Witness me, brothers! Mediocre! Not until recently have I realized that Nicholas Hoult, who’s starring in this biopic about J.R.R. Tolkien and Ed Skrein (the OG Daario Naharis from GoT) are two different actors. Anywhoo, what we have here is a decent movie about the life of a famous author that’s taken a more factual approach to his life, staying in the British mainstream and avoiding artistic or fantasy approaches. If you liked The Theory of Everything or The Imitation Game, you will like this one too, although it’s a bit more average than these two classics. In this age of information, if you liked his books or movies based on them, it’s likely that you have already read his biography and know something about his life. That being said, although Tolkien doesn’t bring anything new to the table, it still manages to show us more about his life, mostly because it’s one thing to read about something and entirely different to see it on the big screen.
This is a standard-issue British biopic with strong performances, great production values and steady pacing. Tolkien estate disavowed the movie publicly as they did with many other works based or related to J.R.R.. They seem to be quite careful when it comes to his reputation, although they did sell the rights to Amazon to make Lord of the Rings television show. They did not specify what parts bothered them. One of the things that did bother the viewers was the lack of his religious background in this movie since Tolkien was a true believer. I think that the rest of the elements were pretty accurately depicted. And clearly, the choice has been made to not make a contrived indie/emotional movie but stick to what we already know and just try to work within the constraints of the familiar norms. Granted, those WWI shots looked spectacular and very reminiscent of the type of movie that I think the viewers secretly wanted.
War, war never changes. We find young J.R.R. on the front-lines in one of the bloodiest battles of WWI, The Somme. He decided to go look for his friend although everybody else thinks that’s just crazy, but to understand his decision we have to go back in time, to his formative years…
After portraying Jerry Salinger in Rebel in the Rye, Hoult went on to star in this movie, where he again proved his great talent with yet another incredibly strong and yet subdued performance of a man with great internal struggles. Especially when you consider the fact that he was constrained by the main vibe of the movie. Three main themes were the war, friendship and romance with Edith Bratt, although the war was something that really changed him, as was the case with everyone involved in this horrible event. If you’ve watched the television show Peaky Blinders, you might see some interesting similarities between the characters that went their separate ways after the war. They even lived in the same city of Birmingham. You will see what an impact this had on him and how this shaped the book Lord of the Rings along with the rest of the influences that are also present in this movie.
Depending on your threshold you might find the entire thing a bit dull and familiar or utterly shocking and moving or most likely, somewhere in between. Even if you’re not a fan of the movies or haven’t even heard about this author, Tolkien will be worth watching since it deals with themes that are worth exploring. After all, this is one of those polished and polite biopics that as I previously mentioned stayed firmly in the mainstream, avoiding any discomforting directions. J.R.R. had an interesting life when you look at it from a perspective of what he’s achieved. Although I must admit I envy his band of friends, I never had such friendships, let alone a group of friends with whom I could discuss things in such an open and thoughtful way. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles I guess.
Director: Dome Karukoski
Writers: David Gleeson, Stephen Beresford
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Craig Roberts, Colm Meaney, Patrick Gibson, Lily Collins, Anthony Boyle, Tom Glynn-Carney