6/10 Almost everyone is familiar with “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, either the books or the films. Yet many people know nothing about the author of those books, J. R. R. Tolkien. I only knew a few things about the man and after having seen this movie, I definitely know a lot more. He had some really tragic events happen in his life, which I am sure influenced his writings. The fact that he could invent languages is extremely impressive. The movie does good several things correct, including educating the audience about Tolkien’s life in a way that isn’t shoehorned in with awkward exposition. Nicholas Hoult does a great job as our leading man and the underrated Lily Collins is solid as well. The production design and costume design does a fantastic job of recreating the time period that the movie takes place in. When Tolkien is fighting in WWI, we see his wartime environment mixed with “Lord of the Rings” imagery and the parallels there, which I thought was creative and worked overall. Thomas Newman provides a hauntingly beautiful score that wisely doesn’t borrow at all from Howard Shore’s “Lord of the Rings” score. Due to some of the tragic events in Tolkien’s life, there are definitely some really emotionally powerful moments that will tug on your heart strings. Despite all of the good that the movie does, there are still some issues I took with it. For a man with such an interesting life, this movie feels a little by the numbers and generic at times. The movie’s opening half hour starts off really slow and took a while to get interesting. With the exception of the wartime/”Lord of the Rings” mixing of imagery, the direction is rather vanilla and bland. Since part of the movie takes place in WWI, the movie could have used that opportunity to at least put in an epic battle scene to spice the movie up and add some action and intensity. Instead, we never see any real fighting take place. We just see Tolkien sick and laying down, men in the trenches and several dead bodies. If you are going to flash back to a wartime environment, you should probably take advantage of the setting and add in some fighting to inject the movie with some much needed tension. Once the movie ended, I could say I enjoyed it but I also was left wanting more and probably wouldn’t watch it again. Check it out on DVD/streaming services for a one time watch, as seeing it in theaters is unnecessary. If anything it will make you want to re-watch the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which now will have more context and is always worth revisiting.
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