May 1st, 2009
Hardcore Lord of the Rings nerds will get a little somethin'-somethin' on Sunday to help them through the Middle Earth drought until Jackson's production of The Hobbit is released.
But let's be real. This internet-only production isn't a "fan film." Rather, it's a vehicle for a crew of young, talented Hollywood wannabes to break into the industry by showing their chops.
It's true, the flick could end up being as badly-written and poorly-acted as your average fan film, but it's not likely. And in any case, the production values completely deprive the audience the pleasure of audio-visual comic fail should it turn out to be otherwise unwatchable. The trailer proves that.
There is further evidence that this is a professional endeavor, not an amateur one.
The lead actor who plays Aragorn, Adrien Webster (who claims to be a devout "fan," as do all of the 150 volunteer crew-members) was pressed to provide some nerd credentials so that the audience didn't feel it was being exploited.
"I don’t think we’re exploiting anything," said Webster. "I'm actually Viggo Mortenson's evil twin."
But, while we have no doubt that the guy makes a convincing Ranger, what could he offer in the way of story details from the LOTR appendices that the plot's allegedly drawn from — something to indicate a real depth of love for the mythology that would show he's anything more than a casual cinema-goer like so many "fans"? Not much. (He couldn't even give us a good nerd joke from on-set.)
"I think it does follow more closely to the books in terms of timeline," Webster said. "The movie deals with Aragorn’s search for Gollum after Gandalf has charged him with this task. It allows us to show more of Aragorn the Ranger."
Well, yeah, but we read that on the movie's website, dude.
From an interview with the film's writer-director, Chris Bouchard:
It's all written in the appendices of the books, where he tells of what Aragorn and Gollum got up to before the trilogy began. Last May I took elements from that story and didn't even have to fill in many gaps before I had a 25-page script. It worked like a short episode — an additional chapter of the Peter Jackson trilogy... Above all I was so inspired by Peter Jackson's trilogy. And jealous that he got to make it first! I loved the scale, the quality, the epic scope of it all and figured, hey, maybe we can do that too.
The filmmakers do seem unaware that the chapter in Fellowship of the Ring titled, "The Council of Elrond," includes Gandalf's report to the Council regarding Gollum — his capture, imprisonment, and escape from the elves of Mirkwood.
"Hunt" film editor Lewis Albrow claims in his bio on the crew page that he read The Hobbit when he was seven and LOTR when he was 11, but then — what's this? — "he skipped past much of The Council of Elrond"!
Gandalf's report on Gollum is omitted from Jackson's film adaptation.
It's pretty clear that crafting a traditional, if low-budget, piece of cinema was the driving factor in making this film. This is supported by the fact that Bouchard's been occupying his time in recent years making independent, low-budget zombie movies, not learning Elvish or arguing online about whether Tolkien was a racist.
As for the legal status of the project, Bouchard has said that he's been in contact with the Tolkien estate and that they were OK with it, though his movie's disclaimer says otherwise. (It warns that The Hunt for Gollum "is in no way affiliated with, or sponsored or approved, by Tolkien Enterprises, the heirs or estate of J.R.R. Tolkien, Peter Jackson, New Line Cinema, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. or any of their respective affiliates or licensees…")
And while the overt visual mimicry of Jackson's films raises obvious questions about dilution of trademark and other legal vagueness surrounding fan fiction, it's also clear that, with such a non-profit, online-only film, the rights-holders have very few options. The film is finished and loaded into the chamber. Regardless of any legal victories by those who might want to stop the release of this thing, it only takes one anonymous finger to pull the trigger and fire it around the world in an instant.
"I'm just saying my prayers and eating my vitamins brother," actor Webster told us. "I haven’t been involved too much with the legal side of things."
Any publicity would only guarantee a larger audience. And a more general audience would likely be made up of folks who are even less able to distinguish between a New Line Cinema release and an "amateur" fansploitation effort.
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