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Film Review: Tolkien

“It’s A Story About Journeys, The Journeys We Take To Prove Ourselves. It’s About Adventures…”

If Led Zeppelin arguably brought The Lord of the Rings to the big screen by mixing the fantastical mythology of Tolkien with good old fashioned rock and roll, then in a roundabout sort of way, we can all thank the South African born writer for influencing the greatest band of all time in the first place, and whilst there is unsurprisingly a significant lack of Robert Plant or Jimmy Page in the aptly named, Tolkien, this week, such a film would have actually suitably benefitted from the rock god wails of the latter or the chunky, heavy guitar riffs of the former. Directed by Finnish filmmaker, Dome Karukoski, the early life of J. R. R Tolkien marks his first venture into English language film, and whilst the experiences of one of the world’s most revered writers makes some sort of sense to be idolised in a cinematic capacity, Tolkien unfortunately fails to hold a candle to the incredible life of the titular war hero, a movie filled to the brim with many interesting ideas but one which ultimately fails to balance the weight of them effectively enough to be labelled a success, resulting in a jumbled mess of a drama which can’t make the executive decision to stay on one set path and thus annoyingly becomes stranded in no man’s land in a last ditch attempt to bring some sort of memorability to proceedings. Unfortunately for Karukoski and co, Tolkien is anything but memorable.

Planting the youthful, straight-headed figure of Nicholas Hoult (The Favourite) in the leading role, Karukoski’s movie begins proceedings by placing Tolkien in the heart of battle as he attempts to survive the disease and blood-ridden wastelands of trench warfare during the Battle of the Somme, and whilst the film’s trailers promised an intriguing blend of fantasy and biographical drama, the constant transition and wavering throughout Tolkien’s own early life chapters means that the movie can never really set its’ mind on what it ultimately wants to be. With the drama setting up early moments of loss and hardship as we witness the Tolkien brothers move into the confines of adoption, we are soon introduced to both fellow members of the Tolkien coined Tea Club and Barrovian Society and fellow orphan, Edith Bratt, as played by the wonderfully talented Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply) who continues to evoke her inner Audrey Hepburn with the best performance in the movie, one which radiates beauty and undeniable charm. Annoyingly however, the film takes these two differing subplots and puts them to battle against each other, and as we move through elements of coming-of-age style drama, romance and war, Tolkien doesn’t expand on any enough effectively to leave you feeling adequately rewarded, and add into the mix a yawn-inducing pace and a complete editorial nightmare, Karukoski’s movie is unfortunately not enjoyable enough as a standalone biographical drama or pleasing enough for those after an insight into anything The Hobbit related, and even with the excellence of Collins in one of the leading roles, Tolkien is unfortunately an opportunity missed.

Overall Score: 5/10