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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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