The second part of “The Hobbit” trilogy has arrived in theaters. What themes does it present? What might we talk about in relation to the latest film? Here, we’ll explore a few themes found through the film and view the movie through worldview glasses. There will be SPOILERS below.
Perhaps the strongest theme throughout the movie is that of justice. The most obvious aspect of this may be found in the quest at the heart of the story itself: the dwarves seeking to reclaim their homeland.
Yet justice also plays its part in reflection upon each ruler the film shows. Thorin, for example, seems to be consumed in part by greed. He is comfortable leaving members of his group behind so that they do not slow the quest. In fairness, when he does leave Kili, Oin, Fili, and Bofur behind, it is in a place in which they were welcomed (eventually) and so perhaps Thorin is not so cold here as he may seem.
Thranduil, on the other hand, is a clearly unjust ruler. First, he treats his subjects unjustly. When he discusses the potential feelings Legolas has for Tauriel, an elven captain, she (seemingly with some hope) mentions that she thinks he would never allow Legolas to become betrothed to a non-royal. Thranduil responds saying she is right, which is why he charges her with telling Legolas there is no hope. The injustice of the scene is both seen and felt. One cannot help but sympathize with Tauriel against Thranduil’s audacity.
Yet Thranduil’s unjust rule also extends to his entire kingdom. His concern seems to be purely with his own borders, as he prefers to keep evil out rather than confronting it at its source. His isolationism is based upon the notion that only his kingdom has “the light” and so that light must be preserved from the darkness of the surrounding world. The discussion made me think of the fact that some Christian evangelical groups withdraw from the world, because they do not wish to be part of the world or its darkness any longer. Yet as Christians, we are called to go into the world and confront the darkness rather than isolate ourselves from it. Thranduil’s comments speak to our own feelings, and his unjust ways are a call to us for action.
The Master of Laketown is also unjust in his dealings with his people. His highest aim is to preserve his own power. The thought of anyone sharing power with him–or the thought of the people having some say–is horrifying to him. Yet rather than ruling for the sake of his people, it seems his life is consumed by alcoholism and gluttony.
Light in the Darkness
The theme of light opposed to darkness is found throughout the film. Thranduil speaks of the battle between light and darkness in his own confused fashion, Beorn notices the “stench” of evil and a darkness over the woods, and Gandalf directly confronts darkness with light.
The latter instance is perhaps the most powerful, for it features Gandalf facing off against Sauron as Gandalf uses light from his staff to combat the blackness with which Sauron assaults him. Sauron’s words call out, telling Gandalf that there is not enough light in the world to combat his darkness.
For those who know how the Lord of the Rings ends, the scene is ironic. But in the moment, it rings true. It seems that darkness will indeed prevail.
Thorin, as noted, seems to be consumed by greed. Not only does he leave his fellow dwarves who would slow him behind, but he eventually confronts Bilbo regarding the Arkenstone. He uses his sword to bar Bilbo’s way and demands he hand over the Arkenstone, if he found it. The tension of the scene is only broken when Smaug attempts to destroy them both. However, the greed within Thorin seems to be growing. It will be interesting to see how it plays out in the conclusion to the trilogy.
The Master of Laketown also makes his decision through greed. Although the prophecy regarding the return of the king under the mountain makes clear the notion that his own town will burn, Thorin’s appeal to the Master based upon shared wealth does not fall upon deaf ears. The Master of Laketown succumbs both to his own greed and to the mob which has formed around the debate.
One of the more interesting things for me to reflect upon in the film was the way evil was portrayed. Clearly, the unjust rulers discussed above are each, in their own way, a kind of evil. However, the orcs were the clearest portrayal of evil. Yet their evil, to me, seemed to be inherently unreasonable. There was little reason for them to act as they did apart from pure hatred. Sauron was calling out to his evil minions as well, and his motivation seems to be simply the destruction of any who are not subject to him.
Reflection upon this depiction of evil leads to an insight: evil is, at its core, irrational. There is no reason to it. It goes against what genuinely makes sense in the world. This applies not only to the fanatical lust for murder which the orcs had, but also to the injustice of the rulers mentioned above. A viewer cannot help but think that Thorin, Thranduil, and the Master are each acting in an illogical fashion. Their greed corrupted them. For the orcs, their lust for suffering has consumed them. Evil is illogical; those who practice it are chasing fantasy.
I admit I did not enjoy “The Desolation of Smaug” as much as I enjoyed “An Unexpected Journey,” though I did still like the movie. I think the themes found here are worth reflecting upon, and the way they are presented forces viewers to really sit back and think as the movie continues. In particular, the feeling of injustice throughout the movie was unexpected, but it touched upon a number of areas related to our own lives and how we live them.
There is, of course, much more which could be discussed regarding the “Desolation of Smaug,” and I turn to you, readers, to start that discussion in the comments.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey- A Christian Perspective– check out my look at the first of “The Hobbit” trilogy.
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I hate to be the first to comment, but such is life. Thank you for your review, J.W., for your take on the movie actually made my expenditure for a ticket to see it in 3D sorta worth the money. As I look back I can see how the themes of justice and light are quite present throughout, giving me a little more hope that I could enjoy this movie more if I saw it again. Other than that, having never read the books (sorry, but there are other books I’ve read, including all the Narnia ones, so I’m not totally illiterate), the plot was terribly confusing. And even more, I quickly became annoyed with the over-the-top effects and violence for violence’s sake (so it seemed). AND, I just couldn’t enjoy the movie more than I did because so much of it was unbelievable, even in a make-believe world. Fighting dragons that can be hurt by a harpoon but not by tons and tons of molten gold? Seriously? Well, that’s my illiterate take.
I haven’t read through all the LOTR books either. I can never make it past the midway point of “The Two Towers.” The dragon scene seemed quite prolonged to me and the gold was, I agree, a bit ludicrous.
I don’t know what the intention was of some of the violence. I was bothered when thinking about the orcs, as I mentioned. It’s purposeless. But as I wrote, that really is what evil boils down to: it is inherently irrational.
Thanks for the comment!