Other promising stories contending for the silver screen
Even during the initial stages of production on The Hobbit, people worldwide were already speculating what other future projects pertaining to the world of Middle-earth may grace our screens.
The Silmarillion is a vast horde of riches sitting beneath the clutches of a fire-breathing dragon; a source of material barred from cinematic adaptation within the foreseeable future – and perhaps, a good thing too.
However, copyright issues aside, we must not forget the other stories contained within the appendices of The Lord of the Rings; stories that have been virtually untouched by Peter Jackson’s expansion of his Hobbit trilogy.
The word “appendices” and “Tolkien’s notes” has been used extensively by Jackson and the crew throughout the making of the second trilogy; and whilst it is true that material from these fragmentary texts were weaved into the cinematic tapestry (albeit not always faithful to Tolkien), there are other sources for potential narratives.
Admittedly, whilst the numerous characters, histories and events contained within these 100 or so pages of appendices further add depth to Middle-earth’s already expansive world, there is much lacking in terms of narrative arcs, character goals, plot, and dialogue.
The threads of narrative that span thousands of years, from the Second Age till the end of the War of the Ring, are structured in the form of a chronicle, and therefore many of the stories within each major event can only be glimpsed – leaving too much room for artistic interpretation and a radical form of ‘fan fiction’.
However, we’ve seen what Peter Jackson was capable of doing: often basing scenes on thin plot-lines and adding his own ideas and visions – expanding on themes and events using visual imagery. To some the additions and the changes were seamlessly fraught; to others it was somewhat of a disaster.
Whether we’ll see Jackson on board again on a similar project, or someone else will take over (if anyone ever will), there are three potential story-lines that mya be adapted into a Middle-earth film (not a trilogy, just one film) …
The Rise of Angmar
“In 1974 the power of Angmar arose again, and the Witch-king came down upon Arthedain before winter was ended.”
Appendix A -“The North-kingdom and the Dúnedain”
Referenced in the Dol Guldur subplot of The Hobbit trilogy, Sauron proclaims that “[s]o shall the Kingdom of Angmar rise”.
Indeed, thousands of years prior, the greatest of the Ringwraiths came very close to overcoming the northwestern parts of Middle-earth: affecting even the solitary peace of the Shire.
The wars fought between the Dúnedain of the race of Númenor and the evil of Sauron’s greatest servant, is an intense account of the travails of men, the relentless strength of evil and the politics and strategies during a younger Middle-earth.
There is much room for expansion here, but whoever is assigned the writing job will have a herculean task combining scarce material from the book and the scriptwriter/s’ own contributions into a single film.
Suffice to say, the tale of the conflict between the North Kingdom and the Witch-king of Angmar would be a fascinating origin story that introduces Aragorn’s race and reinforces Sauron’s eternal hatred towards that people. It would also pave the way to visualising uncharted Middle-earth territory on screen: including the Barrow-Downs, Fornost and Carn Dûm.
The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen
If the story of Beren and Lúthien from The Silmarillion can never be adapted, this would be the next best thing.
There is room for drama between the two lovers; but it’s not all romantic stares and loving promises.
At this point in time, shortly after the events of The Hobbit, Middle-earth is still volatile; and the threat of an all-out war starts brewing again.
Tolkien provides us with the following timeline in Appendix B:
The story of Aragorn and Arwen can be intercut with the wider happenings in Middle-earth, and we can also witness the Ranger’s adventures with two established settlements: Rohan and Gondor.
Yet again, it’s not an easy thing to craft a film out of the fragments scattered throughout a few pages; nevertheless, there might be enough reference material for a decent 2-hour production.
The War of the Ring: The Battles for the Wood, the Forest and the Mountain
In the Extended Edition of The Return of the King, Gimli says “I wish I could muster a legion of Dwarves, fully armed and filthy”, to which Legolas replies “Your kinsmen may have no need to ride to war. I fear war already marches on their own lands.”
Indeed, what we read about in The Lord of the Rings – with the battles and conflicts our heroes are involved in – as constituting the War of the Ring, is but part of the overall conflict that ravaged Middle-earth at that time.
The regions in and around Mirkwood were the battlefields in which Galadriel and Celeborn fought against the power of Dol Guldur; Thranduil defended his realm from invasion; and Brand (grandson of Bard) and Dáin II Ironfoot were besieged in the Lonely Mountain.
At the same time as the great armies besieged Minas Tirith a host of the allies of Sauron that had long threatened the borders of King Brand crossed the River Carnen, and Brand was driven back to Dale. There he had the aid of the Dwarves of Erebor; and there was a great battle at the Mountain’s feet.
Sauron’s plan consisted of dividing the Free Peoples by leading a three-pronged attack: keeping the realms of Rohan and Gondor busy with the siege of Minas Tirith, he assaulted the realm of Lórien from Dol Guldur and surrounded the kingdom of Erebor.
This story-line is perhaps the most worthy and plausible event that could be adapted into a film.
True, the only reference to these conflicts occurring during the narrative, are to be found in a single page at the end of Appendix B.
However, considering the majority of characters and locations have already been established in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies, this narrative has a solid foundation that can perfectly complement (though not undermine) the events occurring in the latter trio of films.
For example, the conclusion to the story-line of Dol Guldur left many people (including myself), wanting and expecting more. During the War of the Ring we are told that under Celeborn, the Elves of Lórien “took Dol Guldur, and Galadriel threw down its walls and laid bare its pits, and the forest was cleansed.” (Appendix B)
This would really be an interesting chance to expand the War of the Ring narrative and, by making subtle references to the journey of the Fellowship and the ensuing conflicts in Rohan and Gondor, conclude the adventures in Middle-earth with a fitting farewell. Not that one does not currently exist – but any new Middle-earth film that respects the cinematic world already established, is welcome to be included in with the rest.
The primary intention of any one of these narratives, as a film, would not be to undermine either of the two trilogies, but rather to complement them and add more depth to the characters and the world; acting as a kind of footnote or an appendix to the six-film saga.
Naturally, if another director decides to tackle this world, he/she will have to be willing to retain the overall look of the films for the sake of continuity. Either that or relaunch a whole new vision of Middle-earth from scratch.
Personally, while I’m not too fond of the inventiveness of the screenwriters to go beyond what Tolkien has written, I’m ready to see how any of these story-lines could be made into a film.
I’m actually more than willing to see another Middle-earth on the silver screen again … 🙂
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