A good story transcends languages and platforms. This is something The Lord of the Rings franchise convincingly proves. The book has attracted myriad international fans. The movie trilogy had been an international success, accumulating box office gross receipts nearing $3 billion. In 2018, plans to produce TV series and video game adaptations of the popular franchise have been floated. Exciting times for The Lord of the Rings fans!
What to expect from The Lord of the Rings TV series
With the tentative details emerging in early August, Amazon Studios is reportedly making a TV series that will be based on Tolkien’s work. The Lord of the Rings franchise is making a comeback as Amazon announced that it has splurged $250 million for the acquisition of the rights to the Tolkien property (Netflix competed but lost). Amazon has already allotted a quarter of a billion dollars for the production of the first two seasons of the new TV show. It has already committed to producing five seasons.
The publicized costs make this planned TV show one of the most expensive in history. For comparison, the highly globally popular Game of Thrones had peak spending (so far) of $100 million for its most expensive season so far, Season 6. That’s $25 million less than the planned average budget for the first two seasons of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings TV adaptation. If it turns out to be a commercial success, there’s no doubt Amazon would willingly spend more for it.
While there have been no final details released yet, the following are worth noting:
It will be ‘prequelish’ but not a direct adaptation
Amazon dropped hints that the planned big budget TV show will be some sort of a prequel to the movie franchise. There are no final details yet, but multiple sources claim that it will not be a continuation of the adventures of Frodo. Another important detail to take note of is that the planned television show will not be directly adapting its plot from the books. New stories are set to be introduced but will be limited to events set before The Fellowship of the Ring movie.
There could be a spinoff
If everything goes well for the TV adaptation, a spinoff is going to emerge. The deal between Amazon and Tolkien has included this possible spinoff. If the show becomes a commercial and critical success with one character or subplot standing out, Amazon can immediately proceed to produce a spin-off series without having to go back to the table with Tolkien for further negotiations.
The show has a $1 billion budget and Tolkien’s estate will be closely working with the production
Some already dub the upcoming show as the most expensive TV show in history with its $1 billion allocation for five seasons in five years. The production of the series involves a number of big names. Amazon Studios is set to work with New Line Cinema (the producer of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy), HarperCollins (book publisher), and the Tolkien Estate and Trust. The involvement of Tolkien’s estate is noteworthy as this can make the series more faithful or perceivably closer to the intention of The Lord of the Rings author.
It won’t be on air anytime soon
Jennifer Salke, Amazon Studios chief, said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that the upcoming show would be in production in two years, in 2021. It won’t be too soon to see the new show on TV. She acknowledged, however, that there is a clamor to start it sooner, especially since they have already hired showrunners, lead writers Patrick McKay and JD Payne.
Young Aragorn will be at the center of the pilot season
Based on leads from several interested parties, the new TV show will feature a young Aragorn as the lead character. This makes sense considering that his character remains shrouded in mystery as far as the movies are concerned. Aragorn’s persona was not that explored even in The Hobbit movie series. The Lord of the Rings fans and casual moviegoers who have seen the movie trilogy already know that he was a Dunedain ranger who was once known as Strider, and that the elves of Rivendell and Elrond fostered him. However, his lineage and eventual ascent as King of Gondor are still largely unexplored plotlines.
Ian McKellen is interested in playing Gandalf
If Gandalf will be included in the series, McKellen will likely take on the role. He already expressed interest in it and even said he’s not too old to wear the pointy hat, long hair, and long robe for TV, considering that Gandalf is 7,000 years old. In fact, McKellen said he’s not keen on seeing somebody else playing the role. Even if the TV show is set a few hundred years before the events of The Lord of the Rings movies, “multi-millenarian” Gandalf shouldn’t be expected to look considerably younger. However, McKellen said he has yet to meet somebody from Amazon or the production team offering the role.
Forget Andy Serkis’s Smeagol and Gollum
In contrast to McKellen’s pronouncements, Gollum actor Andy Serkis already expressed disinterest in becoming part of the show. He acknowledged that the producers might want something new and different from what was already seen in the movies. Besides, Smeagol could still be young in the upcoming TV series that a different actor would have to be hired.
Does somebody want to kill Bilbo?
No, it’s not an issue as far as the TV adaptation is concerned. If you are hazily remembering some report about a producer seeking the death of Bilbo, know that it is not related to the planned TV series. However, again, there are no final details released yet so there’s also no assurance that Bilbo will be featured in the first two seasons.
What to expect from the video game adaptation?
There are already many games about or related to The Lord of the Rings. However, there’s a 2018 video game adaptation that is expected to excite fans of the franchise. It is still untitled, but it is touted as an all-new “AAA” game. Athlon Games is reportedly producing it, but there have been no details on the specific studio that will be developing it.
The upcoming The Lord of the Rings video game is said to have an online focus. It will be a massively multiplayer online game (MMO) that is intended to offer a “completely new experience” while incorporating cooperative elements (team play).
Just like the planned TV adaptation, the video game plot is set before the events of The Lord of the Rings. It is said to feature characters, creatures, and lands that were not in the movie trilogy and are totally new to the Tolkien universe.
The game will take on the free-to-play business model, which appears to target players in Asia. Free-to-play games are massively popular and prevalent among Asian gamers.
One show to rule them all?
Even without admitting it, it’s most likely that Amazon is bent on posing competition to the popularity of Game of Thrones. The controversial and arguably iconic and generation-defining TV show is a trailblazer worth following. That’s why many are excited to see how the TV version of the highly successful book and movie trilogy would turn out. The money Amazon is willing to spend also bolsters the anticipation as dozens of millions of dollars is expected to result in quality output, particularly in terms of the story, actors, direction, set location, and especially the CGI.
After The Hobbit trilogy failed to match the success of The Lord of the Rings movies, it’s expected that the producers are pouring in their best efforts to make the new TV show a success. Add to this the benchmark that HBO set for commercial and critical achievement with the Game of Thrones.
The Game of Thrones series is ending next year. Fans will surely be clamoring for more of it as many will likely be suffering from “separation anxiety.” The Lord of the Rings is in a good position to attract the same fans as it is of the same genre. The show can easily fill the space the Fire and Ice TV adaptation will leave, while its planned prequel is still being produced.
What could possibly spoil the fun?
Certainly, there’s no certainty that The Lord of the Rings TV series will match or even come close to the success of the Game of Thrones. A few things can make success challenging for the show. For one, there’s the possibility that viewers will perceive it as a Game of Thrones wannabe. The Tolkien franchise has a good following but maybe not as much as that of the Game of Thrones, which even managed to top the list of most illegally downloaded/streamed TV shows.
The show, as mentioned, is set for production in the next two years, which is quite a long time to go. With this timeline, it may not be able to take advantage of the culmination of the Game of Thrones series. Worse, it may have to compete with the Game of Thrones prequel or spinoff.
On the other hand, it’s also intriguing to know if The Lord of the Rings will follow the formula that made the Game of Thrones a massive global success. Of note, Tolkien’s work is in stark contrast to the violence and obscenity in Game of Thrones. The Lord of the Rings movies were PG-rated. They may even be regarded a traditional fantasy tale, only a little more complicated.
The hired showrunners for the upcoming TV series are known for their work on Star Trek: Beyond, which some consider being a cross between Fast and the Furious and Star Trek. Some fans worry that the writers may try to incorporate ideas or themes to come up with something supposedly different. They may try adopting the shock factor that helped fuel the Game of Thrones popularity. Hopefully, they would stick to the core ideas of Tolkien’s fantasy world and plotline, and shy away from the violence, nudity, and controversial scenes.
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