Nicholas Hoult as JRR Tolkien in Tolkien

The First Trailer for Tolkien Gave Me Shivers

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Tolkien explores the formative years of the legendary author J.R.R. Tolkien, whose life had the drama of the epics he would come to pen.

This movie looks visually stunning and has the potential to be emotionally devastating. Like any fictionalization of a real person’s life, the plot likely takes liberties and changes history and events in some places. But the foundations of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s story don’t need much enhancement for melodrama.

The man who came to be the father of modern fantasy was orphaned at age 12, and at 16 met the woman who would be his wife, Edith Mary Bratt, though he was prohibited from contact with Bratt due to her older age (19) and Protestant affiliation. Years later, the two would become engaged; Edith broke another engagement and converted to Catholicism in order to be with Tolkien, despite his seeming lack of prospects at the time.

Wikipedia also recounts the strong bonds of friendship Tolkien forged through the years—the young men seen toasting in the trailer above:

In 1911, while they were at King Edward’s School, Tolkien and three friends, Rob Gilson, Geoffrey Bache Smith and Christopher Wiseman, formed a semi-secret society they called the T.C.B.S. The initials stood for Tea Club and Barrovian Society, alluding to their fondness for drinking tea in Barrow’s Stores near the school and, secretly, in the school library.[36][37] After leaving school, the members stayed in touch and, in December 1914, they held a “council” in London at Wiseman’s home. For Tolkien, the result of this meeting was a strong dedication to writing poetry.

By the end of World War I, many of Tolkien’s closest friends, including several members of the “T.C.B.S.,” would number among the fallen. Tolkien’s experiences in the Great War—he was highly critical of serving from the start—dominate much of the Tolkien trailer. The movie appears keen to show how the violence and fury and fellowship of what he witnessed inspired ideas that would later come to bear in works like The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit.

It’s unclear how far into Tolkien’s life Tolkien will venture, whether it will follow him into becoming a professor of English at Oxford and his growing fame as an author (alongside his growing family). The actors featured in the trailer, namely Nicholas Hoult as Tolkien and Lily Collins as Edith, are in their twenties, so we’ll probably be seeing more of the Tolkiens’ youthful side. I’m also excited to see Star Trek‘s Miles O’Brien, Colm Meaney, as Tolkien’s guardian Father Morgan. The Internet Movie Database doesn’t list who the great Derek Jacobi is playing, but Jacobi has narrated many of Tolkien’s works over the years, so maybe we’ll just be hearing his voice? And who, I ask you, who will be playing Tolkien’s fellow fantasist and friend C.S. Lewis?

I’ve watched it a few times, and this trailer keeps making me feel feelings. The striking images of fantastical battles and figures that we associate with Middle-earth transposed onto Tolkien’s real-life surroundings looks incredible. And while Tolkien’s books are now some of the most famous in the world, his own story is not as well known. It’s more than time that it was told.

(images: FOX Searchlight)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.