Rob Reviews "Tolkien"
As big of a geek as I am, I also am not one that gets too much into the minute of a chunk of geek culture. Sure, I am a trivia junkie, and live on that link on any IMDB page that I am on, but getting too far down that rabbit hole doesn’t really do much for me. I am impressed by the passion that fans show when it comes to their favorite franchises, and “Lord of the Rings” is no exception. The level of detail that J.R.R. Tolkien put into his saga is nothing short of fascinating, and Finnish director Dome Karukoski takes a shot at his life story with his first English-speaking film simply titled “Tolkien”.
The thing about this film for me is that the less than stellar Rotten Tomatoes score that it has acquired may or may not have been earned. The new “X-Men” franchise’s Beast in Nicholas Hoult plays the title character as he hits his formative teenage and early twenties as he and his brother, both orphans, try to make it by in the world under the watchful eye of their guardian in Father Francis (Colm Meaney). From making new friends to dealing with love, college, and even The Great War, there is not only a lot going on in the story bur also a lot of time jumping as well with small hints here and there of the influences that would lead to his groundbreaking and record breaking series of novels. Hoult does a good job as the famed author, but the fault that lies here seems to be the script itself.
This is not a bad film, but it simply does not seem to know what it wants to be. Does it want to emulate “Saving Private Ryan,” “The Notebook,” or “Dead Poets’ Society”? The answer to that question from the filmmakers is simply “All of the Above,” and it leads to a meandering story that doesn’t really have the emotional impact that it should. There are even moments where Karukoski almost dares the audience to call his film pretentious in its presentation, but never to the point of eye rolling. Now, I did not watch any trailers or ads going into this film, and literally watched the trailer right as I am typing this sentence to see if there were any expectations given to those whom have reviewed “Tolkien” before I have, and I am not sure that pointing blame on that as misdirection to the film’s story and direction is even well-founded. This is NOT strictly about him writing “The Lord of the Rings,” as it is more about his journey into the man and legend he would become, using the influences around him to formulate the basis of Middle Earth through his genius and passion for language.
Those that want to see their favorite fantasy series come to life should simply go back to one of the previous iterations of it, animated or CGI. Enjoy this film simply for what it is, or take a hard pass if that is not what you want about it.