Meet the man who remade Middle‑earth

Ethan Gilsdorf interviews John Howe, Tolkien Illustrator and Conceptual Designer of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Movie Trilogies

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The Desolation of Tolkien

Ethan Gilsdorf reviews The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, where we see more clearly Jackson’s vision to give The Hobbit the look, feel and slow majesty of The Lord of the Rings.

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Original Ballantine book cover concept art for J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings on eBay

Tolkien, perhaps rightly in marketing terms, though with the insistent literalism that makes writers writers (which is to say: not artists), demanded, of Barbara Remington's cover art for Lord of the Rings, "What has it got to do with the story? Where is this place? Why a Lion and emus? And what is the thing in the foreground with the pink bulbs?"

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Dune endures, but why isn't it a phenomenon?

At The New Yorker, Jon Michaud looks at why Frank Herbert's space opera, Dune, endures despite failing to ender the public consciousness the way Lord of the Rings and Star Wars have.

There are no “Dune” conventions. Catchphrases from the book have not entered the language. Nevertheless ... With daily reminders of the intensifying effects of global warming, the spectre of a worldwide water shortage, and continued political upheaval in the oil-rich Middle East, it is possible that “Dune” is even more relevant now than when it was first published. If you haven’t read it lately, it’s worth a return visit. If you’ve never read it, you should find time to.

A good article, which points out how the first novel's brilliance has been obscured by a distinctly second-rate franchise. A more salient reason Dune didn't penetrate massivedom, though, is simply that the movie wasn't good enough and it bombed. To seal the pop culture deal—and popular culture isn't quite the same thing as mere success or awareness—the screen is all-important. It's the moment of translation, the emergence of a story from the cocoon of literature to the glare of popular culture in all its splendor and squalor. A brilliantly-imagined but confused movie by David Lynch made Dune too weird, and a SyFy TV series made it too cheap. This puts it where Lord of the Rings was before Peter Jackson: pregnant with cinematic possibility, but misshapen by prior efforts.

But hey, it could be worse! You could be into Earthsea, which has had two movies made of it, each terrible in entirely different ways except one: both replaced the protagonist of color with a white dude.

The social science of Middle Earth

The Lord of the Rings Project collects and analyzes data on all the characters inhabiting Middle Earth, to produce statistical comparisons of life expectancy, age distribution, population, and more.

I, for one, welcome our dork overlords

Somebody named a dinosaur after the Eye of Sauron. Sauroniops pachytholus got its moniker because (so far) only one specimen of this species has been found — the upper part of a skull, eye socket included.

Lord of the Rings: The Orcs' side of the story, told in LEGO

[Video Link] A short LEGO parody telling the Orcs' side of the story from Lord of the Rings, Directed and Animated by Kevin Ulrich.

Attention Tolkien fans: There might be a third Hobbit movie (maybe)

Don't get too excited yet, but Peter Jackson is talking about possibly turning the two Hobbit movies he just completed filming -- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again -- into a trilogy. Why? Because 1. Warner Bros. has the rights to the additional notes from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, which has all this groovy stuff in it that relates to The Hobbit, and 2. Jackson has all this extra footage lying around, just waiting to be seen. He spoke with Collider, warning that all of this is only in the earliest of stages:

Well, it’s very, very premature. We have got incredible source material with the appendices. There’s the novel, but then we also have the rights to use the 125 pages of additional notes where Tolkien expanded the world of The Hobbit. We’ve used some of that so far, and just in the last few weeks, as we’ve been wrapping up the shooting and thinking about the shape of the story, Philippa [Boyens], Fran [Walsh] and I have been talking to the studio about other things that we haven’t been able to shoot and seeing if we could possibly persuade them to do a few more weeks of shooting. We’d probably need more than a few weeks, actually, next year. The discussions are pretty early, so there isn’t anything to report, but there are other parts of the story that we’d like to tell, that we haven’t had the chance to tell yet. We’re just trying to have those conversations with the studio, at the moment.

I have a question: How hard would it be, really, for Peter Jackson -- a person who is Peter Jackson -- to "persuade" Warner Bros. that he can give the studio yet another epic Tolkien trilogy? Because that other one did fairly well, doncha know... (via Geek Tyrant)