Decades before Peter Jackson’s live-action The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Ralph Bakshi rendered the epic in striking animation. (Rotoscope is cool, eh?) Now, a new project from New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. returns J.R.R. Tolkien’s sprawling story to animated form. And this time, they’re going the way of anime. This trip into Middle-earth will be The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim, fostered by filmmaker Kenji Kamiyama. And now, the first voice cast for The Lord of the Rings anime has been revealed, alongside more story details and another look at the concept art for the film. It has even been announced that the story will be narrated by Éowyn, Shieldmaiden of Rohan.
Miranda Otto reprises her role as Éowyn in The War of the Rohirrim. She serves as the movie’s narrator as she tells the tale of Rohan’s history. Alongside Otto, Brian Cox, Gaia Wise, and Luke Pasqualino have been cast as the leads in the Lord of the Rings anime. Cox will voice the protagonist Helm Hammerhand. Wise will voice his daughter Hera. And Pasqualino will voice Wulf, the presumed antagonist.
A press release describes the new film as an exploration of “the untold story behind the fortress of Helm’s Deep.” The material adds that this feature will “delv[e] into the life and bloodsoaked times of one of Middle-earth’s most legendary figures; the mighty King of Rohan – Helm Hammerhand.” And Deadline further shares that this Lord of the Rings anime will take place 183 before the events revealed in The Lord of the Rings movies.
Deadline‘s article also reveals more of The War of the Rohirrim‘s plot. It notes that “A sudden attack by Wulf, a clever and ruthless Dunlending lord seeking vengeance for the death of his father, forces Helm and his people to make a daring last stand in the ancient stronghold of the Hornburg – a mighty fortress that will later come to be known as Helm’s Deep. Finding herself in an increasingly desperate situation, Hera, the daughter of Helm, must summon the will to lead the resistance against a deadly enemy intent on their total destruction.”
The below concept art by Weta Workshop certainly hints at those bloodsoaked times. That Oliphaunt doesn’t look like it’s there for a good cuddle.
Helm, the ninth king of Rohan, was famously defeated—but not killed—at the Crossings of Isen. However, he would survive for just another year, following a lengthy siege alongside his brother. Despite his defeat, Helm maintained a ferocious reputation; he was even thought to live on in some form following official decree of his death.
Kamiyama has been imbuing the anime world with color and story since the 1980s. Among his most noteworthy credits, we find several Ghost in the Shell series, as well as the 2019 Ultraman show.
Additional cast for the movie include Lorraine Ashbourne, Yazdan Qafouri, Benjamin Wainwright, Laurence Ubong Williams, Shaun Dooley, Michael Wildman, Jude Akuwudike, Bilal Hasna, and Janine Duvitski.
The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim will debut in theaters on April 12, 2024. At present, Warner Bros. touts Rohirrim as a stand-alone story; as such, we shouldn’t necessarily expect a trilogy born of this project. But given that The Hobbit was originally only supposed to be one film, we might not wish to count anything out, either.
Originally published June 10, 2021 with reporting from M. Arbeiter.