7 Reasons Why a Silmarillion Movie Is a Terrible Idea

Are we in for a return to Middle-earth? The hesitation to leave for good is understandable, but there are a number of reasons why a Silmarillion movie isn’t the answer.
on Sep 26, 2017 · 8 comments

The Silmarillion

Are we in for a return to Middle-earth?

It’s been a few years since the final Hobbit movie, and naturally, attention has turned to the Silmarillion. Will the last of Tolkien’s great trilogy of masterpieces (because trilogies are a thing in Middle-earth?) make its way onto the big screen?

Rumors abound, but…

I’m a passionate Lord of the Rings fan and I understand the hesitation to leave Middle-earth for good after spending so much time immersed in the unique setting Peter Jackson built for the movies. Who wouldn’t want to go back and experience another adventure?

Still, is it really the best decision?

The Silmarillion Movie…Um, Bad Idea

1. Since it’s the history of Middle-earth, it would be hard to make a movie and not a documentary.

I can’t think of any feasible way to depict the epic scope of the Silmarillion in a single movie or even a trilogy of movies. The book covers hundreds of years of Middle-earth history and ranges across continents that don’t even exist in the Middle-earth we’ve become familiar with.

Maybe a trilogy of trilogies?

2. It’s too huge and expansive to turn into a movie.

Even though the book itself is roughly a third of the length of LotR, it has a much wider scope. Covering all that material would be a logistical and financial nightmare.

3. It only appeals to a niche audience.

Among Tolkien’s works, the Silmarillion is the least popular. It’s for the small percentage of rabid fans. I’ve read it, and I honestly found it dry and tedious in places, with only a few interesting sections. There aren’t enough die-hard Tolkien junkies who would watch the movie to justify the production costs.

4. After LOTR and the Hobbit, it would be a letdown.

The Hobbit trilogy had its flaws (too numerous to elaborate on) and it wasn’t nearly as awesome as Lord of the Rings, but I still feel it ended on a satisfying note—thank you Billy Boyd. Anything after that would be a letdown.

We’ve parted from Middle-earth on the right foot. No need to ruin that by bringing out a subpar movie that will leave us with a bitter feel in our loyal geek hearts.

**some may wish to debate whether The Hobbit left said bitterness**

5. There’s not a single storyline to follow.

Going back to my first point, the Silmarillion isn’t an ordinary book with a central plot as much as it is a compilation of individual stories with the goal of chronicling the major events in Middle-earth’s history. It reads more like a textbook than a story.

Lacking that cohesion, it wouldn’t translate well into a movie.

The only way to solve the problem would be to tinker with the narrative, changing it enough to remove the fragmented feel. *cough* Beware angering loyal fans. *cough*

Luthien Tinuviel
Image via lotr.wikia.com

6. Building off the previous point, it would lack a main character to engage with.

In the Silmarillion, the different races are more the emphasis rather than single characters.

Sure the story contains some cool characters. Beren and Luthien top the list, but their story is only a small slice of the timeline. There aren’t any central characters like in the Hobbit and LotR. Without that personal connection, it’s hard to become absorbed in a story.

7. The length of time and the breadth of the setting covered is too large.

It would give us only a passing glimpse, an airplane aerial view rather than down in the environment in real, relatable ways, as was the case in LotR and the Hobbit.

Material for a documentary or TV series or some other side project. Perhaps (though I’d still have my reservations). But as a movie, it’s too big to wrangle.

Do you want to see a Silmarillion movie? Do you think we’ll ever have another movie based in Middle-earth?

*This post appeared in original form in June 2015 on zacharytotah.com

Zachary Totah writes speculative fiction stories. This allows him to roam through his imagination, where he has illegal amounts of fun creating worlds and characters to populate them. When not working on stories or wading through schoolwork, he enjoys playing sports, hanging out with his family and friends, watching movies, and reading. He lives in Colorado and doesn't drink coffee. He loves connecting with other readers and writers. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, Goodreads, and at his website.
  1. What if a movie were made of one of the individual stories that occur within the Silmarillion (Beren and Luthien being a good example)? That would avoid many of the issues you bring up.
    I’ve heard the Silmarillion compared to the Old Testament, and this is how movies about the Old Testament generally do it. You don’t try to make a film of the whole thing; you pick one character or story and expand on it.

  2. Kerry Nietz says:

    In the case of the Silmarillion, I think you take out one of the summarized stories and “show” it, instead of telling it. (Like history books do.) Isn’t that essentially what Chris Tolkien did with the “Children of Hurin” book?

    So yeah, I think it could be done. And the writers/directors would have a fair bit of wiggle room in their depiction too.

  3. julie d says:

    I completely agree, but I’ve also recently started listening to Mythgard Academy’s ‘Silmarillion Film Project’ podcast and been intrigued by the choices they’re making.

    “The Silmarillion Film Project is an exercise in adaptation—a planning exercise only, with no intention of following through to production. The goal, according to Signum University president Corey Olsen, “is to apply the kind of creative analysis and imaginative investment that you have to bring to an adaptation. To enter back into The Silmarillion and live there. And think about how we would make this story work and communicate to people.”

    It’s really quite fascinating.

  4. Autumn Grayson says:

    I don’t know if I would want a movie of this or not, since I haven’t read it. I was sorta disappointed with the Hobbit. With the Silmarillion, though, there’s nothing to say that it has to cover every single part of the book. It could just focus and expand on a few parts of it, at most. I checked online real quick and I guess aspects of The Children Of Hurin are discussed in the Silmarillion, so maybe Childern of Hurin and the parts of it that are elaborated on in the Silmarillion could get turned into a movie. I haven’t real Children of Hurin either, so I am just guessing that it would be better movie material.

    • The Children of Hurin is the darkest, most depressing story in the Middle-earth canon. The entire family is cursed, and everything they do goes wrong, generally having disastrous consequences for everyone they come in contact with. And it has an incredibly bleak ending. I can’t see anyone touching it with a ten-foot pole, movie-wise. Plus the ending has an incredibly squicky plot point involving a relationship between close relatives.
      And I don’t think anyone could get Beren and Luthien right, even though that’s a bit happier–but only a bit.
      Otherwise, as someone who was considerably less than satisfied with the LOTR films, and was scared off of the Hobbit by it being three movies in the first place (when its around a 300 page book), I agree that filming the Silmarillion–or even one of the individual stories within it–would be a bad idea. I don’t trust anyone to actually get it right. There’s too much set up and backstory. You can’t take the Awesome Moments out of the story and set them up in a film, because its the backstory and context that make them awesome to begin with. The whole story deals in superlatives which would be hard to depict in all their true significance.
      (My problems with the movies had to do with what they added and/or changed, not what they left out. Basically, whenever they stuck to the original story, they were good. They were visually gorgeous, but their characterization wasn’t always the best.)
      I can think of any number of my favorite fantasies and science fiction that would make better movies, if they were put on screen. (But then again, not all of them would be made, either.)

      • notleia says:

        Imma just say it:
        Incest. Children of Hurin is about unintentional sibling incest and also suicide.

        Nerd fact of the day: Apparently Tolkien took inspiration from the Finnish Kalevala poem, the effed up parts about Kullervo. I think everyone would’ve preferred it if Tolkien’d picked the part where Aino turns into a fish so she doesn’t have to marry Vainamoinen.

      • Peter Jackson ain’t Sophocles! And post modern audiences prefer mindless escapism to the catharsis of high tragedies.

  5. Maybe turning The Children of Hurin into a movie (singular) might work. That’s found in abbreviated form in The Silmarillion. It’s not a family friendly story–based on a theme of involuntary incest like Oedipus Rex. Sad ending too.

    I enjoyed The Silmarillion but it reads like Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. Try turning that into film and you wind up with Clash of the Titans. Ugh.

    You can enjoy The Divine Comedy without turning Dante’s masterpiece into a film. If P. J. messes with The Silmarillion I’m staying far away when THAT bomb goes off.

What do you think?