Peter Jackson is no stranger to violence in his movies. His earlier works such as Bad Taste, Braindead and The Frighteners contains some overtly explicit imagery. However it is often tempered by a lot of black humour. The Lord of the Rings trilogy also included quite strong material especially in the extended editions. Yet because this was often focused on non-humans and the bloodshed was frequently black, it was deemed not so shocking by the various ratings boards around the world. Now the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is bound to have a very broad appeal. Tolkien’s book is quite different from its immediate sequel, in so far as it is clearly aimed at children. Therefore a lot of parents may think this movie more suitable for younger viewers. So exactly what levels of violence does THAUJ contain? Well forewarned is forearmed.
The UK ratings board, the BBFC (British Board of film classification) are an extremely comprehensive and efficient organisation. After rating a movie they provide in-depth information on the the content, themes and tone, via their website. They are also aware that this will often include spoilers, so they gate this additional detail behind a drop down menu. The information they published recently for THAUJ is very illuminating. It would seem that Peter Jackson has maintain the continuity right across the board and that the first part of the new trilogy contains similar levels of violence. I have posted the BBFC’s summary below. Please be aware that it does indeed contains spoilers.
THE HOBBIT – AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is part one of Peter Jackson’s three part prequel to the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, based on the J.R.R. Tolkien novel. A young hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is enlisted by the wizard Gandalf to go on an adventure with dwarves. It is rated 12A for moderate violence.
In many respects the feature is very similar to the three films in the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.
Scenes of moderate violence include the storming of a dwarf city by a dragon, and battles between the band of dwarves and both orcs and goblins. In one battle there is reference to a dwarf king being beheaded, with sight of a head being held by an orc before it is thrown to the ground. It is neither bloody nor gory. An orc also has his arm severed with a sword, with brief sight of black blood dripping from the stump. In another scene the dwarves are attacked by large creatures resembling wolves and ridden by orcs. Orcs are shot with arrows and at one point an arrow is pulled from an orc’s neck. However, while arrows are seen hitting the creatures, these moments are not bloody. At one point the dwarves are captured by goblins and must fight to escape. The battle includes decapitations and stabbings, and a large goblin’s stomach being slashed open. While there is a lot of violence involving bladed weapons, the context is clearly fantastical and there is no emphasis on injuries or blood.
There are also scenes of threat, including Bilbo and the dwarves being caught by trolls who plan to eat them. But they are saved before they come to any harm. When Bilbo encounters Gollum, the creature considers eating Bilbo, having previously been seen hitting a goblin with a rock while singing about eating that too. But Bilbo is able to outwit the creature.
THE HOBBIT – AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY also features scenes in which characters smoke pipes and drink alcohol. However, this reflect the habits of the fantasy characters and does not condone smoking or excessive drinking.
No-one younger than 12 may see a 12A film in a cinema unless accompanied by an adult. No-one younger than 12 may rent or buy a 12 rated video or DVD.
I am not that surprised about the dark tone of THAUJ as it became apparent during the various production videos that there was going to be comparable levels of violence to TLOTR. In the latest video, editor Jabez Olssen was looking at some footage from Goblin Town which featured a decapitation. If you watch the second theatrical trailer, it features a large Goblin corpse falling on top of the twelve dwarves. If you examine the image it appears to be the Great Goblin (Barry Humphries) and he’s been cut in two. I shall be able to verify this and shed further insight into the levels of violence when I see the movie next Thursday. I’m sure that it is all proportionate to the story but I always think that it is important for viewers, especially parents to have sufficient information to make an informed choice.