Will ‘The Hunt for Gollum’ Satisfy True Fans?

The Hunt for Gollum

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.

How precious.

See Also:
Neil Gaiman has Lost his Clothes
When Cory Doctorow Ruled the World
Lost 'Horrors' Ending Found on YouTube
A Selection of Obscure Robert Anton Wilson Essays
Is The Net Good for Writers

4 thoughts to “Will ‘The Hunt for Gollum’ Satisfy True Fans?”

  1. While it’s easy to give the filmmakers grief for blatantly wanting to launch careers out of this project, historically, the odds are against them. While plenty of fan filmmakers have gone on to high-profile careers (Hugh Hefner and Andy Warhol, for instance), the number of working directors is noticeably smaller–Eli Roth (Hostel), Joe Nussbaum (American Pie 5: The Naked Mile), and that’s about it.

    The handful of people who’ve made high-profile fan films comparable to Hunt for Gollum in recent years haven’t helmed a feature for a major studio yet. Sandy Collora, who made Batman: Dead End in 2003, is working on a low-budget, indie sci-fi flick, Hunter Prey. Trey Stokes, who made the Pink Five trilogy, is working on an upcoming web series called Ark. Kevin Rubio, who did Troops, writes cartoons and episodes of The Clone Wars. Shane Felux, who created Star Wars: Revelations, made a web series for Disney called Trenches that’s tied up in the wake of economic downsizing. And so on…

    But that said, it’s not wrong for the Gollum guys to want to launch a career out of it. Why not? As for nerd credentials, um, they made what appears to be a pretty good flick about a property for which virtually no serious fan films exist; what else do they really need to prove? And why should it matter? Did anyone question Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider skillz when she did the Lara Croft movies? Of course not; she probably hasn’t played a video game since the Atari 2600 was the height of home entertainment.

    One point I do agree with, however, is your comment, “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.” Too true. Case in point: In 2007, the company behind Warhammer 40000 forbid a $15,000 German fan film based on the game to be released. A full 15 months later, this past December, the flick, “Damnatus,” appeared on the net as a torrent and has since been downloaded thousands of times. While various rights holders involved with Lord of the Rings have been litigious in the past, their noticeable silence regarding Gollum may signal that they’ve learned their lesson.

    All of these aspects–right holders versus fans, the PR consequences of protecting intellectual property, and yeah, the cool stories behind many of the fan films mentioned above–are covered in my book, Homemade Hollywood, which just came out in the US and Europe. For a less intellectual, more “hey, here’s something cool”-oriented read, you may want to check out my daily fan film blog, fancinematoday.com.

  2. “I don’t think we’re exploiting anything,” said Webster. “I’m actually Viggo Mortenson’s evil twin.”

    No, dude, you’re more, like, a cheap and boring impostor. Sorry. This film is crap. They’d better had spent the money on something original.

  3. What is wrong with exploiting popular movies for personal gain? I still prefer Jacksons Bad Taste & Brain Dead (Frighteners).

    Don’t forget who wrote the stuff in the first place? Some of it read it before seeing the movie you know..

    Please go act nice in a forest with long wavy hair all you want. I won’t tell.

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