The Latest War of the Rohirrim Details From The Annecy International Animation Film Festival
Two years ago, Warner Bros. announced a new animated feature film set in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, to be titled The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim. Now, with the release of the film ten months away, we (or at least a select few members of the press and general public) are set to get our first glimpse of it, apart from the concept art that has already been released, and may be seen in this article. The War of the Rohirrim is on the program for the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, on Tuesday, June 13, at 10:00 AM CEST (European time). The program is an hour and fifteen minutes long, during which a sneak preview of the film will be shown to those in attendance. Whether anything will be released publicly, such as a teaser trailer, is not yet known. The Annecy International Animation Film Festival is an annual festival for animated films, held in the town of Annecy, in southeastern France near the Swiss border.
The War of the Rohirrim is produced by Warner Bros. Animation and directed by Kenji Kamiyama. Kamiyama has recently directed Ultraman, Blade Runner: Black Lotus, and an episode of Star Wars: Visions, among other animation projects. The film will use 2D animation, 3D computer animation, and rotoscoping. Its projected runtime is two hours, ten minutes, and it is targeted at an adult audience. It is expected to be released on April 12, 2024.
The film will expand on the story of Helm Hammerhand from Appendix A: “Annals of the Kings and Rulers (II) – The House of Eorl” in The Lord of the Rings. Helm Hammerhand was a King of Rohan from whom were named Helm’s Deep (a narrow gorge in the White Mountains), Helm’s Gate (the mouth of that gorge), and Helm’s Dike (an outer defense around the principal fortification at Helm’s Gate: the Hornburg). The Hornburg itself was a fortress built by the Gondorians before the ancestors of the Rohirrim were granted the land that came to be called Rohan.
Helm ruled Rohan 260 years before the events of Frodo’s quest in The Lord of the Rings. At this time he was involved in a power struggle with one of his lords, Freca, and Freca’s son Wulf, a power struggle which led to an invasion of Rohan by its enemies. As with Théoden in the Battle of the Hornburg (in The Two Towers), the events of this war led Helm and his supporters to seek refuge in the Hornburg and Helm’s Deep. Along with Helm’s life-or-death struggle against the usurpers, the film will apparently also focus on Helm’s daughter, Hera (unnamed by Tolkien), who will help “lead the resistance against a deadly enemy intent on their total destruction” (via Deadline). The tale is only lightly sketched in Appendix A, with minimal dialogue, so the writers will need to invent quite a bit to fill in the story.
- Miranda Otto reprises her role as Éowyn from The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. She will be the narrator of the events of the film.
- Brian Cox voices Helm Hammerhand, the King of Rohan, and the central figure in the film’s events.
- Gaia Wise voices Hera, the daughter of Helm, who will help him defend their people.
- Shaun Dooley voices Freca, the ambitious lord who seeks to increase his power and influence in Rohan.
- Luke Pasqualino voices Wulf, the son of Freca who plots to overthrow Helm.
- Laurence Ubong Williams voices Fréaláf Hildeson, Helm’s sister-son.
Other cast members include Jude Akuwudike, Lorraine Ashbourne, Janine Duvitski, Bilal Hasna, Yazdan Qafouri, Benjamin Wainwright, and Michael Wildman. From the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings, other potential characters in the film could include Haleth and Háma (Helm’s sons), Hild (Helm’s sister and Fréaláf’s mother), Beren, Steward of Gondor, and his son Beregond, and the Wizard Saruman, who took up residence in the tower of Orthanc at around this time.
There will likely also be some original characters. On June 15, 2022, Alex Jordan announced that he would be voicing a character named Lord Frygt, presumably an original character. Warner Bros. has not confirmed this character so far. The name seems to be related to the Old English word fryhtu (“fright”, also spelled fyrhtu or fyrhto), or one of its various Germanic cognates. It is, nevertheless, a feminine noun.
The War of the Rohirrim will be the first officially-licensed feature film adaptation of Tolkien’s works in over nine years, since the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in December of 2014. (I do not count the 2019 Tolkien biographical film as an adaptation of Tolkien’s works, and it was not officially licensed anyway.) It will also be the first officially-licensed animated feature film adaptation of Tolkien’s works in over 45 years, since the release of Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings in November of 1978, and the first animated adaptation of Tolkien’s works in nearly 44 years, since the release of the Rankin-Bass television special The Return of the King, in May of 1980.
The production of the film seems to have been started in part due to Warner Bros.’ realization that their lease on the film rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (held from Middle-earth Enterprises) was about to run out. This year Embracer (the current owner of Middle-earth Enterprises) and Warner Bros. negotiated a new lease, apparently on the understanding that the old lease had run out after all. Nevertheless, Embracer has seen fit to work out a new deal with Warner Bros., and has not prevented The War of the Rohirrim from going forward. Warner Bros. will produce further films using these rights, without re-adapting the main stories of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings at this time. What these stories are remains to be seen, as also is the extent to which these films will be live action or animated. The War of the Rohirrim will be the first test of Warner Bros.’ post-Peter Jackson strategy for producing adaptations of Tolkien’s works.