Tolkien (2019)

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Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins as J.R.R. Tolkien and Edith Bratt, respectively, in "Tolkien" (2019). Image Credit: IMDb.



“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” (J.R.R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings).

Every good story begins with a line that inspires people to read on past the first page. With J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone, it is “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Charles Dickens pulls his readers into A Christmas Carol with “Marley was dead, to begin with.” Then there is Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. The author actually begins his now classic novel with the line “The pale Usher—threadbare in coat, heart, body, and brain; I see him now” rather than the incorrectly quoted line “Call me Ishmael.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, the focus of the Dome Karukoski-directed biographical period drama “Tolkien,” begins his book The Hobbit or There and Back Again with the line “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

“Tolkien” promotional poster. Image Credit: IMDb

The visual representation of Tolkien’s thoughts is extraordinary. We see how Tolkien’s time on the front lines influence the creation of Middle Earth’s principle villains.With visualisations of Middle Earth readily apparent, it should not surprise anyone there is an interpretation of Gandalf the Grey.

What is the movie about?

“Tolkien” is set immediately before, during and after The Great War. The Tolkien we see on screen has not yet fully envisioned a world of elves, dwarfs, hobbits and dragons.

An age of innocence became lost with the beginning of The Great War. No one living during the period had ever seen anything like the global conflict which ensured.

The story Karukoski brings to the big screen transpires long before either Bilbo and Frodo Baggins take up residence of their Hobbiton home Bag End. The film explores the author’s formative years, his friendships, the relationship his one true love Edith Bratt and artistic inspiration for an entire fictional universe.

Tolkien, born in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State (modern-day South Africa) on Sunday, 3 Jan. 1892, became one of the most celebrated authors of the twentieth century. The author of such fantasy works as The HobbitThe Lord of the Rings, and unfinished The Silmarillion, Tolkien was a poet, philologist and an accomplished academic.

A Life Less Ordinary

During Tolkien’s professional academic career, from 1925 to 1945, the author served Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford. For the next 14 years, Tolkien went on to become Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and Fellow of Merton College, Oxford.

A founding member of the literary discussion group, the Inklings, Tolkien was friends with C. S. Lewis. Lewis authored “The Chronicles of Narnia.” The Oxford pub The Eagle and Child, known locally as The Bird and Baby, is where the group would meet.

For his contribution to British literature, in 1972, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Tolkien Commander of the British Empire. Tolkien died in Bournemouth, England on Sunday, 2 Sept. 1973. He was 81.

Who is in the cast?

“Tolkien” stars Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, as J.R.R. Tolkien and Edith Bratt, respectively. With Hoult and Collins playing the adult versions their characters, younger versions of same respective roles are captured by Harry Gilby and Mimi Keene.

Hoult, best known for playing Hank McCoy / Beast in four X-Men films, has an accomplished career as a film and television actor dating back to at least 1996. The Berkshire born actor, currently working on the television series, “The Great,” has three feature films in the pipeline.

Collins, currently working on the television series “Emily in Paris,” previously worked on such dramas as “The Last Tycoon” and “Les Misérables.”

The film also stars Patrick Gibson, Pam Ferris, Derek Jacobi and Colm Meaney.

Is there a trailer for the movie?

Various scenes are reminiscent of ones which feature in “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogies. Tolkien’s life experiences play a huge role in developing Middle Earth and the characters. This comes across in the trailer perfectly.

There is a transition scene with Tolkien and his friends as children playing war with make believe swords to shots of the Battle of the Somme. Additionally, there is also a scene where Tolkien and three friends walking through an arch way.

The writing of the first line for The Hobbit or There and Back Again is iconic. This scene is from when the author is a lot older. Tolkien is correcting and grading papers. “All I remember about the start of The Hobbit is sitting correcting School Certificate papers in the everlasting weariness of that annual task forced on impecunious academics with children. On a blank leaf I scrawled: ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ I did not and do not know why” the author wrote in a letter.