The new J.R.R. Tolkien biopic, Tolkien, comes to theatres this week. The film stars Nicholas Hoult as Tolkien and Lily Collins as Edith Bratt in a story that covers the events of Tolkien’s formative years, including his time at school and the fellowship of friends he found there, as well as his serving in World War I and his personal and romantic relationship with Bratt.
The movie covers Tolkien’s major life events that inspired his acclaimed fantasy novels including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The movie also teaches us the correct way to pronounce Tolkien. Hint: it’s “Tol-keen.”
If you’re looking for an action-oriented, grand spectacle film like The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, this is not it. Tolkien is a dramatic retelling of some of the key moments in Tolkien’s early life as an author, friend, and partner to Bratt.
To help you get an idea about if the film is worth your time and money, we’ve collected review excerpts from around the internet. You can see a rundown of Tolkien review excerpts below, while more information on the film’s critical reception can be found on GameSpot sister site Metacritic.
It is also worth mentioning that the Tolkien Estate has distanced itself from the Tolkien movie, though it reportedly issued its statement before viewing it. This was no surprise, as the Estate has for decades declined to endorse dramatizations of Tolkien’s life and works.
- Directed By: Dome Karukoski
- Written By: David Gleeson, Stephen Beresford
- Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, Craig Roberts, Patrick Gibson, Pam Ferris, Anthony Boyle, Tom Glynn-Carney
- Release Date: May 10 (United States)
- Runtime: 111 minutes
“Hoult brings a quiet, romantic intensity to the young Tolkien (pronounced ‘Tolkeen,’ who knew?), Lily Collins does a lot with a little as his first love Edith, and the Hobbit horde will gobble up all of the easter-egg references peppered throughout the movie. But Karukoski occasionally tries too hard to juice up his fustier Dead Poets Society-esque stretches with fevered battlefield visions of German flamethrowers transforming into fire-breathing dragons. Tolkien was never what anyone would call a subtle writer, but even he’d probably find those CGI flourishes a bit too much.” — Chris Nashawaty [Full review]
“… a biopic that hits so many familiar notes that it’s practically a cover song. It’s the ceaseless parade of foreshadowing, suggesting that every microscopic part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels was based on a specific, real-life event. It reduces everyone Tolkien knew to supporting players in someone else’s shameless ‘great man’ narrative. If you were trying to produce a parody of what a Tolkien biopic would look like, you’d get the exact same film.” — William Bibbiani [Full review]
The Hollywood Reporter
“Handsomely made in the customarily fastidious style of most period biographical dramas, Tolkien is strongly served by Hoult, who, after four X-Men outings (and a supporting role in last year’s The Favourite), demonstrates that it’s high time he moved on from that sort of thing to more interesting and challenging dramatic characterizations.” — Todd McCarthy [Full review]
“The film–stately, well-acted, and ultimately insubstantial–dilutes its considerable charms with hoary literary biopic conventions, and then risks strangling them entirely with its reductively literal takes on the vagaries of artistic inspiration.” — Andrew Barker [Full review]
The Washington Post
“The movie is a capable and attractive enough biopic, if also less than riveting cinema.” — Michael O’Sullivan [Full review]
“This refreshing origins story, starring Nicholas Hoult, traces the early life of JRR Tolkien as he makes friends at Oxford, finds love and faces the horror of war.” — Peter Bradshaw [Full review]