One of the joys of writing Fan Film Friday is discovering independent productions that reach as high a level of quality as professional projects. One film that attains this standard is Lord of the Rings: “Born of Hope.”
Set before The Hobbit (coming soon to a theater near you) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which has already been in a theater near you), this 71-minute project was directed by Kate Madison and written by Paula DiSante.
The story begins with the Orcs (goblin-like creatures under the command of the evil wizard Sauron) killing humans apparently at random, but they have a goal that’s a mystery to everyone else on Middle Earth.
One group fleeing the destruction the creatures are causing is a family consisting of father Dirhael (Andrew McDonald), his wife Ivorwen (Philippa Hammond) and their daughter Gilraen (Beth Aynsley) carting the body of their dead son away from the Orcs who are gaining on them with every step.
Dirhael tells his wife and daughter to take the cart while he remains behind to delay the goblins’ attack. However, both Ivorwen and Gilraen arm themselves and choose to face the onslaught together.
But just as the family is on the verge of being overwhelmed, the Orcs are struck by arrows and swords wielded by a group of humans who call themselves Rangers under their leader, Arathorn (Christopher Dane).
During the battle, an Orc wielding an ax tries to sneak up behind the swordsman until he receives a warning from Elgarain (Kate Madison), a fellow Ranger who is secretly in love with Arathorn.
But before he can move to fend off the attack, the creature stops in his tracks and falls to the ground after being stabbed by Gilrean. At that moment, the humans’ eyes meet, and the seed of love is planted.
After the humans win the battle, Dirhael tells Arathorn that “we owe you our lives.” The swordsman responds by looking at Gilrean and stating: “As I owe you mine. I thank you, Lady.”
Elgarain calls for Arathorn to look at what she found. It appears that the creatures are taking rings and other jewelry from their victims for no apparent reason.
Not having anywhere safe to go, the family follows the Rangers to Taurdal, the village led by Arathorn’s father, Arador, who also serves as the chieftain of the tribe.
It isn’t long after her brother’s funeral that Gilraen and Arathorn fall in love, despite the ever-present danger posed by the Orcs. In response to the attacks, Arador leads his forces on a campaign against the monsters in an attempt to restore peace in the area.
Also, Arathorn is sent out in secret to learn why the Orcs continue their assault, and he discovers that their killing is part of a plot by Sauron to capture the Ring of Barahir—a symbol of friendship between the people of Middle Earth—which Arador wears.
When Arathorn asks his father to take off the ring and hide it somewhere safe, Arador replies angrily: “I will not hide from who I am while I have a breath in my body and a sword in my hand.”
Sometime later, Arathorn and Gilraen tell Arador that they plan to be married, and the chieftain gives the union his blessing.
However, Dirhael isn’t happy to learn about his daughter’s wedding plans, demanding that Arathorn protect her at all costs.
A year later, Arador is killed by a hill troll in the forest, making Arathorn the new chieftain of the group. Before long, Gilraen becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son named Aragorn after his grandfather, and everyone in the village celebrates the good fortune and peace they’ve enjoyed.
Everything continues to go well until twin elves Elladan (Matt Kennard) and Elrohir (Sam Kennard) arrive with terrible news: The Orcs are on the move again and are headed toward the encampment.
At the same time, Elgarain has given up on her dream of marrying Arathorn and attempts to leave the village. She’s stopped by Dirhaborn (Howard Corlett), who reveals that he has been in love with her and looking forward to the day when she’d move on and come to love him.
Suddenly, a horde of Orcs attacks the couple, and Halbaron sends Elgarain to warn the other villagers while he holds them off as long as he can.
Spoiler Alert: If you’d rather watch the fan film’s ending yourself, skip down to the link at the end of this article. If not, just continue reading.
Before Arathorn and his family can move to a safer location, the creatures attack the village, and though the monsters are beaten back, both Elgarain and Halbaron pay the ultimate price for securing the encampment’s freedom.
Enraged at the loss of several friends and family members, Arathorn gathers the remaining Rangers and pursues the stragglers into the forest.
While this effort is successful, Arathorn is mortally wounded and is carried back to the encampment, where his death breaks Gilraen’s heart and leaves the Rangers without a chieftain capable of leading the group.
Since the Rangers are now vulnerable to extermination, the villagers go into hiding in small secret settlements in the forest. However, the greatest tragedy is the fact that no one can call her son by his rightful name for fear of losing a future leader.
So where did I leave my Clint Eastwood hat? Ah, there it is! Time to get reviewing.
The Good: Not all fan films have happy endings, and “Born to Hope” is one of those (which I consider a good thing; the heroes shouldn’t always win, and the bad guys shouldn’t always lose.). In addition, the quality of the production is excellent in writing, acting, directing, costumes and props that this film leaves little to quibble about.
The Bad: I do have one quibble, but that’s easily explained. When the humans skewer the Orcs with their swords, no blood is left on their weapons. Still, Orcs could simply have transparent blood, so that’s a very minor thing
The Ugly: I’ve been reviewing independent productions for more than two years now, and I hadn’t heard of “Born of Hope” until I saw it in the Fan Film Follies Links page.
Many people ask me how I come up with more than 50 columns a year, and I reply that I scan the Internet regularly and can find not only Star Trek productions, but also films made in the Star Wars, Quantum Leap and other universes.
It also helps that I enjoy watching fan films. It’s as simple as that.