Film Review: Tolkien

by Evan Brown

Rated M. Starring Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins. Directed by Dome Karukoski.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are two of the greatest-selling fantasy sagas of all time and it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know how to say the words “my precious!” without using a Gollum accent. To shed light on these literary marvels, Tolkien was created. The film, however, is not just a biopic: it’s a romance, a coming of age story and a beautiful reflection on friendship. It aims to show us through J.R.R Tolkien’s life and experiences, we can we start to understand how he was inspired to write some of the most famous fiction of the 20th Century.

Whether or not you are a fan of his books (or the movie adaptations) Tolkien isn’t a bad biopic. Set mostly in flashback mode we see glimpses of Tolkien’s life – being orphaned at a young age, looked after by the Catholic Church, boarding school, childhood friends, love interests, university etc. Whilst the life of an upper middle class white guy attending an elite university may not seem like a riveting story, it’s the relationships that Tolkien (Hoult) encounters along the way that make this story come to life. Whether it was with his rebellious and childish school friends or with his headstrong feminist love interest Edith Pratt (Collins), Tolkien is encouraged and challenged to think outside the English norm and push himself his literary limits.

I personally found the character of J.R.R Tolkien to be a little bit bland and polite. Nicholas Hoult does a great job portraying the role of the English gentleman however it really was his love interest Edith that made this film come to life. Where the character of Tolkien is the typical English gentleman, Pratt is the trapped feminist desperate to find adventure and escape her life as a woman in the 1900s. Unfortunately, the film isn’t set entirely around Tolkien’s love life (which probably would have made a really good movie) and the scenes between them are limited and left me wanting more.

I, like many others, waited for theological legend C.S. Lewis to appear at some point of the film however that moment never arrives. Tolkien focuses more on the relationships of his school friends and of his love interest and the impact they had on his writing. Despite overlooking Lewis and the impact of Christianity in Tolkien’s writing the film does a brilliant job of showing that through the support of his friends and his experiences of life (school, university, war) that he was able to create one of the greatest literary sagas to ever have been composed.

The idea of fellowship is a really big theme that appears throughout the film, and through fellowship comes encouragement and belief in one another. Without this fellowship Tolkien may never have achieved his literary greatness, “iron sharpens iron” as they say.

This idea of fellowship is not uncommon in Christianity and the Bible encourages us to meet together regularly. Hebrews 10:23-25 reminds us:

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Don’t underestimate the power of fellowship in encouraging, supporting, and shaping you in your faith.

The Verdict: Tolkien is a beautiful story of the friends, loves and journeys in the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, and is one of the better films of 2019. Go check it out! 4/5

Tolkien is in cinemas this week.

For more movie reviews from a Christian perspective, connect with Reel Gospel on Facebook and Twitter.

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