Australian Council on Children and the Media

Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The

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Not suitable under 12, PG to 14 (Violence; Disturbing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The
  • a review of Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 20 December 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not suitable due to violence and disturbing scenes
Children aged 12-14 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes
Children aged 14 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: An Unexpected Journey, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Fantasy violence
Length 169 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, part one of a trilogy, opens with a narrative prologue by 111 year-old Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) telling how the wealthy kingdom of Erebor ruled by the dwarf king Thror (Jeffrey Thomas) along with his son Thrain and grandson Thorin (Richard Armitage) was destroyed by the dragon Smaug leaving the population homeless.   Bilbo then tells Frodo Baggins (Elijah wood) the story of his great adventure as a young hobbit with the film becoming a flashback of what occurred 60 years earlier.

The story begins with a young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) about to sit down for his evening meal when he is disturbed by a knock at the door. The unexpected visitor is a dwarf called Dwalin (Graham McTavish), who enters and promptly begins to eat Bilbo’s meal. Dwalin is soon followed by Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and 12 other dwarves who are on a quest to reclaim Thorin’s kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. They ask Bilbo to join their band as a burglar. Initially Bilbo declines Thorin’s offer, but the following day he reconsiders and chases after the dwarves, thus beginning the greatest adventure of his life, one that will change him forever.

During Bilbo’s epic adventure, Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves finds themselves in one perilous situation after another including almost being eaten by mountain trolls, having to fight off fierce orcs lead by a gigantic white orc called Azog (Manu Bennett), escaping cave goblins lead by the Great Goblin (Barry Humphries) and being chased by a pack of savage wargs -giant wolves.                 

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.

The supernatural; reclaiming heritage; revenge; pride

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 some slapstick violence but also brutal violence, intense battle scenes which include dismemberment and decapitation, and the depiction of some blood and gore. Examples include:

  • One scene depicts shadowy images of the dragon Smaug reeking devastation(equal to  modern-day warfare) on a dwarven mountain fortress during which we see: firestorm-like winds blowing dwarves off their feet and hurling them through the air like rag dolls; flame thrower-like spouts of flame thundering down hallways incinerating all their path (we see people running with their cloths on fire); we see Smaug trampling dwarves under its gigantic feet; and we see a stone towers with dwarves in it being destroyed as if hit by bomb blasts with rubble toppling onto dwarves and dwarves depicted under flaming rubble.
  • During an epic battle between orcs and dwarves hundreds of orcs and dwarves charge at each other, slashing and stabbing with swords and spears. Dwarves are pushed and thrown off a cliff face. A giant white orc (Azog) cuts the head off a dwarf and holds it up (we see bloody tissue at the severed neck). The severed head is thrown and rolls along the ground. A dwarf uses a sword to sever Azog’s arm with blood spurting out of the severed stump. The bodies of hundreds of dead dwarves and orcs litter the ground and we hear that there were only a few dwarf survivors.
  • There is a somewhat comical fight between three mountain trolls, and a group of dwarves during which we see the dwarves using swords and axes to stab and chop at the trolls’ legs, arms, stomachs and bottoms. Later we see several of the dwarves tied to a large spit placed over a fire as if for roasting, and see a troll holding a dwarf above his open mouth, the inference being that the troll was about to eat the dwarf alive.
  • A battle between a group of dwarves and numerous cave goblins involves dwarves slashing and stabbing goblins with swords and smashing goblins with sledge hammers. Goblins are run through with swords and beheaded. Gandalf uses a sword to slash a giant goblin across the stomach with a cut opening up, and then slashes the goblin across the throat (no blood and gore is depicted).
  • In one of the film’s more brutal scenes, we see Gollum dragging away a half unconscious goblin and then using a rock to repeatedly smash the goblin over the head until the goblin is dead.

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 some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Shadowy and partial images of the gigantic dragon Smaug include a glimpse of its tail swishing and a reptilian eye.
  • Some of the dwarves have scary faces, riddled with scars, crazy looking hair styles, large disproportionate noses, and tattooed bald heads.
  • In one scene Gandalf appear to magically grow larger with his voice also taking on a scary and threatening manner.
  • Throughout the film we see numerous images of scary, grotesque looking orcs and goblins with distorted faces and fang-like teeth. The giant white orc, Azog, is particularly scary with a body covered with open cuts and scars and a claw-like trident prosthesis replacing an arm severed in an earlier battle.
  • The wargs are ferocious looking giant wolves, some of which carry orc riders on their backs.
  • There are shadowy images of giant spiders crawling over windows and doors and through forests.
  • A couple of scenes depict caves littered with human and orc skeletons.
  • Stone giants materialise out of the side of the mountain appearing as patchwork of boulders and slabs of rocks that form arms, legs and heads. They fight - punching each other and throwing boulders - causing them to fall apart.

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 are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned violent and scary scenes and one particular scene of a forest littered with small dead and dying animals (squirrels, hedgehogs, rabbits). One of the dying animals, a hedgehog, is seen lying on the ground writhing and gasping for air. A wizard uses all manner of potions to revive the sick animal, but it dies. The wizard then extracts black vapour from the hedgehog which comes alive.

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 may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned violent and scary 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 violent and scary scenes.

Product placement

None of concern, but associated merchandise likely to be marketed to children

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

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

  • Throughout the film we see Bilbo, Gandalf and numerous dwarves smoking pipes. In one scene, Gandalf offers a second wizard a pipe to smoke, telling him that the smoke will calm his nerves. After inhaling the smoke the wizard’s eyes roll. 
  • A remark is made about a wizard’s excessive consumption of mushrooms having affected his brain.
  • In several scenes we see dwarves greedily consuming copious amounts of ale and becoming loud and jovial. In one scene Gandalf asks for a small glass of red wine and we see him sipping it. 

Coarse language

The film contains some mild name calling and exclamations. Examples include:

  • Got the balls for it;  right up his jacksy;  dwarf scum;  shut your cake hole; stinking nag,

There is also crude humour, including;

  • A troll sneezes into a cooking pot.
  • After scratching his bottom, a troll brings away his hand and blows his nose to find he is holding Bilbo Baggins, who is now covered in mucus; we hear the troll make the remark “Look what came out of my hooter”.   

In a nutshell

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a fantasy, action adventure targeting adolescents and adults, particularly Tolkien fans. It is the first in a trilogy of films and contains extra material not included in the original book. The film is less dark than the Lord of the Rings trilogy and contains a number of humorous characters and situations which give the film a somewhat lighter feel. However, the M rating should be taken seriously. The film features intense violence and numerous scary characters, made more disturbing by the 3D effects.  This makes it unsuitable for under 12s and some children up to 14, even those who have enjoyed the book. At 169 minutes, it is also a very long film for children              

The main messages from this movie are:

  • True courage is not about knowing when to take a life, but when to spare one.
  • The everyday deeds of ordinary beings, not heroes, keep evil away.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Courage, self sacrifice and friendship: At the start of the story Bilbo was self-centred and more interested in maintaining an easy life without and interruptions. But as Bilbo’s friendship with the band of dwarves developed over the journey, he began to change, discovering the courage needed to make the self-sacrifices which included putting his own life on the line for his new friends.

Parents may also wish to discuss how the dwarves’ pride affected their ability to achieve the outcome they wanted and how it nearly became their downfall.

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