TOLKIEN Official Trailer: Tentative Hope

I’m actually starting to get excited about this. Coming from a place of deep skepticism, I am a bit of a late adopter to the idea of this film. Or most any biopic, actually, if I know the main characters. If I know nothing about the historical figure, I tend to love beautifully made biopics. I feel good about living in blissful ignorance of the great story in front of me. It’s quite a strong decade for these films, particularly those set in WWII.

But I do know something about J.R.R. Tolkien. I am not an expert in his biography, but I feel a pretty solid sense of the man, an image in my mind of his character, his habits, his dreams, and some of the hurts and tensions in his life. So over the last few years, I have winced at each step of this Tolkien biopic journey, worrying that it would be terrible.

I began to turn with some hope toward the film with the teaser trailer a few weeks ago. It looked professional and tight with some nice imagery. Strong production does not make for a well-researched biography, but I do like a well-made film. What the teaser suggested and what this new trailer confirms for me, is that the film is largely about Tolkien’s imaginative formation in the context of friendship (the TCBS), war, and love. I’m starting to think this might work.

The cast looks compelling–we must now admit that Edith and John Ronald Tolkien are the best-looking of all the Inklings families–and the filmmakers clearly have a good sense of set direction, costume, and character interaction. The close-up scenes are great, and the war scenes look competent. We will see. Perhaps the least elegant bits of what we’ve seen thus far are the quick shots of Tolkien’s imaginative world.

And then there is this:

They had to know that Tolkien nerds were going to screenshot this bit. Hardly subtle, the shot suggests a link between war and Tolkien’s work. The link is important, and a great way to prepare for this film is to read John Garth‘s Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth. I am intrigued to see how they interpret the link between story, war, language, and Tolkien’s building vocation as a mythmaker. But I am a bit worried about whether they really understand fantasy and can interpret it for us on film.

At the end of the day, I will be pleased if this is a strong story about friendship. I will find my way to the theatre, I’m sure. And as the original Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films are both important to me and a little disturbing in some ways, I may never be satisfied. Still, this is my note of tentative hope!

TOLKIEN explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school. This takes him into the outbreak of World War I, which threatens to tear the “fellowship” apart. All of these experiences would inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-Earth novels.

Only In Theaters May 10, 2019

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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30 Responses to TOLKIEN Official Trailer: Tentative Hope

  1. L.A. Smith says:

    I am SO stoked about this one, but I agree, am a little worried about it, too. I’m hoping they get it mostly right. If they do, I’ll be happy. If nothing else, I’m hoping it will spark deeper conversations about the context of Tolkien’s work and the importance of community in creativity.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Suzanne Lucero says:

    At the end … the “O” in Tolkien … BRILLIANT!


  3. Yewtree says:

    I just finished reading John Garth’s book so I’m ready to see the film. With some trepidation.

    There was also a rather good UK radio production recently that covered the same ground as this film.

    I’m looking forward to it.

    I’d be interested to hear your critique of the LOTR films.

    Here’s mine in order:

    1. The books convey a sense of the divine light of Eru Ilúvatar shining through everything. The films failed to do this.
    2. The awful thing they did to Faramir.
    3. The omission of the sequence on the Barrow Downs where Merry got his sword that he used to help kill the Nazgûl.
    4. The omission of Tom Bombadil. (By all means prevent him from speaking in annoying rhymes, but not get rid of him completely.)
    5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. The awful thing they did to Faramir.

    And don’t even get me started on the utter dreadfulness of the Hobbit films (was so irritated by the first one that I stopped there).

    And the Narnia film was even worse.

    Sorry, I got a bit ranty there!


  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    “There was also a rather good UK radio production recently that covered the same ground as this film.” Please tell us more! (said he lazily before searching at all…).

    I see IMDB says “PG-13” for the age recommendation – but how (more) youthful an audience is likely to be keen?

    We had a wide-ish-screen encounter with a bit of the Jackson in a bookshop when it came out for home-viewing, and settled down to read the whole of The Hobbit-LotR aloud en famille before seeing anything more…

    I wonder if similarly reading John Garth together first would be a good prep (maybe with some skipping? – a bit like the Bible I gave my goddaughter with some things in smaller print, e.g., easily to keep up the narrative flow in the Pentateuch, if one chose to). Certainly worth a try, I’d think… (I remember a very vivid football game early on…)


  5. k8neville says:

    My fears are assuaged, if not fully alleviated. I applaud the apparent emphasis on the TCBS. I’m still hoping that Father Morgan is not made into a wicked step-Father.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, good call. I actually don’t know him well in my mind. He was protective, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

      • k8neville says:

        I read the recent biography “Uncle Curro” — it was very heavy on family history (interesting because of the weird way in which Spain/Portugal and England/Wales were tied by commerce overlaid with culture and religion), but eventually it made clear how much the Tolkien boys owed to this man — most people tend to think of him as an overbearing Thingol, but he was much more like a paternal Elrond figure.


        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          Wow, I want to read that! John Garth has this note on his website about his “Preface to ‘Uncle Curro’: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Spanish Connection (Edinburgh: Luna Press, 2018), José Manuel Ferrández-Bru’s biography of Tolkien’s guardian and ‘second father’, Francis Morgan. Also in Spanish as ‘El Tio Curro’: La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien”(with hyperlinks).


  6. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Indeed, that does not look bad… Will it be horsey? (Wasn’t Tolkien a ‘breaker’? Also, a ‘biker’!) It’d be fine if they developed him imagining ‘The Fall of Gondolin’ in some detail… and had at least glimpses of him reading it to the Exeter College Essay Club.

    It makes me realize I don’t know which of the Inklings (if any) fenced, and, if so, how much! (My maternal grandmother, a bit older than Tolkien, was a fencer, so, who knows – maybe lots of young folk did.) And, which (if any) had sabre training in the army? (!)

    IMDB doesn’t say who Derek Jacobi’s playing, yet… if it’s Joseph Wright, oughtn’t he to be bushier bearded?:


    • hannahdemiranda3 says:

      Derek Jacobi does appears shortly somewhere in the trailer and I also checked IMDb on the role he would be playing – ever since the Cadfael series (Ellis Peters’s medieval whodunits) I love his acting – giving him a bushier beard would surely be no problem for makeup artists/stylists?
      Thanks for this second post & trailer, am looking forward to the film!


      • hannahdemiranda3 says:

        Ah, you meant that he should have had a bushier beard in the trailer for that role …

        Liked by 1 person

        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          If it’s Joseph Wright (unless he had his beard at different lengths at different times…) – now, I’m tempted to go looking for photos of Tolkien’s various tutors, professors, etc.

          Maybe they could get John Garth to write a richly-illustrated Making of Karukoski’s Tolkien book…

          I really like Derek Jacobi as Richard II and Hamlet in the BBC complete plays of Shakespeare series! He also did an audiobook of Tolkien’s Father Christmas letter (and, who knows, maybe more Inklings related audio work – I don’t know, by heart…).

          Liked by 2 people

          • hannahdemiranda3 says:

            Yes, of course he is also great in those Shakespeare plays! And you posted a youtube trailer of that audiobook on with lots of other interesting comments on Tolkien’s Father Christmas letter, a.o. a link to a lecture
            by Corey Olsen …

            Liked by 1 person

            • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

              Right! I couldn’t remember whom I’d told about that, when, and where!

              Yes, Corey Olsen seems one of the few people who has paid much attention to the Father Christmas letters, so far (as far as I can discover: though there are very interesting glimpses here and there down the years – not least by Joe Christopher!).

              Liked by 1 person

              • Hannah says:

                Great lecture! He gives a lot of insight in how Tolkien wrote to his children, and how his letters changed over the years: at first starting with the drawings – just like story writing for Lewis began with images – and adding the texts as explanations of what is going on in the drawings; but gradually the drawings becoming illustration of the stories.
                Also interesting that Tolkien couldn’t revise the letters, as he would keep on doing with his books. Hopefully they will include some of it in “Tolkien”…


              • Curious Peas says:

                couldn’t agree more. can’t wait to see this movie though I hope it sticks to true Tolkien and isn’t some hollywood hog wash

                Liked by 1 person

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                They could – the first letter is from 1920 – some 9 months after he read ‘The Fall of Gondolin’ to the Exeter College Essay Club (with Nevill Coghill and H.V.D. Dyson in the audience!). See John Garth’s little book, Tolkien at Exeter College…

                Liked by 1 person

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                And if they don’t… there’s always room for high-quality fan-film-making! I’ve really enjoyed some of the Tolkien and Star Wars ones, for example:



              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                I wonder if anyone has compiled (and posted, somewhere online) a handy Inklings (or ‘Seven’ – with MacDonald, Chesterton, and Dorothy Sayers, too) Life & Works Fan-Filmography?

                Liked by 1 person

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                How I wish Rex Walford’s film of a fine performance by Miriam Rundle of his excellent one-woman play about Dorothy Sayers (largely if not wholly made up of her own words!) were readily available for viewing! (I don’t even know where, if anywhere, any copy is archived…) See the penultimate paragraph, here:


                Liked by 1 person

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  8. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Just ran into this (I ought to visit Voyage Comics & Publishing more often…):

    At the recent Signum U NederMoot at Leiden U, I heard more than one person with a positive impression after having attended some sort of screening(s) of the film, including someone who said there was not much of Fr. Francis Morgan, but they thought he had been treated well…

    I’m suddenly curious, given a Finnish director, how much (1) he may have been inspired by Tolkien’s attention to The Kalevala and his (earliest surviving?) ‘mythical’ prose-tale, The Story of Kullervo, and (2) whether or not those points will feature in the film…(!)


    • Oh, I”m so glad you got to NederMoot! We’ll have to meet someday on one continent or another.
      Among the mixed reviews, I hope to see who Fr. Francis comes out.
      Good question on the director. Does anyone know?


  9. Pingback: Getting Ready for TOLKIEN: John Garth and Other Resources | A Pilgrim in Narnia

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