Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tolkien, On Film

So, my prediction of a few months back has come true:* the new wave of Tolkien films looks to be not adaptations of his works, like THE SILMARILLION (which I think poorly suited to film adaptation anyway) nor FARMER GILES and FATHER CHRISTMAS (which I think cd make excellent animated films but are probably below the radar for Hollywood blockbuster thinking) but movies about Tolkien himself. The logic's not hard to follow: Tolkien is hot, with five billion-dollar blockbuster in his track record and a sixth to come this fall, but there's no follow-up. Rights to THE SILMARILLION won't be coming. But you can't libel the dead, and you can't copyright a person's life. Which means that a biographical film, or even pseudo-biographical (which is more often the case) can proceed without the co-operation of his family, permission of the Estate, &c.  Of course, doing this without the Estate's approval means they won't be able to quote from any of Tolkien's works, or from any of his letters -- which means, ironically, that the 'Tolkien' of the movie won't be able to quote Tolkien. And I think it highly unlikely they'll get an actor to capture his highly distinctive speech patterns.

For more information, here are two posts by David Bratman, from which I learned about these projects:

And here is a link to the ROLLING STONE article David references . . .

. . . and a related piece in which they propose five actors they'd like to see play JRRT: Cumberbatch (who'd be much better as Lewis, surely), Tennant (sounds a bad idea to me), Jeremy Renner (the only one of the five I'd never heard of), Radcliffe (having seen one of his post-Potter films, I hope not), and McKellan (who's good in everything). Janice pointed out they forgot Freeman.

and also appendige, 'Five Actors Who Could Play Tolkien'  [JC: they forgot Martin Freeman!]

Finally, here's more on the Xian Lewis/Tolkien movie, which from what little we know of both films at this point (which isn't much) to be the more inaccurate of the two, in that it seems to be less interested in Lewis and Tolkien than in the story it wants to use them to tell.**

It'll be interesting to follow these two projects over the next few months and see if they survive the ruthless process of getting a modern film made and, if so, what the final products will look like.

More as thing develop.

--John R.

*cf my posts of January 2013 ( ) and December 2013 ( ).

**There's also more about both movies at Tor.Com:


David Bratman said...

"Janice pointed out they forgot Freeman."

For one brief, lovely moment I thought this meant Morgan Freeman.

Formendacil said...

What... wait...

Had Mr. Bratman not replied (and I not clicked to read it), I should have gone away blissfully happy with the idea of Morgan Freeman as the voice of Tolkien.

And, really, since it is unlikely that any of these fine thespians will succeed in capturing the Tolkienian cadence (not least because I *really* doubt the writers can manage it), I'd much rather just hear Morgan Freeman jazz up whatever they do come up with.