One of the continual questions that has come up since the first announcement of The War of the Rohirrim is whether the Kenji Kamiyama-directed effort will be 2D or 3D.

(To say that many anime aficionados have mixed feelings about the use of full 3D would be somewhat of an understatement.)

Last year, WOTR producer (and now Senior Vice President of Anime and Action Series at Warner Bros.) Jason DeMarco answered on his personal twitter that the film would be in 2D. Yesterday he re-confirmed that the feature-length animation would be 2D — there has been no change of direction.

Some of the confusion (and concern) seems to arise from the involvement of Sola Entertainment. Sola Ent. is the parent company of Sola Digital Arts. It was Sola Digital Arts that animated full-3D works such as Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, Ultraman, and Bladerunner: Black Lotus.

But as one of the editors of longtime anime news source Anime News Network points out on their forums: The War of the Rohirrim “may be being made by a different division of Sola Entertainment, or by a studio outsourced from it. Notably, [the] production studio is listed on Sola’s own website as ‘Sola Entertainment/TBC.'”

DeMarco also reinforced that several alumni from the Peter Jackson films are involved in the production:

Do we have Weta on board? YUP
Do we have Philippa Boyens on board? YUP
Do we have John Howe on board? YUP
DO WE HAVE ALAN FUCKING LEE ON BOARD?? HELL YEAH WE DO

The War of the Rohirrim concept art.

The Warner Bros. animated Middle-earth production, The War of the Rohirrim, is set to debut on screen on April 12, 2024.

The feature-length film is set to focus on the story of the Rohirrim king, Helm Hammerhand, as outlined in Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings.

War of the Rohirrim concept art. Source: Variety.

Warner Bros. says that it will “explore… the untold story behind the fortress of Helm’s Deep, delving into the life and bloodsoaked times of one of Middle-earth’s most legendary figures; the mighty King of Rohan — Helm Hammerhand.”

Acclaimed filmmaker Kenji Kamiyama (especially known in anime circles for his work on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) is directing, while Philippa Boyens (co-screenwriter for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) is executive producer.

The writing team of Phoebe Gittins and Arty Papageorgiou have penned the screenplay based on a script from Jeffrey Addiss & Will Matthews. The “Lord of the Rings” returning creative team also includes Oscar winner Richard Taylor and Tolkien illustrator John Howe, while animation is being done by Sola Entertainment.

If you don’t know Sola Entertainment, they have previously worked on the 2D-styled Tower of God (for streaming company Crunchyroll), Bladerunner Black Out: 2022, plus 3D efforts Blade Runner: Black Lotus and Ghost in the Shell SAC: 2045.

On the works so far, Executive Producer Philippa Boyens says: “I’m in awe of the creative talent who have come together to bring this epic, heart-pounding story to life, from the mastery of Kenji Kamiyama to a truly stellar cast. I cannot wait to share this adventure with fans of cinema everywhere.”

Warner Bros. also revealed that animation work has been underway since last year at Sola Entertainment, and voice casting will be announced very soon.

Edoras breached. War of the Rohirrim concept art.

It’s probably not well known, but Kamiyama did an interview late last year with Japanese media outlet Akiba-Souken where he touched on his work on The War of the Rohirrim briefly.

TORn has the following translation of relevant pieces from that article and Kamiyama’s comments:

What makes anime an anime?

Kamiyama is busy working on a number of projects, including directing the spin-off anime “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim” from the blockbuster movie “The Lord of the Rings.”

The soon-to-be-released “Star Wars: Visions – Ninth Jedi” is based on Kamiyama’s own ideas, he wanted to go back to the original story of a young man travelling the countryside, who gets involved in the battle over the Galactic Empire. Kamiyama was given the official Star Wars history lecture but also freedom to create his own story and setting within that realm.

Kamiyama is currently working on “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.” He says that “First of all, the existence of the live-action version of the “Lord of the Rings” series created by J.R.R. Tolkien’s original work and director Peter Jackson is tremendous. For Hollywood, there is no national policy for the film industry, but it has become a core industry of the region.”

“I feel that the small scale of Japanese animation is good, and that it has a different dimension from ‘true’ (ie live action) movie production,” he says.

“However, working on “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim” has the difficulty and fun that makes me realize things like ‘probably Hollywood is making movies like this’.

“It’s completely different to working on other projects. Because we are focusing on making it as ‘entertainment’, it is possible to create works that guarantee a certain level of quality depending on the budget scale and staffing. There is a lot of discussion about the screenplay, the process is similar to building a stadium or a bridge. I think “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim” will create a new level of animation production.”

My learned colleagues at TORnCentral have weighed in on the 23 images released yesterday by our good friends at Amazomg, but I’m keen to zero in on one and put it under the microscope.

It’s this one — let’s call it Gauntlet and Sword.

Gauntlet and Sword.

Gauntlet and Sword immediately recalls Jackson’s Third Age armoured Sauron. But there are obvious discrepancies when you compare it against the visual aesthetic that the Peter Jackson productions established.

First, at the Last Alliance confrontation between Gil-galad, Elendil and Sauron in the Fellowship of the Ring prologue, the latter bears a gigantic flanged mace, not a sword. (You can rewatch the entire prologue scene here if you like; Sauron appears about two minutes in.)

Gauntlet and Sword, on the other hand, shows, well, a sword. A blackened sword with a remarkably ornate hilt. But, still, a sword.

Second, the Amazon Studios gauntlet does not fully correspond to the one designed by WETA Workshop head Richard Taylor and his staff. The WETA gauntlet is a metal one, with articulated metal plates all the way past the wrist.

United Cutlery Sauron gauntlet reproduction. Source.

Sure, the gauntlet we see in Gauntlet and Sword is black and spiky, but from the promotional image provided, it lacks the articulated and overlapping metal plates that go all the way to the wrist. Instead, the articulation appears to stop at the knuckles. The general effect looks more like a studded, heavy leather gauntlet than one carefully assembled from many metal plates.

Finally, it’s important to note that before the Akallabêth — the period that Rings of Power seems likely to focus on at first, Sauron was not bound to that terrible and intimidating form. Instead:

…in his earlier incarnation he was able to veil his power (as Gandalf did) and could appear as a commanding figure of great strength of body and supremely royal demeanour and countenance.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Letter #246.

One must conclude that either:

1) This is not actually Sauron
2) It is Sauron, but Amazon Studios is moving away from “the PJ look”

When we have cosplayers doing intensive research and nailing all the details with incredible detailed replica Sauron costumes, it defies logic that Amazon Studios couldn’t do the same with their sky-high budget. If they so desired.

The impression that I have long had is that Amazon Studios has been trying to hew to the aesthetic Jackson created. In itself, choosing New Zealand as the original shooting location fits this thesis — although I am sure financial considerations come into play there, too.

It makes sense — the PJ aesthetic has a lot of penetration through the popular consciousness and pop culture. Leveraging it is a low-effort way to get buy-in from viewers.

And the original Amazon Studios tease image carries a great deal of PJ aesthetic in the architecture of Tirion upon Túna.

So I don’t think Amazon Studios is drifting from the PJ look . Instead, what we have is some artful misdirection — we are being teased with the superficial appearance of Sauron using typical signifiers that we subconsciously associate with the lord of Barad-dûr, but there are enough clues for us to dismiss it.

This is not Sauron.

For similar reasons I would discard the Witch-king of Angmar — the gauntlet doesn’t match (you can get a good look at Wiki’s gauntlet at 1 min and 6 secs in this clip where he confronts Éowyn) , and although Wiki carries a sword (as well as a massive flail), its design is a lot cleaner than the one in Gauntlet and Sword. In fact the swords of all the Nazgul are very minimalist with flat or slightly curved crossguards.

The Nazgul draw swords at the Ford of Bruinen.

So, who is it?

I’m going to outline a handful of outlandish possibilities. All speculation, of course.

Option 1. Túrin.

Black sword, right? Also, The Silmarillion outlines how the folk of Nargothrond equip Túrin with “dwarf-mail, to guard him”. Further, The Silmarillion describes from the perspective of Tuor and Voronwë the following scene at the Well of Ivrin after the sack of Nargothrond.

But even as they gazed upon it they saw one going northward in haste, and he was a tall Man, clad in black, and bearing a black sword. But they knew not who he was, nor anything of what had befallen in the south; and he passed them by, and they said no word.

Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin

Nevertheless, the other image with a broken black sword somehow seems a better fit for Túrin.

Option 2. Eöl or Maeglin.

Gurthang (or Anglachel, if you prefer) is not the only black sword to feature in The Silmarillion. There is another: Anguirel. Eöl, the Dark Elf, forges both as a pair. The former he gave to Thingol, the latter he kept for himself. Anguirel then ends up in the hands of his son, Maeglin, when Aredhel and Maeglin flee Eöl’s controlling nature.

Canonically, both Eöl and Maeglin meet nasty ends in Gondolin; the ultimate fate of Anguirel is unknown. Because Maeglin is tossed over the walls of Gondolin during its sack, it’s only a bit of a stretch that he might have survived (but it is a stretch). And the emblem of Maeglin’s house was a plain black field with no symbol whatsoever.

Could Tolkien Estate be convinced to allow Maeglin to be used as a returning Second Age antagonist? I don’t know. It’s a thought.

Props to posters over on the LOTR on Prime sub-reddit for raising this one. Intriguing.

Option 3. Morgoth.

Must confess, I started considering this because of John Howe’s famous image of Ungoliant and Melkor about to do the dirty on the Two Trees. Melkor, all in black, has in hand an enormous black greatsword. Not canonical — in The Silmarillion he uses a spear: “Melkor sprang upon the mound; and with his black spear he smote each Tree to its core, wounded them deep”. However, John Howe has been providing art for the Amazon Studios production.

In The Silmarillion, Beleg also uses the appellation “Black Hand” at one point to describe Morgoth. If we get the Two Trees, we must surely get Morgoth at some point. Right?

The current rumour: Adar

The current suggestion via Fellowship of the Fans is that it corresponds to a character known as “Adar” (originally codenamed “Oren”). Adar is a Sindarin word that translates as “father” and the role is supposedly being filled by Joseph Malwe.

To reprise, Adar is said to be an “corrupted” and “tortured” elf who oversees a group of orcs who see him as a father figure. Hence the name, Adar. Further, the rumour states that this elf is one of the brothers of Galadriel — but not Finrod Felagund. This offers two choices: Angrod and Aegnor, both of whom canonically perished in The Battle of Sudden Flame (Orodreth should properly be considered to be Angrod’s son).

These are choices that seem much more out of canon than, say, the Maeglin option. The Silmarillion’s text declares “the sons of Finarfin bore most heavily the brunt of the assault, and Angrod and Aegnor were slain”.

Could they work? I guess.

There’s this to consider:

But ever the Noldor feared most the treachery of those of their own kin, who had been thralls in Angband; for Morgoth used some of these for his evil purposes, and feigning to give them liberty sent them abroad, but their wills were chained to his, and they strayed only to come back to him again. Therefore if any of his captives escaped in truth, and returned to their own people, they had little welcome, and wandered alone outlawed and desperate.

Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin

Additionally, in the Lord of the Rings, Gandalf says to Frodo:

The Elves may fear the Dark Lord, and they may fly before him, but never again will they listen to him or serve him [emphasis mine].

Many Meetings

And service need not be direct, or knowing as in the case of Húrin.

When therefore he judged the time to be ripe, [Morgoth] released Húrin from his bondage, bidding him go whither he would; and he feigned that in this he was moved by pity as for an enemy utterly defeated. But he lied, for his purpose was that Húrin should still further his hatred for Elves and Men, ere he died.

Of the Ruin of Doriath

Placed against that, consider Gwindor son of Guilin. An escaped thrall, he not only assists Beleg and succors Turin at risk to himself, he is also seemingly welcomed back to Nargothrond without suspicion or fear.

Still, there might be a way for Amazon Studios to work a story of pathos and miscalculation, if they can find some subtlety. We’ll see.

Last year we launched our Collecting The Precious Podcast, and were able to film 2 episodes before 2021 ended. Today, we bring you the third episode of our little collectibles chat. In episode 3, we were able to get Ben back with us, and we’re really really grateful that he was willing to take time out of his schedule to sit down with us. In this episode, we talk about price, edition size, and “value”, and really how subjective these three things are, as we collect these absolutely fantastic pieces. This was a set of topics I wanted to chat about, since it’s something that comes up all the time over the years and has been a point of contention I think, as prices rise and new companies like Prime One enter the game. I hope you all enjoy this one, and thank you for the support! Continue reading “Collecting The Precious – Collecting The Precious Podcast Episode 3”

One of my favorite lines our friends at Weta Workshop produce is the environments line. Why? Well, I’d love to actually visit Middle-earth, but being a fantasy world, that seems unlikely. I’d love to visit New Zealand –  and that may happen someday, but getting there from Missouri isn’t cheap. So collecting these amazingly well done pieces of the places we love is as close as I can get for now; as I’m sure is the case for many of you as well. We now can add three new environment pieces to our collections.

The first is a massive Bag End with that awesome green front door that opens and closes. When you open this door, you’ll be able to peek in and see the main hallway. That’s not all though! It also has a light up feature, giving the feeling that Bilbo or Frodo is at home. You can pre-order this right now through December 22nd for $1,199(USD),  with the edition size being determined by the numbers of orders placed. If you want something Bag End but maybe slightly cheaper, there is a hobbit hole sized piece of Bag End for only $99(USD). Both of these pieces ship during the fourth quarter of next year.

Continue reading “Collecting The Precious – Weta Workshop’s Bag End on The Hill and Doors of Durin Pre-Orders”

Well, we’re back – with Episode 2 of our collectibles themed podcast. (If you missed it, you can find Episode 1 here.) In this episode, we talk about the importance of having a clear concept of what you want your collection to be, what you want in that collection, and being open to when a special piece crosses your path. We think this topic is important when collecting, because it’s very easy to feel the need to have everything, and thus get overwhelmed and burned out. We hope you enjoy the podcast – and we’re already working on episode 3!

Continue reading “Collecting The Precious Podcast Episode 2: A Focused Collection”