While we’ve been excited to see the upcoming film Tolkien — a dramatization of author J.R.R. Tolkien’s younger days — the executors of his estate are less than thrilled. According to The Guardian, they issued a statement on Tuesday proclaiming they “did not approve of, authorize or participate in the making of this film” and, consequently, they “do not endorse it or its content in any way.”
The films stars Dark Phoenix‘s Nicholas Hoult as Tolkien and Lily Collins as his eventual wide Edith. Distributor Fox Searchlight describes the film as a look at “the formative years of the renowned author’s life as he finds friendship, courage and inspiration among a fellow group of writers and artists at school” and how “the outbreak of the first world war” threatens to tear “their fellowship apart.” Those life experiences, according to the description, inspire the young Tolkien to being his imaginings of Middle-earth.
Which sounds like a good way to contextualize the author’s life for a dramatic presentation. But it is something Professor Tolkien would himself discouraged while alive and it is no surprise his notoriously cantankerous son Christopher Tolkien, executor of the estate, would do the same. No doubt the film, like most biopics, takes certain liberties with Tolkien’s life, but to claim his work represents some sort of metaphor for his own experiences in World War I goes against one of the author’s core beliefs. We wager that upsets the Tolkien representatives more than anything else.
Nonetheless, as The Guardian points out, the estate is more than happy to see the professor’s work continue to evolve in other forms of media. Their deal with Amazon will lead to a Lord of the Rings television series set during the Second Age of Middle-earth; a time period Tolkien sketched out, but never developed into fuller narratives like LOTR‘s Third Age or even the history of The Silmarillon‘s First Age. That said, the Akallabêth and The Mariner’s Wife — two Second Age tales Tolkien brought closer to completion — are worth reading.
UPDATE: Fox Searchlight has provided a statement in regards to the Tolkien Estate’s proclamation: “We are so proud of Dome Karukoski’s film Tolkien which focuses on the early years of J.R.R. Tolkien’s extraordinary life and does not depict subject matter from his novels. While we did not work with the Tolkien Estate on this project, the filmmaking team has the utmost respect and admiration for Mr. Tolkien and his phenomenal contribution to literature.”
Ultimately the film will have to stand on its own and devotees of the professor’s work will have to make up their own minds about how successfully it presents him, his early life, and his romance with Edith.
Tolkien arrives in theaters on May 10th.