I first encountered ‘fan fiction’ in the wake of the release of Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie trilogy. The Princess had her epiphany with Tolkien whilst we were on holiday in Crete shortly before the movies started to emerge; it must have seemed like the standard ‘Harry Potter’ book to movie progression for her. How could I tell her that I had been waiting all my life – and especially after Ralph Bakshi’s catastrophic farrago of a movie in the ’70’s – for someone to turn in a decent version of Tolkien’s masterpiece?
Anyway, the Princess dutifully consumed the movies as they appeared and combed the net for other stuff. It was through her that I began to hear about ‘fan fiction’; essentially fiction written by fans (no kidding!) that enhances or develops a particular plot or subplot whilst operating within the ‘universe’ created by the original author. Of course, the internet offers the perfect noticeboard for anything of this nature and there were/are whole websites devoted to it. I read some of this stuff and – to be candid – 90% of it was poorly written and the other 10% was what I can only describe as Fantasy Porn….”In the dappled forest sunlight, Legolas looked like a young faun as he wiped the beads of perspiration from his tautly-muscled midriff…..” Frankly, Orlando Bloom has got a lot to answer for….
Whilst I am sure that someone somewhere is producing good quality fan fiction (Do tell, if you know), I’m afraid that I absolutely failed to encounter any on my travels through various Lord of the Rings sites. It was with some surprise, therefore that I found that fan fiction had gone beyond the written word to video and film – particularly with the Star Wars franchise, but now also with ‘Lord of the Rings’.
Getting on for a year ago, a friend gave me a DVD simply labelled ‘The Hunt for Gollum’ which turned out to be a lovingly-made 40-minute long ‘fan film’ that develops a subplot within the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie trilogy in which Gandalf the Wizard sends Aragorn off in search of Gollum. What is notable about the film are its high production values; this is not some piece of am-dram nonsense knocked out by GCSE Media students on a dull afternoon. The principal actors (Patrick O’Connor and Adrian Webster) are selected for their resemblance to Ian McKellen and Viggo Mortensen repectively and the music and font for the title sequences are all slavishly in the style of Peter Jackson’s trilogy. Gollum hardly appears in the film really – most of the time Aragorn has him captive, he is trapped in a sack and for the rest, he appears only in long -shot or silhouette. It’s an impressively realised project and has been a huge success, thanks to free distribution via the internet.
Poster for ‘The Hunt for Gollum’ – very much in the ‘house’ style
Now, a quite distinct group of fans have produced an even more ambitious addition to the LOTR canon; ‘Born of Hope’, which is the work of writer/actor/director Kate Madison and a large ensemble cast -as in ‘The Hunt for Gollum’, the film is the work of volunteers and funded by donations from other fans. ‘Born of Hope’? – not sure of the grammar there; shouldn’t it be ‘Born in Hope’ ? Anyway, the film tops an hour in length and tells the story of the birth and early life of Aragorn among the Rangers of the North. Again, production values are high and the film has the look of Jackson’s trilogy about it. Both ‘Gollum‘ and ‘Born of Hope’ were shot in the UK and both feature a good deal of footage of cast members skulking through woodland. Both films feature extensive battles with ‘marauding’ orcs (Orcs never go out for a stroll; they always ‘maraud’) . ‘Born of Hope’ even features a short CGI sequence (think it’s CGI anyway) where Aragorn’s grandfather is attacked and killed by a huge troll that looks like first cousin to the one encountered in Moria by the Fellowship of the Ring.
Aragorn’s Mum & Dad get set for another battle with those pesky orcs in ‘Born of Hope’
Both movies are very faithful to the spirit of Tolkien’s books and Jackson’s movies and both add something to the ongoing narrative being created by the faithful fan base but neither need really be patronised as ‘worthy but amateurish’. Clearly neither directors Chris Bouchard (THFG) or Kate Madison (BoH) have Peter Jackson’s budget to play with, something that makes these short companion pieces to the main narrative all the more creditable.
Both directors will no doubt have mixed feelings about Uruguayan novice director Fede Alvarez who posted a $500 home movie called ‘Ataque de Panico’ (Panic Attack) about giant robots trashing Montevideo on YouTube and within days had allegedly secured a Hollywood contract to turn ‘Panic Attack’ into a full-scale movie. Not sure that things are moving that fast for Bouchard or Madison, but their day may come….
You can watch ‘Ataque de Panico’ here: http://www.wikio.co.uk/video/1928653