Thread: Tolkien Bio-pic
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Old 05-28-2019, 03:56 PM   #31
William Cloud Hicklin
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William Cloud Hicklin is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.William Cloud Hicklin is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Well, I've seen it. It's a pretty thing, but very slight. Lovely sets and costumes, competently acted (except by Jacobi, who phoned it in)... but really pretty empty. Most significant, I think, isn't really whether or not this incident or that was "real" but rather that the film gave us absolutely nothing of Tolkien as a person or as a mind. We have Nicholas Houton doing a reasonable job playing a man to whom the same life-events happened as happened to Tolkien- but it isn't Tolkien, and that goes beyond looking nothing at all like him (why for the love of God couldn't they at least put a mustache on him for the wartime bits?), but extends to not speaking or thinking like him (or much like anyone at all; the character is written as a cipher). The man we know from his letters, his essays, from anecdotes by those who knew him- he simply isn't there. Instead we have an earnest young man who can recite bits of texts in dead languages and who really likes his chums.

Even where the film makes an attempt to link up its ostensible subject to his writing, it gets it wrong. The discussions of sound and meaning with Edith and then with Wright* completely misrepresent Tolkien's own clearly expressed views, which were themselves heavily dependent on comparative philology as it was understood in his day: languages need peoples to speak them, because the history of a language is inseparable from the history of its speakers. The proto-Silmarillion, already during WW1 (something which the movie denies ever occurred!), could I think be fairly said to be Tolkien answering the question, "How did Eldarissa and Goldogrin come to be different?"

The battlefield scenes were palpable nonsense (as almost always in the movies). Cavalry? Seriously? Charging across no-man's land into machine guns? That lesson was learned the hard way in August 1914 and wasn't repeated.** For that matter, if a bunch of Tommies was going over the top, then the entirety of Tolkien's journey along the trenchline would have been thunderously drowned out by the preparatory bombardment, which by 1916 doctrine would have gone on for days.

(Incidentally, Smith was killed well after JRRT had already been invalided home, and it happened behind the lines as he was organising a football match. CL Wiseman did not as the movie suggests suffer from "shell shock" or PTSD, since aside from being present but not engaged at Jutland, he spend the war at anchor in Scapa Flow, or conducting event-free patrols)

*The writers apparently have no clue how academics work at Oxford, either: professors then and now don't have "classes" in the American sense; and Tolkien would have had no "grades" at all until Trinity (spring) term of his second year, after taking Honour Moderations.

**During the opening phases of the Somme the British maintained a cavalry force well in the rear in reserve, anticipating a breakthrough that never happened; by October it had been dispersed. There was no German cavalry at all in France at the time, since there was no use for it.
The entire plot of The Lord of the Rings could be said to turn on what Sauron didnít know, and when he didnít know it.

Last edited by William Cloud Hicklin; 05-28-2019 at 04:15 PM.
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