Come December 17th, it’ll be over. With the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, it’s a pretty good bet our cinematic visits to Middle-earth will be done. I mean, in a way, it’s okay. You can still go back and watch roughly eighteen hours of it if you have the extended versions of all Peter Jackson’s wonderful movies, but new ventures are probably on hold. Last I read, the Tolkien family has hated what Jackson did to The Hobbit so much that they won’t grant him rights to anything else. So discussion of a trilogy based on The Silmarillion has been dampened. It’ll have to be someone else, from what I’ve seen online (though thesilmarillionmovie.com claims the idea the Tolkien estate won’t grant Jackson the rights is a rumor only and has never been confirmed officially).
I have mixed feelings about this. I’ve (partially) lived in Middle-earth since I was in sixth grade. That’s close to forty years. And while I can’t claim to have read the books countless times, I have a collection of several different editions (in paperback), and I’ve dipped into it multiple times, at least.
I loved the cinematic The Lord of the Rings. I’m not a purist, and I understand that books and movies are two different mediums: what works well in one won’t necessarily go over in the other. And I really love the way Jackson added in things from other sources to bolster and flesh out some things. He pulled in things from The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales for some background stuff, and I think that made it a richer experience.
As for his version of The Hobbit…well, I’m not as happy. I like them, but he’s thrown in plot details that aren’t in any of Tolkien’s other works, and even created characters that weren’t there—chief among them being Tauriel and the subplot of a possible love interest with one of the dwarves. I could have done without that, because The Hobbit isn’t a love story. I don’t mind the extra stuff with Legolas and the wood elves because he’s showing us things Tolkien told us about or just mentioned in passing.
And at least Jackson makes the elves look as Tolkien described them, unlike that farce of an animated version that came out in the seventies and had elves looking more like goblins than the tall, slender beings the Professor tells us about.
So what about other ventures into Middle-earth? The Silmarillion is a history of the realm that reads like the Bible and, for me, is hard to get through. Professor Tolkien was a linguist who invented sixteen complete languages for Middle-earth, and The Silmarillion makes for some very dry reading. On the other hand, I have managed to make it about halfway through, and learning about the silmarils and that Sauron was actually just a minor lieutenant to the really bad guy was a pleasant surprise.
But would it translate into a movie? Maybe. There’s a lot of material there, and we could see the creation of the orcs that Saruman tells his first Uruk-Hai about. The Silmarillion is the creation myth of Middle-earth, so the movie maker would have a lot to choose from. It’s not a long book, but it could easily make a trilogy. After all, it describes everything that happened in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in just a few paragraphs. Less than a page, if I remember right.
But, even if we never go back to Middle-earth in new movies, there are still some nine hours to watch, and countless hours rereading the books. I’ve never even dipped into Unfinished Tales, and I own a copy of The Children of Hurin but haven’t even attempted to read it yet. So while I may never again get to see a new rendition of my favorite fantasy realm, I can go again and again if I want to. After all, I went for years with the only real cinematic versions being the vastly inferior animations, one of which was never finished.
I’ll take what I’ve got and be glad of it.