Tolkien (2019)

Rating: 4/10

A look at JRR Tolkien’s life before he got famous. We go from his early childhood, through his school years, and his stint in World War 1, up until he starts writing the Hobbit.

Visually, this movie is a masterpiece. The cinematography and special effects blend easily together and sometimes it’s hard to tell what parts are really happening to Tolkien and what parts are all in his head. But, unfortunately, you can’t tell a story entirely with cinematography.

Okay, I liked the stuff that happens in the beginning when Tolkien is a kid and each scene feels like it naturally follows the next, but that quickly stops happening once he grows up and the movie starts going from one scene to the next without having that same fluidity. I was still fairly entertained but there wasn’t enough holding it together to make much of it that memorable, outside of the special effects.

The problem with adapting a life story, or even half a life like this film, is that people live a very long time and you simply can’t show everything. I understand you want things in there that point to him being the Lord of the Rings author, but what was the point of him getting in that language class in the latter half of the film when they already established in the first half that he had written his own language and the like? Or am I supposed to prefer the war scenes over the romance scenes? Why are these totally scenes separate from each other anyway? What was this film trying to accomplish? Why is telling us about this section of JRR Tolkien’s life important in any way? What were the filmmaker’s trying to accomplish? And if it was to make money, this movie did not do that (Budget: 20 mil, box office: 5 mil).

Okay, here’s what a movie is: 2 hours long. This is a very short amount of time in terms of being able to tell a story. Because of this, films tend to focus on just one thing, this is known as a main plotline. You might compliment this with a side story or two, but no matter what, the main plot should shine through as “the thing that the movie was about.” I mean, this film has 3 main plotlines, one with him in WW1 discovering both courage and loss, another is him learning to be the author he became, and the last is his romantic life with the woman he eventually married. One of these should have won out, as without a main plot this film feels like three films hastily edited together and cut down for time. I also would have been fine if the scenes actually went together, or naturally followed each other, instead of how disjointed each scene feels from the next.

Scoring:

+5: very middle of the road

+1: Amazing visuals

-1: too many plots that don’t tie together well

-1: Really, why was this movie even made? What was it trying to accomplish?

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