Follow TV Tropes


Film / Tolkien

Go To

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 (portrayed by Nicholas Hoult), the author who codified High Fantasy with The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion and wrote notable academic works. It includes his time in the trenches of World War I, and his courtship of and marriage to Edith Bratt (Lily Collins).

Tolkien provides examples of:

  • The Ace: When Tolkien is a schoolboy, an English teacher attempts to dress him down by having the class read The Canterbury Tales, and suggesting he can "follow along". To make matters worse, his classmates steal his copy so that he has nothing to read from. When Tolkien's turn to read out loud comes, he recites his passage from memory with perfect pronunciation.
  • 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 began 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 (and probably never will) have a blockbuster movie adaptation. Depicting Tuor at the Fall of Gondolin (the very first part of the legendarium and openly inspired by his war experiences - he wrote the first version while convalescing in a military hospital in 1917) would have been far more apt. Likewise, Sauron's final literary form was decades away, and the Dark Lord he created at the time was Melko/Morgothnote .
  • 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.
  • Book Ends: The movie's first flashback starts with Tolkien as a child playing in the woods. It ends with Tolkien watching his kids play in the woods, and asking to tell them a story.
  • 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.
  • Due to the Dead: Tolkien asks Geoffrey's mother Mrs. Smith if he can publish a book of her son's poems. She agrees, and he writes the foreword.
  • 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.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: Artistic ventures cannot survive unless you have friends and family to support you. Otherwise, the journey is lonely. Tolkien started writing in earnest after the war, where his family made him balance his work and pleasure. Christopher Wiseman stops composing, and most of his pieces predate the war.
  • 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. Tolkien himself is haunted.
  • 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.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: At the start of the movie, Geoffrey's mother is a stern parent who treats Tolkien as a Toxic Friend Influence. When they have tea at the end, Ms. Smith thanks Tolkien, who is Older and Wiser, for bringing her to the spot where the boys met. She asks Tolkien desperately if Geoffrey was happy while he was younger and alive.
  • Tragic Dream: Geoffrey says he wants to be a poet, but his father wants him to give it up for more sensible pursuits. He dies in the war before his poems can be published, though Tolkien asks his mother for permission to do so and she eventually releases a book of them.
  • 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.