Disney’s new film Tolkien premiers this weekend, and the trailers promise an engrossing biopic, complete with scenes from the First World War. The movie aims to show how J.R.R. Tolkien’s early life inspired the creative genius behind such works as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which are rightly recognized as classics and which both inspired epic film franchises (one far superior to the other).
Yet the new Disney film — developed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, which was purchased by Disney in March — cuts out some of the most important influences in his life. The movie does not once mention the great ex-atheist and Christian author C.S. Lewis, a close friend of Tolkien. Indeed, Tolkien said he would never have completed The Lord of the Rings without Lewis’ “great encouragement.” The movie also does not mention the Inklings, the society of writers who read each other’s works and spurred both Lewis and Tolkien on to greatness. The film focuses on the early influences of Tolkien’s life, so these cuts may be justifiable.
Worst, however, is the film’s neglect for Tolkien’s faith, which inspired his entire life. The movie also cuts out the literary works that inspired his imagination — touchstones of the Western literary tradition. In fact, the author’s literary masterpiece The Lord of the Rings is heavily influenced not just by the Western literary tradition but by Christianity and Jesus in particular.
“This handsome, earnest, yet overstuffed and poorly paced film deviates frequently from the historical record,” Father Michael Ward wrote in The Catholic Herald. “Most seriously, it ignores Tolkien’s devout Christian faith: there is no indication that he served Mass daily as a boy or ever even entered a Catholic church.” Indeed, this may be a reason why the Tolkien estate disavowed the film.
Joseph Loconte, Ph.D., an associate professor of history at The King’s College in New York City and author of the recent book A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18, saw the film on Tuesday and noted the glaring omissions in remarks to PJ Media.
“In Tolkien, Finnish film director Dome Karukoski deserves credit for drawing our attention to some of the most formative influences in the life of J.R.R. Tolkien before he became the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings,” Loconte told PJ Media. “Many will learn for the first time about his experience in the trenches of the First World War, about the vital circle of friendships he made before the war, about his passion for languages, and about…………………
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