Watch the Trailers for Tolkien and Catch-22, Two New Literary Films

For decades, fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings won­dered if the books could ever become a film. The Bea­t­les and John Boor­man both tried to get adap­ta­tions off the ground in the 1960s and 70s, and ani­ma­tor Ralph Bak­shi came up with his own cin­e­mat­ic inter­pre­ta­tion, if only a par­tial one, in 1978. But now we live in a world rich with Lord of the Rings and Lord of the Rings-relat­ed mate­r­i­al on film, thanks to the efforts of direc­tor Peter Jack­son and his col­lab­o­ra­tors on not just the adap­ta­tions of The Fel­low­ship of the RingThe Two Tow­ers, and The Return of the King, but three whole fea­ture films bring­ing the rel­a­tive­ly brief tale The Hob­bit to the screen.

What remains for the Tolkien-inspired film­mak­er today? None, so far, have proven brave enough to take on the likes of The Sil­mar­il­lion, the for­bid­ding­ly mythopoe­ic work pub­lished a few years after the writer’s death. But the Finnish direc­tor Dome Karukos­ki, whose last pic­ture told the sto­ry of male-erot­i­ca illus­tra­tor Tom of Fin­land, has found mate­r­i­al in the writer’s life.

Going by the trail­er above, Tolkien deals not just with the writ­ing of The Lord of the Rings, described by star Nicholas Hoult as “a sto­ry about jour­neys, the jour­neys we take to prove our­selves,” about “adven­tures” and “potent mag­ic, mag­ic beyond any­thing any­one has ever felt before.”

It’s also, says Hoult-as-Tolkien, a sto­ry about “what it means to love, and to be loved.” That fits with anoth­er appar­ent sto­ry­line of Tolkien itself, that of the man who dreamed up Mid­dle-Earth­’s rela­tion­ship with Edith Bratt, the girl he met as a teenag­er who would become his wife — not long after which he received the let­ter sum­mon­ing him to France to fight in the First World War, where he man­aged to sur­vive the Bat­tle of the Somme. An equal­ly skilled writer of anoth­er tem­pera­ment might have pro­duced an endur­ing nov­el of the war, but Tolkien, as his gen­er­a­tions of read­ers know, went in anoth­er direc­tion entire­ly. A gen­er­a­tion lat­er, Joseph Heller proved to be that skilled writer of a dif­fer­ent tem­pera­ment, and six­teen years after com­ing back from the Sec­ond World War, he pro­duced Catch-22.

Heller’s nov­el has also made it to the screen a few times: Mike Nichols direct­ed a fea­ture-film adap­ta­tion in 1970, the pilot for a tele­vi­sion series aired three years lat­er, and now we await a Catch-22 minis­eries that will air on Hulu this May. Christo­pher Abbott stars as Cap­tain John Yos­sar­i­an, the hap­less bom­bardier with no aim in the war but to stay out of har­m’s way, and George Clooney (also one of the series’ direc­tors) as Lieu­tenant Scheis­skopf, one of the book’s cast of high­ly mem­o­rable minor char­ac­ters. The series’ six episodes should accom­mo­date more of that cast — and more of the forms Heller’s elab­o­rate satire takes in the nov­el — than a movie can. If, as a result, you need to con­sult Heller’s large-for­mat hand­writ­ten out­line for the book, by all means do — and have a look at Tolkien’s anno­tat­ed map of Mid­dle-Earth while you’re at it.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

110 Draw­ings and Paint­ings by J.R.R. Tolkien: Of Mid­dle-Earth and Beyond

Dis­cov­er J.R.R. Tolkien’s Per­son­al Book Cov­er Designs for The Lord of the Rings Tril­o­gy

Map of Mid­dle-Earth Anno­tat­ed by Tolkien Found in a Copy of Lord of the Rings

Hear J.R.R. Tolkien Read From The Lord of the Rings and The Hob­bit

J.R.R. Tolkien Expressed a “Heart­felt Loathing” for Walt Dis­ney and Refused to Let Dis­ney Stu­dios Adapt His Work

Joseph Heller’s Hand­writ­ten Out­line for Catch-22, One of the Great Nov­els of the 20th Cen­tu­ry

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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