Have you ever seen the Saturday morning cartoon Captain Planet? With its infectious theme song (“Captain Planet, he’s our hero. Gonna take pollution down to zero!”) and cast of young people changing the world, it was hard to deny. The kids in the show held rings that gave them the power of the elements of the Earth. Their powers were magnificent. One controlled water, another earth, and another fire! There was one that seemed a lot less cool as a kid, the heart ring. What was the power of heart anyway? Then I met artist, Scott Erickson. He explained that as he discovered what it means to be an artist in the world and in the church, he realized he’d been given the heart ring.
Tolkien, Fox Seachlight’s new movie about the life of the author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings tells the story of his upbringing, his schooling, his military service, his loves, his friendships, and his art. The John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, played by Nicholas Hoult, we meet in the film believes that art has incredible power. It does, doesn’t it? It is the artists of the world that give us words, images, and melodies to name, express, process, enjoy, or escape our emotions. Great art unifies, questions, challenges, and comforts sometimes all at once. In the film, Tolkien needed all that art provides but lived in circumstances that didn’t exactly allow a young man to explore it. This puts him on familiar ground with a group of other young men that become the foundation of this story.
There is a famous moment in the film adaptation of Return of the King when Sam tells a despondent Frodo, “I can’t carry [the ring] for you, but I can carry you!” This is what the “Tea Club, Barrovian Society” or TCBS does for each other. Tolkien along with Christopher Wiseman, Geoffrey Smith, and Robert Gilson form a bond around their passion for art, culture, language, and love. In the film, they push each other to challenge the status quo and carry each other through the Mount Dooms of life. There is something about this era of world history with the great wars (The TCBS all served in World War I) and stories of great courage and loss that have birthed incredible works of art. Tolkien is the story about how the TCBS and Tolkien’s friend turned wife, Edith, inspired a fantasy that still captures the world’s imagination today.
Tolkien’s life falls fairly short from being a fairy tale. He was orphaned at a young age and encouraged to place the loves of his life on hold. First, to pursue a stable career, and then by war. His response to the horrors of the world was to offer the it a different story. His mother gave him a love of languages which led him to create his own. In the film, Tolkien says that language is the lifeblood of people and culture. Well it’s through his created languages that he gives life to Middle Earth, and to all the characters fans have grown to cherish.
You can expect with Tolkien to see images and references to the author’s famous works, but the film does a great job at not hitting you over the head with the visuals seared into our hearts and minds from the Peter Jackson trilogies. This is an intimate film that pulls you into the trenches of war where beauty is hard to find, but also gives you a door into the mind that created a world filled with it. This world, Tolkien’s art, is about journeys and adventures, magic and love, quests to prove ourselves, courage, and, of course, fellowship. It’s art like this that should be consumed with a friend. It may help you discover who, in your life, has carried you up the mountain.