This is a review of the (3) disc Blu-Ray extended edition of The Hobbit part 2: The Desolation of Smaug, which finally came out a few weeks ago, and I just finished watching today. There's also one of those "ultraviolet" vouchers you can use to view it on other devices. Keep in mind, at pretty much the same time there was also released a FIVE disc version containing extended Desolation of Smaug in 3-D (2 discs), extended Desolation of Smaug "normal" Blu-Ray (one disc), and the same 2 discs of Appendices called 9 and 10.
I've had so many versions of Lord of the Rings, and now the Hobbit, that I kinda lost track of the numbering for these appendices. I think the way it ends up, with the extended edition of Lord of the Rings, movie 1 had appendices 1 and 2, movie 2 had 3 and 4, movie 3 had 5 and 6, and with the extended first film of The Hobbit had 7 and 8, which gives us 9 and 10 with Hobbit film 2.
As the manufacturer's review and dust jacket and other reviews all say, the extended edition of the film itself adds 25 minutes-for a total of 3 hours 6 minutes for the movie. There's also a very short "filming in New Zealand" feature, only 7 minutes long, which recaps some of the spectacularly beautiful exterior locations they used in Desolation of Smaug (clearly Paradise, where they located Beorn's house, must hands-down be the most beautiful, but the river which they used for barrel-ride scenery in my opinion would be a second.
As for the extra 25 minutes: without dwelling on them at length, I would say that while not all of it may be quite from the books, it was all very well-done and well-integrated with the rest of the film, and might help someone who never read all the books (that is, both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings) understand a little better what is going on in the story.
As for the Appendices 9 and 10, this is what is really new to the extended version. One is 5 hours total, and the other is 5 hours 6 minutes. Adding those, plus the movie, plus the short-short gives us a massive 13 hrs 19 minutes of viewing time. And I must say, I enjoyed virtually every minute of it (though that's why I spent about a week getting through it all. The Appendices to this film are a very extensive "making-of", but not the kind of "making of" that you so often see in other films, half of which consists of clips of the movie itself, and the other half consisting of the director and actors and cinematographer etc. all congratulating themselves on what a great job they did. No, no, no, this was (in typical Peter Jackson style), a mixture of him and members of his crew showing us how they tackled filming various scenes, interspersed with snippets of casting interviews and the actors talking about how they got selected, interspersed with the actors goofing off with each other on-set in between takes, and sometimes with the actors giving Jackson a hard time (or him getting them back, often as he talks to us, the audience). I haven't been in the film business but it seems an open secret that often actors HATE directors (and vice versa) for a variety of reasons: often it's because the director has a very strict vision of what he wants to see in the film and won't tolerate any deviation from what he's trying to get, even if the actors don't understand exactly what that is. On the other extreme are directors (especially comedy movies with great comedians) who let them ad-lib as much as they want, and often use whatever parts they like the best. Or (another type of director actors don't much care for) the ones who are very into the technology of the filmmaking, but lousy at giving actors explanations of what they want from them in a scene. Jackson clearly has (almost always) clear visions of what he wants to see, but he also involves the actors in the process, particularly in how they deliver their lines. Which leads to what I suspect would be the one universal complaint the actors would have, if they had to pick any complaint about working in these films: SO MANY TAKES. The appendices (long as they are) only hint at how many takes are actually done for many scenes, but he'll do it over and over again until he finds one performance he feels is perfect (or synthesizes pieces from several takes into the perfect sequence). And if there's one thing I think the actors, the crew and we audiences alike can all admire about Jackson is his absolutely incredible attention to details. So many fine details appear in many of his sets---unfortunately stuff the audience will never even SEE (except you get to see some of it in these appendices) but which, in the "real" sets, are all there to make the actors feel they're in a real middle-earth world. There are many quite memorable moments in these appendices: Steven Colbert and his family visiting and all being put into the move; Ian McKellon fooling Peter Jackson; Jackson's disastrous attempt at a cameo appearance in Laketown; the unbelievable insanity of the rush to produce the final 20 minutes of the film (which were delivered late in the end); the problems of converting a 2-film plan into a 3-film plan; some erudite discussions by scholars of the derivation of some of Tolkien's ideas which first appear in the Hobbit, and so much more. The appendices are alternately fascinating, funny, touching, enlightening, but almost always great watching for anyone who enjoys the movie.
Yes there are always problems turning books into movies (typified by complaints I think I've heard 1,000 times "the book was SO MUCH BETTER"). I read the books, I imagined the scenes myself, and I've watched the movies (except the final Hobbit film). All 3 are excellent. Jackson's vision of Middle-Earth is superb. Even where you find that some actor isn't quite how you pictured them, or some detail in the book was left out, or some dialog in the film was added, as far as I'm concerned it all produces the effect of bringing the books to the screen in a way which nobody else could ever do. These will, I think, remain the definitive film versions of both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. When I first heard that little book, the Hobbit, was to be 3 whole films, my reaction was "NO WAY!" After watching just the first film, that had already changed to, "Way!" Now, before even seeing it, I'm already sad that the third Hobbit film is probably the last of Tolkien we'll see directed by Jackson and with this cast. Almost everyone already knows whether they like or don't like The Hobbit. If you do like it, do yourself a favor and get the extended editions of all 3 films.