• Follow us

Movies

‘Tolkien’ Review: …And One Biopic to Bore Them All

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so you’re probably stoked for the movie version of his life, hoping it’ll be filled to bursting with adventure, brain-teasing fantasy and rock-’em-sock-’em action just like the books and the movies Peter Jackson directed into box-office and Oscar glory. Right?

Sorry, fans, here comes the buzzkill. Tolkien — pronounced toll-keen as the film takes great pains to inform us — is a bit of a stiff as cinema, rich in atmospherics but starved for the human spark that might uncover the man behind the myth. No one can blame the terrific Nicholas Hoult, who invests his considerable talent and searching energy into playing the young John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Since his days as a child actor (About a Boy) through his mature work in A Single Man and his gonzo explosion in Mad Max: Fury Road, Hoult is up for anything. But his best instincts are muffled in stuffy period details that choke the life out of the film and his performance.

Related Reviews Tolkien Watch J.R.R. Tolkien Find Inspiration in Love, Friendship in New 'Tolkien' Trailer Watch J.R.R. Tolkien Uncover Path to Middle Earth in New Biopic Trailer

Director Dome Karukoski (Tom of Finland), working from a convoluted script by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford, treads so carefully over the formative years of Tolkien, mostly referred to as Ronald, that you’d think the author’s estate was holding a gun to the filmmaker’s head. Nothing of the sort. The literary gatekeepers had long ago disavowed any connection to this Hollywood twaddle. With nothing to lose, you’d expect the project to leap into interpretive flights of fancy. Instead, it timidly settles for gilding the lily.

The script stodgily sketches in the biopic details. Tolkien, a penniless orphan, lives with his younger brother Hilary (James MacCallum) in an English boarding house, conforming to the will of his guardian, Father Francis (Colm Meaney). The priest does not like the goo-goo eyes his ward is exchanging with frisky fellow boarder and orphan Edith Bratt (Lily Collins), thinking it will hurt his chances to win a scholarship to Oxford. It’s in those hallowed halls that Tolkien cements his friendship with three students: Christopher Wiseman (Tom Glynn-Carney), Robert Gilson (Patrick Gibson) and Geoffrey Smith (Anthony Boyle, in the film’s best and most heartfelt performance after Hoult’s). The four buddies form a secret society called the T.C.B.S. It stands for the Tea Club and Barrovian Society, where they lads meet to stoke their intellectual curiosity and binge on, yes, tea.

It’s here that mention should be made of the film’s unfortunate framing device that toggles between Tolkien’s school days and his horrific time in the World War I trenches during the Battle of Sommes. An invasion of lice led to the future author contracting trench fever, a disease which sent him home to safety while several friends died in bloody combat.

All this would be fine if the film didn’t huff and puff so strenuously and wrong-headedly to make every incident call attention to itself as part of what would become Tolkien’s magnum opus about Middle Earth. Collect the Easter eggs as our hero takes Edith to the opera to hear Wagner’s Ring cycle about “one ring to rule them all.” He even charms his future wife Edith with an invented language that will morph into Elvish. At Oxford, philologist Joseph Wright (Derek Jacobi) cautions Tolkien that his invented words must have meaning as well as music. And it turns out that the T.C.B.S isn’t just a society of friends — it’s a “fellowship.” The most egregious aha moments take place in the trenches where soldiers in gas masks look like the Nazgûl and the shell-shocked Tolkien imagines incendiary bombs as the fire-breathing dragons of his soon-to-be classic legendarium. Oh, brother.

The references are relentless. Never mind that it’s insulting to think that the movie’s subject would tolerate seeing the essential moments of his life reduced to mere building blocks in a literary origin story. Those who advocate for Tolkien’s true genius will be uttering the same three words long before the credits roll: Make. It. Stop.

In This Article: J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

Want more Rolling Stone? Sign up for our newsletter.

Read More



Leave A Comment

More News

Rolling Stone Latest Movies

Watch the Rowdy, Restricted Trailer for ‘Booksmart’ 2019-05-20 17:14:14Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever star in new comedy out May 24th

Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘Fine’ After ‘Crazed Fan’ Dropkick Attack 2019-05-18 13:53:14"I thought I was just jostled by the crowd, which happens a lot. I only realized I was kicked when I saw the video like all of you," actor says

‘The Souvenir’: How a Filmmaker Turned Her Memories 2019-05-18 12:38:05British filmmaker Joanna Hogg, her longtime friend Tilda Swinton and star Honor Swinton Byrne open up about recreating a real romantic relationship th

Trailers of the Week: ‘Maleficent 2,’ ‘Midsommar,’ New 2019-05-18 08:00:18From an early look at Angelina Jolie getting wicked one more time to a peek at what could be the scariest horror movie of the year

‘The Souvenir’ Review: A Filmmaker Looks Back and 2019-05-16 14:21:28Joanna Hogg's autobiographical recreation of a relationship gives a young actor a breakout role and redefines the notion of "personal" filmmaking

See Ali Wong in Hilarious Trailer for Netflix 2019-05-16 12:33:48Wong, Randall Park star in film as former teenage flames

In Praise of ‘John Wick,’ The Last Great 2019-05-16 11:23:16How a B-movie star vehicle has, over three "chapters," transformed itself into an action-cinema connoisseur's dream come true

‘The Sun Is Also a Star’ Review: Young-Adult 2019-05-15 18:40:01Adaptation of Nicola Yoon's topical teen love story benefits from some offbeat touches and two appealing leads

‘John Wick: Chapter 3’ Review: He’s Back, Bloodier 2019-05-15 12:00:21Keanu Reeves' master assassin returns for another round of gun fu, insane stunts and magnificent mayhem

Bill Murray, Adam Driver Demonstrate Zombie-Killing Techniques in 2019-05-14 15:37:20Jim Jarmusch's new film arrives this June

‘Charlie Says’ Review: The Manson Family Women, Reclaimed 2019-05-10 17:48:16The story of the murder spree that ended the Sixties gets told from a female perspective — and that makes all the difference

‘Detective Pikachu’ is the ‘Citizen Kane’ of Pokémon 2019-05-10 15:47:16I'm biased, but: 'Detective Pikachu' isn't a film merely for Pokémon fans. It's an emotionally resonant movie meant for every person on Ea

FilmBook

CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS (2019) TV Teaser Trailers 2019-05-20 14:46:35  Crisis on Infinite Earths Teaser Trailers 2-3 This year’s The CW‘s Arrowverse crossover, entitled Crisis on Infinite Earths, has re

JETT (2019) TV Show Trailer: Carla Gugino is 2019-05-20 12:55:58  Jett Trailer Cinemax and Sebastian Gutierrez‘s Jett (2019) TV show trailer has been released and stars Carla Gugino, Giancarlo Esposito,

WESTWORLD: Season 3 Teaser Trailer: Aaron Paul is 2019-05-20 08:00:33  Westworld Season 3 Trailer HBO‘s Westworld: Season 3 TV show trailer has been released and stars Aaron Paul, Evan Rachel Wood, Lena Waith

HIS DARK MATERIALS (2019) TV Show Trailer 2: 2019-05-20 07:00:43  His Dark Materials Trailer 2 The second TV show trailer has been released for His Dark Materials (2019) for HBO and BBC. The first TV show trai

STAR WARS SC 38 REIMAGINED (2019) Short Scene: 2019-05-19 11:28:58  Star Wars SC 38 Reimagined Short Scene and Reaction Video FXitinPost and Christopher Clements‘ Star Wars Sc 38 Reimagined (2019) short sc

GAME OF THRONES: Season 8, Episode 6 Series 2019-05-18 11:31:37  Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 6 Series Finale Prediction Video The Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 6 TV show trailer has been released as

ANGEL HAS FALLEN (2019) Movie Trailer: Gerard Butler 2019-05-17 16:24:53  Angel Has Fallen Trailer Ric Roman Waugh‘s Angel Has Fallen (2019) movie trailer stars Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith,

Film Casting: STOWAWAY, GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE, Robert Pattinson is 2019-05-17 14:20:17  Stowaway, Gunpowder Milkshake, The Batman, and more Film Casting News Stowaway, Gunpowder Milkshake, The Batman, and more movies have made rece

I AM MOTHER (2019) Movie Trailer: Hilary Swank 2019-05-10 18:28:10  I Am Mother Trailer Netflix and Grant Sputore‘s I Am Mother (2019) movie trailer has been released and stars Hilary Swank, Clara Rugaard,

IT CHAPTER TWO (2019) Teaser Trailer: The Losers 2019-05-10 12:42:01  It Chapter Two Trailer Andy Muschietti‘s It Chapter Two (2019) teaser trailer has been released and stars James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain,

LEGION: Season 3 TV Show Trailer: The Final 2019-05-10 08:00:30  Legion Season 3 Trailer FX‘s Legion: Season 3 TV show trailer has been released and stars Dan Stevens, Aubrey Plaza, Rachel Keller, Navid

THE LODGE (2019) Movie Trailer: The Past Follows 2019-05-09 09:00:01  The Lodge Trailer Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala‘s The Lodge (2019) movie trailer has been released by Neon and stars Riley Keough, Ric

NYT > Movies

The Week in Arts: Renée Zellweger as a 2019-05-20 10:03:42“Mac Beth” actors wear school uniforms, Julia Michaels is at Bowery Ballroom, and Honor Swinton Byrne appears in “The Souvenir.&rdqu

As ‘Rocketman’ Prepares to Take Off, Hollywood Holds 2019-05-19 18:45:22Depending on ticket sales, the R-rated musical fantasia about Elton John could have ripple effects for its star, its studio and the wider film industr

‘John Wick: Chapter 3’ Puts Keanu Reeves Back 2019-05-19 14:49:55The R-rated thriller was No. 1 in North America with $57 million in ticket sales, by far a series best. Two other new wide-release movies flopped.

Inside the Five Best ‘John Wick’ Action Scenes 2019-05-19 12:00:13We asked the director how the franchise’s greatest sequences came to be. His answers involved phrases like “theater of pain.”

Machiko Kyo, Star of ‘Rashomon’ and Other Films, 2019-05-19 00:53:43Ms. Kyo, whose dedication to her craft left Akira Kurosawa “speechless,” rose to fame during an extraordinarily creative period in Japanes

A Dog’s Box-Office Journey 2019-05-17 22:50:10With “A Dog’s Journey” and “John Wick: Chapter 3” in theaters, we look at how well canine stars contribute to ticket sal

Reporter’s Notebook: Mel Gibson’s ‘Rothchild’ Movie? There Are 2019-05-17 18:07:27The Cannes Film Festival is also a marketplace where merchants flaunt movies that haven’t been made yet, in the hope of drawing media attention

Anatomy of a Scene: Watch Keanu Reeves Fight 2019-05-17 17:06:17The director Chad Stahelski discusses how an extended action sequence came together.

Watch Elton John and Taron Egerton Launch ‘Rocketman’ 2019-05-17 14:23:36The “Kingsman” actor was by John’s side at the Cannes premiere of the musical biopic, then joined the singer onstage for a number.

‘Photograph’ Review: A Rom-Com Walks the Streets of 2019-05-17 13:01:00A man and woman pretend to be a couple because of cultural pressure, and wind up falling for each other. It’s familiar, but compelling nonethele

Watch the Week’s Most Intriguing Trailers 2019-05-17 11:54:36The clips that had us talking include “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” “Always Be My Maybe,” “Judy” and “A

Vice Tries to Turn the Page by Making 2019-05-17 11:10:58A new chief executive hopes that the TV and movie production business can help overcome significant difficulties elsewhere in the company.

L.A. Times - Movie News

How Leyna Bloom became the first transgender actress 2019-05-19 15:10:00Leyna Bloom turned up at the Port Authority bus terminal at 17 with one red suitcase and nowhere to put it. She’d saved up a little money workin

‘John Wick 3’ dethrones ‘Avengers: Endgame’ at weekend 2019-05-19 14:10:00It had to happen eventually, and Keanu Reeves was the man to do it. Lionsgate's "John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum" stole the top spot at the

Cannes: Terrence Malick’s ‘A Hidden Life’ is a 2019-05-19 13:00:00In the eight years since Terrence Malick won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for “The Tree of Life,” his magisterial drama about childhood&

Pedro Almodóvar’s deeply personal ‘Pain and Glory’ could 2019-05-18 18:05:00“This is the game,” Pedro Almodóvar says, his eyes positively twinkling as I apologize about asking an obvious question. “You

Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘Pain and Glory’ hands the Cannes 2019-05-18 16:40:00Times critic Justin Chang is filing regular dispatches from the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival, which runs May 14-25 in France. The final image of P

How the ‘John Wick 3’ team and an 2019-05-18 09:00:00In his 25-plus years in the film industry, stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski has seen every variation of fight sequence imaginable. So with each

Anjelica Huston’s magical movie life, from ‘Prizzi’s Honor’ 2019-05-17 15:20:00Anjelica Huston admits it’s hard to get her out of the house these days. “I’m very attached to my animals and my life,” said t

Reviews for ‘Maria,’ ‘The Meanest Man in Texas’ 2019-05-17 13:45:00'Maria' Drenched in rather noticeable, digitally created blood splashes, the simply titled “Maria,” from Filipino director Pedring A. Lo

‘Rocketman’ star Taron Egerton: Don’t compare us to 2019-05-17 13:25:00Less than 24 hours after “Rocketman” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, the Elton John musical is already generating comparisons to &l

Indie Focus: Making memories new in ‘The Souvenir’ 2019-05-17 12:45:00Another edition of your regular field guide to the world of movies in Los Angeles and beyond.

‘Riverdale’s’ Charles Melton steps into the spotlight with 2019-05-17 10:30:00Five years ago, you could have hired Charles Melton to walk your dog. He was really good at it too — the top-rated employee on the Wag app, wher

Dennis Quaid’s dog Peaches is by his side 2019-05-17 10:00:00When Dennis Quaid was 12, his family moved from one Houston suburb to another. He lost the gang of kids on his block just as he was entering junior hi

Movie News

First Dark Phoenix Clip Brings an X-Men Standoff 2019-05-21 17:24:0620th Century Fox has released a new clip from Dark Phoenix featuring Magneto at odds with Professor X.

Pet Sematary Remake Gets an Alternate Ending in 2019-05-21 16:56:02The 2019 remake of Pet Sematary is getting a fully loaded home video release in June and July this year with over 90 minutes of extras.

Once Upon A Time in Hollywood Cannes Reactions: 2019-05-21 16:24:24The first reactions to Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood have arrived online following its premiere at Cannes.

Cinderella 70th Anniversary Walt Disney Signature Collection Blu-ray 2019-05-21 15:55:29Cinderella is now part of the Walt Disney Signature Collection coming home this June with new extras.

International Stuber Trailer Teams Dave Bautista & Kumail 2019-05-21 15:33:2020th Century Fox has released a new international trailer for the buddy cop action/comedy Stuber.

Just Cause Movie Gets John Wick Writer, Shooting 2019-05-21 15:06:29Constantine Film has landed the rights to the Just Cause video game franchise, with Derek Kolstad set to pen the movie adaptation.

Child's Play Poster Has Chucky Turning Toy Story 2019-05-21 14:12:27The latest poster for the Child's Play remake once again takes aim at Toy Story 4 by cooking Slinky Dog.

Terminator: Dark Fate Teaser Announces First Trailer Drops 2019-05-21 13:15:25Arnold Schwarzenegger has revealed the first teaser for Terminator: Dark Fate ahead of the trailer premiere.

New Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Trailer 2019-05-21 12:43:19Sony has released a brand new trailer for Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ahead of its Cannes debut.

Blumhouse's Invisible Man Gets a Spring 2020 Release 2019-05-21 12:14:46Blumhouse's remake of The Invisible Man has locked down a 2020 release date, with Leigh Whannell set to direct.

Downton Abbey Movie Trailer #2 Ushers the Crawley 2019-05-21 11:37:42The classic TV series Downton Abbey will continue the story of the Crawley family on the big screen this fall.

Final Toy Story 4 Trailer Opens Up a 2019-05-21 11:03:21Woody, Bo Peep and their new friend Forky go on a wild adventure outside of Bonnie's bedroom in the all-new Disney•Pixar adventure Toy Story 4.


Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not responsible of these news or any information published on this website.