Directed by: Dome Karukoski – Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, Derek Jacobi, Anthony Boyle, Patrick Gibson, Tom Glynn-Carney
Given the astronomical success of The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit franchises, it was only a matter of time before someone tried to bring the story of their creator to the big-screen.
Obviously, they want to give the fans some of the mythical elements that they love, so this is peppered throughout in the form of visions from his imagination, particularly during scenes in the trenches of WWI, where the carnage around him metamorphoses into mighty dragons and other recognisable figures from his legendary writings.
Overall though, this is a bio-pic, and not a fantasy-drama, and it takes a faithful approach to the genre, documenting the author’s formative years as an orphan, and the effect it had on him. It follows him through school and college, where he forms a ‘fellowship’ with three of his classmates.
He then finds himself in the midst of the battlefield as war rages, before finally settling into a quiet life as an academic and family man, with the woman he has loved since childhood. All the while, he is percolating ideas and characters, and inventing the language that would eventually become the tomes he is remembered for.
Nicholas Hoult is charged with playing the titular character here, and is incredibly stoic throughout. Meanwhile, Lily Collins looks ethereal and elfin as his love interest, Edith, although she doesn’t really get to exercise her acting chops. The movie is dominated by Tolkien and his friends, and even established names like Colm Meany and Derek Jacobi only get a minimal amount of screen-time.
There is some wonderful cinematography throughout, and the sound mixing is fantastic. Unfortunately, the script is somewhat flowery at times, and veers into tedium. The two-hour running time could easily have been made 90 minutes, which would have improved the pacing greatly. After an incredibly long and slow build to his conscription into the army, the last third of the movie almost feels quite rushed as they try to cram in everything that happened to him on the battlefield, and for the next several years, until he puts pen to paper to finally write what would become his classic works.
This looks and feels very much like a Sunday night chocolate-box drama. Perhaps this is why it felt as if it lagged in parts. It looks enchantingly lovely and has some strong moments, but it is inconsistent. It is nice and an interesting insight into Tolkien’s formative years, but it doesn’t delve too deeply, and never really feels like it gets going. However, fans of his work will no doubt find it enthralling, and it is an inoffensive and charming enough way to pass a couple of hours.
In Cinemas Now! Trailer below: