Title – Tolkien (2019)
Director – Dome Karukoski (Tom of Finland)
Cast – Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Patrick Gibson, Colm Meaney, Craig Roberts, Derek Jacobi
Plot – Tells the early story of famed fantasy writer J.R.R Tolkien’s (Hoult) life as he overcomes being orphaned at a young age to become an army lieutenant in World War 1, a prodigious language expert and a potential partner to fellow orphan Edith Bratt (Collins).
“Things aren’t beautiful because of how they sound. They’re beautiful because of what they mean”
Review by Eddie on 22/10/2019
The granddaddy of modern day fantasy, J.R.R Tolkien (pronounced Tol-keen, much to my surprise) will always be a name that is loved and adored by many around the world, fans thankful for the worlds he created in beloved novels The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
Shining a light on Tolkien’s early life as an orphan, member of a group of outcasts and tea enthusiasts and language lover, Finnish director Dome Karukoski delivers a very watchable film that never threatens to become anything more than sturdily average, as we are given an insight into how Tolkien’s imagination was inspired by real life events that helped him create stories for the ages.
Here played by Nicholas Hoult, in one of his rare lead roles, Tolkien is a likeable figure whose trying to find his calling in life, aching to overcome the horrors of being a lieutenant in World War 1 and dealing with his love and affections of childhood friend Edith Bratt (played by Phil Collin’s daughter Lily), meaning those that are after a LOTR or Middle Earth-centric examination will be left disappointed by how Karukoski has decided to tell Tolkien’s tale.
It’s not to say that Middle Earth and its many creatures and happenings aren’t strewn through the film, some of the film’s most effective moments are those with throwbacks and nods to the tales we’d all know to come and love, such as when Tolkien see’s glimpses of black robbed figures riding horses through the battlefield or as we notice tiny glimpse of dragons and horned figures in the smokes of the carnage but this is very much first and foremost a tale about Tolkien’s formative years that would go onto shape his future achievements.
Hoult is quietly impressive as Tolkien and gives him a nicely balanced sense of vulnerability and smarts, as we clearly come to understand that even at a young age Tolkien’s love for the written word and genius with language makes us seem rather silly, and whenever him and Collins share the screen Karukoski’s film bounces along with a nice sense of heart and soul but you can’t help but feel a subject with so much imagination and creativity was deserving of a feature film that inhabited more of this spirit.
Despite the fantasy elements that appear briefly throughout, Tolkien is very much a cookie-cutter biopic that feels eerily similar to so many other films of a similar nature, particularly those that focus on authors, and it’s a shame that Karukoski and his team were unable to establish Tolkien as more than just “another big screen bio” that feels like it would’ve been at home on our small screens as a Saturday night ABC feature.
Final Say –
Fans of Tolkien’s work would do well to check out this tale that offers a solid if unremarkable insight into what helped shape some of the most revered written works of all-time but you can’t help but wish that a little more creative magic existed in this stoic bio of a man who gave the world so much wonder and delight.
3 tea rooms out of 5