Appropriately, there are a lot of complex emotions and thoughts to unpack after watching the latest film to tackle Middle-earth, TOLKIEN.
Let’s get this out of the way: If you have more than a passing interest in J.R.R. Tolkien or his works, you should view the film. You should view it in theaters and you should view it without knowing too much of what is going to unfold — and I will do my best to withhold spoilers, but some are inevitable if I am going to offer fair commentary on the film.
Let’s also get this out of the way: The next person who says “It’s not a documentary,” to me or anyone else with criticisms of the film’s portrayal of Tolkien’s life can go straight to Angband. This quip attempts to dismiss completely valid, rational views of the film, most often the assumed position that someone is about to say film isn’t accurate. Feel free to disagree with criticism, but don’t insult the discussion with a patronizing deflection or insinuate that there were two choices: either documentary accuracy or giving up all hope of accuracy and accepting anything.
Watching TOLKIEN was a powerful emotional experience. As J.R.R. has done for so many, he has profoundly influenced my own life. His words touch us on a deep level. His works laid the foundation of so much else that came after, most definitely including the biggest fantasy property on the block at the moment, GAME OF THRONES on HBO, that is something of a reply to Tolkien from George R.R. Martin. STAR WARS would certainly not exist as we know it without Tolkien. Harry Potter, Dungeons & Dragons and so much else grew from the field he plowed. The Professor is a giant that looms above us all.
So when Nicholas Hoult and Harry Gilby combine to portray Tolkien as a child and as a young man, it was unexpectedly moving; just the simple act of putting Tolkien on screen was powerful. It is a reminder that the nearly mythical professor was scared, lonely, insecure, sad, frustrated, desperate, drunk, charming, combative and impulsive.
Not only does Tolkien live before our eyes but his best mates from his young years, the boys essential to him during his formative era, all live and walk and breathe before our very eyes. In fact the film makes all of them immortal in a way, a reality that I imagine would have tickled Tollers.
And all of this is entertaining and beautiful but …
Watching TOLKIEN was a frustrating, and in some moments, an agonizing experience and I don’t mean in the midst of the drama lost in the story and characters but rather outside the drama and about the drama. And yes, I do get it. Screenwriting is hard. Putting a powerful, emotionally relevant story on screen is hard. The story of J.R.R. Tolkien is hard. Story telling about an period with less data about the man is hard.
But Tolkien was a real life person. Some living now, knew him then, and he left behind letters and notes, video, audio recordings and war and school records. So when the film’s writers David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford, and director Dome Karukoski, chose to tell the story in a way that ignores those records and turns instead to fantasy, it is troubling at the least, distracting and frustrating.
SPOILER but (seriously, film spoiler ahead) the film chooses to depict Tolkien going for something of a walk in the midst of fierce fighting during the Battle of the Somme. He is obsessed, if not crazed, with the idea of finding his friend.
In reality 2nd Lt. Tolkien didn’t abandon his fellow soldiers and instead fulfilled his duty as a signaler for a battalion of infantry, sending instructions and trying to help communication in the chaos of fighting and dying across no man’s land.
Soon after he contracted trench fever — typically via lice — and was taken off the front. One of the most common symptoms of the ailment is leg pain — not quite the disease to inspire tench walking.
This isn’t a small shift in a man’s history, this is a massive, unneeded change about important characterization in the man and developments in the myth he created. There was already drama, conflict and characterization present in the actual history. If only the filmmakers had trusted the story of J.R.R. Tolkien instead of needing to make a fantasy story to replace it.
The film suggests Tolkien had a sort of fever dream during this walk and had visions of his future stories. Some will shrug this off, and he did start writing as he was away from the front, but a hallucinating Tolkien instead of a crafting Tolkien, especially when there was a set-up for it, is less effective. Yes, this can all be viewed as metaphorical, but it can also be viewed as a bad trip that became a good story.
Those aren’t the only inaccuracies; we are treated to a wildly different start of some important writing, that is definitely not an improvement (and from a filmmaking only viewpoint, it feels glued on at the end.) But it also avoids the opportunity to depict The Professor being the a professor. We are robbed of a very on-the-record Tolkien moment of inspiration that changed everything, only to have it replaced by a weakened moment, of problematic motivation.
I will resist the temptation, for spoiler’s sake, to say more and this essay isn’t the place to create a checklist of wrong history, but suffice it to say, some will.
To say that another way, just as big of a problem as being inaccurate about a real person’s story is that the inaccuracies — or straight up fantasy — robs us of getting to know the man, and the man is pretty interesting. The man didn’t need embellishing. And to be clear, I am not objecting to filling in some gaps and I credit the movie for doing that effectively in spots.
I object, as others will, to replacing the known record with storytelling fancy.
Others may legitimately raise concerns about structure or pacing, and while that isn’t something to be ignored, for me, those are forgivable.
None of this is to say there isn’t a fine story with a beautiful love-story in it. There is definitely that. And some dose of fancy or manufacturing of details is certainly inevitable and understandable. But manufacturing important things that contradict what is known is frustrating.
There is heart and abundant beauty present to be sure. In fact, there is a beautiful film here for you to catch in theaters, but it is too often a fantasy film about a real person as much as it is the story of that person.
Those knowing little about Tolkien will walk away “educated” and will perhaps find some emotional connection. Hopefully they will wish to learn more and pick up one of several great books about the man, which the director, a fan, has undoubtedly read. But this is TORn, not a collective that knows little about Tolkien.
Karukoski directed something beautiful. The acting is excellent. The lighting and shooting is beautiful. The music is wonderful. The tone is occasionally modern for a period piece but all of that is effective and emotional and there is much to praise.
But we aren’t going to get some other Tolkien biography anytime soon — this is it. We are rewarded with beauty and with pieces of Tokien and we are frustrated by the fantasy depiction of a man — and a story — that deserved greater purposeful fidelity.
Hey Tolkienites, MrCere here, with a love for Tolkien undiminished. A few days and 127 years after The Professor was born seemed like a good time to share the work of a member of the Tolkien community that examines Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and The Inklings.
Christopher Herzberg, known sometimes as Chris Greenleaf, wrote a thesis on his way to earning a masters degree. One of the great aspects of our fandom, and TheOneRing, is how many different ways there are to enjoy Tolkien and his works. That definitely includes scholarship.
Chris is probably best known to the Tolkien community in Atlanta. He participates in Middle-earth cosplay and is known to frequent Dragon Con in Tolkien finery. He also shapes young minds by teaching school.
I’ll get out of the way and let Chris do his thing. Enjoy!
“In the early 1930s, a group of writers met each week and discussed their literary works in progress. The types of support varied from confidence builder to constructive criticism from fellow writers. At least six of the founding members had served in World War I. The group would end up providing member J.R.R. Tolkien with invaluable friendships, as well as a place to find solace with others who had witnessed the atrocities of World War I.”
“The Fall of Gondolin” by J.R.R. Tolkien Photo: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
“The Fall of Gondolin,” — the third part of the J.R.R. Tolkien great trilogy of tales of the Elder Days — is now available in bookstores.
This simple sentence should be a great delight to Tolkien readers the world over. Newly published Tolkien material in 2018, from The Professor, who died in September, 1972, is astounding. Adding to the astonishing treasure is that son Christopher Tolkien, wrote just a year ago in “Beren and Luthien” that:
“In my ninety-third year this is (presumptively) my last book in the long series of editions of my father’s writings.”
Readers and fans may feel gratitude that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote enough and kept enough notes to continue to supply content close to fifty years after his death and that his son continues to have the will and ability in his elder years to collect, prepare and produce further content.
I wish I could thank him in person. We are living in the decade when Tolkien’s writings are more prolific, available and recognized than ever before.
It was published simultaneously in several languages by numerous Tolkien publishers worldwide, in the U.S. by long-time Tolkien publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
“The Fall of Gondolin” takes readers back in Middle-earth’s history considerably before the most commonly known events in “The Lord of the Rings,” and “The Hobbit,” to an era when Sauron wasn’t the great power of evil in the world; his predecessor Morgoth and his fortress of Angband were.
Opposing him is Ulmo, a heavyweight Valar, the group who shaped and ruled the earth. Ulmo secretly supported the Elves.
Gondolin, the city of Noldorin Elves, was magnificent and undiscoverable by Morgoth’s forces and therefore untouchable by him. It isn’t a spoiler to say that the “Fall of Gondolin” is about the betrayal and discovery of the city and the war from Morgoth’s armies in Middle-earth’s First Age.
The content isn’t completely new. There are chapters about these events in “The Book of Lost Tales Part Two” as part of the History of Middle-earth books and parts titled “Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin” in “The Silmarillion.”
Tuor, is aided by Ulmo, who even appears to him from the sea — a moment that is famously the subject of notable artwork.
It is Tuor and Idril who are some of the few to escape, with a young Eärendel, who eventually had two sons, Elros and the familiar Elrond, giving the tale a tie to “The Lord of the Rings.”
The book is published to fit the look and style of the others in the great trilogy of stories. It is edited by Christopher Tolkien and illustrated by Alan Lee.
it is also worth noting that this is one of the earliest tales J.R.R. Tolkien wrote. He called it, “the first real story of this imaginary world.”
It may be the last published.
The book is $30.00 in hardcover and is available as an e-book.
It turns out a “Lord of the Rings” TV series isn’t the biggest Tolkien news of the week or the month or the year.
Christopher Tolkien, son and literary heir of J.R.R. Tolkien, resigned from the Tolkien Estate. And his departure changes everything.
Christopher is 93 and just this year edited and published one of his father’s works “Beren and Luthien,” which as even casual Tolkienites know, refers to his parents with the names of those characters adorning their tombstones.
In the preface of the book he writes, “this is (preemptively) my last book in the long series of editions of my father’s writings.” It seems he was planning to retire already. Personally, learning the greatest Tolkien scholar, and a man who has honored his father in an exemplary way, has left the care of his father’s legacy to others feels like reading the end of LOTR where Galadriel, Elrond and the other great elves leave Middle-earth. There is a keen sadness, but admiration and beauty as well.
But even if you aren’t sentimental, he deserves any Tolkien fan’s deep respect. But it bears repeating, this changes everything.
He understood perfectly that Christopher R. Tolkien’s departure signals the end of an era.
“With Christopher’s departure as an officer of the Tolkien Estate (which was incorporated in 2011), the long-awaited “rights frenzy” for Tolkien properties may soon begin,” he wrote.
Yes, and it seemingly has already happened. This is a definite piece of the puzzle of the recent news of the Amazon Video deal. I had heard through rock solid, but not reportable sources several years ago that other members of the estate were much more willing to negotiate J.R.R. Tolkien’s properties while Christopher was far more interested in preserving legacy than money.
The settlement between Warner Bros. and the Tolkien Estate settled an $80 million lawsuit July 3. Part of the statement the studio released at the time was unusually upbeat for an entity that just paid out big money:
“The parties are pleased that they have amicably resolved this matter and look forward to working together in the future.”
The future mentioned in that statement is this week and beyond, and it was obviously in the works then. According to a U.K. government website, Christopher resigned on Aug. 31. One would expect formal resignations of this nature take time to manage legally, so it also was in the works for some time I suspect. What I wouldn’t give to have been in the room for that passing of the torch.
So in quick fashion, after the seismic change, the estate has sold the television rights for book “The Lord of the Rings.” Warners paid the court dispute so there would be a relationship moving forward and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos rewarded both entities handsomely.
Another important thing to note here, and another piece of the puzzle, is that the television rights to “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” were NOT sold when J.R.R. Tolkien sold the movie rights in 1969. Those rights were for motion pictures. TORn staffer and author Kristin Thompson informed our staff about this. She has first-hand documentation and as author of “The Frodo Franchise,” knows this stuff as well as anybody. And obviously you can and should buy her book on Amazon.com. I believe another TORn news article is expected on just this point.
This explains why the estate was so involved in the Amazon deal; they were selling something. It also explains why Middle-earth Enterprises was absent from the latest news. (Correction: This originally said Tolkien Enterprises, a name previously used that is not correct. The story has been updated.)
But the bigger ramifications of all this are far greater than a multi-season Amazon series. The new leadership of the estate seem much more willing to deal Tolkien properties than Christopher was and this confirms my well placed sources.
This opens up Tolkien and Middle-earth as possible franchises in the same way that Harry Potter’s world is a place you can visit at Universal Studios or that Disney will soon have a Star Wars area. There are few properties in the world that can be talked about in the same way as Middle-earth. Warner Bros. see the value and so does Amazon.
That doesn’t mean the Tolkien Estate will move toward making the rights to “Beren And Luthien” available but it does mean my wish to produce “The Silmarillion” as HBO series is slightly less impossible than it was before. That is what has changed really. Things once impossible are now possible.
The estate may elect to only allow more content based solely on “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” Or they may carefully cultivate the entire library.
Because of the depth of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium, there is a virtually endless fountain of material. As Martinez points out in his blog, what will be produced is essentially fan fiction. As Disney has expanded the Galaxy far-far away, and HBO is planning its growth of George R.R. Martin’s Westeros world, so too could Amazon and Warner Bros expand Middle-earth.
Much of that possibility rests with the estate but just Appendix A in “The Lord of the Rings” offers a wealth of content. The imagination soars with possibilities.
This will no doubt anger many fans and delight many others, as the Amazon deal already has. Some don’t want to see the compromise of the author’s vision. Funny enough, this also seems to have a whole new batch of fans upset because they don’t want Amazon’s product to compromise Peter Jackson’s vision of Tolkien’s vision.
The officers of the Tolkien Estate still count among their numbers Tolkien’s youngest child Priscilla Tolkien and other grandchildren in the family.
This is over-long already but a final word on Christopher Tolkien’s departure. Here is a man who is a treasure, and who carries in his heart and mind the voice and essence of his father. The significance of his departure cannot be over stated.
I close with another poignant passage he wrote about his father in the preface of his final contribution to the Tolkien legacy, “Beren and Luthien.”
“In a letter to me on the subject of my mother, written in the year after her death, which was also the year before his own, he wrote of his overwhelming sense of bereavement, and of his wish to have Luthien inscribed beneath her name on the grave. He returned in that letter … to the origin of the tale of Beren and Luthien in a small woodland glade filled with hemlock flowers near Roos in Yorkshire, where she danced; and he said: ‘But the story has gone crooked, and I am left, and I cannot plead before the inexorable Mandos.’
Thank you Christopher Tolkien. We are going to miss you and your strength and determination to contribute to and preserve the legacy of your father.
You know that new “The Lord of the Rings,” series that was just announced by not only Amazon Video and Warner Bros. but the Tolkien Estate?
It has everyone on the interwebs with even a passing interest in Middle-earth speculating on the content, imagining how it will tie in to beloved LOTR characters like Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Gandalf and Aragorn. It has even brought “The Silmarillion” to the forefront of the conversation, with people praying to Eru Iluvitar for an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic, sweeping mythology.
However this series cannot be, and will not be, an adaptation of that work because the rights haven’t been sold. The Tolkien family has clearly decided not to do so. So sorry Silmarillioners — yet, some hope yet remains.
The information given to media, and covered widely from Entertainment Weekly to the Associated press to The Hollywood Reporter, uses “Lord of the Rings” seven times in six paragraphs, but then seemingly contradicts that usage with language that also comes directly from the press release.
“Amazon’s LOTR series will be set in Middle-earth and explore new storylines preceding Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.”
So if we made a TV series about the Great Depression in the U.S. (1929 to 1939) but it takes place during World War I (1914 to 1918) is it really about the Great Depression?
“The Lord of the Rings” title’s frequent use is no accident. It is an intentional marketing strategy employed in the press release. PR writers and lawyers deliberately wrote “The Lord of the Rings TV series” as often as possible and hoped the media would echo it and, it worked. But is it true? How is something set before LOTR a LOTR series?
What didn’t make it into most media accounts, but that you can see at the end of the story, is the press release name drops that also mention Peter Jackson, New Line Cinema, the titles of the three movies and book, Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin and Orlando Bloom and 17 Academy Awards — including Best Picture.
This will be said over and over between now and when the Amazon series goes live for the first time.
Check the quote again:
“… LOTR series will be set in Middle-earth and explore new storylines preceding Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.”
There they go dropping another book title in the story and then clearly state the series explores NEW story lines that happen BEFORE the book begins. It really can’t be much clearer. The events in the series happen before the book(s) and the Peter Jackson films that adapted them.
More on Jackson later.
A little further down the story comes a quote from a representative of the Tolkien Estate and Trust, from a person almost no potential viewer has heard of but who speaks with the authority of Tolkien.
“Sharon and the team at Amazon Studios have exceptional ideas to bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings,” Matt Galsor said.
We like that part: “based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings.”
We all know Tolkien’s story has a page one where the story starts. We all know the story ends with THE GRAY HAVENS chapter and the sentence, “He drew a deep breath. “Well, I’m back,” he said.”
So how is this TV series actually a “Lord of the Rings” series that happens before the books begin but also isn’t “The Hobbit” but is based on the author’s original writings?
You may already know. We think of Tolkien selling the story of LOTR but he didn’t. He sold the LOTR as a book, not as a story.
Tolkien managed to get Harper Collins to publish the third part of his “The Lord of the Rings” book with a group of appendices, organized into sections A to F. When Tolkien famously sold the rights of his book(s) to United Artists in 1969, it was about what was between the covers — not the start and finish of the story — and that includes those sections on languages, writing and spelling, calendars and family trees.
But Appendix A and Appendix B aren’t just lists or dates. They offer out what the press release promises, “storylines preceding Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring … based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings.”
So yes, the series will explore the past, perhaps the distant past, before the story of the War of the Ring and yet, it will still be based on the contents between the covers in “The Lord of the Rings.”
****** SPOILER WARNING ******
To save you from running to your copy of the books, here is a brief summary of the material that is legally available for production and is part of what Tolkien sold, the book “The Lord of the Rings” :
APPENDIX A – THE NUMENOREN KINGS
You “Silmarillion” supporters, sad because there is no chance of an adaptation of that book, can keep your candle burning. But it might only be a fools hope. The only content legally available is a recap of the Sil in LOTR. It doesn’t have everything but it has some big stuff. We get three jewels, their theft by Morgoth, his fortress called Thangorodrim, war against him from the baddest Elves, and Luthien Tinuviel and Beren getting a Silmaril from Morgoth’s Iron Crown and more, but all of this is just a smattering from the massive scale story of the Elves and Men.
Numenor and its line of kings that eventually lead to ruin and the scattering of the realms in exile, might work as a multi-season series. If you recall, Appenix A also has the kings of Arnor, Gondor the Dunedain — Aragorn’s people — and the Stewards of Gondor.
Oh and the tale of Aragorn and Arwen.
The history of Rohan is there, as is some of the events leading up to the Dwarves’ mission in “The Hobbit,” films, touched on by them in the three-film adaptation.
So Elves and Men with Dwarves available too if needed. And who can tell the story of the downfall of Men better than an immortal Elf? If I were Amazon, I would lock up Hugo Weaving to a multi-season contract ASAP. He could be the character that holds it all together.
Here we find a brief account of the battles in the north during the War of the Ring. It also mentions some wizards and how Gandalf received the Ring of Fire.
We also get some major events of the Second Age dealing with Numenor and the Rings of Power. This content was said to be gathered by none other than Merry, which could provide a narrator to hold the structure together. Is Dom busy?
Thinking this through, it seems probable that the new Amazon series will focus on the kingdom of men and its success and eventual failures, mostly from Appendix A.
Speaking of failures, Deadline reports that Amazon has failed to talk to Jackson and “has not tried to enlist the help of, or even reached out to Peter Jackson.”
In the spirit of full disclosure, Jackson invited me to visit his set for “The Hobbit” films and report on what I saw. He also gave me a lot of access. Some would say that distorts on how I might offer thoughts about his work and his potential work on this project.
Thing is, I can’t fathom that Team Jackson wants to take the reins for the LOTR TV adaptation. I can’t comprehend that he wants to devote more years of his life by returning to Middle-earth. He was hesitant to return for “The Hobbit” and he suffered some backlash for it.
I don’t think he would take the job in either a director’s chair or in a producer’s role.
We can hope other parts of his machine are involved, such as the award-winning Weta Digital and the deeply respected Richard Taylor and his crew at Weta Workshop, but that completely depends on the talent Amazon Video gathers and what they choose to use.
Anyway, that is what Amazon is planning to do. And boss Jeff Bezos, one of the most wealthy geeks who ever lived, is willing to spend to make it happen. Join us as we dread and anticipate the latest adaptation of Tolkien’s works.
(TORn) Just when you think your fandom has run out of Middle-earth related pants, along comes Bakshi Productions with something fresh.
For those of you who don’t know — hopefully none of you — Ralph Bakshi was the director of the 1978 animated “Lord of the Rings” that was both an introduction to many of us into the realm of Middle-earth and was seemingly influential into Peter Jackson’s film trilogy.
Lord of the Rings Capri 1
Bakshi did a number of other projects in film, but “Lord of the Rings” remains as one of the works he will always be remembered for.
And now you can wear his storyboards for the film on your own body, a unique clothing item in pop-culture and LOTR history.
They are described like this on the order page:
“We are so friggin excited about thes LOTR capris. Designed from the Bakshi approved original storyboards used in the creation of Bakshi’s animated classic Lord of the Rings. These are the ONLY capris like this in the world – AND the only place to ever get them. This is a first printing and will change storyboards when the time comes!”
Geekery can be fun and it can also be educational. In the case of the two-day Wizarding Dayz near Salt Lake City, it hopes to be both while helping with literacy and charity as well.
TheOneRing.net will be join what promises to be a magical event Friday and Saturday Feb. 24 and 25, presenting panels and representing Tolkien in the realm of the wizard-themed gathering. It takes place in the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, Utah.
“We threw it out to the community to nominate the charities. We came up with these three charities because they are all based on kids, kids’ needs and kids that don’t belong. That is Harry Potter,” she said.
Walker, heading up Wizarding-Dayz with Carrie Rogers-Whitehead, hopes the first-year event brings out those who love Potter, Tolkien and fantasy in general, and especially those who enjoy reading.
“This event is made definitely for book lovers, people who love reading, people who want to go to a place where there are the things they love. It is good for all ages but for adults you are going to get to go and have good discussions,” Walker said.
TheOneRing will be included in those good discussions with three official TORn presentations:
* How To Travel to Middle-earth
* J.R.R. Tolkien vs. George R.R. Martin
* Tolkien and the Great War
There is other Tolkien content as well, including an over-the-internet panel for Tolkienites (or TORnadoes) to ask expert Michael Martinez ANY Tolkien Question. In fact, if there is interest, perhaps TORn will do a Facebook Live for portions of some of these panels.
Wizarding Days has no shortage of educational material, including from sponsors Utah Humanities and the STEM Action Center of Utah.
For those not aware, STEM is a science-based curriculum based on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics taught all together in an applied approach. In the wizarding world that means discussions and interactive panels rather than just lectures.
Water at Hobbiton Movie set
“We are not calling them panels. We want people to come and have discussions about these things they like or dislike. We have great topics that dive deep,” Walker said. “We aren’t skipping a rock across the surface.”
There are also a lot of hands-on items patrons can make and take home including wants, wizard pouches, rune pouches and of course, spell books.
Walker said she took extra care creating a space that isn’t mundane, including the vendor areas, which including roaming performers, but is all planned with a pleasing, welcoming, fantasy theme.
Elijah Wood’s film “I don’t feel at home in this world anymore,” won the Sundance Grand Jury prize in the U.S. Dramatic competition at the just concluded 2017 festival.
It was one of 16 films in the category that included “Crown Hights” that won the Audience Award.
The film is summarized like this:
Ruth, a depressed nursing assistant, returns from work to find dog shit on her lawn and her house burglarized, the thief having made off with her silverware and laptop. Losing faith in the police (and possibly humanity as a whole), Ruth starts her own investigation, joining forces with her erratic neighbor–and dog shit culprit–Tony. Upon locating the laptop, they trace it back to a consignment store, leading them to a gang of degenerate criminals and a dangerous, bizarre underworld where they’re way out of their depth.
Macon Blair’s outstanding debut feature has an exuberant storytelling style that’s full of personality, visual inventiveness, idiosyncratic characters, and wildly unpredictable turns. Its dark tone, deadpan humor, and increasingly blood-soaked foray into a twisted moral universe evoke the Coen brothers, but most captivating is the deeply unsettling journey it takes Ruth on, through human vulnerability and escalating violence. Once brought to tears by the notion of an infinite universe, her quest isn’t for her laptop, but for a way of processing a world that no longer makes sense to her.
On the same night, last year’s big Middle-earth alumni film of Sundance 2016, “Captain Fantastic” featured Viggo Mortensen and the cast appeared at the screen actor’s guild where it was nominated but didn’t win. For that film TheOneRing was able to talk with Mortensen about the film, but despite repeated efforts, had no luck speaking with Wood for his film.
But, Wood wasn’t the only Middle-earth actor to show up in a film at this year’s Sundance. Actor Stephen Hunter, who played Bombur in the three films based on “The Hobbit,” appeared in Australian thriller “The Killing Ground.” The film received a warm reception and has a good chance to be seen in theaters. I saw it and think it’s a gripping thriller that handles its violence well. It deserves to be seen but will disturb some because of its violence.
Hunter plays a key supporting role that the Sundance festival described like this:
When young couple Sam and Ian escape the confines of urban living for a weekend getaway at a remote campsite, they arrive to find a neighboring tent set up with its inhabitants nowhere in sight. As day turns to night and then to day again, the young couple becomes increasingly concerned about the whereabouts of their unknown fellow campers. When they discover a toddler wandering alone on the campground, things go from bad to worse, thrusting them into a harrowing fight for survival in a place miles from civilization, where no one can hear them scream.
Teeming with dread and unnerving tension, the debut feature of writer/director Damien Power draws heavy inspiration from Michael Haneke’s Funny Games and Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, utilizing the film’s sparse locations to considerable effect. As jagged pieces of the puzzle are carefully revealed one by one, Killing Ground evolves into a brutally violent thriller that will force you to think twice the next time you dare venture beyond the city’s bright lights
Wood also appears in another film, this one a documentary about the classic Alfred Hitchcock “Psycho.” The film, called “78/52,” breaks down the historic and absolutely groundbreaking shower scene in the film that is credited with launching the horror genre of film in a new way. He is seated with other actors sharing his perspective, especially insightful when examining the performance of Anthony Perkins. Guillermo del Toro also is featured and is a delight.
The film has been purchased and will likely get a new or extended title and will be released in major film markets. The festival title refers to the number of set ups and film cuts the master of suspense used in the scene. For anybody interested in film, I absolutely recommend it. Actually, I recommend it for anybody who has ever watched a film.
The festival describes it:
“In 78 setups and 52 cuts, the deliriously choreographed two-minute shower sequence in Psycho ripped apart cinema’s definition of horror. With a shocking combination of exploitation and high art, Alfred Hitchcock upended his own acclaimed narrative structure by violently killing off a heroine a third of the way through his film, without explanation, justification, or higher purpose. Psycho played out like a horrific prank, forcing audiences to recognize that even the most banal domestic spaces were now fair game for unspeakable mayhem.
With black-and-white film-geek reverence, director Alexandre O. Philippe breaks down this most notorious and essential scene shot for shot, enlisting the help of film buffs and filmmakers alike—including Guillermo del Toro, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Eli Roth, and Peter Bogdanovich. 78/52 examines Janet Leigh’s terrified facial expressions and the blink-and-you-miss-it camera work, not just within the context of the film but also with an eye toward America’s changing social mores—revealing how one bloody, chaotic on-screen death killed off chaste cinema and eerily predicted a decade of unprecedented violence and upheaval.”
John Hurt, famous for a number of roles but unforgettable as the voice of Aragorn in Ralph Bakshi’s “The Lord of the Rings,” has died. He was 77.
For many who love Tolkien’s works, the animated LOTR was the serious animated treatment of the masterpiece of J.R.R. Tolkien that was also frustrating because it was meant to have a sequel and was never properly finished. Hurt played Strider turned Aragorn as perhaps the most recognizable voice in the cast. Director Ralph Bakshi was left telling only part of the story but Hurt’s Aragorn, was majestic and powerful.
Hurt shines in the voice role, playing a confident Aragorn, that before the live action LOTR films were announced, was for a generation, the embodiment of the hero who would return as King.
Hurt’s career was long and plentiful with over 200 film credits to his name. He is best known for his outstanding turn as John Merrick, the title character in “The Elephant Man.” Audiences not familiar with that Oscar-nominated performance as well as his also nominated work in “Midnight Express,” will remember him for his work in the first two Harry Potter films as wandsman Garrick Ollivander. He also has an all-time iconic performance in “Alien,” where he was the first to have his chest burst, unleashing space horror on popular culture. He later did a parody of himself in “Spaceballs.”
Very sad to hear of John Hurt's passing. It was such an honor to have watched you work, sir.
It looks like audiences will get to see a film about the origins of Middle-earth in a new film called “Middle Earth.” More on the name in a moment.
The Hollywood Reporter announced this morning the film will chart “the tumultuous events” that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to write “The Hobbit,” and “The Lord of the Rings,” trilogy. (Actually the article said “trilogies,” but there is only one trilogy, as you know.) It is to be directed by James Strong who might be most easily recognizable as the director of two episodes of “Downton Abbey,” with the films “United,” with episodes of “Dr. Who,” as well.
The film also pairs two of the men who played a big role in Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy with New Line Cinema Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne. They were the gentlemen who helped get those movies made when most of Hollywood wouldn’t touch them. Later they had a falling out with Jackson and eventually New Line collapsed and was swallowed by Warner Bros.
Shaye and Lynee will produce the new film through their Unique Features with Rachael Horovitz. Strong is currently directing the AMC/ITV miniseries “Liar,” according to the article.
Now, about that name. J.R.R. Tolkien distinctly named his created world “Middle-earth” not “Middle Earth.” If you think that isn’t a big deal, remember he was a professor of languages and literature who worked on the dictionary and created the whole thing in the first place because he was a linguist who was inventing languages.
So while it is easy to forgive a fan using Middle-earth as two words with capital letters, not so much in movie titles. Warner Bros., for example, while taking creative license with “The Hobbit,” got it right virtually every, single, time. To Tolkien, the subject of the biography, language matters.
And, to reverse things, nobody would excuse a title about the place “San-francisco” and not find it odd.
Making a biography about Tolkien, supposedly telling the story of his life, and getting that detail wrong in the title could be a bad sign.
On the other hand, this could be just a simple oversight by The Hollywood Reporter writer, but hey, the story also included a picture of Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins instead a picture of, you know, The Professor, so a mistake sounds pretty reasonable. That and stating that Tolkien had two trilogies makes it seem as least possible as a writer’s error. However, most of the info sounds like it was taken from a press release, which would prominently feature a title.
In any case, fans have more Tolkien and more about the creation of Middle-earth to look forward to.
If you haven’t read “J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography,” by Humpfrey Carpenter, it is essential. And, “Tolkien and the Great War,” by John Garth, is also excellent and covers the ground the film will attempt to cover.
There is a lot more to come on the new Middle-earth film collection from us here at TheOneRing.net. To be honest, the greatest discussions of Tolkien happen behind the scenes with the staff via email from staffers with recognizable names and ones that get less attention but who are still wicked smart. It is all pretty interesting. There is lots of great commentary and info to come from that staff.
PARK CITY, UTAH — Viggo Mortensen is back to his ranging ways, living off the land and keeping an eye on trouble in his new film “Captain Fantastic.” TORn spoke with him on the red carpet at the film’s world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
Mortensen plays a father who, along with his wife, decided to raise his children off the grid — way off. He wants to raise his six children to be self reliant in a way that LOTR character Aragorn would be proud of. His offspring can stalk and kill deer with knives, they climb mountains, harvest edible food, learn to make their own clothes and are self reliant in every way. And along the way read the best books.
They are, in short, philosopher kings.
So the actor did look back at that character and filming experience on “Lord of the Rings,” with Peter Jackson?
“I thought of it,” he said. “But I also thought of my time as a father in Idaho.”
He spent time with his son there and in the film he has more, but in both he said he was teaching to be aware of nature.
Viggo Mortensen in new film Captain Fantastic
“You are only as good as the team you are working with,” said Mortensen. “It is about a family. And made by a family.”
He said the cast spent time before filming getting to know each other and learning the skills needed to be authentic on screen. They camped and learned how to grow food and skin a deer and learned to play music together, all of which were important to the film.
The children’s performances are all excellent, as is Mortensen’s. The film captivated Sundance audiences and good news for Mortensen and film fans, it was also picked up for distribution by Bleeker Street. It specializing in specialty cinema and has this year’s “Trumbo” (Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” fame as lead actor) and should hit audiences in July. UPDATE: The film is slowly rolling out in theaters across the U.S. in July.
The audience at its premiere at the Eccles Theater, the largest venue Sundance offers with over 1,300 seats, responded mightily the film’s opening night. Director and writer Matt Ross, who you might know as Alby Grant from HBO’s “Big Love,” received a standing ovation, as did the children. But it was Moretensen who received the hottest reception. He is a pillar of the film. His character is sympathetic and yet outside societal norms.
Mortensen is perfect for the part and it is difficult to imagine the film working as well without him.
“Good movies ask a lot of questions but don’t necessarily answer them,” Ross told TORn just before the premiere.
In “Captain Fantastic,” Mortensen’s family must leave its forest paradise and journey into the highly-populated world with all its social expectations and demands. They all must face traditional society and family bonds and the children’s unconventional education are tested — to the limit.
“I am a dad and there is no such thing as a perfect father and mother. This character is doing the best he can,” Mortensen said.
The film wasn’t rated at Sundance but the unconventional cast isn’t afraid to use unconventional language that may earn it an R rating. And, Mortensen having a cup of coffee in his birthday suit probably erases any chance of it being anything else. Yes, Mortensen gives the film everything he has to offer.
“Captain Fantastic” is full of ideas, exploring family and fatherhood. Some parents will leaving feeling horribly inadequate but audiences will be fulfilled by the intelligent ideas and questions the film asks.
Fans of Mortensen will not want to miss yet another fascinating role in a fascinating film.
This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings and the name and mark ONE RING is used under license from The Saul Zaentz Company, which hold the title thereto. We in no way claim rights in the artwork displayed herein. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, merchandise and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and our limited use of these materials is done by permission or is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Act.