A couple of weeks ago saw those wonderful performances at Radio City Music Hall, of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, with live orchestral accompaniment. Various TORn staffers and friends were there; our friend Constance G. J. Wagner shares her thoughts about the event:
The Two Towers at Radio City Music Hall
February in New York can be wind-whipped and cold — much like the gusts one experiences when standing before the doors of Meduseld in Rohan. This is all an artsy way of describing the walk TO Radio City Music Hall In New York City on February 17th to immerse myself in the “score to screen” live music performance of Howard Shore’s powerful score for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. However, as cold as it was outside on the streets of Manhattan, the fellowship felt among the audience waiting for the performance to start created warmth and energy that crackled with electric anticipation. When conductor Ludwig Wicki came onstage to begin the show, the walls of Radio City vibrated with a fan-fueled roar of expectation and excitement. It would, they felt, be a night to remember.
Hearing the score played live, seeing a choir and soloists bring both intimate and epic musical moments to life in real time, is an experience not to be missed. It deepens the depiction of character and the emotional context of the saga as a whole, particularly since this is a shared experience with all of Middle-earth spread across a 60-foot screen.
The audience cheered the arrival of each hero’s first appearance on the screen, but also gave rousing applause to soloist Kaitlyn Lusk, who dazzled with lyric, numinous vocals and a glittering golden gown to match. Equally impressive was the boy soprano soloist who captured the intensity of the battle cry of the Rohirrim with soaring, impossible notes.
At night’s end, cheers and more cheers for the soloists, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the adult choir — MasterVoices, and the conductor rolled through the audience like a great wave with a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.
The experience was immersive and impressive and amazing – particularly for those fans whose viewing of the film may have only been on small screens. For this part of Tolkien’s tale to be presented as literally larger than life with sound to rock the soul … well, it is something for the ages.
Finally, the audience left the theatre filled with anticipation for another round in another year when Return of the King comes to the screen with its own sights, and sounds … and wonder. And so to all the musicians who brought Howard Shore’s score to an audience in such brilliant fashion, one can only offer thanks and say: Elen síla lúmenn’ omentielvo — A star shines on the hour of our meeting.
The Return of the King in 2025?
The Return of the King is the one movie of the trilogy which was not part of the original performances with orchestra at Radio City Music Hall; so, we’re very much hoping we’ll see that movie presented in 2025! Of course, we’ll let you know as soon as we hear!
New Line Cinema and Adult Swim’s upcoming anime film spinoff to The Lord of the Rings, titled The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim, is still shrouded in mystery even after an industry-only preview last summer. The all-star production, starring Miranda Otto and Brian Cox, is led by Oscar winning LOTR Executive Producer Philippa Boyens and the highly respected production team behind Blade Runner: Black Lotus and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
The initial announcement in 2021 listed the Emmy winning writing team behind Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews, who spent a year exploring the story. Since then the script has gone through normal retooling, eventually landing a new credited screenwriting duo: Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou.
Billed as the next generation of writers by EP Boyens, childhood friends Phoebe and Arty initially were brought in to write background dialog for the movie. Through the creative process, it became apparent that their youthful perspective – raised on the exploding growth of anime — helped the film’s collaboration with the Japanese director Kenji Kamiyama and animation studio Sola Entertainment. Plus, who better to tell the story of Héra [Editor’s note: the name’s not taken from the Greek, but from the Anglo-saxon] than someone closer in age?
In a brand-new interview with Nerd of the Rings, writers Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou join excecutive producer Philippa Boyens for an in-depth conversation on bringing the history of Rohirrim and Rohan’s shieldmaidens to the big screen. Enjoy this exclusive preview of the conversation, edited for format and clarity, which will be posted in full tomorrow.
Delivering the characters where Kamiyama needs them to be
Q: Tell us a bit about Helm Hammerhand (namesake of Helm’s Deep from The Two Towers)
Phoebe: I find one of the most redeeming qualities of Helm in the film is his love for his children. Sounds a little cheesy but some of my favorite parts of the storytelling is the relationship between Helm and Héra (his daughter and main protagonist of the film). There’s a lot of tension and a lot of conflict there, but you know at the heart there is this deep father-daughter bond. Those moments were really special, writing and working on those. That’s one of my favorite things about Helm: this love for his children. It’s so nice.
How do we as writers deliver the characters to a place that Director Kamiyama want them to be at the end of the film? That was a really fun journey to try and take on, and figure out how to do that.
Q: Did you guys revisit the films before embarking on this?
Phoebe: Didn’t really need to. I grew up with them!
Arty: I grew up around the corner from Weta Workshop. But also growing up in Wellington at that time it was infectious. It was impossible not to be captivated by this huge film being shot in the hills behind you. At night you go to bed and you look up to the hills behind with film lights. Might be normal in other places, but it certainly wasn’t normal in Wellington. It really was just like the coolest thing! My friends and I still watch the movies every Christmas, so it wasn’t a matter of trying to fall back into the world of the cinematic Middle-earth. Here was a really amazing opportunity to try and think about animation and Anime, and how that could bring a fresh look not only visually but also thematically.
Philippa: I remember the hesitation. I thought you guys would turn us down (to write on Rohirrim)!
Arty: The deep respect for what had already been done! It’s stressful because what’s going on here? It’s just what comes with it. There’s these podcasts and bloggers and YouTube channels (looks at Nerd of the Rings) who are going to judge and fly out to your country to meet up with you while you’re trying to finish the film to make sure you’re doing a good job. So that was came with a lot of a lot a lot of trepidation!
Phoebe: For us, we didn’t see foresee that being a problem because so many of the same players are making this film. You have Philippa producing, but you also have the same sound teams. You have Mike Hedges (LOTR). You’ve got Steven Gallagher composing (The Hobbit). You’ve got John Howe, Alan Lee, Richard Taylor. For us, that opened up space to be like, how do we make this blend with the world of anime. It was actually more about coming from that direction. We knew the film was in pretty sick hands!
Q: Well you guys grew up on anime too.
Arty: We grew up not just on anime but Japanese cinema in general. That wasn’t the brief (for Rohirrim) but I was such a fan of different Japanese genre films and directors. It just seemed like, this is such a cool opportunity to draw on a whole bunch of other influences in adapting this material. It ended up going from this is really scary, to wowthis is so exciting. Then what sold us completely was seeing some concept art and it was like, oh hell yeah.
It also helped that we happen to be in Covid lockdown in Queenstown, and we’re walking daily by different LOTR film locations. So that probably helped a lot as well to get in the zone.
Phoebe: Yeah we were in the zone!
Q: Did you have any moments like that where you a saw an interesting connection to what has come before?
Arty: What is interesting is re-reading the books. You sort of pick up on different things and like, oh wow, it really is informed by some of these things which took place in the books. Whether at the time we were totally aware of it or not, you know it was just ingrained in us. That’s been interesting.
The full interview with Boyens, Gittins and Papageorgiou
Like what you’re hearing from the writers of the new LOTR film? This spur-of-the-moment opportunity for Matt (Nerd of the Rings) to chat with them during his filming schedule at Weta Workshop was a real treat one the first time these new writers have ever done an interview. The full conversation is 90 minutes on his YouTube channel. Join TORn’s daily active chat about Rohirrim on Discord.
Big thanks to Matt at Nerd of the Rings for sharing his exclusive interview for The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim. Watch the entire conversation on YouTube, and join us on TORn Tuesday as Matt talks about landing the interview and other fun facts he learned. War of the Rohirrim releases in December 2024 in theaters worldwide.
TORn’s complete The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim coverage
Last Thursday our friends at Weta Workshop revealed one of their most beautiful environments, The Grey Havens is up for order. This piece captures the beauty and emotion of the Grey Havens perfectly.
Like all previous limited edition pieces, fans have a two-week window to place their order, with pre-orders closing on February 8th at 4 PM PST. The Grey Havens piece is available via pre-order for $799, and it is expected to ship at the end of this year.
Two further pieces Weta Workshop announced are for all fans of The Return of the King coronation sequence. From Weta Workshops classic series, representing that beautiful scene from the film, fans can now pre-order the awesome-looking King Aragorn and the stunning Coronation Arwen right now for $399 each.
Twenty years on from the theatrical release of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, fans continue to celebrate the monumental achievements of Peter Jackson and the team who brought Middle-earth to life. New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) have shared with us a twelve-minute look at the making of LOTR: ROTK pulled from the archives featuring new 4K remastered footage.
Back when midnight openings were a thing, fans around the world lined up to be the first to watch Return of the King in cinemas with heralded hype. The runtime of 3 hours and 21 minutes did not dissuade anyone as book fans knew there was a lot of story to cover, and the DVD releases of the longer Extended Editions had primed audiences for a longer, well-told story. The finale exceeded anyone’s expectations. The Return of the King made $1.1 Billion at the box office, making it the second-highest grossing movie of all time at release. It was still #1 at the box office in its 4th week!
Above, Peter Jackson attends TheOneRing.net’s Fellowship of the Ring Oscar Party in 2002. Below, Peter Jackson returns to the 2004 fan party for Return of the King with all the Oscar trophies in hand. Return of the King matched the record for most Oscars ever won by any movie, and is the most-awarded film worldwide of all time.
In the 20 years since its record setting award winning run, The Lord of the Rings films have become the benchmark of filmmaking with just the right balance of practical and digital effects, location and digital shooting, innovation and classical performance, and maintaining a fidelity to the source material while at the same time introducing changes benefiting the medium of film. Fans have made watching these films an annual event, and the wide use of LOTR memes are unsurpassed in quantity and relevance.
Peter Jackson is adored worldwide and fans still enjoy diving into the BTS Appendices on 4K, Bluray and DVD. Now that New Line Cinema has a fresh long-term deal to make new LOTR spinoff movies, could Jackson return to Middle-earth? His producing partner Philippa Boyens is already bringing WAR OF THE ROHIRRIM to cinemas in December 2024, telling the story of Helm Hammerhand and the history of the Rohan Shieldmaidens. Jackson doesn’t need to get back to LOTR after winning Emmy Awards with The Beatles (and directing his first ever music video for them) but, based on the daily conversations happening on our forums and discord, LOTR fans are ready for a trustworthy hand to manage the future of Tolkien’s expanding legendarium.
Before Rotten Tomatoes, TORn had RINGER REVIEWS for fans to share right after watching the film
Happy 20th anniversary to Return of the King, a film that made us all cry (multiple times) by channeling the best of J.R.R. Tolkien and the humanity of his stories. It remains the high water mark of fantasy filmmaking even today.
Unity, a game engine company famous for top-tier mobile phone graphics, purchased Wētā Digital’s name and VFX technology in 2021, but has decided to exit that business in a change of strategy.
It was originally a huge headline that minted Sir Peter Jackson a billionaire. The director of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films sold the digital VFX tools business for $1.625 billion, in a deal which included dozens of award-winning visual effects plugins for 3D graphics programs like Maya and Houdini as well as the 265 computer programmers coding and maintaining that software. The original deal resulted in Jackson creating a new company, WētāFX, which he still has ownership of and still employs digital artists and studio management that went on to win another Oscar for Avatar: The Way of Water.
Wētā FX, the spinoff company of artists but not programmers, has stated they intend to re-hire the programmers that were recently let go from employment with Unity’s business change. WētāFX is currently working on Avatar 3, a film that’s expected to break new ground in visual effects and which relies heavily on the digital tools and programmers that were laid off with this move.
If you’re keeping up, it seems that Peter Jackson made a billion dollars and now gets to keep using the digital tools, keep the team together, and use the Weta Digital name again. First reported by FXGuide, Unity is returning the name Wētā Digital to Peter Jackson.
The news confused many fans, with some thinking the Oscar-winning studio had closed down.
It was also confusing when the deal first happened — many industry folk asked what was Unity buying if it didn’t include the entire award-winning studio responsible for LOTR, Avatar and Planet of the Apes. Many theorized Unity was attempting to jump into the digital filmmaking arena pioneered by The Volume StageCraft of Disney Star Wars fame, a live in-person 8K digital LED screen powered by Epic’s Unreal Engine. Both Unreal and Unity compete in the game engine business, but Unity had almost zero footprint in Hollywood movie production business. Buying Wētā Digital’s toolset seemed like a shortcut to getting world-class filmmaking tools to compete with Unreal on The Volume. VFX industry trade show SIGGRAPH hinted at big plans from Unity and Weta Digital.
Currently all Avatar and The Lord of the Rings filmmaking projects have not utilized The Volume during production, but Star Wars and The Batman have.
All of this business stuff is unrelated to Weta Workshop’s Tales of the Shire video game. That is being currently developed by Wētā Workshop in partnership with Private Division. Additionally, Wētā Workshop’s games studio is separate from Wētā FX.
What’s next for Peter Jackson and Weta Digital, Weta FX and Weta Workshop? They have been busy winning Emmy’s for The Beatles Get Back, releasing a new and final Beatles song Then & Now, winning Oscars for Avatar, and talking with WB about getting back into Middle-earth. Many fans are hoping Jackson can make a deal with Warner Bros to become the Kevin Fiege of Middle-earth: a franchise producer with total control of top-tier storytelling and filmmaking.
It has been fifty years since the Professor sailed into the West, and the Tolkienverse is still thriving. Which is great news for any who wish to pass along the passion as part of their holiday gift-giving, or perhaps pass along that personal hint to your favorite Father Christmas. It’s time for the OneRing staff to gather our collective guidance and bring you our annual Holiday Gift-Giving Guide: the Middle-earth Edition! We’ve pored over a lengthy lineup, narrowing our recommendations down to twelve, one for each day that you and your true love may be mingling under the proverbial pear tree. May you find your Arkenstone somewhere on the list!
For book lovers
Let’s start with something to warm every book purist’s heart: The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Revised and Expanded Edition. This is probably the consensus number one pick across all of our TORn staff Fellowship. Just released on November 14, and available broadly from your favorite source for books, this updated edition sees Humphrey Carpenter going back to his original typescripts and notes, restoring more than 150 letters that were excised from the 1981 edition to achieve what was then deemed a “publishable length.” Fortunately our appetite continues to grow for more content on Tolkien and his world in general, and especially commentary on his writings. Anyone for an expanded “Letter 131”, hearing more about a plot summary of the entirety of The Lord of the Rings, or getting Tolkien’s vision for publishing his “Tales of the Three Ages”?
2. Our senior staff member greendragon tends to split her time between America and her home in Scotland, which also boasts one of her favorite sources for unique and beautiful Tolkien-themed gifts: Oscha Slings. And Oscha has just released a number of new items on their website. greendragon enthuses: “In past years, I’ve picked one of their shawls and a throw as gifts; this year, however, I’m excited because their clothing line is back! The Oscha Wear range includes t-shirts, hoodies, and more, in a variety of sizes and styles – and there is even a range of baby grows! Oscha’s woven pieces are incredible, and are an investment; but now you can add some of their stunning designs to your wardrobe at a lower price point. T-shirts for all the Middle-earth fans in your life this holiday season! (If you ARE up for splurging, to treat yourself or that special someone, check out Oscha’s new Imladris design. I still haven’t picked my jaw up off the floor, after seeing this…)” And don’t forget to check out their Middle-earth Mug collection!
3. It’s the 20th anniversary of TheReturn of the King! We’ve even got some staffers – such as deej and Madeye Gamgee – heading to the Land of the Long White Cloud next month in search of Kiwi celebrations. But those are a bit tough to fit into a stocking. No fear! New Zealand Post has once again got you covered. Having already marked the last two years with commemorative collectibles celebrating The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, they’re now ready to help you complete the set! Check out some amazing RotK pieces – coins, stamps and pins – that will put you in the mood to celebrate the Days of the King! Beautiful stamps show images from the final movie in the trilogy, complete with ‘hidden messages’ – an iconic line from the film hidden in each design. Or along with some of us staffers, you might prefer to receive for the holiday season a set of the stunning coins. There are four in total, depicting Meduseld, Gondor, the Beacons, and Gandalf crowning Aragorn. They tie together beautifully as a set, and would be a wonderful addition to any collection.
4. Staffer Justin has been enthusing lately about Wizards of the Coast’s entry into Middle-earth through its massively popular Magic: the Gathering line. Last June the Wizards released a highly anticipated The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set. For gamers, the “Universes Beyond” card set has integrated Magic’s deep and strategic game-play with settings from Middle-earth (and not just the movies). With the holidays upon us, November 3 saw a new release to expand the set, including a special collection of four Scene Boxes that portray iconic LotR moments, each scene combining six borderless cards that together create a large scene that you can display on the included easel. New booster packs offer the chance to score alternative art, courtesy of the classic 70’s era Hildebrandt brothers, or some very funky “poster art” cards that have some of us humming The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins as we open our boosters. Fun!
5. The OneRing’s “Collecting the Precious” champion, Elessar, has passed along a couple of favorite gift-giving treasure troves, starting with our friends at Weta Workshop. Weta has been prolific with a host of new offerings aligned with the 20th anniversary of the PJ films, and you can find an array of figures, environments, prop replicas, t-shirts, art posters, etc. on their site. Elessar has highlighted a collection of them designed to fit many budgets, from new entries in Weta’s mini-epic and mini-statue lines like the King of the Dead, Sauron and Treebeard; to additions to their classic figures like a stunning Gondorian Fountain Guard; all the way to the threatening new environment, The Black Gate. Plus, Weta typically offers some great Black Friday promotions, so keep an eye out!
6. Elessar has also had his eye on a growing list of companies offering new Lord of the Rings lines, like Diamond Select Toys. You’ll find dioramas (like Aragorn), a collection of blind box mini-figures, and action figures galore (like a Nazgûl) on their site. Plus they have some terrific new offerings that you can pre-order now for delivery in early 2024. (I would be remiss should I fail to mention my man Sam in that lineup.)
7. Judging from our social media feeds as well as our own obsessions on the OneRing staff, Rivendell has been a glorious new addition to the LegoLord of the Rings universe. Boasting 3 stunning sections, 15 mini-figures, and over 6,000 pieces, you’ll need (and want) to find a generous space in your home to keep Elrond and company on permanent display. Bonus points for any who add on one of the special lighting kits available from multiple vendors like Lighttailing and Light My Bricks.
8. It’s back to the books for Madeye Gamgee, this time with a glorious new edition of The Hobbit. Published in September, the book features over 50 sketches, drawings, paintings and maps by J.R.R. Tolkien himself and with the complete text printed in two colors. The additional art pieces from the author – although exhibited and published elsewhere – have never appeared within the pages of the book itself. You can find the hardback edition broadly, or for a book this beautiful, you may want to splurge on the special deluxe boxed edition, which comes with two poster-size, fold-out maps revealing all the detail of Thror’s Map and Wilderland, an illustrated 88-page booklet, and a printed art card reproducing Tolkien’s original dust jacket painting.
9. Staffer Mithril has some kingly gifts to suggest. First up is the Lord of the Rings Tarot Deck from Insight Editions. Written by Casey Gilly and illustrated by Tomás Hijo, Mithril describes this as “like getting a mini gallery of art and a Palantír in a box.” It’s available at HerUniverse.com and on Amazon. If you’re in the mood for some Middle-earth inspired ornamentation on a more standard card deck, take a spin over to the King’s Wild Project or Theory11 for some amazing embellishments for poker night.
10. Our friends at Badali Jewelry have expanded their licensed offerings to a multiverse of fandoms, but their Middle-earth collection has always been like the Three-Farthing Stone in the Shire: right at the center. Check out their array of offerings like the Arkenstone, Shieldmaiden earrings, or their Palantir Locket. Staffer Mithril is a particular fan of their latest line of the Nine “Rings of Men”, with notable affection for the Ring of Númenor. Pick out your own Ring of Power! Captivate your friends! Watch out for shieldmaidens with swords!
11. Staffer Tanya keeps an eye out for sources of attire fit for hobbits, elves, Rohirrim, and other Middle-earth denizens. Three in particular have caught her eye and heart this year. She writes of Linennaiveas offering “several options for Hobbit costuming, focusing on creating dresses using natural fibers. It currently has a Black Friday sale at its website, which assists with the slightly higher pricing for quality work.” Next up is Holy Clothing, a regular shopping spot for my own Rosie. Tanya writes that they’re “an ethical clothing brand out of Asia that pays their tailors fair wages, and gives 15% of their profits to charities. They have dresses named ‘Arwen,’ ‘Eowyn,’ and ‘Tauriel,’ and I admit I am eyeing up this excellent cloak for my own Christmas list.” The final entry on Tanya’s shopping list is Scarlet Darkness: “they have a variety of extremely affordable outfit options that are still perfectly acceptable at, say, a congregation of Elves at DragonCon, or your local renfest. (I might have used this site for DragonCon myself!) The pricing is very fair, and the quality holds up through all your Hobbit parties or journeys into the west.” Another clothing site option you may want to check out comes from Mithril: Her Universe, which has a new line of Middle-earth fashion. “Their clothes have great details and are always high quality and comfy to wear. Check out this Fellowship Cardigan. With both front and back filled with LotR graphics, it would be great for cozying up by the hearth in style.”
Her Universe Galadriel dress
12. Rounding out our “Durin’s Dozen” in this Holiday treasure trove is a unique gift spotted by one of our OneRing founders, Calisuri: a set of four pewter shot glasses each attired as one of our favorite hobbits! From Nemesis Now, and available from a number of sources, including Walmart and Amazon, the glasses come in an attractive gift box. And while they won’t hold a full pint, you still might consider getting one!
13. Ok fine. How about a “Barliman’s Dozen” then. We’ll add one more bonus entry to this year’s list, particularly fit for any fan with knitting needle facility: The Fellowship of the Knits book. Who couldn’t use a handy set of “Watchful Eye” mittens this winter? Or a “You Shawl Not Pass”? Thanks again to Mithril for the suggestion – it might be worth learning to knit!