Winning the Fanbase...
|Enthusiastic LotR Cosplayers|
So how does all this relate to the Silmarillion? Well, as anyone who's tried to read The Silmarillion will tell you, it's awfully difficult to follow at first. There are so many names and the language is very archaic. In addition to that, there are numerous "side stories" and paragraphs that seem like footnotes. Many chapters read like a history book. Any adaptation would have to take some liberties to appeal to general audiences. But, to do that would trouble most of the Sil. fans because the people who actually got through The Silmarillion and still cared about it often times became the most ardent purists. Many purists don't even like the idea of a film adaptation at all! Any director/producer who takes on The Silmarillion would not only have to be sure to stay true to the "core of the original" as Tolkien put it, but also every fine detail, at least within realm of reason, to win the approval of the fanbase. Otherwise, without a strong and healthy fanbase the franchise will fail. In addition to working hard on the final product the filmmakers should make every effort possible to include the fans during pre-production to generate positive buzz. One way they could do this would be to hold some kind of writing contest about adapting The Silmarillion. The screenwriters/producers/directors could then select winners based on quality of writing and differences of opinion and invite them, along with the leading Tolkien experts/bloggers of the time, to be consultants when working on the script and conceptual design.
Who should make it?
|Peter Jackson on the set of "The Hobbit"|
Not as a TV series...
The idea of a Silmarillion TV show has become quite popular among some fans. I, however, don't think it could be done that way simply because there isn't one unifying character or group of characters that play a substantial part throughout all the major tales of the Quenta Silmarillion. It's much too episodic for that. There would be nothing to encourage viewers to tune in next week. Some have suggested taking some of the longer chapters and turning those into different shows and spin offs, but that would be even more dangerous than a feature film! The Silmarillion is long, but not long enough for a full season of television - it would invite way too much fan fiction. That's why I think the big screen may be a better option...
The main stories that make up The Silmarillion are episodic, yet they all contribute to the larger story of the Noldor and their attempts to regain the Silmarils from Morgoth. A series of films would therefore have to be connected, but they should also be able to stand on their own. Something akin to Marvel's Cinematic Universe could appeal well to both a studio and audiences. All the stories can be told independently, but they are all influenced by each other and contribute to the same larger tale. It could be a Silmarillion Cinematic Universe (SCU). It couldn't be as long as Marvel's simply because the source material covers only some 300 pages and not decades' worth of comics. I think a 6 film series that focused on the major characters/narratives would be most successful. With this in mind, below is my outline for a possible SCU:
Film 1: The Rebellion of the Noldor
|The Kinslaying at Alqualonde by Ted Nasmith|
This would be the most difficult film to pull off in my opinion. The story of Feanor is not exactly an uplifting tale, it's quite tragic really (like many of the Sil. stories). His story and character just kind of runs down and he ends up dying as a very bitter
Also, the elves would have to be very relatable as characters. In the LotR and the Hobbit movies (and books) the elves have this otherworldly quality to them, they kind of float and endure above everything that's going on around them. Since the elves are the only main protagonists to appear in this film the audience needs to be able to sympathize with them (they need to be very human in that regard).
From a conceptual point of view, a filmmaker would have to establish the world and tone of a young Middle-earth and Valinor. The sheer number of characters would have to be cut down (there's not enough time to develop all of Finwe's grandchildren into good secondary characters) and you'd have to visually distinguish the ones you kept (i.e. distinguishable costumes/hair and make-up).
|The Burning of the Ships by Ted Nasmith|
Lastly, before I movie on I must discuss the music. Music plays an integral part of the Silmarillion (Middle-earth is created through song after all) and a good composer would be integral to the telling of the story and the series as a whole. Building on the foundations Howard Shore established, a Wagnerian/Shore styled score would serve as one of the main connecting elements running through all six (and really all 12) films. It's critical that basic, underlying musical ideas for the Elves (Firstborn) as a whole, the different types of Elves (Vanyar, Noldor, Sindar, Avari, etc.), Men (Followers), Valar, and Morgoth were established in this film so that they could be built upon and developed as the series continued.
Film 2: Beren and Luthien
|By Moonlight in Neldoreth Forest |
by Ted Nasmith
The film would have to be careful with its use of magical elements (this is Tolkien, not Harry Potter) and be careful of avoiding cliches. Thingol is a very dynamic and complex character. He shouldn't be villainized and/or appear as simply the stereotypical, overprotective father getting in the way of Luthien's feelings or something like that.
Parts of this movie would, and should, be very reminiscent of the Aragorn and Arwen stuff from LotR and the Woodland Realm from the Hobbit. In terms of set design the conceptual designers would have the difficult task of designing Menegroth as the precursor to Thranduil's halls. Menegroth needs to be distinct from that location, but still connected visually through the architecture and atmosphere.
In terms of further connections to LotR, this movie would subtly introduce Aragorn's lineage (with the Ring of Barahir) and also include Sauron as a major figure in the second act. We could even see Galadriel and/or Thranduil in short cameo appearances as well.
|Huan's Leap by Ted Nasmith|
Film 3: The Children of Hurin
Idealistically, in addition to using chapter 21, "Of Turin Turambar," from The Silmarillion, this movie would be able to draw upon material from The Children of Hurin book, the expanded narrative Christopher published posthumously in 2007. Even though it's one of my absolute favorite Sil. legends it's a heart wrenching tale and deals with some difficult subjects so it may not easily appeal to general audiences the same way Beren & Luthien would. But, there is a very prominent dragon involved so that may help give it a boost.
|Sketch of Hurin and Morwen by Alan Lee|
Film 4: Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin
|Tuor Reaches the Hidden City of Gondolin by Ted Nasmith|
Following Turin's death, his father Hurin accidentally reveals the location of Gondolin, a secret Elven stronghold, to Morgoth. To make things even more interesting, it's Turin's cousin, Tuor, who is directly involved in the affairs of that city during the time of its demise. In addition to that, this film would set up a very important character that would feature in the next installment, Earendil. Nevertheless, despite having a clearer place in the events of the First Age, this film should be told as it's own story and not as the middle part of a trilogy. It's a great story in its own right and the final act features one of Tolkien's most dramatic and epic battles (hopefully material from the Book of Lost Tales II could be included for those sequences too).
Film 5: The Voyage of Earendil
|Earendil the Mariner by Ted Nasmith|
In addition to having a great character story with Earendil and his wife, the inclusion of young Elrond and Elros (his sons) and treachery among the elves in Middle-earth, this film would probably be the most visually stunning. The War of Wrath was an enormous event featuring Ancalagon the Black (a dragon so large that he destroyed a mountain when he fell), a flying ship, and the literal destruction of the entire western portion of Middle-earth.
Film 6: The Akallabeth (The Downfall of Numenor)
|The Ships of the Faithful by Ted Nasmith|
|The Eagles of Manwe by Ted Nasmith|
Like the MCU, not one director would have to be responsible for overseeing all the films. Each of the stories have their own unique tone and having 2 or 3 different directors cover the series under the leadership of the same producer (like Kevin Feige at Marvel) could help keep the franchise fresh, original, and yet connected.
(Plus, just imagine having twelve feature-length Middle-earth films that all fit together! Middle-earth movie marathon weeks would be really something then!)
How do you think the Silmarillion should be adapted though (if at all)? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts below!