Movie Review: ‘Tolkien’

Director: Dome Karukoski

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, Derek Jacobi

Plot: J.R.R. Tolkien is an orphaned young man who forms an artistically driven collective of his school peers before going on to become a world renown fantasy author.

Review: Now, you might be wondering why we need a biopic of J.R.R. Tolkien. This is a far question. After the tragic death of his mother, Tolkien was fortunate enough to attend a prestigious school where he could pursue his passion for languages, drinking tea, playing billiards and genuinely being terribly British. Is this the right time in our history to put out such a story? Time to find out.

Where Tolkien looks wobbly is in the intent behind the script. I imagine a production meeting where an unimportant member of the team asks, “but what’s the movie about? His inspiration? His struggles? The real ‘him’?”

The reply would be simple. “It’s about Tolkien.”

“But what about him? What part of his life will we be focusing on?”

“I told you: Tolkien.”

This is very much a by-the-numbers biopic. We run into a number of tired cliches, including the incidental moments that inspired an especially well known piece of work. It’s difficult to highlight what makes this a unique film. Tolkien does not attempt to do anything with the genre. With his time sick in the trenches during WWI as a framing device we see how Tolkien (Hoult) forms a tight group of friends, explores the arts, falls in love and joins the war effort.

So it’s a competent film. The performances are decent enough, the period details are done quite well. It’s an entertaining film about uptight white people. It’s really the Tolkien fans who will get the most out of this. Tolkien’s works have had an enormous emotional impact of countless people, and for them this is an opportunity to see the world as he saw it. If anything it’ll help you appreciate why Tolkien was considered a genius in his field.

Rating: SIX out of TEN