Everyone’s favorite part of the standard biopic comes when the subject stumbles through something in their early life that will later be transmuted into their work. They glimpse an image or utter a phrase, and just like that, they’re seized by genius in a lightning-bolt moment that makes artistic inspiration look like coming up with a particularly clever pun.
Like so many fiction tropes mercilessly savaged by Walk Hard, this trick has nonetheless remained in heavy use, and it gets a good workout in the newly released first trailer for Tolkien.
Dome Karukoski’s film chronicles the boyhood years of JRR Tolkien, from his time as a plucky orphan (Harry Gilby) shuffled through the state’s childcare system to his stint at university. There, as a strapping young man with the sturdy build of Nicholas Hoult, he formed a so-called “fellowship” of friends and prepared for a great reckoning of good versus evil – not the Battle of Helms Deep, but World War I.
Prior to the glory of a literary career that yielded the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit novels, Tolkien fell for one Edith Bratt, whose steadfast devotion got him through the trauma of combat. She’s portrayed in the film by Lily Collins, who’s having quite a year playing the patient wives of famous (or infamous) men.
The trailer concludes with a plume of flame rising over the front, perhaps in the shape of a dragon of the tower of Mordor. One can only hope we’ll get a similar scene in which Tolkien makes friends with a shorter, more brusque school chum proficient in axe-play.
Tolkien comes to theaters in the UK on 3 May, then to theaters in the US on 10 May.
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