May 27, 11:09pm
But I was surprised he didn't address the question of whether the LotR films' reception drove the cultural phenomenon of fantasy films in the 2000s, or was simply a product of that phenomenon. Obviously, it's not either/or, but also obviously it's hard to discuss how a studio would approach making Lord of the Rings into a film series in 2020, when 2020 in this sense just cannot be imagined as an alternate world in which a LotR film trilogy has not already been made by Peter Jackson.
It's a good question, and Vorel handles it pretty well.
It reminds me of the occasional joking question of how Tolkien's book The Lord of the Rings would be received in today's world of fantasy literature. It's impossible to imagine what today's fantasy literature genre would read like without the Tolkien influence from back in the 1950s, but the LotR is also unmistakably dated in many ways that might less acceptable, or marketable, today.
Vorel also conjoins, in the interests of a big-picture view, the related film genres of high fantasy (LotR, etc.), science fiction (Star Wars, etc.), and comic book superheroes (Marvel, etc.) as they've dominated the popular film box offices for the two decades that he's writing about. He assumes that a proposed LotR project today would be unacceptable without the studio being assured that an endless series of spin-offs and sequels were included in the rights (Eowynning, right, ha, ha..), but in this assumption he omits the existence of an actual individual author (which the other genres do not have), the role of the Tolkien Estate in representing that author's wishes and vision, and the legally limited rights included in the original sale of the books for filming back in the 1960s. Would the lack of spin-off possibilities really doom a proposed fantasy trilogy by a well-known and prestigious author (whose audience was not just nerds before Jackson's films, no matter what he says)?
I tend to doubt it. It's the Amazon series that's the anomaly here. That 'spin-off' is really only happening because Christopher Tolkien finally retired from his guardianship, not because the industry today demands that all blockbusters must become franchises and 'universes'.
Finally, one can respectfully disagree with Vorel's analysis that Jackson's adaptation was, basically, perfect. Voltaire was neither the first nor the last to mock those who believe that all's for the best in this best of all possible worlds - that is, that no early 2000s adaptation could have been better written or filmed than Jackson's adaptation.
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