My Defiant Appreciation of the Biopic Tolkien

I live on the edge of the continent, on a small island in the North Atlantic. This “lonely island” I call home is more like Hobbiton than the majestic and magical sanctuary of Tol Eressëa of J.R.R. Tolkien’s early mythology. Prince Edward Island is a tiny, secluded place, Canada’s garden province, an idyllic place of beauty rooted in agriculture, fishing, and hospitality. As Islanders, we have our own ways, and we don’t have much to do with the big folk of industry and political power outside our borders. Our premier and opposition leader recently shared a hearty hug on the morning after an election. We are just not like other places.

The downside to living in a land still invested in bygone days is that we rarely get great concerts or non-blockbuster films. Entertainment for us is about folksy stage plays, comedy, humble artisanship, and singer-songwriters that fill small halls and big kitchens with concerts and ceilidhs throughout the year. And there is, of course, Anne of Green Gables—a fabled world that you can still see echoed in our little land.

So when the new Tolkien biopic was coming to theatre, I knew that I would need a road trip to another province to see it. My niece’s play—actually a rewriting of Anne of Green Gables from Marilla’s perspective—gave me the chance to wrap a Tolkien screening together with a great family visit in the next province over.

I wrote last week that I was choosing to be hopeful about the film—despite a rising tide of angry reviews and Tolkienist anxiety. Tolkien readers can be exacting, as I talk about in a guest blog for the Forefront Festival, a kind of Christian arts collective. The blog post should drop later this week, where I talk about some of the tensions involved in making a film like Tolkien. Part of my anxiety in getting read to see Tolkien is not just my own desire for greater fidelity in adaptation—at least greater than we’ve seen in some adaptation of work by Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Madeleine L’Engle—but some degree of fear about fan responses if I were to give a positive review.

That weird tension is interesting, but as I said last week, I decided to go and be open to loving the film—even knowing that it would be imperfect or even troubling at times. I love the Lord of the Rings films, and I watch them about as often as I read the books (now with my son). I love the worlds that Tolkien made and want more of them—and more of him. So I chose to leave behind my skepticism and a desire for precision and go as a fan, grateful for the chance to experience Tolkien’s story.

As C.S. Lewis would put it in An Experiment in Criticism, I chose to “surrender” to the text, to receive as a lover or worshipper the story that the makers of Tolkien want to tell me.

tolkien film nicholas holst Lily CollinsHonestly, I was both relieved and impressed. In many ways, this is a beautifully crafted film. There are gaps everywhere, and the film could have benefitted from an extra $20m in CGI work, particularly in the battlefield scenes and a couple of panoramic shots. But, overall, the set design is lovely, the actors are compelling, the photography is excellent, the score invites empathy as a companion to the writing, and the storytelling is inviting. Nicholas Hoult is strong as a twenty-something John Ronald, and Lily Collins is absolutely gorgeous as Edith Bratt, whose role in shaping Tolkien does not go unnoticed. It is not just Hollywood good looks, though. There is elegance in this film in the way it brings the period and the pathos together. Anthony Boyle is heartbreakingly beautiful as Geoffrey B. Smith, one of Tolkien’s closest confederates within the T.C.B.S. His shy, slightly quizzical face moves flawlessly to haunting loss on the battlefield.

There is no end to things I could critique in this film—or in almost any film that takes a risk. I would like to come back on Wednesday and talk about love and faith within the context of the film. But as I think about the reaction to the film by fans, I wonder if some fans are making a category mistake when they are walking into the theatre. I have written this for my Forefront guest blog:

“I love biopics, where in the warp and weft of great filmmaking, a director weaves together the threads of a person’s biography into a work of fiction that is true in ways deeper than chronology and census registry.”

We are in a great age of biopics, with Bohemian Rhapsody just behind us as it follows a tradition of great superstar pictures, like Walk the Line, The Doors, I’m Not There, Man on the Moon, Amadeus, and Ray. Rocketman is joining theme soon, a picture about Elton John that unapologetically breaks into a musical with the courage of La La Land (which is sort of a biography of a dream). Award-winning biopics like A Beautiful Mind, The Social Network, Malcolm X, The Pianist, The Imitation Game, and The King’s Speech have each walked that subtle line between biographical details and the deeper story of the person’s life behind the curriculum vitae. When it is done well, that deeper story gives mythic quality to the characters life, and for those that know their chronologies well, they can recognize the artful changes as enhancing the story of a life worth sharing.

I wonder, though, if some Tolkien fans are going into Tolkien expecting a documentary rather than a new story told. If they are, they will be deeply disappointed. I don’t know if a film could ever do what John Garth does in his gold-standard history, Tolkien and the Great War (2003). Maybe a documentary series could deepen that work, and I think there is work being done on a documentary for Joseph Laconte’s A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War (2015). But Tolkien is not this kind of picture; it is a myth retold, the legend of a mythmaker shaped by love, friendship, and the way that the war broke his world.

And as such, I was deeply moved. I wish there was more humour, more of Tolkien’s artistry, and more about language. But for what we have, I found it a tremendously compelling film. I wept—not for loss of the Professor, or even for his losses in war. I wept because Tolkien was able to open for me an even greater window into the deep beauty of Tolkien’s mythology.

So, for me, Tolkien was worth the drive to another province. I am glad I left my hole in the ground where I keep my desk and books. Though my lone isle has its own awkward and pubescent kind of relationship with the modern world, I still want to keep a hobbit-like innocence and love of simple things. It is with this in mind that I think of Tolkien with great gratitude and childlike wonder.

And with the biopic Tolkien, I am a fan who has received more of what he loves: the life and myths of J.R.R. Tolkien.

I stand in defiance, then, against* those who build such strong walls of protection around Tolkien’s work that only the most brilliant linguist or exacting chronologist are admitted in. I know that I am not of much account to many, and I will never win some. Still, Tolkien is well worth a watch for those who love Tolkien as his worlds.

*Note: This was my first draft: “I stand in defiance, then, against Tolkien-haters….” It was pointed out that this was inflammatory, and unnecessarily so. I agree now, but want to admit my first indiscretion rather than hush it up.

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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59 Responses to My Defiant Appreciation of the Biopic Tolkien

  1. Melinda J. says:

    I look forward to the critique but I too was moved by the film. Thank you for keeping us informed about it and for encouraging us to have an open mind. I don’t know Tolkien’s real biography, so I had nothing to compare it too. But I loved that they showed how he was different and how a poor orphan can still make his way academically with the rich. It was beautifully done! Thanks!

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  2. Gabriel Schenk says:

    I agree, completely. Very well put.

    I’ve been listening to the score a lot recently, and it makes me continue to appreciate the film. Some of the music is quite beautiful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCbpVOSWDuc

    Someone on Facebook, who had seen a Q&A with the director, said that there is a plan for a director’s cut with a bit more added in. I would like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dorothea says:

    I like several of the points you make here and I, too, am looking forward to watching the movie- and I also won’t come towards it as the story of Tokien’s life… rather a story. As someone who researches documentary, let me point out that those also are just a story. Every mediation of life is going to tell one version of many.
    I know what you mean with “Tolkien-haters,” referring to haters of the movie Tolkien. But I find it interesting that this could also mean haters of the person- and in a way that’s what they are, because if they really loved Tolkien, they would want to share him and his works, not make him the president of some exclusive club.

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      I’ll fence with you on this, a bit – tangentially, as a ‘pro-Ricardian’! Thinking that everybody who’s seen or read Shakespeare’s Richard III ought to read Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, too, doesn’t make me a ‘Richard-hater’ because I’m persuaded the picture that emerges from the latter is (likely to be/arguably) truer than Shakespeare’s. Yet, I thoroughly enjoy Shakespeare’s – yet again, I think it calumniates the real King Richard III and am happy to take it to task for that, too. But I don’t think someone who wanted everybody to find out as much as they could about the historical Richard – even to the exclusion of Shakespeare’s play – could be easily said not to want to share him – and his (historical) works. Being to varying degrees put off by a perceived (or even reported or possible) failure to ‘do justice’ to a person or work, seems quite compatible with, and indeed motivated by, a desire to share ‘the real thing’, and to see ‘justice done’.

      So, I will hope Tolkien the movie leads people to Tolkien the subject, author, and oeuvre, while not being sure I want to see it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dorothea says:

        Definitely agree that it’s possible to be put off by a particular adaptation of someone or their work and still want to see the “real thing” and “justice done.” That being said, there’s a difference between being critical and creating a set of walls around someone’s work, as Brenton describes, where only certain people with certain skills are considered adequate enough to even adapt a work. I don’t think that all Tolkien-the movie-haters (or skeptics) are Tolkien-the-person-haters. But I just wanted to point out the way that some people’s obsession with things can be pretty exclusionary and hurtful to the person/work they are trying to honor. For example: if I watch Tolkien and like it, does that mean I’m not a devoted or serious Tolkien fan/scholar?

        Liked by 2 people

        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          Thanks! Lots of really weighty points for further reflection and discussion, here, e.g., about degrees of being critical, about (so to put it) protecting and serving – and being pretty/too ex-/inclusionary in that context, and about wari- or chariness about certain people (as concrete persons and/or members of ‘schools of thought’, etc.) as adapters.

          Concretely and practically, if you watch Tolkien and like it, that certainly does not mean you’re not a devoted or serious Tolkien fan/scholar – and could (even, I’d venture, in a certain sense, ‘should’) conduce to good discussion as to what you like about it, why, do you also have any reservations or ‘minus points’, and if so, which, and so on.

          For example, having seen Wizards (1977), and that, after having earlier read and seen a lot of stuff about Fritz the Cat (1972) and Heavy Traffic (1973) – and definitely not seen either of them, on that basis! – I was apprehensive about Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings: what if it was a lot like Wizards? But I saw it, and, by and large, enjoyed it – and looked forward to its completion – and would be happy to discuss plus and minus points at length. But I would recommend everyone reading Lord of the Rings before seeing it, or the Jackson (in any cut), or listening to the BBC radio adaptation – though if any of those (all of which I enjoyed), encountered first, leads somebody to read it, great!

          Liked by 3 people

          • Dorothea says:

            Excellent. Thank you. I’m glad you pointed out that it does not have to be an “all or nothing” discussion. And also, I realized after asking my question that liking a movie is a very affective, subjective reaction and does not preclude the ability to still think critically about it. That being said, I guess I meant that the impression given by a lot of Tolkien appreciators is that the film is not worthy of being appreciated if you really appreciate Tolkien … and that’s what concerned me more than anything else.
            Your points about the hope that movies will inspire people to read is good…though I would agree (perhaps given my father’s expectation and the immense joy I had- both to read the LotR and the anticipation and looking forward to watching it on screen) that people should read the books first! But I think what’s amazing is how many who’d read the books and then saw the movies were inspired to read the rest of Tolkien’s works, because they could get enough of his world! It’s quite a feat!
            Finally, you’re absolutely right…things like this, as with all things, should be able to lead to a conversation between thoughtful, well-informed participants… unfortunately though, it doesn’t always turn out like that.

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    • Thanks Dorothea!
      First, thanks for the gentle correction on “documentaries”–as if the narrow camera lens could be the whole story.
      Also, I have enjoyed your posts though I rarely get to comment. The wanderings work as musings.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My colleague, James, and I, were just lamenting over not being able to see this movie on the Island. So our Friday night plans have changed and we’re opting to drown our sorrows in cheesecake and boardgames (keeping “the awkward and pubescent kind of relationship with the modern world” alive).

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  5. Peter Johnson says:

    Thanks for that piece/review on the Tolkien movie. My wife and I went to see the movie on a rainy Sunday, Mother’s Day afternoon. I guess I am a little more than a casual fan. I am in no way one of the more intense fans who scrutinizes to the nth degree. I read Humphrey Carpenter’s “authorized biography” on JRRT several years ago. As I watched the movie I kept trying to remember snippets from the book. I suppose I was acting the part of a scrutinizer on one level. But as I read your review, I felt comforted by your observations and insights. The film brought me to tears at least once–as he and Prof. Wright talked about language and the obvious love they had for words. That kind of care for language brought me to tears. When my wife and I got home, I immediately went an found Humphey’s book. It was fun looking through it again and looking at some of the pics of the young T and his Fellowship companions. I also stumbled across the conversation between T, Lewis, and Hugo Dyson about Myth. “But,” said Lewis, “myths are lies. even though lies breathed through silver.” “No,” said Tolkien, “they are not.” The conversation, according to Humphrey, continues on a track that leads to a conversation about truth and God. Humphrey then concludes, “In expounding this belief in the inherent truth of mythology, Tolkien had laid bare the centre of his philosophy as a writer, the creed that is at the heart of “The Silmarillion.” In the spirit of full disclosure, Humphrey has this footnote on the bottom of p. 147 where he chronicles this conversation–“The account of this conversation is based on Tolkien’s poem ‘Mythopoeia’ … One manuscript is marked ‘For C.S.L.'” My observation is this: What my wife and I saw delighted us and we both felt we got to know Prof. Tolkien better. How much of the movie was “true” did not matter because the truth is the Story lifted us and moved us in ways we did not expect. True to my readings of his works, help and joy came from unlooked for sources and in unexpected ways. The spirit of JRRT was there through the joys and sorrows of the Englishman the movie tried to faithfully depict and portray.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a great note, thank you.
      I love that Mythopoeia story, including the poem (which is well done). The “myth” of Tolkien is a great one to tell. This one is pretty well frameworked in history, but not completely. For me, it told the truth, but it was my experience of the film for sealing in his growth that really made a difference.

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  6. Thanks for the review! I will have to check it out when it comes out on DVD.

    Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie 🙂

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  7. Virginia says:

    I saw the movie with my sisters on Saturday. As an avid Tolkien groupie (reading The Hobbit & LOTR once every year since the age of 13) I was moved & inspired by Tolkien’s portrayal in the film, especially how he overcame adversity with concentrated effort & how friendship & love opened his life up to new things.

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  8. reggieweems says:

    Bravo.

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  9. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Somewhere – in one of his great essays – I was struck (if I remember correctly) by Tolkien’s use of the word ‘storial’ (or was it, ‘storical’?). And now, in his Beowulf lecture-selections which Christopher has worked up into a commentary on his translation of the poem, I keep encountering his use of ‘historial’ as distinct from ‘historical’ – and I want to know more about this, and think about as much as I seem to have understood so far, and, meanwhile, think it is probably relevant to all sorts of ‘historical drama/fiction’ – and ‘biopics’!

    Also, while it’s not an easy read, the lectures-as-commentary give us the closest experience any of us can now get to having Tolkien for ‘our professor’, to going to his ‘class’ and being taught directly by him, in person, which is a wonderful, moving experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Tessa Weiss says:

    I loved the movie and I am most interested in your niece’s play, Anne of Green Gables from Marilla’s point of view. Could I find information about that on the internet?

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Indeed – tell us more!

      Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      I do not, by memory, have a sharply-detailed enough sense of ‘voices’ and ‘components’ throughout the series (e.g., dialogue, any letters, etc., as well as narrator), but do have a sense of remembering Anne becoming more understanding of Marilla as she matures (as well as the narrator giving the reader a short-cut to such perception), so the idea of very much Marilla’s point-of-view from the start is an intriguing one.

      To note a couple examples that spring to mind of multiple personal perspectives, Joyce Carey does this very interestingly with The Horse’s Mouth, Herself Surprised, and To Be a Pilgrim – and Masefield quickly in miniature in the titular poem, ‘Midsummer Night’, in the Arthurian retelling Midsummer Night and Other Tales in Verse.

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    • I’m pretty sure it was just a local event. If you contact Sussex Christian School in New Brunswick, they could hook you up.

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  11. Thank you, Brenton, for this excellent critique of TOLKIEN, the biopic.

    The only point I would criticise, though – and I think to an extent others have already mentioned this – is the term “Tolkien hater.” It is close in usage to terms such as “gatekeeper”, “Middle-earth Nazi” and “Tolkien purist”; thought-terminating clichées to stifle actual – and desperately needed – criticism.

    I know this is 2019 and this is the internet but I am always a little despondent when people of your standing and great writing use a term like this indiscriminately – at least, that is my impression. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, they are gate-keepers. That slices from both sides of the knife, I think–as loyalty does. People can guard gates against friends and foes.
      Is “Tolkien purist” a bad thing? I think so. I suppose TOLKIEN-hater is a bit spicey. I might change it if is bad. But isn’t it true that they hate the film (as italicized)?

      Like

    • Marcel, because I would rather soften language and explain rather than give unintended offence, I’m going to change the language. Thanks for the call-out.

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      • Thank you very much for getting back to me on this; I will certainly take your position on watching the biopic into account – if I ever get to write the review(s) I would love to write.

        That is, I like and dislike the film, both.

        The ‘purist’ in me – which I consider an insult, mostly, as most people use it as such – can’t really stand the historical inaccuracies in the film, the wrongly portrayed concepts, the willy-nilly changes with no reason to them except for the obvious reason: The film didn’t work, had to be re-cut and now has these holes in them only the “extended edition” can rectify. The Jacksonian Curse, that is, to provide a version for the cinemas not to really stand on its own but to come up with these extra half hours and more so it does make sense. The colour palette aside, this film quite intentionally was made for the Ringers, imho, and those certainly appreciate it. You really are hard-pressed to find a single scene to be based on actual research available.

        But as someone who appreciates Tolkien, his life and his works, an attempt to portray my favourite author is, of course, worth watching. The protagonsists are lovingly played and Hoult and Collins have a wonderful chemistry – when Edith puts her hand on his explaining the ‘meaning’ of the word ‘touch’, this is an amazing depiction of a budding relationship based on many moments of trust already given. The scenes in the trenches that do not hold back on the atrocities of war … I could go on and on, because there are many wonderful moments to it.

        I do not buy the “but it is a biopic” argument, that is nothing but an excuse. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is an amazing film but has changed the timeline of Mercury’s life that you now have to explain to people – if they are actually interested beyond simply watching it once and be done with it – that basically everything is wrong.

        To me the reason why biopics are both a creative wonder and beautiful to behold and the devil’s spawn at the same time is that as a historian I see (hi)story rewritten. And people won’t notice the difference or simply not care for the difference – while at the same time fact is replaced with fiction.

        Which shouldn’t be a problem if it were only a story. No comics fan should be surprised at Batman getting another origin story, as this seems to be this medium’s very raison d’être, but turning Stan Lee into someone he was not – for example – makes me worry a lot.

        It’s also very disconcerting to me personally when I know another amazing writer to have gotten an excellent documentary to her life worth looking at – Ursula K. LeGuin.

        That’s something that should be on the big screen everywhere.

        Instead, we get biopics.

        P.S. Hatred, to me, is one of the strongest emotions any human could experience. I can count the occasions I hated something or someone possibly on the fingers of one hand. I can discuss Tolkien and loads of things about him, including adaptions, without hatred; in fact, it is nonsense to feel hate about a piece of art that was not created intentionally to open up rifts and/or create divisions. But then … fandom is an odd thing and always will be. Both good and bad. On that we can easily agree.

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        • Thanks Marcel. I do appreciate the response. I’m heading out of town for a week so will only give a quick response.
          I think your genre critique (biopic) can be helpful, but is beyond what I know. I might sit on it. I heard about the Le Guin doc and look forward to it. I also hear that Madeleine L’Engle’s journals are moving toward publication.
          I don’t see “purist” as only bad (like I said, loyalty works both ways). But I did change the “hater” word at your suggestion. I read it more in a street way, but I don’t want leave that bad impression for those who read it in another way.
          Here is a much more respectable and complete review than mine from a dedicated and careful reader/fan: https://laurielfrodo.wordpress.com/2019/05/08/tolkien-movie-review/.
          I do like your blog.

          Like

          • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

            Good indeed – thanks for linking!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thanks, Brenton, it is much appreciated. And it’s always a pleasure seeing thoughtful discussion “on the net” when it has become in so many cases a place of mere contention.

              I am always intrigued at what Laura has to say on the Inklings – she gave us a tour of the Kilns last year during the Oxford leg of “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth” and whatever she has to say is worth paying attention to.

              I definitely need to visit Wheaton one day, just to see the wonderful memorabilia they have.

              On “purist”: Nobody has ever been able to give me the opposite of it – if you do not like purists, what are you then? That is usually my question. And that either leads to a more thoughtful discussion or to huffing and puffing and the realisation it’s really not worth my time to continue it. 😉

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              • Neglectivist?! Anti-Tolkienist? Perhaps “purist” has no opposite.
                I understand that “purist” is negative in many ways. What I appreciate about Tolkien readers who many would accuse of being purists is:
                1. The ability to read a vast amount of disparate and incomplete materials–2-3m words?–as a cohesive whole.
                2. “Purist” Tolkien readers have created brilliant scholars.
                3. Tolkien readers have helped encourage a recovery of beautiful things that we need for our culture, like world-building, a love of green growing things, old books, homely ways, and the like.
                4. Tolkien purists have done a gorgeous job with JRRT’s invented tongues and scripts.
                5. Tolkien purists, while split on Jackson adaptations, moving from deep love to radical offence, are pretty unified in demanding a deeper look at Tolkien’s work, one that is more integrative and complex while retaining beauty.
                I do resist gatekeeping, and I am frankly terrified talking about Tolkien at all online because of past reactions by virulent fans. But those 5 things are what I have gathered from conferences, colleagues, my blogging peers, and writers on my bookshelf.
                So it may be the case there is no opposite of ‘purist,” I don’t view the word monolithically.

                Yes, Laura is awesome, and Wheaton really is rewarding. The reading room is an amazing place to sit and read and think, though I’m often elbow-deep in old letters.
                I keep saying I’m stepping away from the comments, but I think your note is an important critique of my work. Thank you.

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  13. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Thanks to the pingback to Yewtree’s review and her link to Joseph Loconte’s, I see there is a documentary in the works (which till now I seem somehow to have missed/failed to appreciate?):

    Liked by 2 people

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  15. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Apparently, it does not open here until 6 June… I ought to go browsing for some convenient list of world (region?) release dates…

    Like

    • I just sent you an email David. Too bad it is so late!

      Like

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Thank you, both! I had not checked IMDB yet, and half-wondered if their record of release dates was only retrospective and historical (since I usually look up old films to see ‘who could have this, when?’).

        I’ll think of it in terms of having plenty of time to read reviews and discussions and ponder whether I want to venture to see it – and if so, ‘on the big screen’ (or wait for the fuller ‘director’s cut’ on dvd?).

        Like

        • Well, it’s one of those things with “Hollywood” – if a film is successful then you’ll certainly get a DVD etc. release. However, if you wait for such a release, don’t go to the cinema and it tanks at the box office – well, you won’t be getting any special release including, let’s say, cut scenes. Just the cinema version.

          Liked by 1 person

          • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

            Ah, the mysteries of Studio Decision Making! (I’d really have liked to have a videotape, or thereafter, a dvd of the 1963 Scarecrow of Romney Marsh series – longed for it, for years on end – and then read on some IMDB forum I can no longer find, that it was finally released, once, in a batch of a few thousand copies, that sold out immediately…! Oh, well…)

            (Incidentally, an interesting case of an adaptation which seems much better than the original series of Russell Thorndike novels, which I only began to catch up on fairly recently – and gave up on, in sorrow and dismay!)

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  16. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    In case it’s a little slow dawning on others, as it has been on me – there’s lots of good early-life (Tolkien-the-movie-period) stuff to find by browsing around on John Garth’s website, where I have just now been reading about the interrelations of Sam Gamgee and people the young Tolkien knew, including his batman:

    https://johngarth.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/sam-gamgee-and-tolkiens-batmen/

    Liked by 1 person

  17. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Going off on a bit of a tangent with respect to fictional characters who fought in the Great War, both Ransom and McPhee were among them, and, it only struck me on my latest rereading, Anthony in Williams’s The Place of the Lion was too. I wonder how many other veterans in Inklings’ fiction I have not registered – and whether the details of Bunter’s and Wimsey’s service together may have been, for Tolkien, part of what he called the latter’s “attractive beginnings” (Letter 70)?

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    • Because my master’s thesis was on antisemitism, WWII was in my mind the essential conflict. In many ways it was, though the ideological age that followed is giving up to a different kind of utilitarianism.
      But I think I was wrong.
      First, I think that we need to view WWI and WWII as a unified whole, a second “thirty years war” that closes the modern era that began with the first thirty years war.
      Second, when it comes to European and global shift, I think WWI was far more definitive, particularly when it comes to European and American religion, the new global reality for Islam, the end of formal colonialism and shifts in empire, European-style education, a change in Euro-style (and in particular, UK-style) class realities, and the role of literature and the arts–all on top of all the features of globalism.
      So I think WWI is increasingly key to everything, including WWII.

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  19. Just seen it. Agreed. Imperfect but worthy. The film gives a decent view of the great man and the influences that shaped his work, with the ‘Beren and Luthien’ bit very well done, also the effect of The Somme and Wagner’s Ring on LOTR.

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