Review: TOLKIEN Is Entertaining But Not As Deep As You Would Hope

FIRST IMPRESSION

Tolkien isn't as magnificent as it should be given the legendary stature of its subject, but it is mostly well-shot and relatively entertaining nonetheless.
Writing
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit

Tolkien is a new biopic about author J.R.R. Tolkien directed by Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski and starring Nicholas Hoult as the eponymous literary icon. The film tells the story of Tolkien’s formative years as he finds inspiration in the form of friends, love, and the war. It played at the 2019 Montclair Film Festival in an event that was also simulcasted nationally.

Tolkien is perhaps one of the world’s most celebrated authors, so a movie about his life sounds extremely promising and interesting. However, herein lies the film’s first issue — it isn’t about Tolkien’s entire life, instead opting to focus on his early years. Even though the story is still compelling, it likely would have been more interesting to see the more exciting part of his life. The film ends before his career takes off, and the latter part of his life is far more interesting than his movie years.

The film also doesn’t do an excellent job of developing its characters. Tolkien is likable enough because most people seeing this movie will already be a fan of his work, and he is relatively charming, but his arc in the film is relatively weak, and as such, he is not as compelling or round as he should be. All of the supporting characters are completely underdeveloped too, having bland and archetypal personalities.

Perhaps most frustrating was Tolkien’s love interest. The romantic subplot feels ridiculous and cheesy when compared to the rest of the movie, mostly because the relationship isn’t something you want to get behind. Edith Bratt, as portrayed in the film, is not a particularly interesting character, and the relationship she has with Tolkien is generic and thoroughly predictable. The movie would have been better as a whole had this part been cut out entirely.

tolkien dragon
TOLKIEN. Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved.

That being said, despite all of its issues, the film is mostly entertaining. If you are a fan of Tolkien’s work and don’t mind a relatively conventional biopic, you will likely find this movie to be rather interesting. You may even end up learning something, as this part of Tolkien’s life isn’t usually discussed (that’s because it’s less eventful, though). It would have been nice to see more of his experiences in the war, but it still works as is.

The film is also successful on a technical level. For a modestly-budgeted biopic helmed by a director who did mostly indie work prior to this, the movie looks really good. The cinematography and production design do a solid job of periodizing the film and taking you back into the early 20th century. The visual effects during the war sequences are surprisingly strong. The score is awesome too, containing some pieces that are absolutely beautiful.

Nicholas Hoult does a solid job of portraying the Hobbit creator. The amount of charm and wit he brings to the character is much appreciated and makes the movie much more enjoyable than it would be if a less charismatic actor were in the lead role. On the other hand, his co-star Lily Collins isn’t particularly impressive. Her chemistry with Hoult simply doesn’t come across, and her turn feels very wooden and flat.

Overall, Tolkien was an enjoyable but flawed and straightforward biopic. Even though it never reaches the heights which it probably should, it is mostly agreeable and as such, could catch on with audiences.

Tolkien opens in theaters on May 10.

TRENDING THIS WEEK

Trailer | Happier Hour | A Netflix Social Series

The stars from Netflix films and series are surprising fans and spreading some much needed joy. Join Hasan Minhaj, Issa Rae and Lisa Kudrow and more for a new episode of Happier Hour premieres every Thursday in July on Netflix’s Youtube! SUBSCRIBE: http://bit.ly/29qBUt7 About Netflix: Netflix is the world's leading streaming entertainment service with 183…

An American Pickle | Official Trailer | HBO Max

AN AMERICAN PICKLE, directed by Brandon Trost, is based on Simon Rich’s New Yorker novella and stars Seth Rogen as Herschel Greenbaum, a struggling laborer who immigrates to America in 1920 with dreams of building a better life for his beloved family. One day, while working at his factory job, he falls into a vat…

Behind the Scenes: Love Fraud | SHOWTIME Documentary Series

Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, the Co-Directors of the new four-part docu-series, Love Fraud, sit down and discuss the making of the series. Love Fraud follows the search for Richard Scott Smith, who used the internet and his dubious charms to prey upon unsuspecting women looking for love. The story unravels in real time as…

Legendary: Werk It: Elements of Vogue | Hands/Arms Performance | HBO Max

It’s all about control in this class. In Legendary, a new HBO Max competition series that pulls from the underground ballroom community, voguing teams (aka "houses") must compete in unbelievable balls and showcase sickening fashion in order to achieve "legendary" status. The cast includes MC Dashaun Wesley and DJ MikeQ as well as celebrity judges…

Jim Gaffigan: The Pale Tourist | New Comedy Special | Amazon Prime Video

On the heels of the successful worldwide stand-up tour, Jim Gaffigan: The Pale Tourist will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, July 24. The two-part stand-up special features the Grammy-nominated, Emmy Award-winning and New York Times best-selling author, actor and comedian Jim Gaffigan as he embarks on a seemingly impossible quest: to land in…

The Old Guard | Forever Trailer | Netflix

Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die have fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it’s up to Andy and Nile (Kiki…

Hanna Season 2 – Official Trailer

Welcome to the Meadows, a secret conditioning school where assassins are trained to go undercover as everyday teenage girls. But a former test subject, Hanna, returns to infiltrate the facility and put an end to this shadowy organization. They took her father. They took her identity. But can they stop her? Watch the official trailer…

Summer Blockbusters | STARZ

The biggest hits are here! Dive into Jumanji, Little Women, and more of your favorite movies now on the #STARZ App! Subscribe to the STARZ YouTube Channel: http://bit.ly/1kalhP0 Get your special offer now on the STARZ App: https://starz.tv/32s4aGT Like STARZ on Facebook: http://starz.tv/STARZFacebookYT Follow STARZ on Twitter: http://starz.tv/STARZTwitterYT Follow STARZ on Instagram: http://starz.tv/STARZInstagramYT Visit STARZ…
Avatar
Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here