Even though it hasn't hit theaters yet, there's already been some mild controversy surrounding Tolkien, the biopic about acclaimed fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien. However, director Dome Karukoski is standing by his creative decision-making.
Last month, Tolkien was disavowed by the author's family, which hardly comes as a surprise. While the statement they issued at the time didn't go into any specifics, Tolkien's estate has consistently and repeatedly distanced itself from any and all adaptations of the author's work. Yes, this includes director Peter Jackson's Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Ahead of the biopic's theatrical release this weekend, Facebook Live streamed a special Q&A with Karukoski alongside stars Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins, which was moderated by none other than George R.R. Martin.
Partway through the conversation, Martin pointed out that Tolkien was always resilient to the idea that his time as a soldier in WWI was an influence on his work. While Tolkien, the biopic, often seems to suggest otherwise, Karukoski said his film "doesn't try to portray [those] one-on-one inspirations."
"The dragons are not flamethrowers. There's not a specific element in the war that inspired him, but you see something, that builds into something," the director explained. "Balrog, in the books, is a creature of fire and shadow. Where do you see fire and shadow? That's explosions. It doesn't necessarily mean that Balrog is an explosion, but it affects you. It builds and shapes who you are."
The film does manage to layer in numerous references to the author's body of work, but Karukoski insists that his biopic is meant to shed some light on Tolkien's formative years while casting a wide net on what may have influenced his work throughout his life.
"WWI wasn't his Mordor, but I think the emotional experience he took away is very relatable to almost every character [of his]. An innocent character journeys into war, there's a corruption of his mind, and there's destruction. He's felt that. He's seen that. And that's what you're trying to show."
Tolkien opens theaters nationwide this weekend. In the meantime, you can check out the full Q&A here.