A Tolkien of Brilliance

Max Yanacek, Writer, future Entertainment Editor

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After over 80 years after their publication, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are still two of the most iconic and best-selling novels of all time. The live-action movies also became very popular beginning after the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001. On May 10, 2019, Fox Searchlight Pictures released Tolkien, the commonly unheard story of the author of these film-inspiring books.

The movie begins with horrific scenes of World War I, a large part of the life and inspiration of Tolkien (played by Nicholas Hoult). These scenes are continually revisited within the nonlinear storyline as Tolkien recollects his past until the two storylines begin to overlay one another. This presentation is slightly reminiscent of how a majority of The Lord of the Rings was written: continually switching perspectives until the characters’ paths cross.

Tolkien accurately illustrates the writer’s entire life with a large focus on his education and friendships following the death of his mother. The film highlights his relationship with his classmates Christopher Wiseman (played by Tom Glynn-Carney), Robert Gilson (played by Patrick Gibson), and Geoffrey Smith (played by Anthony Boyle), as well as with Edith Bratt (played by Lily Collins), a fellow orphan who Tolkien eventually marries.

There are many themes present in the film as viewers experience Tolkien’s life alongside him, all of which almost directly correspond with many of the themes in his many works. Themes like fellowship found in The Lord of the Rings coincide with the brotherhood and never-ending friendship Tolkien found with his friends and their made-up club, The Tea Club and Barrovian Society (T.C.B.S.), the theme of courage found within The Hobbit correlating with his time spent serving in World War I, the theme of love found inside the story of Beren and Lúthien (referenced at the very end of the film) coming out of his affectionate relationship with Edith Bratt, and the significance of journeys found in all three works inspired by the journey that was his life.

Besides meaningful themes, the film makes many nods to those who have read any of Tolkien’s books and even those who have watched the movies through quick images of creatures as well as recognizable images and runes pinned on the young author’s wall.

In addition to these images, many words, and phrases that are commonly associated with Tolkien’s books are used by the characters: words like “courage” and “fellowship” and the iconic line “In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.”

Although not necessarily action-packed, as described inside a review by Rolling Stone that described the film as “one biopic to bore them all,” it does a perfect job of emphasizing Tolkien’s inspiration and imagination as well as his numerous skills, something the review claims Tolkien does not accomplish.

Because it is a biopic (a biographical movie) not everyone who enjoyed the 2001-2014 Peter Jackson directed The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit movies will enjoy Tolkien, and this is why many may find it boring. The history and inspiration of Tolkien is brilliantly depicted, but apart from some brief shots of World War I, there is not much action. Someone who has read (and enjoyed) any of his books or can appreciate the inspiration behind great writing will also enjoy Tolkien                                                                       

The presentation of Tolkien is very similar to one of Tolkien’s most famous books, The Silmarillion. The novel is less an epic adventure like the more popular books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but gives great exposition to the other writings, telling the reader what happened from the beginning of time to the events of the so familiar stories. In the same way, Tolkien fills the time gap for anyone interested the author. It gives the unmistakable name of J.R.R. Tolkien new meaning.