Australian Council on Children and the Media

Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug, The

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Not recommended under 13, PG to 15 (Violence; Disturbing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug, The
  • a review of Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 19 December 2013.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to violence and scary scenes and characters
Children aged 13 to 15 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Fantasy violence
Length 161 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

This is the second instalment of a three part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The film begins as a flashback with and the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) convincing Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to go on a quest to the Lonely Mountain and reclaim from the dragon Smaug a powerful gem called the Arkenstone.  This would enable Thorin to reclaim his heritage and reunite the dwarf people.

Twelve months later Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf, Thorin and Thorin’s company of twelve dwarves are being pursuit through the mountains by a pack of bloodthirsty orcs. In a bid to escape, the dwarves seek refuge in the abode of Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), a skin changer who has the ability to transform into a gigantic bear. After gaining assistance from Beorn, the company continues on to Mirkwood forest where Gandalf leaves the group.

In Mirkwood forest Bilbo and the dwarves are first attacked by giant spiders and then captured by wood elves, who are led by Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and a female elf warrior named Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). Bilbo and the dwarves are imprisoned by the elf king Thranduil (Lee Pace), but with the use of the One Ring Bilbo is able to free them and they escape down a raging river in wine barrels while being pursued by both elves and orcs.

The dwarves make their way to Laketown where they are befriended by a bowman named Bard (Luke Evans), who happens to be the descendant of the original Lord of Dale. With Bard’s assistance, Bilbo and the dwarves eventually make it to the Lonely Mountain where they gain access to the mountain through a secret door. However, when Bilbo attempts to steal the Arkenstone from Smaug the dragon (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch) things go terribly wrong.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Destiny; prophesy; greed; fantasy

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The film contains intense fantasy action violence and peril throughout, including numerous decapitations, throat cuttings, impalements and stylised sword and knife fights. The violence is, however, less intense than in the Lord of the Rings trilogy with less depiction of blood and gore. Examples include:    

  • A number of scenes feature dwarves and elves engaging in battle with orcs during which we see elves use swords in a stylised manner to slash, stab and decapitate orcs; we see orc heads flying through the air and rolling along the ground (minimal blood and gore are depicted. A sword thrown at one orc impales the orc to an overhanging tree limb leaving the orc’s feet dangling in mid-air. Elves shoot orcs in the face, chest, neck and head with arrows. An elf shoots two orcs through the head with a single arrow, the pinning the two orcs together.
  • A dwarf is shot in the leg with an orc arrow and we see the arrow protruding from the dwarf’s leg. Later we see a bloody patch on the dwarf’s leg, hear that the arrow is poisoned and see the dwarf moaning and screaming in pain.        
  • One scene depicts several elves questioning a captured orc with one elf holding a sword to the orc’s throat. The elf king promises to let the orc go if he talks but, after questioning the orc, decapitates him. Little blood and gore is depicted but we see a brief image of the orc’s head flying through the air.
  • A band of orcs attack a home with a number of young children inside, the children scream in fear and try to fend off the orcs and are saved when two elves arrive to battle the orcs. 
  • A flashback scene shows Smaug the dragon destroying a kingdom, breathing fire on to buildings that explode in flames.  A lone man fires arrows from a giant crossbow at the dragon. We hear that a great many people died in the attack including the man firing the crossbow.
  • Bilbo is attacked by a number of giant man sized spiders that have mouths full of large protruding pincer-like fangs. One of the spiders wraps Bilbo in a cocoon-like web and we see a number of other spiders wrapping unconscious dwarves in cocoons and then dragging them away. Bilbo escapes from his cocoon and uses his sword to stab one of the spiders in the abdomen with the spider falling through the trees to the ground. Bilbo uses his sword to stab a second spider in the face killing it. Spiders talk in distorted voices saying how the dwarves are “fat and juicy” while another says “lets us feast”. More dwarves escape their cocoons and a battle erupts between dwarves and spiders with dwarves using swords and axes to kill the spiders. A number of dwarves attacking a spider, pulling hard on each of the spider’s legs until they simultaneously pull all of the spider’s legs from its body; we hear the sound of flesh ripping as the legs give way and see fluid gushing from the severed leg joints.
  • One extended and intense scene depicts Smaug the dragon pursuing a band of dwarves through mountain halls and mine shafts. The dragon spews out fire in an attempt to burn the dwarves and one dwarf is set on fire, but the fire is put out. The dwarves throw explosives at the dragon which is unharmed, and we see the dwarves set a trap for the dragon which is submerged beneath a molten river of gold; the dragon leaps from the molten river uninjured.      

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are many scenes and characters in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Smaug the dragon is a gigantic winged creature with a mouth full of enormous fangs  and claws. The dragon slithers about like a fast moving lizard. In several scenes the dragon spews out fire and the inside of its stomach glows red. The dragon speaks using a powerful menacing voice, vowing to destroy a town of people, saying “I am fire. I am death”.
  • The orcs wield a variety of gruesome medieval weapons and have mouths full of pointy teeth, pointy ears and bodies and faces covered in gruesome scars, cuts and badly healing wounds. One orc featured throughout the film has a large open wound across his face. The leader of the orcs has a forearm severed in a previous battle and replaced with a trident.
  • Beorn the bear is a gigantic savage looking bear with a mouth full of large teeth and a thunderous roar.
  • In one scene we see Thranduil’s (the elf king) face transform with the flesh on his face disappearing to reveal a grotesque skull-like appearance beneath with muscle and bone exposed while his eyes turn white.
  • One scene depicts the stone ruins of a large castle with numerous suspended iron cages containing human skeletons and remains.
  • Gandalf the wizard attacked by evil represented as an animated swirling black cloud with finger-like tendrils of block smoke that reach out in an attempt to surround an overwhelm Gandalf. We see Gandalf ram his staff into the ground creating a magical force-field-like shield that surrounds and protects Gandalf from the evil. At times for an instance we see a giant flamed rimed eye appearing in the centre of the black cloud.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group will also be disturbed by the violent and scary scenes and characters described above and by:

  • a scene depicting the bloody remains of dead animals ripped apart and scattered across the ground.
  • a room full of long dead dwarves with the dead bodies piled on top of each other. The bodies have decayed and are covered in spider webs. 

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by many of the above-mentioned scenes

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes.

Product placement

No product placement in the film, but merchandise including clothing, video games, dolls and Lego toys is marketed to children.

Sexual references

The film contains a couple of covert sexual references. Examples include:

  • A captured male dwarf asks a female elf “Are you going to search me. I could have anything down my trousers”.  The female elf replies “Or nothing”.  

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Some mild subtle flirtation occurs between a male dwarf and female elf.
  • When Beorn transforms from bear to human we see a side view of his bare buttocks; his nakedness is partially obscured by excessively hairy skin.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • In a tavern room scene we see a number of patrons including Gandalf the grey smoking pipes and drinking from tankards.
  • One scene depicts several elves drinking wine and we hear one elf refer to the wine as excellent. In a later scene we see the same elves slumped unconscious over the table amongst scattered empty bottles.
  • A man orders his servant to get him a brandy and gulps it down, then pours himself a second.  

Coarse language

The film contains some occasional name calling which children may imitate. Examples include:

  • Horrid creature, mutant, thief, liar, greedy, filth, fool, witless worm, ingrates, snivelling cowards.

In a nutshell

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug is a fantasy adventure film targeting older teens and fans of Tolkien’s books. It is the second film in the trilogy based on The Hobbit. The film goes beyond Tolkien’s original story, containing both characters and storyline not contained in the original book. It is 161 minutes long but easily entertains an older audience for this time.

While not as dark as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the film does contain numerous scary scenes, characters and images, and extended scenes of intense violence, including decapitations and a battle with giant spiders. For this reason, it is not recommended for under 13s, even those who have read the book, and parental guidance is recommended for the 13-15 age group.  

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Good will defeat evil.
  • Money changes people by making them greedy.
  • Revenge can backfire on those seeking it.
  • When it comes to courage, size doesn’t matter- the smallest of people can make a difference. 

 Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include courage and friendship.   

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