Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Amazon Middle Earth Show Forbidden to Contradict Tolkien and Avoid Rings Time Period

A question I had after it was announced that Amazon would produce a TV series set in Middle Earth, was why the Tolkien Estate would agree to it. The Estate has long had a disliked Hollywood and really hated the Peter Jackson versions of Tolkien's books (Hobbit I get, LOTR trilogy no so much). However, they do enjoy the financial windfall that came from such agreements. The agreement meant that something had to have been conceded so the Estate could hold its nose while cashing fresh new checks. As reported by Engadget, they were pretty significant concessions. The Tolkien estate has veto power over the show, the First Age & Third Age (aka The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is in) is off limits, and published continuity must be maintained (so relevant info in the Appendices, The Silmarillion, etc.).
"The Tolkien estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered," Tolkien scholar and series supervisor Tom Shippey told the German Tolkien Society. During this period, Sauron tries to reform Middle-earth for the better but falls into evil, becoming a powerful and oppressive ruler. "Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Númenorean expedition, returns to Númenor. There he corrupts the Númenoreans and seduces them to break the ban of the Valar. All this, the course of history, must remain the same."

Shippey points out that although the broad strokes of the history of the Second Age are established, there are plenty of unanswered questions about the events of the period, such as what Sauron did after the fall of Morgoth. Amazon can take creative license to create its own story within this history, as long as it doesn't contradict Tolkien's writings.

The Tolkien estate maintains power of veto over any content in the show, Shippey says, and is willing to nix anything that doesn't fit with Tolkien's vision. The First Age and the Third Age of Middle-earth (in which the books are set) are both "off-limits" to the TV show, so don't expect to see hobbits, Gondorians or many familiar faces in the new adaptation.
Amazon must have really wanted this show. The Tolkien Estate has long been difficult to work with as very demanding with the viewpoint that the text is sacrosanct and any attempt to convert it to film should be a near 1 to 1 translation. As someone that has read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and tried to read other Tolkien works, a one to one translation would have made for horrible and incredibly boring viewing.

I have always said that JRR Tolkien is a gifted world builder but a below average writer. For example there were entire sections of The Lord of the Rings that served no purpose or function. For example when get bored look up Tom Bombadil. Die hard Tolkien fans still have not forgiven Peter Jackson for not including this character in the films. The reason is simple - he served no purpose. Its clear Tolkien liked the concept of the character, write some stuff, got bored of him, and never circled back to him within the story. It was an easy cut to make when translating the text to film. All the coincidences in The Hobbit movies where everyone just seems to get lucky? Yeah that wasn't just from the movies, it was built into the book. Why figure out clever solutions when can just deux ex Machina your way out which Tolkien did many many times in the book. Absolutely nothing wrong with irrelevant characters and luck as a solution. Books do it all the time. Movies and TV shows, on the other hand, should actively try to avoid doing that (easier said then done of course).

I do not envy the team that already has the difficult task of taking the very dry material that is Middle Earth lore and turn it into entertaining television. A difficulty that is now compounded by trying to pass muster of the Tolkien Estate that has the contractual position of not having to compromise on their own vision of that lore.

Friday, March 22, 2019

How Ian McKellen Acts With His Eyes Using Lord of the Rings

Below is an interesting analysis from Nerdwriter (highly recommend this channel) as he looks at how Ian McKellen in The Lord of the Rings trilogy can make a scene work with the use of his eyes to sell the emotion of the moment so that most of the time words are not even necessary.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Amazon Teases The Second Age of Middle-Earth

"Welcome to the Second Age"

With that we know have an very small idea of where Amazon is going with their planned TV series based on the stories of JRR Tolkien. It has been awhile as not much to report on The Middle-Earth / The Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit front. That changed when Amazon finally teased some useful information along with a map that reveals the location of the island of Númenor and Lindon. Two important locations in the Second Age.

The First Age is basically the origin story of Middle-Earth. Think the Greek stories of the Titans creating heaven and earth, eventually birthing the Greek Gods, being killed by those Gods, and those Gods creating man. Only its a whole lot more drama and other details to that story. The Second Age is what happens with those races the Gods created and a tiny portion of the Second Age was covered in The Lord of the Rings.

Remember that opening scene in The Fellowship of the Ring? The forging of the rings occurred about midway through the Second Age (in year 1500 to 1600). The scenes ends a battle sequence (called The Battle of Dagorlad) of the final fight with the alliance of men, elves and dwarves against Sauron and his forces (aka The War of the Last Alliance). Sauron's defeat is the end of the Second Age of Middle-Earth (in year 3441).

That rather significant time spam of 3441 years gives Amazon a whole lot of story to play with as you can tell the story of the rise of and fall of Númenor which is basically Tolkien's version of Atlantis including it eventually being destroyed by the Gods after Sauron tricked the Numenorians to fight the Gods of Middle-Earth. In parallel to that you have the rise, fall, rise and fall again of Suaron, details on how the rings were eventually forged (took nearly 100 years so grabbing the knowledge also had to take time), how the alliance formed, and host of other things. As long as don't focus too much on the actual timeline (or somehow do effective and non-confusing time jumps), its feasible to tell a story that blows Game of Thrones away.

It also gives Amazon the ability to tie into The Lord of the Rings mythology while blazing their own path along the way and without concern of the shadow of Peter Jackson's films or those characters getting in the way. Technically the elvish characters and the wizards were alive at the time but its easy enough to leave them out of the story since most of Tolkien's writings about that time didn't include them either but did include some family members and ancestors.

There is a rabbit hole of information to go into if you are so inclined.