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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Martin Freeman stars in a scene from the movie "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"
It seems unlikely that Pope Francis will decide to shatter yet another papal precedent by visiting a multiplex anytime soon. Should he do so, however, he'd probably approve of the underlying themes in director Peter Jackson's lively sequel "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" (Warner Bros.).

Just as the pontiff himself has repeatedly done, Jackson's second installment in a trilogy of films based on Catholic author J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 novel warns against the corrupting influence of wealth and power.

Such Gospel-aligned messages, together with the peppier pace of this outing, compared to its 2012 predecessor, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," will likely please teens and adults. But, as with Jackson's original journey into Tolkien's fictional world of Middle-earth, this follow-up is too intense for the smallest viewers.

In fact, the movie could be taken as a primer in creative ways to kill Orcs. Those evil creatures are the principal adversaries the once-timid hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) encounters as he courageously continues the quest entrusted to him by the good wizard, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen).

Bilbo's mission is to help a group of Dwarves recapture their ancestral stronghold, the Lonely Mountain, from the terrifying dragon Smaug (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch) who long ago displaced them from it.

The Dwarves' doughty king in exile, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), proves himself skilled at dispatching Orcs. So, too, do the dwarf-averse Wood-elf warrior Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and his female comrade in arms, Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly).

Though she initially shares Legolas' hostility toward Bilbo's vertically challenged traveling companions, Tauriel's attitude softens considerably after she meets the best looking of their number, Kili (Aidan Turner). A bit of humorous back-and-forth between these two accounts for the only element in the film that might register as inappropriate for adolescents.

As the Orc casualties mount, and Bilbo and his band get closer to their destination, Gandalf separates from them to pursue even bigger game than Smaug. He's out to prevent darker forces than any mere fire-breather from consolidating their power in a way that could threaten all of Middle-earth.

Along with the critique of greed implicit in the story of how Smaug came into possession of the Lonely Mountain and its vast store of gold, Bilbo's ambiguous relationship with the magical ring he acquired in the first part of his adventure illustrates the dangers posed by a thirst for power.

Though Bilbo can use the ring for good—while wearing it, he's rendered invisible, which frequently comes in handy—its presence exerts a beguiling but negative influence over him. Similarly, Thorin is shown to be temporarily bewitched—and morally compromised—by the horde of wealth stored in the Lonely Mountain.

The ordeal of these two fundamentally good but easily tempted characters adds weight to the drama of their journey. More straightforward, but equally congruent with Judeo-Christian values, is Gandalf's battle with outright evil. In fact, the manifestation of this malignancy chillingly echoes Scripture when he boasts of his followers, "We are legion."

The film contains much vivid but bloodless action violence, some occult undertones and a brief instance of mildly sexual humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Catherine of Siena: The value Catherine makes central in her short life and which sounds clearly and consistently through her experience is complete surrender to Christ. What is most impressive about her is that she learns to view her surrender to her Lord as a goal to be reached through time. 
<p>She was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa and grew up as an intelligent, cheerful and intensely religious person. Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband. Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation. </p><p>She entered the Dominican Third Order at 18 and spent the next three years in seclusion, prayer and austerity. Gradually a group of followers gathered around her—men and women, priests and religious. An active public apostolate grew out of her contemplative life. Her letters, mostly for spiritual instruction and encouragement of her followers, began to take more and more note of public affairs. Opposition and slander resulted from her mixing fearlessly with the world and speaking with the candor and authority of one completely committed to Christ. She was cleared of all charges at the Dominican General Chapter of 1374. </p><p>Her public influence reached great heights because of her evident holiness, her membership in the Dominican Third Order, and the deep impression she made on the pope. She worked tirelessly for the crusade against the Turks and for peace between Florence and the pope </p><p>In 1378, the Great Schism began, splitting the allegiance of Christendom between two, then three, popes and putting even saints on opposing sides. Catherine spent the last two years of her life in Rome, in prayer and pleading on behalf of the cause of Urban VI and the unity of the Church. She offered herself as a victim for the Church in its agony. She died surrounded by her "children" and was canonized in 1461. </p><p>Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church. In 1939, she and Francis of Assisi were declared co-patrons of Italy. Paul VI named her and Teresa of Avila doctors of the Church in 1970. Her spiritual testament is found in <i>The Dialogue</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The gates of hell cannot withstand the power of heaven. Gates of sin melt in the presence of saving grace; gates of death fall in the presence of eternal life; gates of falsehood collapse in the presence of living truth; gates of violence are flattened in the presence of divine love. These are the tools with which Christ has equipped his Church.

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