As with The Lord of the Rings films, the Hobbit films never miss a chance to add battle sequences. What was, in the book, a quiet though damp and hungry ride down the river becomes a chase sequence with dwarves and elves slaughtering vast quantities of orcs. I don’t expect a movie to be faithful to the book, but it should at least capture the tone. The Hobbit book is light adventure, not gory killing. I was dismayed by both the amount and explicitness of the violence, and the audience reaction to the more visually spectacular killings.
British Columbia Film Classification noted “several scenes of violence depicting fighting, stabbing, shooting, decapitation, impalement and/or burning.” Despite that, they rated it PG. The Ontario Film Review Board gave the same rating, oddly claiming “restrained portrayals of non-graphic violence.” It is true that fantasy violence, such as the killing of orcs, is considered less harmful than violence against humans, but I’m not convinced that seeing several orcs decapitated is better than seeing several humans decapitated.
Much to my surprise, there was a national consensus that is a PG film, though not for young children (Quebec has no PG equivalent, so they rated it G). Other jurisdictions felt differently. The MPAA and the BBFC both rated one step higher (PG-13 and 12A, respectively), and Australia and New Zealand both rated it M, meaning recommended for 15+, though without imposing actual age restrictions. Once again, Canada demonstrates very liberal ratings, but given recent concerns about the amount of violence in films, I’m not sure this is a good thing.