The good people at Amazon Studios are currently working on a new adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s dense writing about Middle-earth for their streaming service. Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series is set to focus on the Second Age – a giant chapter in the history of Middle-earth that was reduced to a passing mention in the prologue of Peter Jackson’s big-screen trilogy.
Fans have had a mixed response to the series. Even Amazon itself can’t deny that it's stepping into dangerous territory. So, here are 5 Reasons We’re Excited For Amazon’s Lord Of The Rings Series (And 5 Why We’re Worried).
10 Excited: It’ll explore new areas of Middle-earth
J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing explored acres upon acres of Middle-earth, including reams’ worth of maps. Peter Jackson’s movies – both his Lord of the Rings movies and his Hobbit movies – explored a lot of Middle-earth, but there are still plenty of corners of the realm that he left unexplored.
With Amazon’s series being set in a different time period than the movies (way back in the Second Age, during Sauron’s reign, before his ultimate fall), there’s a chance that it will be able to dig into the regions, climates, and areas of Middle-earth that have yet to be depicted on the screen.
9 Worried: Peter Jackson already nailed it
Peter Jackson already nailed translating J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings stories to the screen with his Oscar-winning blockbuster trilogy. There’s no point in adapting something that was already done perfectly the first time around. It’s a crazy stretch to think that any new adaptation of The Lord of the Rings will be anywhere near as great as Jackson’s efforts, but even if it is, what would be the point?
The best-case scenario is a show that might be half-decent but doesn’t need to exist, while the worst-case scenario is a show that is pointless, unwatchable, and terribly disappointing.
8 Excited: It will at least have spectacle
If nothing else, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series will be replete with marvelous spectacle. The streaming giant is reportedly pumping in a whopping $1 billion to produce the series, which will make it by far the most expensive TV show ever made. The previous record-holder was The Crown, which set the record with around $157 million.
Now, as we’ve seen time and time again in Hollywood, a high production budget is obviously no guarantee of a high-quality show, but it is a guarantee of a gorgeous, spectacular, cinematic show, and when we’re visiting an immersive fantasy world like Middle-earth, that’s an essential element.
7 Worried: The producers are jumping the gun with a planned five seasons
The producers of the new Lord of the Rings series are diving head-first into an absurd commitment. They’ve pumped $1 billion into getting a planned five seasons underway. What if the first season tanks with the critics and is barely watched by anyone? It’ll be kind of embarrassing for them to release another four seasons, just because they already spent $800 million on them.
Jumping the gun rarely works out in Hollywood. Marvel took baby steps towards building the MCU, but there are many other examples (the DCEU, Dark Universe, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, etc.) where the producers jumped in too quickly and failed miserably.
6 Excited: It can learn from The Hobbit’s mistakes
While Peter Jackson nailed the portrayal of Middle-earth and the characters that populate it in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, then he went and spoiled it all by making The Hobbit trilogy. It focused too heavily on the worst aspects of the original trilogy – cringe comedy, superfluous action, overlong runtimes, etc. – and failed miserably by dragging out a slim little kids’ book to the same length as the Biblically epic Lord of the Rings trilogy.
It left Middle-earth fans feeling pretty disappointed. Amazon’s new series is a chance to learn from the mistakes that Jackson made with The Hobbit trilogy.
5 Worried: It won’t have any of our favorite characters in it
Since Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series is set hundreds of years before Peter Jackson’s trilogy (and because the Tolkien estate has only handed off the rights to certain parts of the Middle-earth lore), we won’t be seeing any of our favorite characters. No Frodo, no Aragorn, no Legolas.
We might be seeing characters like Galadriel and Gandalf, who were around in the Second Age, but it’s unclear if Amazon has the rights to those characters. What’s more, the one character that has been announced to be in the series, Tyra, is entirely new, and not even from Tolkien’s source material.
4 Excited: There’s a lot of talented people attached
While the name Peter Jackson is nowhere to be seen and that’s a little concerning, the talent attached to Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series is still pretty intriguing. J.A. Bayona, the director of The Orphanage and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, will helm the first episode.
Writers and production staff from such TV series as Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Stranger Things, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and Hannibal have been brought on board the series. Meanwhile, showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay haven’t had any produced scripts yet, but they’ve written screenplays for a Star Trek movie and a Flash Gordon movie that generated a lot of buzz in Hollywood.
3 Worried: The storyline they’re doing is less interesting than the main one
It’s been reported that the new Lord of the Rings series on Amazon will revolve around the Second Age, which was briefly summarized in the voiceover monologue that opens Peter Jackson’s movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring. If this era of Middle-earth history was really interesting enough to explore in-depth, then J.R.R. Tolkien would’ve done it already.
The real story of Middle-earth – the one that deserves to be fleshed out into a five-season TV series – is Frodo taking the One Ring to Mount Doom. The Second Age is just backstory to that; it’s just not as interesting.
2 Excited: It could be the next Game of Thrones
We’ve just finished following a cinematic multi-part story set in a medieval fantasy world where warring factions fight for their alliances. Although the eighth and final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones might not have been universally adored by critics and fans (it was actually mostly despised), the show was wildly popular for almost a decade as audiences were whisked away to Westeros every week, engaging in the ongoing storylines.
Now that Game of Thrones is over and a high fantasy drama series-sized hole is in the TV viewing community’s hearts, Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings series could take its place.
1 Worried: It’s yet another rehash
Hollywood has always followed trends, but the latest trend is the most shameful of all: rehashing old movies and TV shows. Instead of telling a bold new story in the Star Wars universe, they’ll give us another rebellious force blowing up another evil empire’s superweapon.
And instead of coming up with a new epic tale to tell, Amazon will simply look back at the box office records from a few years ago and decide to rehash a franchise that did quite well. The Lord of the Rings series is indicative of a wider problem in the film and TV industry, one that only seems to be getting worse.