Reviewed by: John M. Decker
courage / bravery
dragons and dinosaurs—discover how they are connected
dragons in the Bible
wizards and sorcerers
|Featuring:||Benedict CumberbatchBenedict Cumberbatch … The Necromancer
Hugo Weaving … Elrond
Martin Freeman … Bilbo Baggins
Evangeline Lilly … Tauriel
Luke Evans … Bard
Cate Blanchett … Galadriel
Elijah Wood … Frodo
Christopher Lee … Saruman
Orlando Bloom … Legolas
Ian McKellen … Gandalf
Richard Armitage … Thorin Oakenshield
Andy Serkis … Gollum
|Producer:||New Line Cinema
|Distributor:||Warner Bros. Pictures|
“From the smallest beginnings come the greatest legends.”
A precursor to my review: Upon finishing my review, I am left with the impression that it is primarily negative. I do not mean to convey a negative view of this film. It’s a wonderful film. It’s a fun adventure which is more wholesome than the majority of films on the market. It is a wonderful children’s tale that I thoroughly enjoyed, and there is little that I find personally objectionable. I look forward to the rest of the series. I plan to buy it and watch it with my family many times in the future. Keep in mind, the key purpose of my review is to act as a kind of gatekeeper for what is ahead. An excellent and thrilling tale lies ahead. For those with small children—some warnings. For the rest of us, be vigilant always and enjoy this gorgeous, colorful, compilation of sight and sound once imagined, now on the screen.
A beautifully made, inspiring adventure story, an action film for the young, but no too young. There is something so innocent in the telling of The Hobbit when it is read to children, and this was the author’s intention. Dark aspects are quickly put out like flickering candles. They sneak up and make the heart race. Like a scary campfire story, they startle and are whisked away by the jolly voice of a father seeking to warn of evil but not terrify his little ones. This is not so much the case with the film “The Hobbit.” Peppered with humor and intrigue worthy of this small children’s book, the film has playful aspects of the myth—dwarves and their bumbling nature, innocence of hobbits, dumbness of orcs, thugginess of evil characters. However, if you guessed this film might be a little more like The Hobbit—primarily a children’s tale—than The Lord of the Rings—a darker and more intricate set of stories designed for an older crowd that’s more familiar with the depravity of the world, you would be like I was—wrong.
Yes, it’s somewhat playful, but there are portions dark enough to scare not only children, who are not accustomed to dark imagery, but some who are. I would not entirely disagree with the PG-13 rating due to the darker aspects of the film. It is certainly not darker than the LOTR series, so that’s a good gauge. If you are familiar with the LOTR movies or the book The Hobbit, you would expect a general lack of: cursing, dirty behavior, sexuality and general elevation of bad character in this film. “The Hobbit” delivers on that expectation.
Hope, loyalty, diligence, the value and appreciation of innocence, valiance, patience, trust, need for diversity, kindness, masculinity, honor, vision, determination—these characteristics are frequent among the heroes of this film. Tolkien, like C.S. Lewis, is known for his righteous heroes, and this film quite reflects the same. This is a heartwarming story of loyalty and purpose that warns of greed, but still seeks treasure and a restored heritage. Sometimes it is those who warn us of the evils of capital who secretly are thieves or working on the side of evil.
My sons, 14 and 16, and I quickly agreed that this film has more witchcraft than the LOTR series. It is seen throughout a number of scenes, instead of appearing only here or there with some words or a healing potion. On top of this, there is a difference in the portrayal of wizardry: With the appearance of Radagast the Brown comes a wizard more like a genuine modern day witch than we became accustomed to in the LOTR series. Where Gandolf and Saruman are noble, proper, with high abodes and high tongue, academic, visionary, with gathered wits, Radagast the Brown appears, in contrast, quite pagan. He lives among the woods in a thatched home. He talks to animals as if they are all he has, and, apparently, they are. For my part, his care for them conjures up impressions of hyper animal rights activism. It is said he eats intoxicating mushrooms. He stands out a little oddly in a film series where good is always portrayed as good, unless it betrays. This brown wizard is an “innocent, drug addled, animal extremist—a good heart”, this fallacy of identity is part of the conjury that has helped carry our country through to a leftist Agenda. His goodness comes out more weakly than his lack of mental cohesion, supposed innocence and extreme position toward animals. He loves those in his care—alas, we are endeared to this witch. What did you expect?
The unfortunate result, I expect, from the increased wizardry in this film is more wizardry in American film in the future. Purely from an entertainer’s point of view, Hollywood would be foolish not to merchandise the increased popularity of wizardry it will bring. Any filmmaker who doesn’t have a problem with witchcraft, who is not inspired by Jackson’s usage of it, is dead in his imagination, if he is not inspired here. That said, I have a more fond idea: Let the Christian filmmaker see what is coming. Whether it’s in the battle for reality sans fiction, or the battle to portray righteousness appropriately, the Christian filmmaker can also see the future of this market and cease it for God’s glory without glorifying an evil practice. Matthew 16:3—“O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”
The fairly short appearance of the Necromancer is certainly one of the more startling and disturbing images in the film. My Webster’s dictionary defines Necromancy as—“Divination by communication with the spirits of the dead; witchcraft; sorcery. Magic, especially ‘black magic;’ the ‘black art’ so called from the early false etymology.” On behalf of children, it’s nothing to be ignored. We are familiar with such a story in First Samuel 28, where King Saul sought the same, and his end was no good for it. The Necromancer in this film is nothing but pure evil; he is certainly not portrayed as good. He is none-the-less portrayed and, as most of us would not tell the First Samuel 28 story to a child up to a certain age, particularly not with focus, elaboration and emphasis on explaining the possibility and wretchedness of such evil, the same would not want that child to see this film’s dark and elaborate portrayal of the Necromancer.
Primarily, my intention is not to touch on the typical academic questions such as “Is the movie ‘like’ or ‘worthy of’ the book?,” however, I will say that, in my opinion, most scenes are true to the book’s content about 75% of the time, particularly if you are forgiving of them being out of order and needing to synchronize with the LOTR films.
My guess is that aesthetic complaints about the film will be in relation to lack of character development and CGI. Some of the fire and smoke is not as realistic on the big screen as I expected. This CGI aspect should be different in your living rooms. As for character development, I think a good illustration of what is perhaps missing would be to point to a scene where character development occurs quite well. Bilbo awakes in the night and has a conversation with the dwarf Bofur holding watch. I latched onto this scene; it delivered a deep glimpse into this particular dwarf. I became familiar with him, like I came to know Mary or Sam from “The Fellowship of the Ring.” So am I complaining? Well, there are 13 dwarves and hardly time for a lot of that, but I’ll say it again, this is much more of an action film than how the LOTR series started, with “The Fellowship of the Ring.” It would not bother me a bit if the next one were a little slower paced. For one thing, I know what richness of personality Director Peter Jackson is capable of delivering.
Peter Jackson repeats his ability to portray such barbarities as a severed head and close-up visual and audial expressions of violence, without focusing on the gore more than is given for telling the story. That said, violence is not something I avoid in film where it lacks ingratiating gore, however Jackson certainly pushes the limits. Where there is plenty of good guy fun in mid to long shot sword swinging, there is no doubt quite a bit of bone crunching and bad guy slashing.
Drug reference: The reference to the brown wizard partaking of mushrooms is quite in your face. It’s an education for the uninitiated, not easily breezed over, something I try to avoid when watching a film with children. The reference is to a brain addled by its use, that is clear, but it is also playful, and I don’t take lightly to talk of drugs. I grew up in the 1980s, when churches were more given to testimonies, and we who were innocent teens at the time learned to envy those with more of a ‘story’. I don’t recommend hiding the past. I also don’t recommend misplaced humor about it. Enough said.
One surprising, indecent verbal reference to crochet balls is made. As is common in animated films these days, the reference goes over the heads it’s meant to. Honestly it’s a little uncouth man humor. I would expect more of Director Jackson in mixed company.
Smoking: There is some pipe smoking. This doesn’t bother me. I’m more a believer that it’s many of the modern uses which are not use, so-much-as abuse, of tobacco that lead to death and sickness. In general, the smoking references are not drug associated, though an agnostication of that factor is arguably present in one scene.
Gollum continues to portray so well the ugliness of the soul in its extremes—always willing to retreat to his more innocent self when it’s advantageous, always given over to a more aggressive self, if he believes he can get away with it. While I am not necessarily a fan of the idea that within so many movies lies a Biblical narrative to be brought out, what Gollum represents is brilliantly portrayed and should be convicting. Certainly the “pity” for Gollum’s state that Frodo has in the LOTR series is relevant again. What deplorable aspects of the human condition show up for those needing a Jude verse 23: “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”
Violence: Heavy to extreme / Profanity: None / Vulgarity: Minor (“ass” and “jaxie”) / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.