The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the second instalment of a three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The movie begins as a flashback in which the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) convinces Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to go on a quest to the Lonely Mountain and reclaim a powerful gem called the Arkenstone from the dragon Smaug. This will enable Thorin to reclaim his heritage and reunite the dwarf people.
One year later a pack of bloodthirsty orcs is chasing Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf, Thorin and Thorin’s company of 12 dwarves through the mountains. The dwarves seek refuge in the abode of Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt), a skin-changer who can transform into a gigantic bear. With Beorn’s help, 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). The elf king Thranduil (Lee Pace) imprisons Bilbo and the dwarves, but Bilbo uses his special ring to free them. They escape down a raging river in wine barrels while being pursued by both elves and orcs.
The dwarves go 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 get into the mountain through a secret door. But when Bilbo tries to steal the Arkenstone from Smaug (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch), things go terribly wrong.
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.
Destiny; prophesy; greed; fantasy
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.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has intense fantasy action violence and peril throughout. This includes heads being cut off, throats being cut, people being impaled, and stylised sword and knife fights. The violence is, however, less intense than in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and this movie shows less blood and gore.
Here are some examples of violence in this movie:
- Several scenes feature dwarves and elves fighting with orcs. Elves use swords to slash, stab and decapitate orcs. Orc heads fly through the air and roll along the ground (minimal blood and gore is shown). A sword impales an orc on 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, which pins the two orcs together.
- A dwarf is shot in the leg with an orc arrow, and the arrow sticks out of the dwarf’s leg. Later there is a bloody patch on the dwarf’s leg. The arrow turns out to be poisoned, and a scene shows the dwarf moaning and screaming in pain.
- Several elves question a captured orc. One elf holds a sword to the orc’s throat. The elf king promises to let the orc go if he talks but, after questioning the orc, the king decapitates him. Little blood and gore is shown, but there is a brief image of the orc’s head flying through the air.
- Orcs attack a home with several young children inside. The children scream in fear and try to fend off the orcs. They’re saved when two elves arrive to battle the orcs.
- A flashback scene shows Smaug the dragon destroying a kingdom. He breathes fire onto buildings, which explode in flames. A lone man fires arrows from a giant crossbow at the dragon. We hear that a great many people die in the attack including the man firing the crossbow.
- Giant spiders with large protruding pincer-like fangs attack Bilbo. One spider wraps Bilbo in a cocoon-like web. Several other spiders wrap unconscious dwarves in cocoons and drag them away. Bilbo escapes from his cocoon and uses his sword to stab one of the spiders in the abdomen. The spider falls through the trees to the ground. Bilbo uses his sword to stab a second spider in the face and kill it. Spiders talk in distorted voices, saying how the dwarves are ‘fat and juicy’ and ‘Let us feast’. More dwarves escape their cocoons, and a battle breaks out between dwarves and spiders. The dwarves use swords and axes to kill the spiders. Several dwarves attack 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 fluid gushes from the severed leg joints.
- One extended and intense scene shows Smaug the dragon pursuing some dwarves through mountain halls and mine shafts. The dragon spews fire to burn the dwarves. One dwarf is set on fire, but the fire is put out. The dwarves throw explosives at the dragon, which is unharmed. The dwarves set a trap for the dragon, who is submerged beneath a molten river of gold. The dragon leaps from the molten river uninjured.
Content that may disturb children
- In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has many scenes and characters that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:
- Smaug the dragon is a gigantic winged creature with 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. Smaug has a powerful menacing voice. He vows to destroy a town of people, saying, ‘I am fire. I am death’.
- The orcs wield a variety of gruesome medieval weapons. They have pointy teeth, pointy ears, and bodies and faces covered in gruesome scars, cuts and badly healing wounds. One orc featured throughout the movie 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 large teeth and a thunderous roar.
- In one scene Thranduil’s face transforms. The flesh disappears to reveal a grotesque skull-like face that shows muscle and bone while his eyes turn white.
- One scene shows the stone ruins of a large castle with many suspended iron cages containing human skeletons and remains.
- An evil animated swirling black cloud with finger-like tendrils of black smoke attacks Gandalf the wizard. Gandalf rams his staff into the ground to create a magical shield like a force field, which surrounds and protects him from the evil. A giant flame-rimmed eye appears momentarily in the centre of the black cloud.
Children in this age group will also be disturbed by the violent and scary scenes and characters described above. They might also be disturbed by:
- a scene that shows the bloody remains of dead animals ripped apart and scattered across the ground
- a room full of long-dead dwarves piled on top of each other. The bodies have decayed and are covered in spider webs.
Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by many of the scenes mentioned above.
Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has a couple of implied sexual references. For example, a captured male dwarf says to a female elf, ‘Are you going to search me? I could have anything down my trousers’. The female elf replies, ‘Or nothing’.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug shows some use of substances:
- In a tavern room scene several patrons including Gandalf smoke pipes and drink from tankards.
- One scene shows several elves drinking wine. One elf says the wine is excellent. A later scene shows the same elves slumped unconscious over the table among scattered empty bottles.
- A man orders his servant to get him a brandy. The man gulps down the brandy and then pours himself a second.
Nudity and sexual activity
There is some nudity and sexual activity in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. For example:
- A male dwarf and a female elf flirt mildly.
- When Beorn transforms from bear to human, there is a side view of his bare buttocks, which are very hairy.
There is no product placement in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but clothing, video games, dolls, Lego toys and other Hobbit merchandise is being marketed to children.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has some occasional name-calling, which children might copy.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a fantasy adventure movie targeting older teenagers and fans of Tolkien’s books. It is the second movie in The Hobbit movie trilogy. The movie goes beyond Tolkien’s original single novel, featuring characters and storylines that aren’t in the novel. It is 161 minutes long but easily entertains an older audience for this length of time.
Although The Hobbit movies aren’t as dark as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug does have numerous scary scenes, characters and images. It also has extended scenes of intense violence, including decapitations and a battle with giant spiders. For this reason, it isn’t recommended for children under 13 years, even those who have read the book. Parental guidance is recommended for children aged 13-15 years.
The main messages from this movie are:
- good will defeat evil
- money changes people by making them greedy
- revenge can backfire on those who seek it
- size doesn’t matter when it comes to courage – the smallest of people can make a difference.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include courage and friendship.