Witness the early years of one of the most influential writers ever, J.R.R. Tolkien, as he navigates life and love and loss. His friends and experiences will play an instrumental part in the formation of his fictional masterpieces.

The Highs
The best parts of Tolkien are the performances. Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins do an excellent job, and their chemistry is undeniable. Tolkien’s (Nicholas Hoult) friends are also a joy to observe. Tom Glynn-Carney, Anthony Boyle, and Patrick Gibson exhibit a fierce energy and charisma that certainly makes this film more enjoyable than it would have been without them.

I really like that Dome Karukoski focused on Tolkien’s obsession and skill with languages, and how that played an immense part in the creation of Middle Earth. I knew that Tolkien created his own languages for the books, but it was very cool to see that process in action.

More than anything, I would say that Tolkien is both a love letter and a cautionary tale for writers. It is simultaneously inspiring and daunting to see the amount of love that Tolkien put into his works, and easy to see that every experience in his life played a part in the formation of his world and characters. Watching this film brings the saddening realization that authors today lack Tolkien’s passion, and that a lot of them are simply in it for the money.

The Lows
Unfortunately, a lot of Tolkien just isn’t compelling to watch. It is a very slow film and there are segments where almost nothing happens. There are certainly some things that could have been removed without affecting the overall message of the film. The scene towards the end where Tolkien meets with his friend’s mother to talk about publishing the poetry comes to mind.

I went into Tolkien expecting to see some of the master’s writing process and his interactions with C.S. Lewis and the Inklings. I’ll be honest when I say that this was what I was most looking forward to, and it’s not in the film. In fact, the film ends just as Tolkien begins to pen The Hobbit. This was a very strange, very frustrating choice and it really hurts the film overall.

Final Thoughts
Tolkien is a film for die-hard Tolkien fans that are interested in the formative years of the author. There are some really great messages and moments to be had here, but overall the film ends up falling short of the greatness it could have achieved.

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