Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff


Tolkien is pretty standard biopic fare, however, as a Tolkien fan I probably managed to get more out of it than most would. The film is at its best when it is touching upon inspirations for his later works. And even here, this only really works when the film is being subtle about it, less so when it is being overt.

For example, we can extrapolate influences like the relationship between Faramir and Denethor from Tolkien’s own friend and father. We can sense the Frodo/Sam relationship in his military assistant. His move from the country to Birmingham visually reminds us of the scouring of the Shire.

There are also much more overt visuals as well, like the horsemen in the war reminding us of ringwraths, or the fires beyond the trenches forming into Sauron. When these are small glances they’re effective, but when they are put on full display they lose some of their power somehow.

The movie has a lot of strengths, which includes the production and the acting. Where it suffers is in the script itself. The script seems to have some problem with investment. For example, Tolken’s relationship with Edith sort of kicks off from 0-60 without much lead in to make us believe it. I seem to remember the trailer having a scene where he sees her approaching him in the woods, like Luthein. This wasn’t in the film, but would have probably added a lot to us believing his affection for her.

Another issue is when we jump years ahead, a conflict between the two is brought up about how he spends too much time on his book and not with his family. Its too late in the film to bring up this conflict, which had no build up and only really exists for the last scene.

Speaking of the last scene, and minor spoilers here I guess, this is also a good example of script issues. The movie ends with him writing his famous fist line, “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit”, with a lot of emphasis on the idea of the hobbit. However, this is a pay off which has absolutely no set up. We see nothing about how he is inspired to create hobbits anywhere in the film. Sure, the group of friends he has is strongly indicative of the four hobbits who set out from the Shire together, but the idea of a hobbit itself has absolutely no footprint on the film at all until that point.

I probably sound like a raging book nerd at this point. But honestly, most of my enjoyment in this film was pulling these little hints to his writings scattered throughout the narrative and visuals. I’m not sure this would work on someone not very familiar with his stories. I’ll give it a 7/10, but that’s based on this bias; the script would otherwise bring this down.


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