Fan-made Silmarillion trailer

More Spartacus reviews are on their way, but I saw this today and was really intrigued. This is a fan-made trailer for a sadly non-existent film of Tolkien's tome of Middle Earth mythology, The Silmarillion. I have to confess, I'm a bad Tolkien fan - The Silmarillion is sitting on my shelf but I haven't read it. I have read Christopher Tolkien's edited version of some stories from it, published as The Children of Hurin with beautiful illustrations by Alan Lee. Based on what I've read from that novel, The Silmarillion would be a lot more like Game of Thrones than The Lord of the Rings, but I digress.

This 'trailer' is, of course, made up of clips of other films, edited together to look like one really kick-ass film without including too many story-specific elements. I spotted quite a bit of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in there, which is sort of nice and weirdly appropriate given JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis' friendship (and ignoring the fact that Tolkien didn't like Narnia). I spotted bits and pieces of King Arthur and Robin Hood in there as well, I was delighted to see the sexy guy who went off with the mermaid from Pirates of the Caribbean 4 and I recognised Gemma Arterton's voice from Prince of Persia. The maker of the video has listed the films he or she used on You Tube, and some others I didn't recognise included Legend of the Seeker, The Time Machine, Diablo 3, WoW Wrath of the Witch King and WoW Cataclysm (I assume that stands for World of Warcraft?).

What really intrigued me, though, was the use of Clash of the Titans for much of the first part of the trailer. I guess this was largely because it provided the astrological imagery needed for the opening section about the universe, but it got me thinking. Because The Lord of the Rings is pseudo-early-medieval (the Rohirrim use words from Old English like theoden, prince, and eorl, warrior, while Tolkien's description of the faded glory of Gondor could be sort of Byzantine), I tend to imagine all Tolkien's mythology as taking place in a pseudo-early-medieval society (except, of course, the hobbits, who live in the early twentieth century. They're ahead of their time). But logically, of course, if Gondor is Byzantium and the Rohirrim are the Old English, then surely their immediate predecessors should be pseudo-Romans and their distant ancestors should be pseudo-ancient Greeks, Egyptians or Mesopotamians.

Tolkien fans, what do you think? If, by some miracle, the whole situation with the rights were to be sorted out and a movie made of The Silmarillion or The Children of Hurin, what sort of look should it have? Should it look pseudo-Greek, or pseudo-Roman? Egyptian or Mesopotamian? Or should it look pseudo-medieval, to match up with the currently existing films?

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  1. Gondor does seem Byzantine in some ways, though when asked about it Tolkien compared it rather to ancient Egypt.

    I could see the men of Beleriand in the Silmarillion as pseudo-Mesopotamian.

    1. That's cool, I hadn't heard that - is it from an interview? Would love to read more!

    2. Perhaps from his letters? I recall reading something like that as well but I don't remember where.

      Tolkien was specifically referring to the way Gondor in its later days became obsessed with their funeral customs and the honouring of their long-dead forefathers, to the extent that they started to neglect their modern-day duties and their cities started to resemble giant tombs. (Of course, I have no idea whether the actual ancient Egyptians in whatever dynasty did this. It seems likely it was just Tolkien's perception of them at work.)

      You could also draw parallels between Egypt and Gondor in that both struggled against "sea peoples" and a chariot-riding people (in Tolkien called the "wain-riders") but that only occurred to me just now.

      Gondor as a whole seems much more similar to Byzantium where its politics are concerned. The whole "impenetrable city standing firm in an ultimately losing war against scary eastern invaders" thing, not to mention the "being the surviving eastern half of a once dominant empire" thing.

      - Randal

    3. That's cool - I need to read more of Tolkien's letters (I've a feeling I have an edited copy around somewhere, much like The Silmarillion, unread!)

  2. The Silmarillion would be a horribly disjointed film. Peter Jackson would probably need like 50 movies to do the whole thing. It would be better to focus on one aspect, say the story of Beren and Luthien, and give backstory in brief history lessons like in the LotR movies.

    That said, there would be a lot of different looks. There's probably a lot of Tolkien art that I'm not familiar with to draw from for the elves in various places. Valinor is probably very ethereal, the kingdoms of Beleriand should have a feel similar to what we've already seen, but more sophisticated, Gondolin would be a bit like Gondor with an elvish flair and fewer monuments. I would have the Men look more like Roman era or immediately post-Roman era Germanics. That is, after all, where Tolkien took most of his inspiration. Now if you did the fall of Numenor, I would say the look should be sort of Assyrian/Babylonian/Achaemenid Persia with a little Egypt thrown in for good measure.

    The problems of turning Cate Blanchett into a rebellious teenager and Hugo Weaving into a proud young man I leave to someone else.

  3. No way could they do that with just one movie! It would have to be a TV series with each season centring on a different era. Season 1 would be the Ainulindalë and Valaquenta, with the creation of Ea and the fall of Morgoth culminating with the epic battle between him and the Valar and the arrival of the Elves (the trees!!!). Seasons 2 and 3 (and maybe 4) would be the Quenta Silmarillion (bulk of the story), with a whole season dedicated to Beren and Luthien, and another to Hurin and Turin. Then Season 4-5 would be Akallabeth, or the (rise and) Downfall of Numenor, ending with an epilogue about the rings of power, and the rise and fall of Gondor and the kings in the North. Or they could take a page out of Peter Jackson's book and dig into the appendices and dedicate a whole other season to the rise and fall of Gondor and the kingdom in the north and the age of Stewards in Gondor, bringing us full circle to the Hobbit and LOTR. They might have to film the end first so they could get Cate Blanchett still looking well enough to play Galadriel, and Hugo Weaving to be Elrond. And before Ian McKellen dies or is too old to play Gandalf any longer! :p

    It would have to be on HBO of course! Their next project after GoT? That gives them plenty of time to prepare! (and thus film those later bits before the beginning and keep them "saved away" for when the time comes.)

    All of the sudden I really want to see that!!!

    And now I feel like reading the Silmarillion again! Can't believe you've never read it!!!

    1. I know, I'm bad! I've read Children of Hurin though...

  4. The atmosphere of most of the Silmarillion is rather like that in the Greek or Germanic myths, or Genesis and Job - you have these godlike creatures interacting in a fairly straightforward way with mortals (OK, the elves are only kind of mortal, but still), for example with Morgoth, who is basically the devil, getting a door slammed in his face etc. The most appropriate 'look' would I suppose be a kind of Arthurian or Wagnerian style for most of it. But it covers so much - it starts with creation and goes up to the the defeat of Sauron by Isildur, Elrond et al.

    Numenor is an Atlantis rip off, but for consistency its people would have to look like Isildur in LOTR, as he was actually from Numenor and fled its destruction.

  5. It might well be unfilmable, I'm afraid....

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