Domu Karukoski’s new biopic, Tolkien, starring Nicholas Hoult as a young J.R.R. Tolkien and Lily Collins as Tolkien’s future wife Edith Bratt, is studded with gems of genius, but its main shields of defense prevent viewers from connecting to what would otherwise be a divine source of magic.

As the star-crossed lovers of the renowned author’s life, Hoult and Collins played their parts true to form, but poor writing choices with dramatizations to match caused some scenes to fall flat. Other scenes felt rushed, shoved in to advance the story, only there to connect dots within the sometimes formulaic structure of a biopic. This, coupled with the question of mediocre writing (if you have to ask, you know the answer), and a failure to deliver any true climactic moment make us wonder if everyone was speaking the same language. There were quite a few spoken throughout the movie, including use of Tolkien’s own created language, the thing that would skyrocket him to his writing successes in the end. We needed to see more of that.

The story follows young Tolkien in his formative years, highlighting his friendships with fellow artists, who would later inspire him in all things: treasure, love, writing, loss, and of course, fellowship. Alternating between his childhood and adulthood, including time at university and war (during the battle of the Somme, World War I) the film took us on our own quest. How fitting.

As a boy, Tolkien’s genius shone through charmingly, but as the film progressed, he seemed to lose his luster. Just a little more oomph and we could have seen Tolkien for the true genius that he was. The film masterfully showed all of the author’s influences, from poetry to theology, but failed to keep the plot iron-forged into a cohesive whole.

The homages paid to his body of works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings do not go unnoticed, however, and serve as another gorgeous reminder of the movie’s latent talents. Lasse Frank Johannessen’s cinematography beautifully captures the mind of a brilliant but tortured artist, taking us on a journey through psychedelic dreamscapes riddled with ominous smoke monsters, flamethrowers doubling as dragons, and shadowed riders on horseback resembling Nordic demons.

Karukoski’s vision of Tolkien wasn’t all fantasy though. The aspect of language and the mystery surrounding it was one of the most striking facets of the film. Tolkien’s mutant superpower (if you will) comes from language, and the film did a superb job of setting up his deep adoration and fascination for it. In the end, however, it left something to be desired. It is what made him so special and different, and yet we don’t see him access it until it’s too late and we’re left wondering what world the movie is trying to create.

Overall, the film amazed us with its compelling visuals and touching character moments. The score would have made even Tolkien’s choir angels (from the Silmarillion) reel with jealousy. Laugh or cry, Tolkien may have fallen short due to its biopic nature and framework, but true fans and non-fans alike can surely find the treasures in such a fantastical tale.