As reported in Variety new films based on the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit Books are being developed. This naturally is a concern to many fans who fear, in particular, the remaking of one of the most beloved trilogies of all time. However, the fact Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Phillipa Boyens have been consulted and kept in the loop over this may alleviate some of the concerns.
In a statement to Variety, Jackson and his main “Lord of the Rings” collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens said Warner Bros. and Embracer “have kept us in the loop every step of the way….“We look forward to speaking with them further to hear their vision for the franchise moving forward,” Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens said.
For those who do not know who they are, The Embracer Group made the adaptive rights deal for books including “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” The pact will be billed under the name Middle-earth Enterprises.
Concerns, however, are understandable, especially when dealing with a very beloved cinematic IP. Amazon has similar rights but only for television and part of their 250 million deal did, however, mean they did not have the rights to do the third age. This meant a limited amount of material that had to be padded out and often completely made up as well as inventing new characters. These were one of the biggest criticisms of The Hobbit Trilogy and one Amazon clearly knew about but didn’t take heed of.
Herein comes the issue that both The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings can not be remade, the latter is a series as beloved as the original Star Wars Trilogy and hold the same level of pop cultural significance. So they have the same problem Amazon has, which is a limited amount of unused material to translate to the screen.
Which leaves them with two options. First prequels and origins are based on speculation and short references and appendices from the books. The origins of Aragorn, for example, would be the first one they would go for down such a route. He is a beloved character and when we met him, he was that man of mystery which makes him so engaging the satisfaction of gradually learning more and more about him is what makes the character so well written in the books and film. An origin story seldom works since it takes away that mystery that drew us to the character in the first place.
Two cinematic examples of this are Wolverine: Origins and Solo: A Star Wars Story, two films that clearly attempted cash grabs using a beloved character. The latter lost money although this is primarily due to the cost of reshooting 80% of the films which already had a lot of money had been spent and coming out too close to Infinity War (cinema trips are expensive and with two weeks between both, audiences were going to have to choose).
In both cases, these are examples of the studio looking at an IP and going ‘people loved that character, let’s give them their own films’ and, to badly quote Jurassic Park, not asking if they could make them but whether they should. There is however another option. This would be taking an event that has not been fully fleshed out and telling a story around that rather than an established character. This is the Rogue One example.
Rogue One told the story of how the rebels got the Death Star plans with established characters only being used when the story needed. There are enough events and tales in The Lord of The Rings told either in the appendices or told in the books often in songs or, for example, in the Council of Elrond. Unlike Amazon, they can delve further into the Third Age, show us the war of Arnor against Agmar, and even show us how the Witch King came to be. They could show us his full power and make his appearance in Lord of The Rings scarier and justify Gandalf’s comment in Return of The King about ‘ the enemy’s deadliest servant.
Within the option of basing new films around events yet to be seen which clearly is what they are doing with the War of Rohirrim, looking forward to that, there is a future in which to go further and build upon the world of Middle Earth and Tolkien’s legendarium. With the right people involved who have the level and respect for Tolkien’s work there are a whole host of stories that could be told. How the war of Rohorrim turns out will determine that I for one am hopeful given the talent they have brought in for it. If it proves a critical and commercial success, it will lend credence to such an approach.
If Warner Brother and Embracer have been consulting with the Jackon and team then that is a hopeful sign, I would not expect to see Jackson wanting to make more films but I could see him, Fran Walsh, and Phillipa Boyens working for a hands-on executive producers role. If they can bring in people like Tom Shippey and Brian Sibbley to oversee the stories and work as lore masters again will only add and more importantly make it feel more authentic to Tolkien’s world. It has never been officially confirmed but the rumour was that Tom Shippey was let go/parted ways because he kept pointing out the deviations in the writings for Rings of Power, please note again this is only rumour that neither side has confirmed.
Warner Brothers need this to be a huge hit due massive debts the company is in. All I can hope is that they don’t go down the quick and easy popular character cash grab but explore the telling of established but yet-seen events where examples exist to show where one failed and the other hugely succeeded (Rogue One grossed over $1 billion despite not having much screen time for established characters). With the original filmmakers at this time being consulted to the point they are issuing statements at this time, for now, makes me think of Gandalf when said;
“Who knows? Have patience. Go where you must go, and hope!”.
For now, this news should be embraced with cautious optimism and see what further news of what they intend to do as and when it arrives. Speculation can be fun but over-speculation often leads to high expectations which can never be met. As I say to those who did not, for example, like Rings of Power or The Hobbit films at the end of the day you can ignore new cinematic or television adaptations and takes of Tolkien’s world and do a Bilbo, sit in your armchair after second breakfast and go back to the books.