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Tolkien reviews: Biopic is ‘UNIMAGINATIVE’ but bolstered by Nicholas Hoult’s performance

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Tolkien has plenty to recommend it, beginning with a more than credible performance from Nicholas Hoult in the title role.

Glenn Kenny for the New York Times:

The movie teems with many on-the-nose moments. And it does so while hewing so strongly to the Distinguished British Biopic ethos… that it teeters on the edge of genuine obnoxiousness.

Ty Burr for the Boston Globe:

Tolkien gives us the passing of a vanished England and the loss of a generation but not quite enough about what was won, by him for us, nor the mystery of how he won it.

Michael O’Sullivan for the Washington Post:

Tolkien is anodyne enough that no one should be terribly upset by it, let alone deeply moved in any other way.

For a film that seems to aspire to greatness, “Tolkien” is done in by its lack of vision. That was one quality which Tolkien himself was never accused of lacking.

Sheila O’Malley for

Tolkien approaches its subject with maybe a little bit too much reverence, but shows an interest in the development of Tolkien’s ideas, his passion for philology (not the most cinematic of subjects), his love of myths and legends.

Bob Mondello for NPR :

It’s perhaps understandable that the Tolkien estate isn’t interested in being associated with this biopic – and not just because it simplifies and fudges, as biopics do.

Rex Reed for the Observer:

Maybe Tolkien had a fascinating life story full of anecdotes that inspired his future work, but it isn’t told here.

The critics’ consensus reads: “Tolkien has the period trappings and strong performances of a worthy biopic, but lacks the imagination required to truly do its subject justice.”

Its cast is certainly formidable, featuring Nicholas Hoult as a young Tolkien.

Holt is joined by Lily Collins, Derek Jacobi, and Colm Meaney in the film directed by Dome Karukoski and written by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford.

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