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Old 01-11-2018, 06:59 AM   #1
Huinesoron
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Off-genre adaptations

Whatever our opinions of the Movies, we all know that no adaptation can live up to The Lord of the Rings novels as epic fantasy. The books are just too densely-packed with details for that to work, even in a TV series not limited by length. It doesn't matter where or when in Arda you set your adaptation - it won't match up to Tolkien.

But... what if you switch genres? The level and depth of detail that makes The Lord of the Rings so good also makes Middle-earth a setting which can support a lot of other stories. I feel like there's a lot of room for films or shows that stake out a section of the timeline away from the books proper, and do something entirely new.

Some ideas:

-Building off my satirical suggestion here, why not set a psychological horror in Moria? It could take place in the last days of the reign of Durin VI, when the dwarves 'delved too greedily and too deep'. We, the viewers, know what they awoke - but they wouldn't. You have a perfect setting for your characters (dwarf names are easy, you pluck them from the Norse lists) to be picked off one by one - some by a creature of shadow, some by 'a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake'. You get to explore the geography of Khazad-Dum, and rack up the tension until the moment when Durin confronts the demon that has been haunting his city, and out of nowhere flames flare up to show its true form...

-Or, if you prefer something more Mannish: medical drama in Minas Tirith. We have the Houses of Healing. We can follow the Gondorian tradition of plundering Sindarin names from the First Age. We have our own historical records of the ways medieval people managed to get themselves injured and killed, and Minas Tirith allows us to pair those with a genuine hospital, which wouldn't be very historically accurate in a period drama. You don't need to set it anywhere close to the War of the Ring - just show us the everyday life of Gondor, through its healthcare system.

-Or how about this: a political drama set entirely at the Mereth Aderthad, the Feast of Reuniting in the early days of Beleriand? It's the perfect setting for a story about leadership - Maedhros is still dealing with his abdication (I can't imagine his brothers were too pleased with that - and what about Maglor, who was presumably acting as High King in his stead while he was a prisoner?), Fingolfin is trying to cope with the fact that Maedhros and Finrod are both technically his subordinates but keep doing their own thing, Finrod is trying to take his father's place while (along with Turgon) also wanting to found his own realm... you've even got representatives of Thingol bobbing around, dealing with the fact that their king is essentially ignored by the Noldor. You could build a wonderful story around that.

I think there's a lot of potential there - ways to explore the Middle-earth setting (and make the Middle-earth money, this is capitalism after all) without trying to beat Tolkien at his own game so to speak. Also, I really want to hear other people's ideas for what a suitably forward-thinking media company could make, and am happy for any excuse to post this and ask.

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Old 02-28-2018, 03:10 AM   #2
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You are too modest. Why not the untold story of Tar-Telperiėn, Nazgūl? I think it would be a combination horror/political thriller.
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Old 02-28-2018, 09:11 AM   #3
Huinesoron
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You jest, but you're right. Not necessarily about Tar-Telperiėn the Eternal and Undying, Praised be her Name to Annatar the Light-Bringer, but a political horror centred on Numenor and the Nazgul? Absolutely! Three high-ranking Numenorean nobles voluntarily turned themselves into undead sorcerers allied with the Devil's lieutenant, that could be an amazing film.

Yes, it would involve creating new characters, including (at least) three of the Nine, so there is emphatic toe-stamping - but you could still keep Numenor 'in-character', and this is a story you can't really tell in any other canon. Your story is about the corruption of the Royal Council of Numenor in the days of Tar-Telperien; the protagonist is probably Minastir (her nephew and heir), who grows concerned that her rigid neutrality may have something darker behind it. It starts off as a political mystery, then becomes more horror-like as the spectre of death infiltrates Armenelos (metaphorically).

Minastir is buddies with Ciryatur, Admiral of the Fleet (heck, he practically named his son after him!), and has a wary alliance with the Lord of Andunie (who is anti-war, but pro-Lindon); he's trying to unravel the mystery of his aunt's corruption in time to save Lindon. He gets snippets of information from the mainland - a message from Gil-Galad mentioning that 'three of the Nine have sailed west'. Somewhere in the middle of the film, he probably sends Ciryatur off with a fleet to save Lindon, without the queen's approval, and gets himself in heaps of trouble...

Is Tar-Telperien a Nazgul in this version? Probably not, though it's possible one of her Ringbearing advisors is extending her life. She's probably a bait-and-switch - someone Minastir and the audience both think has been corrupted, until (maybe on her deathbed) she finally points the finger at someone else...

It could work!

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Old 02-28-2018, 09:31 AM   #4
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I can't help but feel as if by that point it may as well be set in a totally new fantasy world of the screenwriter's invention (although of course that won't sell cinema tickets...)
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Old 02-28-2018, 10:06 AM   #5
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I mean, arguably yes, but you could say that about anything. Why did they bother with that Black Panther movie, when they could just have invented their own magi-tech African nation to tell their story in?

The answer comes down to three things: name recognition, exploration of a fictional universe, and (as you say) making money. Does the Nazgul of Numenor concept hit these? I'd say yes:

-It's about Middle-earth, and features both Sauron and the Nazgul. It centres on the use of Rings of Power, and has a heavy association with elves (including named movie characters like Galadriel and Elrond). Throw in careful setting design to evoke the Middle-earth 'feel', and you have a pretty hefty chunk of brand recognition.

-The events surrounding this are canon. The War of the Elves and Sauron took place, with Sauron seizing the Rings and using them to corrupt Men. Three of those Men were Numenorean nobility. Tolkien said that the Ringbearers gained power and influence (and wealth) in their homelands; it's a fairly simple deduction that the three Numenorean Nazgul were probably political movers and shakers before they left to work directly under Sauron.

Minastir and Ciryatur are actual people, and it's a fact that, according to the records, Minastir sent Ciryatur to relieve Lindon, despite the fact that his aunt was still on the throne, and had previously not intervened. We know what sort of person Telperien was - that she clung to power, and that she refused to marry in order to keep it in her own hands. Minastir's 'rebellion' is presumption, but it's a very logical one.

Would things have to be added? Absolutely - but they do in every adaptation. Numenor and the Rings of Power are a fairly unique setting, and I think there's enough uniqueness to justify keeping the story there, rather than slapping new names on it.

-Would it make money? I don't know. Non-epic high fantasy isn't a concept that's been well explored, so far as I know. Marvel has proven that you can shift genres within a series (the MCU contains action, comedy, heist, political drama, a whole bunch of stuff), so I think it's quite plausible that 'fantasy setting political drama with horror twist' could sell a bunch.

I mean, obviously it's not being made, and never will be. But it would probably make for a better movie than The Hobbit 7.6: On A Path In Mirkwood.

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Old 03-01-2018, 10:39 AM   #6
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No adaptation can live up to the original in terms of detail. But I think a decent adaptation can live up to it in spirit and essence.

The films didn't, but they didn't even try.

The BBC radio version and the stage musical, however, were far better adaptations, and did the books every bit of justice allowed by their respective art forms.
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Old 03-01-2018, 01:43 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pervinca Took View Post
No adaptation can live up to the original in terms of detail. But I think a decent adaptation can live up to it in spirit and essence.

The films didn't, but they didn't even try.

The BBC radio version and the stage musical, however, were far better adaptations, and did the books every bit of justice allowed by their respective art forms.
I've always thought that FotR-M came pretty close to capturing the spirit of Middle-earth. The Shire feels idyllic, the Elves feel otherworldly, Moria evokes decaying grandeur... If you think about the usual complaints about the various films, FotR mostly gets issues with minor characters (Bombadil, Glorfindel), while TTT has possessed Theoden and corrupt Faramir, and RotK has evil Denethor and 'Sam gives up and goes home'. There's a very clear distinction in my mind between FotR and the other five.

I freely admit it did some of the characters a disservice (Frodo in particular has most of his agency taken away in favour of tripping over), but I still hold that it evoked the magic and grandeur of Middle-earth.

Which is sort of the point of this thread. Middle-earth is a beautiful and fascinating world; I feel that there's room for a lot of different genres there to explore it and bring out different aspects of what makes it so incredible.

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Old 03-01-2018, 05:00 PM   #8
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PJ's Shire didn't feel quite right to me. Not quintessentially English. The music was wrong. I found FOTR (film) entertaining, but rarely felt as if I was really visiting Middle-earth.

My main problem, though, is the embarrassingly atrocious portrayal of Frodo. NOT a minor character.
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