The Tolkien movie is a solid biopic except for the way it lacks creativity
The Tolkien movie is a solid biopic except for the way it lacks creativity

TOLKIEN. Directed by Dome Karukoski, with Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, Derek Jacobi


This biopic based on the life of JRR Tolkien is a surprisingly drab film.

Based on his formative years, it takes one of the most well-loved fantasy writers ever and never shows us his actual artistry.

It starts off when he moves with his mother and brother to Birmingham and ends just as he sits down to write The Hobbit.

Fellowship of the Ring

Tolkien (first Harry Gilby as a child then Nicholas Hoult) befriends a bunch of misfit teens at school and the film touches on how this warm fellowship is torn apart by WWI. So there is an obvious link to be drawn between his experience and the story of the Fellowship of the Ring.

We are shown the landscapes that inform the Shire, Mirkwood and battles of his books and hear the stories that he drew on but those links are obvious – you can take a tourist tour around Birmingham to find the places.

Maybe the intention was to be respectful and as true as possible to the reality of what influenced him, but that’s the subject for a documentary.

It’s like the filmmakers rubbed away all the edges. Yes we are shown how supportive his teenage friends were, the brutality of WWI and it’s sad aftermath but it’s all about what happens around him. We never get under Tolkien’s skin.

The substantial Tolkien cast really throw their backs into it. Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins have a sweet chemistry, the costumes and sets are beautifully appointed and this a solid biopic from every angle, except for the way it lacks the creativity dripping off the pages of Tolkien’s books. Peter Jackson’s films pay better homage to the fantastical ingenuity of Tolkien’s work than this biopic does.

It stops just as things are about to get interesting so we don’t meet the Inklings. CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien getting bitchy over the works of Walt Disney, now that would be fun to watch.

If you’ve never read up about the author, this might work for you, but any passing familiarity with Tolkien means you won’t learn anything you didn’t already know. Plus, as respectful as it is, the Tolkien family wants nothing to do with the product.

Read more Rotten Tomato critic Theresa Smith reviews here.

What: Tolkien film review
Tolkien release date South Africa: 21 June 2019
Genre: Biography, Drama, War
Tolkien rating: 13 DV
Tolkien running time: 112 minutes
Theresa Smith Weekend Special review: More from Theresa here