The pros and cons of a Lord of the Rings Amazon series undertaking
Last month, it was officially announced that Amazon is setting the stage to expand The Lord of the Rings universe after they confirmed a multiple-season commitment to a series adaptation.
Amazon, is no doubt, competing with HBO’s hugely-successful adaptation of another beloved book series, Game of Thrones, which also fits the studio’s desire to begin focusing on large-scale genre programs. Tolkien’s work is rich with plot and character, allowing for vast storytelling that creators can play with. The head of scripted series for Amazon Studios, Sharon Tal Yguado, gave a statement after the announcement saying:
“The Lord of the Rings is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of generations of fans through literature and the big screen. We are honored to be working with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line on this exciting collaboration for television and are thrilled to be taking The Lord of the Rings fans on a new epic journey in Middle Earth.”
With the Lord of the Rings Amazon series taking another step towards becoming a reality, it’s time to address some of the biggest pros and cons of a potential televised Tolkien-inspired project.
Pros of The Lord of the Rings TV series
The biggest pro is arguably that the Tolkien Estate is involved with the project, as well as New Line Cinema. The latter successfully produced the cinematic trilogies of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, and having the actual estate involved reassures some fans of the quality of the content that we will see in the television series.
Matt Galser, a representative for the Tolkien Estate and Trust and HarperCollins, released a statement expressing the excitement the group has to be in cooperation with Amazon Studios for this adaptation:
“We are delighted that Amazon, with its longstanding commitment to literature, is the home of the first-ever multi-season television series for The Lord of the Rings. Sharon and the team at Amazon Studios have exceptional ideas to bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings.”
CNN reports that there are hopes of potential spin-offs already being discussed, which have some fans eager for a possible exploration of Tolkien’s popular work, The Silmarillion. The Silmarillion is Tolkien’s “first book and also his last” and is set before the events of The Hobbit. Essentially, it is the First Age of Middle-earth and provides a backstory to the ancient history referenced in Tolkien’s other Lord of the Rings works.
The series is meant to be set before The Fellowship of the Ring. As fans of the books know, Tolkien created not only a rich backstory that Amazon Studios could explore, but a selection of Appendices as well that could provide plenty of story in the series. There could potentially be appearances in the series of iconic characters, such as the wizard Gandalf. Even more exciting, though, is the chance to see beloved characters from the written works onscreen for the first time.
Amazon was reportedly willing to spend a rumored $250 million in order to acquire the global television rights on the project, and it’s hard to argue that a company willing to invest so intently into a huge project like this wouldn’t be doing everything they could in order to make sure the television adaptation is an achievement for the studio, the Tolkien Estate, and especially the fans.
While there is a huge potential for an incredibly successful series that builds upon such an expansive world that Tolkien’s Middle-earth already offers, what’s the possible downside?
Cons of The Lord of the Rings TV Series
The most obvious potential con is that the series might simply not be good, though there are two definitions of that: Success measured by viewership and audience numbers, as well as the response from critics and fans alike. The two are oftentimes imbalanced, so it will be interesting to see reactions from all sides (and if the collaborative efforts from the various organizations involved continue to run smoothly).
Another point of discussion is who will be in charge of leading the fans on this next big adventure. Peter Jackson has navigated the creative onscreen direction for all the adaptions of Tolkien’s franchise, successfully, thus far. What happens when someone else besides Jackson is in control of that direction? As Amazon Studios, New Line Cinema, and Tolkien Estate continue hashing out their big plans, fans will be eagerly awaiting future announcements on writers, directors, and, of course, the cast that will be working to bring more of Tolkien’s vision to life.
As far as plot goes, some fans have expressed concern that Tolkien’s own content won’t be used for the series and that the show will feature new original content instead. Will the series have more of a “based on” feel rather than a true adaptation? According to Deadline, this series will “explore new storylines” while also facing some “creative restrictions imposed by the rights holders” on what can or cannot be done within the series. Are those new storylines referencing ones within the books that have not been seen onscreen yet, or does it mean Amazon will be utilizing their own original material? Hardcore fans would likely forgive any original content as long as the core of the material remains as true as possible to Tolkien’s work.
Despite the possibility that such a huge undertaking of a popular franchise like this could flop, the investment, and not just financially, that is being put into making this TV series adaptation a possibility sets a certain precedence that has to provide a bit of comfort for Tolkien fans that this series might actually be a successful hit. Only time will tell, but I think it’s fair to speculate that this series could be an amazing expansion of Tolkien’s universe should it come together as expected by Amazon Studios.
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