Currently Hollywood appears to be in a phase in which it delivers hordes of blockbuster action movies based on non-movie sources, e.g. Marvel’s comic books. So can we expect further attempts to earn money on the Tolkien brand? Well, the five movies so far have been treasure troves for the production company. So the conclusion is obvious: yes, if New Line Cinema is able to.
I am no expert on the legal tangles surrounding the rights and copyrights relating to JRR Tolkien’s works. What little I know (thanks to my freelancing for Iron Crown Enterprises in the 1990s) is that the current Hollywood license limits the movies to only using information found in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and that is probably why Gandalf so oddly “forgets” the names of the Blue Wizards, i.e. Alatar and Pallando, in the first The Hobbit movie. (These two names appear only in the posthumously published Unfinished Tales.)
But speculating about the works of a favorite author is always fun. The Appendices in Return of the King contain a few great story ideas for further movies.
THE LONG WINTER
The first one to cross my mind is the Long Winter and the deeds of king Helm of Rohan. This story takes place about 250 years before the War of the Ring and deals mainly with a civil war in Rohan during the most terrible winter of the Third Age, at the same time as Gondor and southern Eriador are attacked by Corsairs from the south. This is a Norse tale with horses instead of longships, or perhaps a western with swords instead of revolvers (I have seen a good rendition of Shakespeare’s King Lear as a western; it should work the other way around, too).
The basic plot: A rebellion by a discontent noble clan, supported by outsiders, deposes king Helm of Rohan. His men and he take refuge in the Hornburg and endures a savage winter siege. Eventually justice prevails and Rohan liberates itself with Gondor’s help, but Helm and his two sons do not survive to see the usurper deposed. His nephew Fréaláf Hildesson instead becomes the rightful king of Rohan.
If Peter Jackson is able to make three movies out of the fairly thin plot of The Hobbit, he should be capable of turning the two pages about king Helm into one movie. But I would rather see somebody else as its director, somebody with a less acrobatic approach to action. This is after all a noir-ish story.
THE HERO’S JOURNEYS
The next idea is a biopic about Aragorn before the War of the Ring. The story of Arwen and Aragorn in the Appendices provides plenty of background information about the adventures of his youth: scouting the wilds of Eriador, riding with the Rohirrim, sailing with Gondoreans, fighting Umbar and other dark realms in the south and the east. Meanwhile, during his infrequent visits in Rivendell he courts Arwen under the eyes of a not-too-happy Elrond, who also happens to be his guardian after the death of his father Arathorn. Emotional drama mixed with heavy action.