There are works that simply shouldn’t be meddled with, especially by incapable hands. They often end up a disaster. Ghostbusters, for instance, ended up with a disastrous reboot. Jem, an 80s cartoon loved by many girls was a mess, even Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise was muddled by his own Alien: Covenant. Yes, even the creators themselves stumble now and then. Star Wars fans blame George Lucas for ‘ruining’ his own franchise with the prequel trilogy. But people like Christopher Tolkien has great respect for the works of his father J.R.R. Tolkien that he has maintained a tight grip on how The Lord of the Rings and the rest of the Middle-Earth stories should be treated. That grip has now been loosened after his resignation as director of the Tolkien Estate.
Christopher Tolkien is rather advanced in age and is probably the main factor in his resignation as literary executor of the Tolkien estate. That and perhaps the stress of continuously having to fend off advances from Amazon and Warner Brothers. Tolkien is very protective of his father’s works and ensures that they’re handled properly. The result is Peter Jackson’s epic masterpiece The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the less than glorious over-expanded but enjoyable Hobbit Trilogy. As for the games, a certain amount of liberty was allowed developers as the games don’t impact the overall story and they’re not for widespread consumption by the general public.
Tolkien’s resignation may have been the main factor for the greenlighting of Amazon’s Lord of the Rings TV project. His replacement literary executor/s are more open to further adaptations or J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. This announcement by Christopher Tolkien can hardly be a coincidence after Amazon announced that they will be proceeding with their Lord of the Rings TV project.
Many fans, including myself, are as purist as Christopher about Amazon’s project that seeks to dethrone HBO’s Game of Thrones as the leading TV fantasy-drama. Peter Jackson’s original trilogy is a masterpiece in many respects, and the special effects are great enough that they’ll continue to entertain viewers for decades much like Cecil B. Demille’s The Ten Commandments. Though there are some parts that can be further expanded, many fans consider it to be better left untouched. Further exposition was made in The Hobbit Trilogy, and it didn’t turn out to be as stellar as expected. As far as Christopher is concerned, the commercialization of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings was a mistake. But it’s a mistake that actually enabled more people to become curious and read his father’s work which is what he wants. Some fans even read further and bought The Silmarillion, History of Middle Earth and Unfinished Tales. And many of us readers who got absorbed into Middle-Earth agree that the books are superior to the films, but the films have helped much with our imaginations, the same as with Harry Potter. I still imagine the late Richard Harris as Albus Dumbledore up to reading The Deathly Hallows.
The Lord of the Rings TV project was earlier speculated to be an adaptation of the original trilogy. Fans became upset because Peter Jackson’s adaptation is already almost perfect and mishandling of the project could turn out disastrous. However, it turns out that the project is to be set before the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Those eras are quite workable and can actually be completely tied into Peter Jackson’s works. There’s a treasure trove of material that Christopher Tolkien refused to let go of despite the amazing success of the original trilogy including the Silmarillion which is highly anticipated by fans.
Now perhaps that and many other tales are up for grabs by Amazon and Warner Brothers. If handled correctly, Middle-Earth will join the other giant franchises of Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This development should give us more variety in film and TV entertainment currently saturated by superheroes.
Tolkien’s treasure trove of stories includes The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, a supporting character who was absent from Fellowship of the Ring in a scene where the hobbits were supposed to get their weapons; The Silmarillion, another epic tale set during the First Age whereas The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was set in the Third Age, The Children of Hurin and many other stories from The Unfinished Tales that may actually end up being finished after all.
Other ideas that can be explored include the Second Age when Sauron forged all the rings of power, expanding upon the introduction in Fellowship of the Ring. Then there’s the adventures of the Istari which include Gandalf the Grey, Saruman the White, Radagast, Alatar and Pallando and lastly, a film about what happened to the dwarves in The Hobbit and the fall of Moria.
If Amazon handles this franchise carefully, this development could end up being much larger than Game of Thrones. Hopefully, Christopher Tolkien was wrong in keeping things locked down. Hollywood could surely use more ideas.
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