June 2021 Update: On June 10, 2021, Warner Brothers confirmed a new Lord of the Rings movie in conjunction with New Line Cinema. The movie will be titled The Lord of the Rings: The War of Rohirrim and takes place in the same timeline as the original films directed by Peter Jackson. The War of Rohirrim will be an animated feature film.
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy is one of the most successful, well-loved and quoted franchises for fans of epic fantasy and not only. The Hobbit was more of a matter of personal taste, but you can’t deny that this film trilogy too made a sensation. Naturally, many fans have wondered if other Tolkien books, especially The Silmarillion, could ever make it to our screens. As it turns out, the case with it isn’t as straightforward as it was with The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit. So, are we ever going to see a Silmarillion film?
Adapting a work of literature that is not yet public domain is always complicated, all the more so if the author is not alive. Due to a deal made in J. R. R. Tolkien lifetime, the Tolkien Estate allows films and other media to adapt material from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but this is not the case with The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and other works.
Tolkien might have started working on the stories we read in The Silmarillion early on in his writing career, but unlike his works that have been adapted, it was not published during the author’s lifetime. After his father’s death, Cristopher Tolkien took it upon himself to collate, edit, and publish a wealth of material, with assistance by author Guy Gavriel Kay.
Tolkien scholarship would not have been the same without Christopher Tolkien’s incredible contribution. Having devoted his life to this task, Christopher Tolkien, who passed away in early 2020, had expressed dissatisfaction with the commercialization of his father’s work through Peter Jackson’s films, among other things, so naturally, he did not yield movie rights for the books while alive.
The rights to J. R. R. Tolkiens works have been a matter of much discussion, but, to put it simply, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings can be adapted because the rights were sold by J. R. R. Tolkien himself, while the Tolkien Estate hasn’t granted similar rights for any of the author’s works that were published posthumously.
Of course, there’s the Amazon Lord of the Rings franchise to consider. Since it is not going to be a simple remake of the beloved trilogy, it has to be about other stories that take place in Middle Earth, likely from the Second Age. This, however, doesn’t mean that the tv series will adapt The Silmarillion, but rather that it’s likely going to use material from earlier Middle Earth stories, which, however, are referenced in either The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, and fill in the blanks from there.
While some fans might be disappointed that a Silmarillion movie isn’t happening any time soon, we wonder whether such an adaptation would be a good idea. The Lord of the Rings is one of the richest fantasy works, but largely utilises conventional narrative structures, following the same group of characters and focusing on one, central goal. The Silmarillion, on the other hand, is far more complex, spanning across different eras, and it doesn’t have an overreaching plot throughout, meaning it works much better as a book than as a film.
After a large amount of bad or mediocre adaptations throughout the 2010s, it seems that much care is taken with newer adaptations, and more people understand that the latter don’t have to be identical in order to be good. Even so, not every great book has to be adapted. There are some works whose magic will never be perfectly captured on a screen, and, ultimately, the wishes of those who dedicated their lives to make such works possible have to be respected.