I already posted this on IMDB a few weeks back but I was wondering what you guys think.
Every time I see the Silmarillion be suggested as a film it makes me simultaneously confused and annoyed. Don’t get me wrong I love the book and I’m looking forward to the Hobbit films, but A film of the Silmarillion serves little purpose, has a limited fanbase, wouldn’t work (unless massive changes were made-then what’s the point of making it?) would likely be a terrible, uneven adaptation, and even if it stayed true to the book it’s not Hollywood material in the slightest.
I love The Hobbit book and I’m intrigued and excited to see the Hobbit brought to life on the big screen, but The Silmarillion is even more of favourite with me, but the very thought of a film being made doesn’t excite me in the slightest, and my brain fails to comprehend how it could be done.
Furthermore without being offensive to Peter Jackson or his fans, audiences already have a pre-conceived nature of what Middle Earth looks like, any director attempting to make The Silmarillion into a film would be hamstrung by previous films and live in his shadow.
Jackson initially declined The Hobbit worried he wouldn’t be able to do its different Tone to LOTR justice, the same is even truer for The Silmarillion, in both tone and plot it is almost totally removed from LOTR. It dosen’t need the same crew to tell the story, being so different, but studios wouldn’t want to do it without PJ- it would become a PJ film first and foremost, not a Tolkien adaptation (just witness all the furore by fans when GDT was hired for the Hobbit, many doubted him even though they hadn’t read the book).
Pj has admitted himself that his films aren't as faifthful as they should have been, and he dosent always disply the greatest knowledge of the source material, considering the fact that Tolkien spent almost 50 years working on it, I would find Jackson making a film massively insulting. Furthermore even the biggest fan of the writing trio-Phillipa Boyens has shown she is quite happy to make massive changes to the source materail for no apparent reason.
By and Large the book, and the people it is aimed at are Tolkien through and through.It has a smaller, but arguably more fanatical following, and is considered by many to be Tolkien’s greatest work.
I’m not just a fan boy ranting annoyed that the book would be changed (although Yes, I concede that is a definite issue), personally I think it is simply impossible to make a film that could adequately adapt the book. It is a book that largely exists for and because of fans of the other books, and wouldn’t fit in with the Tone Peter Jackson’s films have taken.
This is not a slate directed at Jackson (his films weren’t perfect Adaptations, and yes I preferred the book…but they were largely entertaining movies-although I did see them before reading the book), rather an attempt to illustrate the immense difficulties in bringing the book to the screen.
It’s VERY complicated and would be extremely hard to cut down to length
Unfolding over a period of thousands of years, The Silmarillion is structured and written in an archaic style (meaning most of the dialogue would have to be re-written), there are upwards of a dozen interconnecting stories set within a wider context at any one time, each of which features lots of characters and locations-to keep cross cutting in a film would be confusing and anti-climactic.
Even If you chose just one of the stories, you’d still have to spend a lot of time setting up an unfamiliar location and characters, and without the wider framework it would lose much of its purpose, and only end up being confusing-the background to the stories is an essential part.
Even a trilogy would only be able to cover a small amount of the story, it would be confusing and uneven to watch, and it wouldn’t be the Silmarillion-a complex epic. There is easily enough subject matter for 10 films, but no filmmaker would likely have the budget or time to follow through with such a commitment (would you want to wait a decade to reach the end of the story?), or to re-structure the story drastically enough.
The names are often repetitive and complicated:
E.g Feanor, Olwe, Elwe, Fingolfin, Finwe, Maedhros,Hurin, Turin, Turgon, Morgoth, Valinor, Gondolin, Caled Naeramarth, Nan-tathren, Ossiriand.
Being typical examples
The Silmarillion has a complicated, slow set up, which can’t really be jettisoned without defeating the point of the story or properly explaining the plot, and the language and storylines are often dense and long.
Whereas LOTR had one relatively straightforward storyline (albeit one that split into a half dozen) and could be worked into ‘blockbuster material, The Silmarillion has dozens of story’s all interrelated, most of which would have to be at least explained before the film could reach the conclusion. Very few of the storylines are fast paced or ‘straight forward’ as LOTR, the tone is completely different, and characters drop in and out of the story regularly.
To do even the central story justice more than 3 films would be needed-many viewers would get bored and annoyed at having to wait years to find out how the story ends, and Studios wouldn’t want to green light the money for something less commercial (PJ’s kind of shot himself in the foot, as he’s making 3 films from The Hobbit-a very short, simple book, fans would expect the same treatment from the Silmarillion).
It would need a colossal budget and length to adequately bring across the story, but A studio wouldn’t finance something so different to PJ’s films-unless they changed it drastically.
There are no appendices, and very little ancillary writing the producers could draw from.
Despite the detail prevalent in the book, it was assembled from unfinished drafts by the editor, so the story has numerous gaps and plot holes. Character description is minimal, and the filmmakers would be forced to make it more commercial to sell it to an audience, the ‘high style’ and complicated nature of the book means it would be very hard to wrestle it into shape, and a large proportion of the film would simply be made up.
Although there are various notes and additional writings published in The History of Middle Earth, these are largely abandoned, or background writings to which the rights would be very unlikely to be sold.
Although They took substantial liberties with the LOTR (and from the looks of it The Hobbit) they were relatively straight forward stories with lots of additional wrings and detail elsewhere anyway, by and large the screenwriters stuck to the structure of the book-and they were much less ‘fantastical’ than The Silmarillion-which is only really a summary of what was intended giiven all this Tauriel and Fili, Tomb raiding nonsense in the hobbit I dread to think how they would add to the story of the sil.
Put simply the structure and tone of the Silmarillion doesn’t really lend itself to adaptation.
It has very limited appeal, and PJ’s LOTR films make a film fairly pointless
Even amongst Tolkien fans it’s a minority work (though those who like it LOVE it-fans seem to be even more protective than LOTR), the grim tone and remote setting closing it off to many people. It has no-where near the fan base or Critical response Tolkien’s other works have received (though it more than deserves both) and is written in a completely different style (as it was published posthumously by his son some even doubt its validity).
There’s no Gandalf, hobbits, Gollum, Ringwraith or Shire, and very little Sauron and Elrond, the large proportion of the audience would want to see another LOTR, which the book doesn’t offer. It is largely designed to lead into Tolkien’s’ other works, much of the connecting tissue is stuff PJ’s films have thus far ignored.
Several of my friends weaned on the films, but ignorant of the books consider it pointless-at least the Hobbit is directly linked to LOTR and features some of the same locations and characters, they have no interest in seeing something outside that cycle. The Silmarillion would be like trying to sell a whole other franchise (unless of Course they found some stupid way to shoehorn in Frodo, Sam or Gandalf…shudder…)
And anyway would you really be interested in finding out how the Elves were created? What exactly Sauron is? And who created Middle Earth? Although there are lots of fights and battles in the book (which often massively outweigh those in LOTR) it’s always at the service of the story-a story which isn’t necessarily relevant to the angle the other films have taken.
Peter Jackson’s LOTR films largely skipped over the backstory and references to The Sil from the Book, so there would be little to link it to later films (By the time the rights could be sold all the LOTR actors would be too old to reprise their roles anyway) and for many fans finding out about Elrond’s father transforming into the star that give light to Frodo’s magical Elven Glass wouldn’t be particularly interesting.
-Personally, for me, it’s remote, separate nature compared to the other books is the key reason why I like it so much, it’s so convincing and unique you can see the whole story unfold anyway.
The Silmarillion starts with God creating the earth and giving powers to the Valar (sprits would serve him), and proceeds in a slow manner for several chapters, almost like the book of genesis as the earth is gradually created. There are metaphors for the tree of life etc, and references to Christianity are commonplace.
-Not only is this not particularly commercial, it would create a great deal of controversy. Gods have never been portrayed well in films (i.e. Clash/Wrath of the titans), and this has the strong potential to be cheesy and annoying for many viewers- but it is key part of the story.
Yay more Lord of the Rings!
Some of you may think I’m being a little contradictory-I like the films and the books of LOTR so why wouldn’t I want more? But that’s the crucial point The Silmarillion is NOTHING like Tolkien’s other work, and is more or less unrelated to them anyway. You may argue that it can be changed to be more like LOTR, but if you’ve read the book you’ll know that will be very hard to without defeating the point of the story, not to mention requiring an almost total restructuring and missing out vast swathes of the story- it would be so different there wouldn’t even be much point in calling it The Silmarillion.
A Creation myth and historical chronicle more than a narrative, it is an overview of the First Age of Middle Earth, and is told from the Elven perspective. Elves would make very remote protagonists and the ‘magic’ and ‘high fantasy’ this would require would not be to all tastes.
Hobbits don’t appear at all, and the only major LOTR characters to appear are Galadriel and Elrond, who figure very little in the plot and seldom appear, the Silmarillion is set in a different part of middle earth Thousands of years before LOTR, and in a completely different part of it. Because it is so different the producers would likely seize on the few links to LOTR and expand on them, a bad idea-the whole reason why people like/dislike The Sil is because it is so different and separate.
Unlike LOTR it isn’t a straight forward quest or a battle between good and evil, it ends at the end of the First Age, so the movie would have to bridge the Second Age (Another 3300 Years) before it got to the LOTR prologue.
-Even those of you who haven’t read the Hobbit would have realised the massive amount of debate and controversy ranging around some of Jackson’s decisions (Frodo, Legolas, Taureil etc)-much of the stuff he’s doing is necessary to turn the book into a popular film LOTR film fans (and non-book readers) will like, even if a lot of it could go completely against Tolkien’s intentions, the amount of changes he’d have to do with The Silmarillion to lure back the same audience would be enormous-and would alienate fans of the book, the very people who the film would matter to the most.
There wouldn’t be the excitement of steeping into a familiar world.
Much of the hype and publicity to do with The upcoming Hobbit films is the excitement of saying hello to old friends and seeing old environments, as I’ve said the Silmarillion is tonally and location wise separate, so marketing, and audience ‘buzz’ wouldn’t be as high. If they stuck to the book, it would alienate much of the audience, and even bore some of the fans, if they didn’t it wouldn’t be guaranteed to attract an audience, and there would be massive backlash from readers.
The Silmarillion is a very grim book, virtually all the major characters in the book are killed, there’s little to no humour, and the catalyst for the plot is Greed, the story doesn’t even add up to a totally conclusive or ‘happy ending’. Incest, murder, torture, betrayal and violent deaths all figure strongly in the plot, the storylines and battles are so epic and detailed it would be extremely hard to pare it down to be filmed.
-How would they get financing for this???
The protagonists are often Elvish, men only figure occasionally.
The Silmarillion contains a lot more fantastical imagery-werewolves, spirits and gods fighting each other, the earth being created, talking animals, boats sailing through the sky, magical weapons etc. Peter Jackson’s films have always been grounded in reality; The Silmarillion is contrary to this.
Although it terms of scale and action it has enough for several Hollywood franchises, the tone of the story is completely against the Hollywood mode of thinking (would you pay to see a trilogy of films where all the central characters are killed at the end?).
But of course everything I have said thus far could simply be fixed by drastically reworking the plot-that would take so much effort and time to figure out a coherent structure that fans and general audiences could enjoy that it wouldn’t really be worth it.
But The Silmarillion is protected heavily by Tolkien’s estate and fans, even if the rights were sold, it’s likely there would be numerous conditions on what the filmmakers could do to adapt the material.
The Fans generally seem opposed…even though it is a story aimed soley at them
As mentioned, and judging from the people I know most fans of the book (probably its most appropriate audience) don’t want to see a film, more than any other of Tolkien’s books it is a story that works best on the page, and is often regarded as ‘Middle Earth’s Bible’, Tolkien spent almost 50 years of his life writing it, and his son was entrusted with editing together a final version-For Existing fans of the Books. A film to me, would be a slate on Tolkien’s legacy, it was an extremely personal book, and an extremely beloved one at that, a film would alienate and annoy so many people, not to mention being a massive risk.
-And of course once you’ve seen the film, you will only have the director’s imagery and spin on things in your head, badly influencing your perception of the book, because of its difficult structure and historical-creation myth basis, a large proportion of people could choose to just watch the film and not even consider the original story.
Whilst I haven’t got a problem with people preferring the film, it does raise a central point, The Silmarillion was a book that so much effort and time was put into a film would be extremely damaging-it was meant to stand entirely on its own feet, a invented history, a film would corrupt the tone and point of the story. Tolkien’s estate hasn’t yet sold the rights for a reason-the author’s family and the editor both consider it to be unfilmable.
The same was said of LOTR, but that was one story which had much padding removed for the film, The Silmarillion’s over a dozen with often essential padding. As far as I know there have been no hints of any filmmaker ever interested in buying the rights to the book, and with good reason, Tolkien himself doubted whether anyone would be interested in reading the stories of The Silmarillion, and certainly gave the impression he would not have sold the rights even if he had completed it before his death.
And lastly...sometimes I feel people think Peter Jackson has improved tolkien and knows the universe better than him-for many of mu friends PJ is the main hook of the hobbit films, they couldn't care less if he strays from the source material, and would probably feel the same way about the sil.
I'm sure this has come across as a very negative picture of the book, but that wasn't my intenion (I consider Tolkien's best work) its just something I feel VERY strongly about
As I’ve said that’s just my feelings, feel free to share your own.