If you are expecting hobbits and elves, Tolkien disappoints. Too artsy by half, perhaps only linguists can really appreciate the movie, or those in-depth students of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. For the casual observer, it will be difficult to correlate the books to the bloody, mud holes in France in World War I. Tolkien focuses on his early years, his buddies and their “fellowship.” Clearly, they provide inspiration to him, but the movie needs more substance, more facts. I give the movie 2 Gavels and it receives a 48% Rotten Tomatoes rating with an impressive 86% Audience score. Notably, none of the Audience left any kind of review on why they liked it.
After Tolkien’s mother dies, a priest is appointed his guardian. Eventually accepted into Oxford, he meets three others interested in music, poetry, and art. Together, they form a bond for the ages. That is, until WWI intervenes. Another orphan, Edith Bratt, catches his eye, but will his “education” tear them apart?
Nicholas Hoult is J. R. R. Tolkien, a very proper and watchable English gentleman. Likewise, it is easy to see why Edith Bratt, played by Lily Collins, caught Tolkien’s eye. Colm Meany, as Father Morgan, is your prototypical Irish priest.
As usual, lots of liberties are taken in the film (see History vs Hollywood). Actually, Tolkien’s bio in Wikipedia is more interesting than the movie. In its favor, the costumes, sets and locations are quite lavish. Yet, as one critic points out, the film spends a lot of time on philology (the study of languages), “not the most cinematic of subjects.” In the end, Tolkien just doesn’t give us enough Tolkien. Maybe Peter Jackson should try a do-over. Then again, as another critic notes, a movie showing a writer pounding away at the typewriter is not a recipe for success, either. Connecting the dots in this flick takes more than a “little magic.”