‘Tolkien’: A Dull Biopic That Panders To Peter Jackson Fans But Fails In Capturing The Magic Behind Middle Earth’s Creation [Review]

The Playlist | 5/11/2019 | Andrew Bundy
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There is no escaping the inevitable pandering when telling the life story of a figure such as “The Lord Of The Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien in a biopic, especially considering the undeniable influence of Peter Jackson’s still unrivaled cinematic achievement. That said, it’s hard to believe that Tolkien ever saw a Balrog on the battlefield. But if there is research to the contrary, I rescind the statement.

Structured around a disorienting and ineffective WWI framing device, “Tolkien” (starring Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins and directed by Dome Karukoski) begins and ends with John Ronald Reuel receiving letters from an old schoolmate. Right away, the movie flashes back to J.R.R’s childhood and suffocates it with poor optical and editing decisions, many of which are truly the opposite of effective. The movie tells the viewer how to feel, when it’s convinced it’s showing us why Tolkien became a storyteller.

Mother - Love - Newgate - Novel - Movement

Inspired by his mother’s love for the Newgate novel (which was also an important movement in the formation of another major post-war literature genre, the crime mystery), Tolkien purportedly grew up with shadows and symbols being projected onto bedroom walls and was homeschooled in several languages. His mother passed away when he was but a teen, and he was placed under the care of a religious guardian, Father Francis Morgan (grumbly, reliable Irish character actor, Colm Meaney) and essentially forced to study hard enough to ensure a scholarship from the prestigious Oxford university. Tolkien is initially an outcast upon arriving— correcting professors who mispronounce the preferred utterance of his given name. A rugby skirmish soon finds him falling into a friendship with three other academics (played by Anthony Boyle, Patrick Gibson, and Tom Glynn-Carney) who are clearly meant to be Hobbit surrogates.

When the four go on about naming an exclusive club for themselves, they suggest...
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