Sunday, April 16, 2023

Middle-earth and Hogwarts return to the big screen.

As I noted in my The History (& Golden Age) of Fantasy page, and as all basically already know, J.R.R. Tolkien is the Father of Modern Fantasy per his The Lord of the Rings while J.K. Rowling began the current Golden Age of Fantasy by producing Harry Potter, a classic that also transcended the term and became a cultural phenomenon so as to inspire another whole generation of readers. Alongside a generation of film-makers, for twenty years ago the iconic The Lord of the Rings movies were released and soon nominated for a total of 30 Academy Awards, of which they won 17, both records for any movie trilogy. Then, over the course of a generation, the much beloved Harry Potter movies came out, described as one of the major Hollywood "tent-poles" akin to James Bond, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Then came the success of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire which broke into the world of TV series in the form of HBO's phenomenally successful The Game of Thrones, followed by the The Shannara Chronicles as an adaptation of Terry Brooks' Original Shannara Trilogy, tailed by BBC's TV adaption of Sir Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, then by Amazon's The Rings of Power and adaption of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. Oh yes, and apparently Radar Pictures is bringing Mercedes Lackey's The Last Herald-Mage trilogy to the TV screen. To say nothing of that an Eragon live-action TV series is in early development at Disney+, something I have high hopes for seeing as Christopher Paolini will serve as co-writer and executive producer; to say nothing of the fact that 2006 Eragon film is justly condemned as a cinematic mockery due to the makers utter unfaithfulness to the source material, hence hopefully the new TV series will learn from that.

Anyway, given all this, and that thus far no show has managed to match the success of The Game of Thrones, it should perhaps not come as too great shock that Warner Brothers has ordered a Harry Potter TV series. I will skip the dramatics and lay the facts as I obtained them from The New York Times:

“We are delighted to give audiences the opportunity to discover Hogwarts in a whole new way,” Casey Bloys, the chairman and chief executive of HBO and Max content, said in a statement. “Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon, and it is clear there is such an enduring love and thirst for the Wizarding World,” he said. A news release announcing the series said it would be a “faithful adaptation” of the best-selling book series, which spans seven books published between 1997 and 2007. Eight hit films based on the books were released between 2001 and 2011. The upcoming show, which is described as a decade-long series, “will feature a new cast to lead a new generation of fandom, full of the fantastic detail, much-loved characters and dramatic locations that Harry Potter fans have loved for over 25 years,” according to the release. It will be available on Max in the United States and around the world. No time frame for the show’s release was given. Ms. Rowling, who has drawn waves of criticism in recent years over her remarks on gender identity issues, will be an executive producer for the series.

That's all she wrote, as is said, but apparently not all she filmed. However, seeing as I never watched the Harry Potter movies, this news carries little emotion resonance with me.

What does carry resonance with me is that Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema have declared that multiple new Lord of the Rings movies are in the works. However, unlike with the new Harry Potter show, we are uncertain what these new movies will entail exactly. Will they be another retelling of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, or like Amazon's The Ring of Power, an exploration into the history of Arda? Or both? Recent tidings seem to suggest the latter:

“The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim,” an anime film, is due in theaters April 12, 2024. It is set 183 years before the events in Tolkien's “The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and tells the story of the Helm Hammerhand, the king of Rohan. Beyond that, there are no more films or dates announced. But the multi-year agreement involves films based on "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings," De Luca and Abdy said in a statement. "But for all the scope and detail lovingly packed into the two trilogies, the vast, complex and dazzling universe dreamed up by J.R.R. Tolkien remains largely unexplored on film," they said. Warner Bros. and Freemode will produce the movies with New Line Cinema, the Warner Bros.-owned production company behind the original "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Elijah Wood, the actor of Frodo, has voiced cautious optimism regarding these new adaptions, saying:

"Obviously, at the core of that, is a desire to make a lot of money. It's not that a bunch of executives are like, 'Let's make really awesome art,'" he continued. "And, again, not begrudging anybody because, of course, it is commerce. But great art can come from commerce. So those two things are not mutually exclusive. But Lord of the Rings didn't come out of that place," Wood noted. "It came out of a passion for these books and wanting to see them realized. And I hope that that is ultimately what will drive everything forward with whatever these subsequent movies are."

A hope I share with him. Frankly, I do not see how we can lose this one. If they flop then we still have the original classics, but if successful...

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