This week, Amazon had announced that it is going to make an expansive The Lord of the Rings TV series. It is pouring a lot of money into this and has committed to 5 seasons. So, Amazon is, in other words, looking for “the next Game of Thrones.”
Can the success of Game of Thrones be duplicated? Must studios try this? Where should they look for inspiration? And can a Lord of the Rings show pull this off?
Amazon’s Lord of the Rings show is billed as a prequel, so it will be new and situated within the framework of Tolkien’s fictional universe. That is the way it works for the prequels, including efforts like Better Call Saul and Black Sails.
There are some literary properties that have been much more expensive and daunting than LOTR.
The viewing public and fans have been served up a smorgasbord of LOTR movies and merchandises in the last decade. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy (2001-03) and prequel Hobbit movie trilogy (2014-16) set the bar high.
Cost: Amazon knows how much this project will cost. Stanley Kubrick turned down a Fellowship of the Ring project because he thought it was just too “immense” to be filmed. This kind of pressure may cause the producers to try and hedge the bets and create a program that appeals to everyone. This often robs a show of originality and turns it into a bland bucket of financial disaster.
Name Recognition: As one of the most successful and recognizable franchises, it may be easy to advertise and rile up enthusiasm.
Endless Universe: There is no literary world developed more than Tolkien’s universe, and so their producers will have a magnificent playground to design the stories.
Amazon’s acquisition of Lord of the Rings smacks of coattail riding, an attempt to have their own Game of Thrones-style flagship show. Amazon is now entering an expensive game of high expectations.
Maybe it will be great. They may champion new concept or one of the great but relatively unknown fantasies or historical fiction book series out there.
People forget how so many blockbuster TV shows start with a slow burn. And then they start accumulating positive reviews through word of mouth. Viewers were not waiting with bated breath for The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, The Leftovers or Seinfeld, but the shows rewarded their emotional investments.
We do not know if the LOTR series will be a proper prequel. But that is how some of the outlets seem to be reporting it, but we know that this show will “explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.”
Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy did not seem to set the bar high. It was a rancid crater of a movie trilogy. But Amazon does seem to be trying to manufacture a pop culture phenomenon.
And it may work. Hollywood has thrown money at many blockbuster movie franchises before, and it has reaped financial rewards. But that is not going to feel as special as something that had grown organically, and somehow LOTR series feels less special than Game of Thrones.
Dan also adds, ” I loved the series since I first read the books in middle school, and I will find a way to watch a splashy TV series set in that world. I just wish my enthusiasm felt less obligatory, and I fear that in looking for “the next Game of Thrones,” Amazon is undertaking this project for the wrong reasons.”
Corey had this to say, ” I’m of two trains of thoughts here, but first I have to state that I will unequivocally watch this show. There is a reason that Martin’s work is often compared to Tolkien’s, including by Martin’s himself. Like Martin’s Westeros, Tolkien’s Middle-earth is incredibly complex, with a history that spans thousands of years. As in Game of Thrones, the story of Lord of the Rings represents the culmination of thousands of years of history. There is a ton of material to mine for the Amazon series.”
If Amazon is attempting to mimic Game of Thrones’ financial success and is content to let LotR be a show, it can be successful. Not all shows have to feature to dark subject matter. A morally black-and-white show may succeed.
The time frame may be a factor, depending on how far into Tolkien’s invented past the show goes. As with Martin’s invented history, Middle-earth becomes less magical as time goes on. Martin and Tolkien’s world start with the most fantastical elements you can imagine — giant spiders, dragons, god-like villains and the like — before tapering off to the more real-world type stories, we are used to. It remains to be seen how much the general public has an appetite for wizards, spells, and magic.