The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first part of a trilogy. It opens with a story by 111-year-old Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm). Bilbo tells how the wealthy kingdom of Erebor was ruled by the dwarf king Thror (Jeffrey Thomas), his son Thrain and grandson Thorin (Richard Armitage). Erebor 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, and the rest of the movie is a flashback to 60 years earlier.
A young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is 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 starts eating Bilbo’s meal. Dwalin is soon followed by Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and 12 more dwarves, who are on a quest to reclaim Erebor from Smaug. They ask Bilbo to join their band as a burglar. Initially Bilbo says no, but the following day he reconsiders and chases after the dwarves. This is how he begins the greatest adventure of his life, one that will change him forever.
During his epic adventure, Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves find themselves in one dangerous situation after another. They are almost eaten by mountain trolls, must fight off fierce orcs led by a gigantic white orc called Azog (Manu Bennett), escape cave goblins led by the Great Goblin (Barry Humphries) and are chased by a pack of savage wargs, or giant wolves.
Here we outline any topics, issues and ideas in this movie that might upset children and adolescents, so that you can gauge whether it is appropriate for your child. For example, children and adolescents may react adversely to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, separation from a parent, animal cruelty or distress, children as victims, natural disasters and racism.
The supernatural; reclaiming heritage; revenge; pride
Here we identify any violence in this movie, and explain how and why it might impact on your child or adolescent. In general, movie violence can make children less sensitive to the use of violence in real life. Alternatively, they may become fearful about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world. In some contexts, it can also teach them to see violence as an acceptable means of conflict resolution.
This movie contains some slapstick violence but also brutal violence, intense battle scenes – which include bodies being cut up and heads being cut off – and some blood and gore. For example:
- One scene shows shadowy images of Smaug destroying a dwarf mountain fortress. It looks like modern-day warfare. Fiery winds blow dwarves off their feet and hurl them through the air like rag dolls. Spouts of flame thunder down hallways and burn everything in their path. People run with their clothes on fire. Smaug tramples dwarves under his gigantic feet. A stone tower with dwarves in it is destroyed as if hit by bomb blasts. Flaming rubble falls down on top of dwarves.
- During an epic battle between orcs and dwarves, hundreds of orcs and dwarves charge at each other, slashing and stabbing with swords and spears. The orcs throw the dwarves off a cliff face. A giant white orc (Azog) cuts a dwarf’s head off and holds it up (we see bloody tissue at the severed neck). Azog throws the severed head along the ground. A dwarf uses a sword to cut off Azog’s arm, and blood spurts out of the severed stump. The bodies of hundreds of dead dwarves and orcs litter the ground, and only a few dwarves survive.
- There is a comical fight between three mountain trolls and some dwarves. The dwarves use swords and axes to stab and chop at the trolls’ legs, arms, stomachs and bottoms. Later several of the dwarves are tied to a large spit placed over a fire as if for roasting. A troll holds a dwarf above his open mouth, and it looks like he’s about to eat the dwarf alive.
- A battle between some dwarves and numerous cave goblins involves dwarves slashing and stabbing goblins with swords and smashing them with sledge hammers. They cut off the goblins’ heads. Gandalf uses a sword to slash a giant goblin across the stomach. Then he slashes the goblin across the throat (no blood and gore is shown).
- In one of the movie’s more brutal scenes, Gollum drags away a half-unconscious goblin and uses a rock to repeatedly smash the goblin over the head until the goblin is dead.
Content that might disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:
- Shadowy and partial images of the gigantic dragon Smaug include a glimpse of his tail swishing and his reptilian eyes.
- Some of the dwarves have scary faces, riddled with scars, crazy-looking hair styles, large, out-of-shape noses and tattooed bald heads.
- In one scene Gandalf seems magically to grow larger. His voice also sounds more scary and threatening.
- There are numerous images of scary and grotesque orcs and goblins, who have distorted faces and fang-like teeth. The giant white orc, Azog, is particularly scary. His body is covered with open cuts and scars, and he has a claw-like trident in place of one of his arms.
- The wargs are ferocious 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 show caves littered with human and orc skeletons.
- Stone giants materialise out of the mountain side. They look like a patchwork of boulders and rocks that form arms, legs and heads. They punch each other and throw boulders, which causes them to fall apart.
Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the violent and scary scenes mentioned above.
There’s also one particularly disturbing scene of a forest littered with small dead and dying animals – squirrels, hedgehogs and rabbits. One of the dying animals, a hedgehog, is seen lying on the ground writhing and gasping for air. A wizard uses lots of potions to revive the sick animal, but it dies. The wizard then takes black vapour out of the hedgehog, which comes alive.
Children in this age group might also be disturbed by the violent and scary scenes mentioned above.
Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the violent and scary scenes mentioned above.
None of concern
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
This movie shows some use of substances. For example:
- Bilbo, Gandalf and numerous dwarves smoke pipes. In one scene, Gandalf offers a second wizard a pipe to smoke, telling him that the smoke will calm his nerves. After breathing in the smoke, the wizard’s eyes roll.
- A character says something about how a wizard has eaten too many mushrooms, which has affected his brain.
- Dwarves greedily drink large amounts of ale and become loud and jolly. In one scene Gandalf asks for a small glass of red wine, which he sips.
Nudity and sexual activity
None of concern
There is no product placement of concern, but it’s likely that merchandise associated with the movie will be marketed to children.
This movie has some mild name-calling and exclamations.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a fantasy action adventure targeting teenagers and adults, particularly Tolkien fans. It is the first in a trilogy of movies and has extra material not included in the book.
This movie isn’t as dark as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It also has more funny characters and situations, which give it a lighter feel. But the movie’s M rating should be taken seriously. The movie features intense violence and numerous scary characters, made more disturbing by 3D effects. This makes it unsuitable for children under 12 years and some children up to 14 years, even those who have enjoyed the book. At 169 minutes, it’s also a very long movie for children.
These are the main messages from this movie:
- 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 you could reinforce with your children include courage, self-sacrifice and friendship. For example, at the start of the story, Bilbo is self-centred and more interested in sticking with his easy life. But as his friendship with the band of dwarves grows during their journey, Bilbo starts to change, discovering the courage he needs to make sacrifices, including putting his own life on the line for his new friends.
You could also talk with your children about how the dwarves’ pride affects their ability to get what they want and how pride nearly becomes their downfall.