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Film / Tolkien

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Tolkien is a 2019 American biographical drama film directed by Dome Karukoski and written by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford. It is about the early life of English professor J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, as well as notable academic works.

The film stars Nicholas Hoult as Tolkien.

Tolkien provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – History:
    • The movie took some flack on Catholic websites for ignoring Tolkien's Christian faith.
    • The expected Call Forwards to Tolkien's Middle-earth works are basically all about The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, as much as the film can get away with while Writing Around Trademarks. But he only wrote those books decades later. Instead, as a young man during WW1 he would have begun working on what would become The Silmarillion, which takes place literal ages before the later books. He worked on it for the rest of his life with his more famous books being more like spin-offs, and it was only assembled and published in its current form after he died in his eighties. This is probably due to Small Reference Pools: The Silmarillion is yet unknown to the general public since it doesn't have a blockbuster movie adaptation yet, unlike the others.
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  • Bloody Horror: While Tolkien and his companion are navigating the trenches, they happen upon a well in the ground surrounded by corpses. Exhausted, Tolkien collapses in the lake of blood that has pooled in the centre of the crater.
  • Dead All Along: The main crux of the story involves Tolkien searching for his friend Geoff on the battlefield. When Tolkien returns home, Edith reveals that he had died two weeks previously.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Edith tells Tolkien to "not get killed" before embarking on the boat for France. Given that this is a biopic and his works exist today, he obviously survives the war.
  • Giant Flyer: Tolkien keeps seeing the shadow of a dragon on the battlefield and even possibly Sauron himself.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: It's implied by an interaction after the war that Tolkien has been neglecting his family to focus on developing his stories. This changes when he shares them with his wife and sons during a trip to the woods.
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  • Period Piece: Takes place during Tolkien's childhood and young adulthood in the early 1900s, particularly focusing on his experiences during World War I.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Christopher is the only one of the TCBS other than Tolkien to survive, but he returns home a changed and broken man.
  • Shout-Out: While talking about Wagner's Ring Cycle, Robert complains it shouldn't take six hours to tell a story about a magic ring.
  • Smash Cut: During their lunch, Edith throws a sugar cube onto the brim of a lady's hat, then tells Tolkien to do the same. Aghast, he states that he can do no such thing, and she asks him 'what's the worst that could happen?' Cut to both of them being kicked out of the restaurant.
  • Spot of Tea: The boys make Barrow's Teahouse their meetup spot, and they name their group the "Tea Club, Barrovian Society" - "TCBS" for short - after it. This group prefigured The Inklings, which formed after the war. Besides Tolkien the most famous Inkling today is C. S. Lewis, who does not appear in the film since it's mostly set before they met.
  • War Is Hell: Of the four boys, only two return from the war alive. While Tolkien — despite seeing flashes of fantastical creatures in No Man's Land — remains a sane man, Christopher returns utterly broken and succumbs to PTSD.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: The Tolkien Estate was uninvolved in the making of the film and so the filmmakers didn't have the rights to reference Tolkien's creations directly, but there are plenty of allusions instead:
    • Elements in Tolkien's life that helped inspire the story of Beren and Lúthien are depicted, but neither name is ever spoken or written. The film even acknowledges their names are written on John and Edith's respective headstones without naming them once.
    • As an officer, Tolkien is assigned a "batman" (not that one, obviously), a soldier serving as his personal assistant... named Sam.


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