No doubt if he did try to make a film of The Silmarillion, Peter Jackson would be accused by some of ‘gold-digging’ as has happened with The Hobbit trilogy. On the other hand having done such a good job according to many with Lord of The Rings and, so far, The Hobbit who else would you trust the project to?
Originally intended as a sequel to The Hobbit, any future production of The Silmarillion would start out by having an even more tenuous link to the author’s authentic work than has the latest trilogy. This is not least because the book was never finished and its present incarnations have been fleshed out extensively by Christopher Tolkien and others, notably fantasy writer Guy Gavriel Kay, based upon JRR Tolkien’s notes.
The subject has stoked a lot of interest this January, which was inevitable given Peter Jackson’s willingness to take on what used to seem like impossible story-telling tasks. Whatever people think, TORn have reported the matter is currently closed, since Christopher Tolkien, the work’s literary executor has refused to consider any further licensing of his father’s work for cinematic purposes. It has been reported that the Tolkien family refused Jackson the rights to the Silmarillion, because they did not much like his re-telling of The Hobbit.
If true then the refusal is based upon a small group of people’s aesthetic tastes, which raises interesting questions about how much control you ought legitimately to exercise once a genie has been released from a bottle. The family is not so concerned by Peter Jackson himself it appears, since their target is commercialisation of JRR Tolkien’s writing in general. Christopher Tolkien is reported by LeMonde as saying, quite emphatically:
“Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time. The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away.”
And of course anyone producing a new Hobbit film, should they choose to draw upon the later additions by Christopher Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay, (and I do not see how they might not), would not only be interpreting the work of a deceased author, but also accessing the intellectual creations of two currently living other authors that have themselves reinterpreted someone’s work, albeit a pretty well-informed interpretation at that.
This dilemma is presented as a battle between popular commercial pressure forcing the systematic removal of Tolkien’s philosophical intent, set against a respectful re-telling of a story as accurately as it can be. Given that backdrop, one has to wonder just how possible it is that any story can be retold ‘accurately’, since the imagination of its teller remoulds, through nuance and emphasis every aspect of even the most prosaic tale.
We all have a stake in this argument. Most viewers of this site came here after having read the books and probably before they watched the films. They have already experienced JRR Tolkien ‘in the raw’, making their own judgements along the way. A few of us might even be literary Philistines that never really appreciated the philosophical intent of Tolkien’s work, nor properly appreciated its beauty, or seriousness. I suspect most though are obsessed with Middle Earth and beyond not because Hollywood drove them into the cinema in a frenzy of consumerist hype, but rather because JRR Tolkien fired their imaginations in the traditional way by reading the books in a quiet corner of a local park or at night in their bedrooms away from interfering adults.
The bottom line for fans of JRR Tolkien’s writing is that, like William Shakespeare’s and Jane Austen’s fans before them, they are as interested as anyone to see The Silmarillion translated into film in as authentic a way as possible. Perhaps it is time to allow the genie to roam free and see what happens.