August 07, 2015
Like those before me I think this edit works beautifully as a spiritual successor to Kerr's AUJ Arkenstone Edition. Your restoration of the Battle of Laketown as the ending allows the narratives of this film to reach their appropriate end points before going into the next film, and the entire scene is vastly more enjoyable coming off the heels of what preceded it. I know many people who felt muddled and confused going into BOTFA after a year without sparing DOS a thought and being expected to carry every narrative detail and emotion they felt from DOS into the next one. As for the forges scene being gone - thank heavens. After all the excitement and tense build up to Smaug's attack on Laketown we were denied that and instead we got an overlong, video-gamey fight that only served to delay the inevitable. The matter can now be set at peace.
I thoroughly enjoyed the entirety of the film. Many of the EE scenes such as those which add detail to Gandalf's motives for initiating the quest, or the inclusion of Thrain greatly enhance the narrative, and other audience members I've seen it with felt things were much clearer for their inclusion. That said, considering the length of the EE and the inclusion of the Battle of Laketown I think the film could use some further trimming for pacing. And the best way I think to do that would be to remove the EE Dwarves introduction to Beorn, any extension of getting lost in Mirkwood, and to remove all scenes of The Master and Alfrid before the one where they meet Thorin and the dwarves at night. All of these elements may enhance world-building and be nice for book purists, but they don't quite worked in the more adult, focused narrative I imagine edits like this would like to create.
All around though, a stellar start to making this film even better than the great film I always felt it was.