J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of Middle Earth will once more be displayed in all of their digital radiance when a new series begins in two years. Yes, I said “series,” because it will not be coming to theaters. Instead it will be developed for subscribers to Amazon’s subscription service.
Some fans of Tolkien are understandably wary. Will it remain faithful to Tolkien’s vision (insofar as any heathen international corporation can understand it)? However, I’m inclined to feel optimistic.
One reason for my optimism is Amazon’s commitment to the quality of the production—they anticipate investing around one billion dollars in the property during the next five years. Beyond that, I suspect Amazon will protect this massive investment by not straying too far afield from the true spirit of Middle Earth.
The Hollywood Reporter states it’s up to Peter Jackson* whether or not he will be involved in the project. His attorney said Amazon was wise to bid high for this “property.”
We are in an era where [online] streamers are bidding up the price of programming. I think Amazon is taking a page out of the studios’ emphasis on franchises. They also are realizing that with the overproduction of television, you need to get the eyeballs to the screen, and you can do that with franchise titles.
Another technology news site points to the example of Game of Thrones upping the value of the Lord of the Rings project.
In a world where Disney has laid out impressive, interconnected franchises with its Marvel and Star Wars properties, and HBO is considering anywhere between three and five spinoffs for Game of Thrones, Middle-earth could be a property that gives Amazon a significant boost in the coming streaming wars, one that could entice even more people to sign up for Amazon’s Prime service.
This is wonderfully ironic, since G.R.R. Martin readily acknowledges his debt to Tolkien. In a solid article on this subject, “Is George R.R. Martin the ‘American Tolkien?’” the author identifies a significant difference between the two writers.
Tolkien’s creation displays a sense of depth yet unrivaled in the fantasy genre. In this way, Lord of the Rings is to Game of Thrones as the Atlantic Ocean is to Lake Michigan. In contrast to the invention of Martin’s world, which is secondary to his plotline, Tolkien built his reality from the ground up starting with languages.
The Rotten Tomatoes media review site offers some tantalizing details about what we can anticipate in the new series.
Amazon’s first map rendered a number of geographic features specific to the Third Age, including the East Bight of Mirkwood Forest . . . But fans who were hoping to see some of the great stories from earlier days dramatized with Amazon’s production values are in luck.
Stories like the sinking of Númenor—Tolkien’s take on the Atlantis myth, in which Sauron corrupted an island of seafaring men to invade the forbidden shores of the world’s far West—and the founding of the kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor could make for some spectacular television. . . .
So what does this mean? For one, the series will undoubtedly focus on Númenor** over other regions of Middle-earth. To understand the island’s significance, we need to go back to the end of the First Age and the downfall of the Dark Lord Morgoth.***
This is going to be great. And to think, we owe it all to C.S. Lewis!
* Peter Jackson, of course, is the director who brought The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to the big screen.
** Númenor was the great island kingdom of humankind.
*** Morgoth is the greatest of the Ainur (angels in the Middle Earth cosmology). He fell from grace when he resisted the will of the Creator. He was an even greater Evil than his servant Sauron, who plagues the world in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The reference to Westeros in the illustration above is to the island in the Game of Thrones ruled by the Seven Kingdoms.
9 thoughts on “Return with Me to Middle Earth”
I hope it will dutifully present Tolkien’s world as well.
That’s certainly my prayer… not my suspicion though…
Studios make what sells. It just may be Tolkien in the manner of Martin -more sex and violence directly in the audience’s face.
I wish I thought you were wrong.
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Undoubtedly, “Aldarion and Erendis” or “The Akallabeth” could make for excellent Teevee or movies. Then again, so would “The Hobbit.” A friend and I talked recently about the coming Tolkien bio-pic and how they allegedly just happened to leave out any reference to Christianity. Is Jesus the new Bombadil? There’s a glimmer of hope, here: maybe the show will be decent and maybe a few new folks will read the Silmarillion. Excellent reporting, as usual, Mr. Stroud.
Yes, there is much thought-provoking and edifying content to be mined from Tolkien’s work. I too share your hope that people will turn to the Silmarillion and the other writings of the Inklings once they’ve been introduced to them via this programming.
As for the new Tolkien movie… I was greatly disappointed that they left out the driving force of the scholar’s life–his Christian faith. Aside from that glaring lacuna, I understand that the film is quite inspiring.
Hi Rob, I am excited! I hope they get right to the beginning with Eru the One. Great Biblical overtones. We shall see. I will let you know when we are going to do a podcast on that on Neekology101.
I doubt we’ll hear much about Eru, but we can always hope!
By all means let me know when you do that podcast.