One does not simply adapt a book...
With all these rumors flying around about Peter Jackson wanting to adapt The Silmarillion onto the big screen, it's time we take a look at the book and see if that's actually possible.
So what is 'The Silmarillion'?
The Silmarillion is basically like the Bible, it tells the story of how the world was made, how Elves and Dwarves and Humans came to be and it's a very long and complicated piece of information. It's also not just one story, like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, it's several stories published in one book. It's also worth noting that J.R.R Tolkien died before he could complete his epic mythopoeia, so his son, Christopher Tolkien took over, edited and published his work posthumously, and had to devise new material to resolve any inconsistency in the narrative.
In order to make it into a movie (or three) you really would need to pick one of these stories.
The un-filmable book
The project would be quite complex and mostly enjoyable for hardcore Tolkien fans, but the book simply doesn't lend itself to the screen as well as the others. But that doesn't mean it's completely impossible! After all, they did say The Lord of the Rings was un-filmable, but 17 Oscars later we all know that wasn't true.
Still, things are different with The Silmarillion. For instance, there is no one main character, the stories span for centuries and centuries, people die and other people take over. It's not just a story about a Hobbit going on an adventure. The best way to adapt it might actually be to turn it into a TV-show, rather than a movie franchise.
Fëanor and the Silmarils
So let's take a look at the one main story I believe would be the most suitable on screen. It's the story of the Silmarils, three mighty jewels that caused a great deal of trouble for many people. Kind of like the Arkenstone in The Hobbit.
So this guy named Fëanor created three mighty and beautiful jewels called the Silmarils, and they were basically the coolest things ever. A spell was cast upon them to ensure that any evil being that touched them would be burned.
This one evil dude named Melkor really wanted the Silmarils, so he killed Fëanor's father and stole the gems. He wore them in a crown to avoid touching them. Fëanor and his seven sons took a sacred oath that they will stop at nothing to get them back.
A lot of things happen after this, a war breaks out, there are epic battle scenes, people kill and betray each other and brothers are fighting on opposite sides. Balrogs are fighting, as well as a giant spider-like spirit named Ungoliant and there's also a dragon and other foul beasts. Two lovers go on a quest to steal a Silmaril for themselves, as it's the only thing that would allow them to get married. These two lovers are named Beren and Luthien, and they are pretty much the original Arwen and Aragorn; Beren is mortal and Luthien is an Elf maid. Fëanor's sons eventually manage to get the Silmarils back, but they have committed so many atrocities in order to get them that they can no longer touch them without burning as they are now considered evil.
Several characters that we know already are in The Silmarillion, such as Galadriel, Sauron, Saruman, Gandalf and the other wizards, so it would be a good opportunity to bring them back to the screen. We all know how badass Gandalf was, just check out this clip where he's single-handedly taking down a Balrog.
The tale is quite epic, and I believe it is the one that is most suited for a screen adaption. It spans across generations, and I think the best way to make it movie-friendly is to ignore that, and just keep the same characters from the start. Otherwise it would be too confusing to watch and way too long. You would probably lose interest in the story very quickly.
I think it's safe to say they would have to change several more things from the source material, and the finished piece might end up being just loosely based on The Silmarillion, but I think that's completely fine and to be expected with such a complex book.
Now it just remains to be seen if someone wants to embark on this ambitious project. Peter Jackson, if you do decide to do it please give me a call because I would love to play Yavanna. (Google her, you Muggle!)
If you want to know more details about the story you should definitely read the book, but if you feel it's a bit too dry you can always rely on the Tolkien Gateway to provide the necessary information.