Directed by: #DomeKarukoski
The potential of a film that explores the mind of J. R. R. Tolkien is very apparent. The celebrated writer is most noted for his tales of Middle Earth – The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit – but Tolkien had the opportunity to educate a modern audience on the wisdom behind these spectacles: who and what may have influenced such epic tales.
Unfortunately, the life behind the mind isn’t quite interesting enough for a captivating biopic, nor is the choice of lead appealing to carry a mediocre story.
Historical accuracy is difficult to verify, since the Tolkien estate has issued a statement claiming no association with the film, despite having not watched it – so Tolkien had the misfortune of a controversial release. That’s not to say it couldn’t be great – most biopics dramatize in someway for the sake of creating an inspiring story and the subject’s family haven’t even denied the legitimacy.
But this isn’t the real issue – Tolkien is lacking charisma and intelligence, the heart is all too forced and the central focuses are confused.
Undoubtedly the most inspiring aspect of the story is Tolkien’s romance with Edith Pratt, and Lily Collins delivers an excellent performance, her strength as a diverse actress shining through. But this is limited by Hoult who tends to come across as bland, as though he is concentrating too hard on his lines – he is yet to provide a truly inspired performance and demonstrate his worthiness of being amongst the Hollywood elite.
Tolkien’s experience of war and his time in the trenches is clearly an inspiration for the famous fictional battles that he invented, but the film doesn’t seem to deliver enough of his imaginative use with tragedy. A fever-induced dragon for 30 seconds is the extent of it, despite a trailer that implied more of an insight into a great man’s creativity.
The parallels between Tolkien and his three school friends and the four Hobbits of LOTR, the ‘fellowship’, struggle to create the emotional impact Karukoski is intending, at least not until the final, post-war, act. Much is left unexplained, instead making way for the less-inspired story of Tolkien’s time as an Oxford student.
A 6-film marathon of Jackson’s Middle Earth trilogy is far more appealing a sit-though than this misjudged biopic of the original author.