I have never been a big fan of fantasy, and I have never read any of J R Tolkien’s books. Even the Lord of The Ring movies have eluded me. So why was I very interested in seeing ‘Tolkien?’ Because it stars Nicholas Hoult, who is one of my favorite young actors. I know this movie wasn’t getting raves, and I truly wasn’t expecting much. And maybe because my expectations are low, I found myself really enjoying it, and I even shed a tear or two in the end. Maybe because I don’t know much about Tolkien’s work and life that I did, though. This film covers his ‘early’ years, before he wrote his first Hobbitt novel. So I approached this as just a story about a young man trying to find his voice, exploring friendships, and falling in love. Director Dome Karukoski doesn’t focus on one thing – it’s part love story, part biography, part war drama – but that didn’t bother me. Maybe because I was enamored with Hoult, who gives a real credible performance. And he has great chemistry with Lily Collins, who plays Edith Bratt, his love interest. When the story goes focuses on their love affairs, it perks up. I could watch the two of them discuss languages, or Wagner, for instance. And for me, I like that the film gives a glimpse of how his imagination spurred the beginnings of the novel, although I understand why it may not be enough for people who a re fans of his literary work. There are a lot of uneven work nowadays, and this may classify as one, but I think it is a worthwhile watch.
Who isn’t in love with Zac Efron? I know I have been championing him for a while now, as I do think he is an extremely talented and versatile actor. He is getting more attention nowadays for his performance in the new film ‘Extremely Wicked Shickingly Evil and Vile’ (bad choice of a title since I cannpt retain it in my memory) and rightfully so – he is extremely effective portraying the serial killer Ted Bundy. Seen in the eyes of his long time girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer (who wrote a book based on her life with Bundy) this Ted Bundy is charming and handsome. It’s as if director Joe Berlinger has put you in the position of being one of his victims and you are able to experience how one gets manipulated and roped by this man. It’s a strange way to present a film about a serial killer. We never really get to see any of the killings, and at first thought you think, this film is as in love with Bundy (and Efron) as we are. But as I think about it more, I think it’s just an effective way to present Bundy. Even though Collins is great as Elizabeth, Efron takes over the film whenever he is on – his presence here i so magnetic that you are instantly and effectively drawn. Yes, it does seem like it is trying to glorify a serial killer, but in the initial eyes of his victims, he is glorified. And just like his victims, he instills fear as we get to know him better. There is a scene between Ted and Elizabeth towards the end which is supposed to be some kind of closure for their relationship, but instead is so horrifying it will make you feel sick and disgusted, yet there will be a nagging feeling in you that you will want more.
I initially had reservations about the film (even as I enjoyed Efron’s performance) – the pace is uneven, and there are some holes int he story telling. But taken as is, I think it’s still a worthwhile film. As my film ended, Netflix immediately followed my viewing with their docu series The TEd Bundy Tapes, and I think seeing those two things back to back will make the Bundy experience fuller. But then again, maybe one is enough.