-)

      I loved the last one when I saw it in the cinema and I can't wait until the end of April because I know I'm getting the film for my birthday. I'm excited to see what they do in the extended cut at the end of the year as well.

  2. This is some nice collector's stuff. I enjoy watching the special features when they have them. Sometimes they are better than the film itself.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

    1. Thanks for visiting. :-)

      I like to work my way through all of the special features, which is why this has lasted me from Christmas to March! I'll agree, sometimes the special features can be more interesting than the films. Not quite in this case, but they're still very good. ;-)

  3. I want the holographic cover too, it's so pretty!! I agree with you on the commentary - even though it's interesting to hear about filming from the director (or probably anyone, really), I usually prefer to hear it from the actors' perspectives because they usually have funny stories about what they had to do for a certain scene.

    Hahaha Stephen Fry could totally do all the commentary, he's such a great storyteller.

    I love the soundtrack, it's beautiful!

    1. I literally just sat moving the cover from side to side for several minutes when I unwrapped it because it's so awesome, hehe.

      The good thing about the special features on these blu-rays is that there are plenty of interviews with the cast so although you don't get to hear them on the commentary, you do still hear from them in other places.

      And not long now until The Battle of the Five Armies is actually released so we can enjoy it all over again! ;-)


Let me know what you think. :-)