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Director: Dome Karukoski


Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, Derek Jacobi, Anthony Boyle, Patrick Gibson, Tom Glynn-Carney

J.R.R. Tolkien – the name itself sounds mystical.


I can’t picture the name without then imagining it in that famous Middle Earth font. Tolkien is, unsurprisingly, a biopic of the man who gave us one of the most famous pieces of literature in the past millennium. However, this is entirely set in the years before Tolkien put quill to parchment and began his magical tome. It’s a look back into the early life of the man as he builds strong bonds with friends, a near-obsessive infatuation with eventual lover Edith Bratt and survives the horrors of World War I from the front lines.

The only real issue is – his life pre-Rings wasn’t all that extraordinary. Tolkien really is just the tale of a man making friends, finding love and conscription into the War which, at the time, was an extremely common occurrence. Of course, within the bonds lies tales of friendship, encouragement, and valour (where have we heard that before, relatively speaking). Interludes of Tolkien (Hoult) learning and immersing himself in ancient languages gives a nod to his future endeavours but the bulk of the movie is Tolkien building and loving his own fellowship – school friends Geoffrey (Boyle), Robert (Gibson) and Christopher (Glynn-Carney). None of this is particularly wrong, but it’s just not all that exciting. Tolkien is the epitome of biopic-by-numbers – solid storytelling that sticks to a rigid framework. When Rings is mentioned, the references become heavy-handed and a bit silly (I haven’t heard the word fellowship thrown about so much), mainly due to the filmmakers realising they only had about two minutes of the movie left to mention Tolkien’s major legacy. (The movie was not endorsed in any way by Tolkien’s son Christopher or his estate which may or may not have had a bearing on this).


The acting is solid for the most part throughout. As Tolkien, Nicholas Hoult is once again very good and Lily Collins likewise as Edith. Everyone plays their parts well and there are no complaints from that side whilst the period is captured and presented beautifully by Karukoski and DoP Lasse Frank - England's leafy majesty captured marvellously in all its natural beauty, That’s the main thing, there is nothing wrong with this movie, there’s just not an awful lot that is particularly exceptional. What is interesting is that this is the first released movie since Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, so, there’s that at least?


Truth be told for a movie about J.R.R. Tolkien, there’s a real lack of magic and wonder - very much unlike his body of work


May 8th 2019

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