And, of course, Jackson's versions, which most closely resemble deformed elves (which is, canonically, what they are):
New Line Cinema
But had this cartoon version been made, we would've seen orcs -- and, in fact, all of Tolkien's mythology -- brought to life in a way that he personally oversaw. And we know Tolkien would've taken this movie seriously, because the Middle-earth Legendarium was his entire life. He created entire languages and rich backstories for this world, remember -- part of the reason Jackson's films are able to be so intricately detailed (aside from the criminally insane dedication) is that there is intricate detail in the story already. They didn't have to make any of it up.
And the kicker? Even though Tolkien hated the script, he was confident it could be fixed and promised not to sell the rights to anyone else for six months while they worked on a new draft. The producers wanted a year, but Tolkien wouldn't give them that much time without some money, so the whole thing fell apart.
That would probably have been the best version of any of these -- or at least the most valuable to dedicated Tolkien dorks like myself. But the coolest version? The craziest version? The version that makes my inner 8-year-old spontaneously combust into flames of giddy stupid glee? That'd be ...
The Silmarillion Cinematic Universe
New Line Cinema
OK, so this is apparently nowhere near close to ever happening, and is more realized in my head than anywhere that actually exists. But if you will allow me to stretch my premise here, just a teeny tiny bit, I will describe for you the coolest thing you've ever heard.
See, The Silmarillion as a single story is essentially unfilmable, because it's the Bible of Middle-earth. A lot of it reads like notes Tolkien left to himself, explanations of how the universe was created so Tolkien can keep the little details consistent in The Lord of the Rings -- the real story -- so reading through The Silmarillion is something of a slog. But if you take the time to learn the hundreds of made-up words and keep track of the dozens of intersecting plotlines, you'll find some of the stories way bigger and cooler than the stuff you already know: we get a guy who bites a werewolf to death to protect his friend, an elf who sings her dead boyfriend back to life, a guy who battles dragons with a flying pirate ship, and entire armies of Balrogs.
New Line Cinema
"But how would that impact the smoke detectors?"
Oh, goodness. The smoke detectors would be the least of your problems.
Now, remember when I said that The Hobbit doesn't fit Jackson's style, because it forces him to go smaller-scale when that's clearly not what he wants to do? Silmarillion isn't smaller-scale at all, because Balrog army, you guys. It's the exact same kind of escalation that worked for Alien and Aliens: a mysterious, under-explained monster getting explored in a way that makes it, somehow, even more terrifying. And, best of all, we wouldn't have had to worry about continuity snarls because Tolkien (and his son, Christopher, after J.R.R. died) sorted all that shit out a long-ass time ago (the first draft of The Silmarillion was actually written and submitted to publishers before the first words of The Lord of the Rings book were ever written).
So, what's the hold up? It turns out Christopher Tolkien won't give Jackson the rights, because he doesn't like what's been done with his father's life's work. And that, my friends, is ... shit. It's completely understandable, and even admirable, since he's probably giving up an infinite number of money dollars in the name of protecting his father's legacy. And you know what? If more people behaved like you, Chris Tolkien, the world would be an objectively better place.
You pretentious English butt.
JF Sargent is an editor and columnist for Cracked and a huge Tolkien nerd. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook if none of those things are dealbreakers and you wanna be his buddy/pal.
For more from Sarge, check out 5 Amazing Performances Hiding in Terrible Movies. And then check out 41 Baffling Moments in Otherwise Great Movies.