Amazon is officially moving forward with a Lord of The Rings TV series after securing the rights to the franchise in a mega £250 million deal that will also see the show given a budget of around £150m per season.
The series is set to take place before the events of The Fellowship of The Ring and after the events of The Hobbit. All other details are being kept under wraps but it’s likely to either focus on younger versions of established characters or entirely new ones. At this point, it’s difficult to care, either way.
Make no mistake: Lord of the Rings is fantastic and Peter Jackson’s films are all cinematic masterpieces in their own right. But my God, they are long and, my goodness, there are a lot of them already.
All told, if you include Jackson’s three Hobbit movies, over the course of six films, Lord of The Rings fans have explored Middle Earth for a whopping 1,171 minutes. That’s close to 20 hours, spread across six movies. You could watch all eight Star Wars movies in that time and still have two hours to spare!
Don’t get loaded wrong: Jackson’s films are fantastic and, from a LOTR fan’s perspective, their lengthiness did at at least allow the filmmaker to properly lay out JRR Tolkien’s stories. But those stories have been told now, in beautiful detail, and don’t need revisiting. It’s time to move on.
This doesn’t feel like an opportunity to expand and extend The Lord of the Rings universe either. It feels like a money grab made by a TV streaming service desperate to cash-in on the huge popularity of the movies.
It’s also no coincidence that the battle to land the rights to The Lord Of The Rings has come as HBO and its rivals scramble around for the next Game of Thrones-sized hit. The fantasy series ranks among the biggest TV shows of all-time and has highlighted the public’s thirst for the genre.
Given the debt George RR Martin’s own show owes to Lord Of The Rings and the built-in fan base, from a financial point of view, plans for the series makes complete sense – but is that enough?
The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings movies may have been long, but they felt like a journey with a definitive conclusion, set against an incredibly rendered backdrop full of three-dimensional characters.
Those characters won’t be back though – younger versions, perhaps, but not the same – while any new series, especially one set between the events of The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings, can’t possibly have the same narrative drive. Tolkein skipped this period in his books for a reason.
Another worry is that the show’s decision to create a prequel/sequel from scratch means elements of Tolkien’s classic story could be changed to create something that goes against the intentions of the original texts.
It’s also unlikely to surpass the original in terms of quality and scope, meaning the best fans can surely hope for is a continuation of the films. These plans exemplify the continued trend towards reboots, remakes, spin-offs and sequels over anything new or potentially risky.
People will argue that the new Star Wars movies have shown the potential of creating new chapters in a pre-existing universes but let’s be frank for a moment: The Force Awakens was largely a retread of A New Hope. The only reason people loved it so much was because it wasn’t a disaster of Phantom Menace proportions.
TV and film is big business and there’s little margin for error. Returning to a franchise, with a built-in fanbase, is playing it safe, even if the money being spent is enormous.
The only feeling is that it’s money that could be spent elsewhere on TV shows that go against the grain, that do something different, that take risks.
Unfortunately, a Lord of the Rings TV series is none of these things. But people will still watch it.
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