TOLKIEN explores the formative years of the renowned author’s life as he finds friendship, courage and inspiration among a fellow group of writers and artists at school. Their brotherhood strengthens as they grow up and weather love and loss together, including Tolkien’s tumultuous courtship of his beloved Edith Bratt, until the outbreak of the First World War which threatens to tear their fellowship apart. All of these experiences would later inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-earth novels.
(Quoted from Film’s Official Website)
/ Trailer /
/ Tech Specs /
Directed by Dome Karukoski
Script by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford
Genre: Biopic, Drama, British, Historical
Starring Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, and Derek Jacobi
Industry Content Rating: PG-13, for some war violence scenes
/ Positives /
+ Overall a beautiful telling of the early years of Tolkien
This is more than just a friendship. It’s an alliance. An invincible alliance. Helheimr!Robert Gilson in the movie Tolkien, 2019
+ The Tea Club and Barrovian Society/TCBS. I feel very tempted to tell you everything about the TCBS. But I won’t here as I shall address some details in my next point. So let’s just say that this is central to the movie’s story. And was Tolkien’s fellowship prior to the Inklings.
Geoffrey Bache Smith: My mother’s exactly the same. She values poetry. She loves it. She refuses to see it as a potential career. She sees me as a lawyer, or an accountant.
Robert Gilson: Well, at least your parents discuss it. If I even mentioned becoming a painter, I’d be disowned. No. I’d be decapitated.From the movie Tolkien, 2019
+ The focus on brotherly and sacrificial love, loyalty, and courage is much appreciated. I love seeing the friendship among the TCBS members. With a hearty nod to artistic inspiration and accountability, and also independence, since family support is sometimes limited.
+ Positive adult role models in a young Tolkien’s life: his mother, his guardian – Father Frances (and thank you, Hollywood, for not being anti-Catholic in this), and Professor Joseph Wright.
+ Every shot is cinematically beautiful with perfect casting and costumes. Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins really nailed their respective roles as “Ronald” Tolkien and Edith. (I pick at the dialogue and characters’ relationship depth but this aspect does its best to mend my feelings overall.)
I can die in any way the fates choose, that’s not up to me. But what is within my power is to decide how I live. Courageously or timidly.Robert Gilson in the movie Tolkien, 2019
From the Norse, the ruthless goddess Hel’s realm of the dead “where warriors are sent if they die in the wrong way” (i.e. “peacefully, illness, old age, anything other than battle”). For Marvel fans out there, think Hela from Thor: Ragnarok. It’s a very timely reminder that life must be lived with purpose, with courage, with honor, with all your heart, in life, in the creation of art, and in death.
+ I love all the scattered sources of creative inspiration Tolkien uses from his life in the creation of Middle Earth: Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (Ring) cycle of operas, Edith Bratt (as his Muse, Luthien, Arwen), his fellowship of friends (The Fellowship of the Ring), No-Man’s Land (Mordor), the tragic losses and experience at the Somme (which brilliantly captures its association to the Nazgul/Ringwraiths and even Sauron).
Side Note: Points on depicting the Somme. It is done so well that I could feel the absolute loss and tragedy in that place. And how many young and brave lives lost there.
+ Also scattered throughout is how Tolkien’s Catholic faith and upbringing influenced his stories. It’s not overtly done. And while I appreciate all the symbolism weaved in, I still think it could have more in-depth dialogue regarding this.
Things aren’t beautiful because of how they sound. They’re beautiful because of what they mean.Edith Bratt in the movie Tolkien, 2019
+ The words-meaning-history-culture link Tolkien learned and used in his Middle Earth world. It’s a really great reminder about the numerous beautiful words in the English language, as well as the rich history behind each one.
/ Negatives /
– The film could have included more growth to the characters (a mile wide of characters but an inch deep in some ways).
– Generally needs more dialogue with depth. (I understand limitations of running time and etc., but still – my writer brain values this since it’s rarely done well in films.) Still – points on the dialogue that is poetic and just being so quotable. 🙂
– Edith and Tolkien’s relationship as the main element of the story, while sweet and the actors’ chemistry is praiseworthy, could have used less “given” (these two grew up together so they love each other) and more realistic development.
– The extremely minor screen-time of Tolkien’s brother stood out to me as a bit odd.
As a LotR fan, I’m pleased this movie was made and this legendary author’s story told. Emotions and passions are highly contagious – good (such as Tolkien and his fellowship’s) and bad ones (such as those that initiated The Great War as well as The Second World War). It’s a wonderful reminder that out of the deepest mire and darkness and despair, we can still find hope and beauty and love and cling onto it. And make it ours. Even create our own. And in doing so, inspire others to do the same. I think this film, with the creative liberties taken and all, respects and properly captures the essential spirit of Tolkien and his love for words and meaning, as well as poetically presenting probable depictions of how and where such love for language originated.
As an afterthought, I would love to see a film or TV miniseries (got to love those, the running time allows the story and characters so much more time to develop) focusing on Tolkien’s life as a whole and/or his friendship with C.S. Lewis and the Inklings with more depth. Yet I think for what this movie was meant by its creators to focus on, it accomplishes beautifully, if not perfectly.
It’s about journeys. Adventures. Magic, of course. Treasure. And love. It’s about all kinds of things really. It’s hard to say. I suppose it’s about quests, to a certain extent. The journeys we take to prove ourselves. About courage. Fellowship. It’s about fellowship. Friendship. Little people just like you.Tolkien in the movie Tolkien, 2019
All quotes in the above post are taken from Tolkien, the 2019 film, https://www.moviequotesandmore.com/tolkien-best-movie-quotes/
Ratings in a Glimpse:
- Entertainment Value: 4.5 of 5
- Aesthetic Quality: 5 of 5
- Story: 3.75 of 5
- Characters: 2.75 of 5
- Acting: 5 of 5
- Visuals: 5 of 5
- Sexual: None, kissing
- Language: Light and rare
- Violence: Light to Moderate – a few realistic WWI scenes that can be frightening to younger audiences
- Morality: 5 of 5
Overall Conclusion: 4 of 5 ~ A very poetic biopic of Tolkien’s early years’ influences on his creation of Middle Earth (The TCBS, Edith Bratt, Oxford, and The Great War). While the film probably ages well for aesthetic reasons, it falls short on real character development and dialogue depth.
Thanks for Reading!
Are you interested in seeing TOLKIEN after reading my review? Have you seen this movie? What do you think of it? What are your thoughts on beautiful movies that sadly fall short when it comes to real character depth and development? I’d love to talk it over with you or hear any other comments/questions you may have.