Movie Review: Tolkien

I have a confession to make: I’ve only read one book out of the four Lord of the Rings books… and it was for school.

I know. Shameful. I’ll be amending that soon enough though.

Despite my lack of Lord of the Rings knowledge, I desperately wanted to see Tolkien. The trailer captured the essence of the film really well and, from what I knew of Tolkien himself, his life.

Unlike the last movie I reviewed here, the trailer was not misleading. Tolkien was a wonderful film and I left the theater red eyed and thoughtful.

Someone asked me whether I saw any redemption in the movie, as they had trouble seeing any themselves. I was rather surprised at this, but I think that it was the definition of the word that was misunderstood.

To redeem something is to take something dead and breathe life into it. To make something ghastly a thing of grace and beauty.

When put in the context of Christ’s redemption, he’s taken on our death so that we might have life in him.

This theme was more than abundant in Tolkien.

Tolkien and his brother, as well as Edith, were orphans; their young lives were marred with the mud of tragedy. This tragedy was given new life through fellowship, love, art, and imagination.

I saw redemption most especially in the abiding and deep friendship – excuse me, fellowship – of Tolkien, Geoffrey, Christopher, and Robert. These boys, although they had their quarrels, were committed to one another deeply. They were there for one another, even when they disagreed.

(A review I read pointed out that this film highlighted that an intense love for art and beauty does not have to be born out of sorrow. Sorrow usually intensifies that love, but art speaks to the soul, so our love for it may be born out of joy or sorrow – or any emotion that takes us to the edge of eternity for that matter.)

I also saw the redemption theme in Tolkien and Edith’s relationship. Neither one of them was willing to give up on the other, they pushed each other to be the best version of themselves they could be.

And ultimately, Tolkien redeemed what was lost in the war. Unlike other writers of the lost generation (rightfully called so as WWI took the lives of 40 million young men), Tolkien’s writing was not haunted with despair, confusion, and existentialism as the works of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Eliot were. He brought to his writings the memories that were made beautiful by sorrow and redeemed them with a wonder for creation and an abiding belief in the necessity of imagination.

Something about WWI strikes a chord deep within me. WWII is horrific, yes, there is absolutely nothing like it. But something about the promising lives of these young men and women being torn to pieces over something as petty as tangled alliances, militarism, and nationalism makes me weep. 40 million lives lost. 40 million. Over what?

It’s a wonder Tolkien was able to emerge from that atrocity and write the stories everyone knows and loves today. He infused his stories with redemption, imagination, and fellowship – that is what speaks to those who’ve read them.

(I know I know, I haven’t actually read them, but I’ve seen the movies okayyy? And I know plenty of people who gush about LOTR.)

As I watched Tolkien I was reminded of his quote “Everything sad is coming untrue.”

Contrary to some of the more cynical movie critics out there, I thought the film was infused with the wonder Tolkien had for life and the redemption he saw. I did wish, however, more of his faith would have been portrayed in the film.

That being said, the theme of redemption reminded me of the ultimate redemption we have in Christ.

(Wow, this review got long really fast, I didn’t know I had this much to say about this movie. Sorry folks.)

Aside from all the thematic stuff, the movie itself was enjoyable and very aesthetic.

In the end, I thought Tolkien highlighted how our lives and the lives of those nearest us intertwine and change us. It really astounds me when I ponder that actually. The movie handled this theme with such care that I found myself crying more than once.

Anyways, I could go on, but then I’d bore you all with my ramblings.

It’s a great film and, while it’s not without flaws, it overflows with redemption. And it touched me very deeply. So go buy yourself a movie ticket.


A review much more eloquent than mine:

‘Tolkien’ and the Dying Art of Fellowship – The Gospel Coalition 

“Tolkien’s enduring contribution is precisely this wisdom—that in a world obsessed with the new, the industrial, and the pragmatic, preservation of the ancient ways, and the beauty that seems superfluous, takes on a radical importance. We need stories of hobbits and wizards and magic rings precisely because we don’t need them. We need the creative arts in all their fantastical createdness because they bear witness to what it means to be human. As Tolkien wrote in his essay “On Fairy Stories,” “Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.”

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