Amazon’s Lord of the Rings television show could either be a masterpiece of fantasy and adventure, or an uninspired flop. There have been several Tolkien adaptations over the years, from radio plays to short animated films. The most popular and well known, however, are the films directed by Peter Jackson.
Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy may be one of the best film adaptations of a novel to date, as well as one of the best fantasy series’. While parts of the book were admittedly left out, the films managed to bring Middle-earth to life before our eyes. Considering the critical and commercial success of the trilogy, the announcement of a TV series set in Middle-earth should be cause for great celebration, and it would have been, were it not for one factor: The Hobbit.
Everything that made the Lord of the Rings films so fantastic and immersive, such as the high stakes action and meaningful character interactions, was completely absent from The Hobbit trilogy, replaced with cheap jokes and vapid callbacks. Understandably, this has made many fans sceptical over Amazon’s television series. It seems plausible that this could be just another cash grab trying to make more money from the success of the original trilogy.
Despite this, if Amazon plays their cards right, they could have the opportunity to create a truly special show. The Hobbit movies failed to wow audiences because they felt stretched out. There was no need to adapt a relatively short children’s book into three full length movies.
However, there is so much more material in Tolkien’s world that could be adapted well and perfectly fit the format of a TV series. For example, parts of the Silmarillion could provide devoted Tolkien fans with stories they have long wished to see adapted on screen (such as Morgoth’s quest to find the Silmarils) while also providing more casual fans with more of the rich backstory behind Lord of the Rings.
If Amazon chooses to go in a different route from the Silmarillion, which seems likely from their press release, there are a plethora of other stories preceding the Lord of the Rings that could be spectacular if adapted well. Such stories include the Dwarves’ expedition to Moria or the life of Aragorn as a ranger (thought it would be hard to see anyone other than Viggo Mortensen in the role). It is also possible that the series will focus on original characters and new stories in Middle-earth, but this could trigger a number of issues regarding inconsistencies in lore and complaints that the stories do not fit into Tolkien’s universe, depending on how Amazon portrays them.
The Tolkien estate is reported to be closely involved in the production, which is definitely cause for celebration. Christopher Tolkien has devoted most of his life to upholding his father’s legacy; editing, completing and publishing many of his unfinished stories such as The Children of Hurin as well as personally drawing the famous maps of Middle-earth. Christopher Tolkien has been publicly critical of both the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, accusing them of watering down his father’s work. If Christopher Tolkien is personally involved, it is likely the series will be more faithful to Tolkien’s writing.
Overall, considering the vast quantity of lore and stories that could be translated to TV, as well as the close involvement of the Tolkien Estate who have always prioritised staying true to Tolkien’s vision, Lord of the Rings fans have reason to be cautiously optimistic.
Image: Bandita @ Flickr