Ewan Gleadow

Review: Tolkien

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When you think of J. R. R. Tolkien, you most probably think of The Lord of the Rings or even The Hobbit. Your mind wanders to his mystical fantasy lands that he painstakingly crafted after years and years of building his own languages, planning out engrossing characters and perfecting the prose and meaning of his texts.

What your mind will block out is the biopic that ignores all of that and focuses on Tolkein as a person. 

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but Tolkien as a person isn’t all that interesting, or at least that’s what the biopic would have you believe. Nicolas Hoult takes on the titular role as the film highlights the childhood and upbringing of one of fantasy’s greatest writers.  

What I truly struggle to understand is why the movie ends when his writing career begins. Uber fans of Tolkien would most likely be interested in seeing the planning and adoration that went into creating such an apparently marvellous series of books. No, the film ends as he begins to write.

It’s all rather odd: a movie about a writer being quite shy to show the protagonist actually write anything.  

It’s not as if Hoult is any good anyway, he swiftly seems to be making his supporting role in The Favourite look more and more like the pinnacle of his career. Meanwhile, romance is as ever in the air, probably because, if not, the running time would’ve come in at shorter than your average football match. Throwing Lily Collins into the mix as some sort of supporting character that aids Tolkien as much as she can was a strange choice. It’s a fairly boring performance, matching well with the exceptionally dull output from Hoult. 

By far the worst part of the movie though is its consistency in breaking the pacing.  Jumping forwards and backwards in time without a moment to spare, the narrative is lost in time skips, stereotypical scenes and all too typical performances. Nothing stands out whatsoever, it’s a by-the-books biopic that should’ve been a lot more interesting.

Not even the scenes of Hoult and Craig Roberts in the trenches of World War One are any good. 

Any emotional impact the film was hoping to present is thrown to the dogs through horrid direction from Dome Karukoski who has yet to direct anything of relevance. If this is his best output, I hope for my sake he never directs anything else. It’s not the fact that he didn’t try to do anything new or unique with such an interesting story, it’s the fact that he chose the most boring part and stuck it through the meat grinder of all the usual settings of the biopic genre. 

For hardcore fans of Tolkien, this will either be an upsetting waste of time or something they’ll defend to the ends of Middle Earth. There’s no sense of intrigue or interest from the Hoult-led biopic, and it’s by far one of this year’s most horrifically dull movies.