14th Jun2019

‘Tolkien’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Nicolas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, Craig Roberts, Harry Gilby, Laura Donnelly, Nia Gwynne, Pam Ferris | Written by David Gleeson, Stephen Beresford | Directed by Dome Karukoski


Tolkien, directed by Dome Karukoski, stars Nicolas Hoult as the titular character J.R.R. Tolkien. From his orphan beginnings through his rise in literature societies Britain and eventually the breadcrumb origins of his famed middle earth magnum opus The Lord of the Rings, he would eventually write. Tolkien, unfortunately, is a much-misaligned biopic that’s an ultra-conventional bore.

The performances no doubt intrigue with Hoult impressing but the actor along with Collins, both have nothing to do with such flat and generic material. Hoult showcases some terrific talent here. Especially in the latter half of the film. His emotional range is strong and as an actor, Hoult is still continuing to progressively hone his craft, and here is no different. He still struggles to wrap an audience around his finger, but he successfully provides a satisfying level of screen presence. His charm falters slightly (more so due to the material he’s working with) but he injects a strong level of personality into this flat role. His on-screen chemistry with Collins is up and down. The emotional connection on the basis of love is slightly obtuse. One minute their relationship is a profoundly engaging set piece and in the next, it’s almost as if they’re starting all over again from scratch, much to the disdain of the audience. Having to build up from nothing and take the audience through it all over again, repeatedly and so on, so forth.

Lily Collins as muse and partner Edith Bratt is sadly lost in all the commotion of what Karukoski’s film wants to showcase. Collins character is meant to on paper provide the catalyst of Tolkien’s dedication to his craft, but the screenplay from writers David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford, provides no real insight or depth for Collins to dig deep and revel in providing. The result is an incredibly lacklustre and one-note performance that serves as a simplistic plot point rather than a living breathing embodiment of a character.

There are slight highlights, namely the score, which is chilling at times from composer Thomas Newman, or the cinematography by Lasse Frank Johannessen, specifically during the WWI sequences. However, Tolkien simply fails to motivate the viewer from not falling asleep almost instantly. There is nothing here that’s remotely interesting. Nothing that digs deep and showcases the humanity of any character present. Zero layers of weight engulf this bland picture. What’s more absurd and highly irregular is how the film fluffs its lines in actually evoking the talent of what Tolkien had. You’re never given a sense of the scale or the scope of such a literary giant achieved.

Tolkien is a truly wasted opportunity to highlight an incredible talent.


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