Is this a good idea? New versions of existing IP’s tend to be pretty shocking, so why should one of the most beloved trilogies of books and films be treated any better? If you’re a need of a little more context as to what’s going on here, let me elaborate. After some reportedly intense negotiations with the Tolkien estate, Amazon Prime: the online streaming service rival to Netflix, have acquired the rights to create a ‘Lord of the Rings’ based television show for a multi season run. Very little is known about the project right now, but Amazon have released a statement saying that the writing team would be looking into ‘unexplored stories based on J.R.R Tolkien’s original writings.’ This is, in my mind, a more hopeful comment that hints at more than jus another reboot or remake. As a huge fan of Peter Jackson’s, in my opinion, flawless trilogy, it’s reassuring to know that the project won’t likely be retreading existing beats from a version that already tells that story in a pretty perfect way.
So what does this vague statement tell us and what could it mean? It sounds unlikely that it will touch on the works of ‘The Hobbit’ either, which, as a hugely unsatisfying and underwhelming trilogy, could’ve been a more forgiving option. The term ‘unexplored stories’ offers a myriad of potential options and allows for what could be the first onscreen incarnation of another Tolkien epic set in the same universe (though crucially not just Middle Earth); ‘The Silmarillion.’ As by no means an expert on the topic, please don’t take my word as law, but from what I understand, the works take on a larger scale story with a spiritual approach to the familiar lands of the ‘LOTR’ trilogy, focusing on the first age and the creation of many of the races from subsequent books; hobbits, men, elves etc.
So as a largely unexplored work, ‘The Silmarillion’ could be the best option for a Middle Earth based television show. It’s a massive epic that is too large for a movie, or even three, despite the famous length of Peter Jackson’s fantasy repertoire. The entire purchase is reportedly to rival HBO’s absolute mammoth franchise, ‘Game of Thrones’ and Netflix’s hugely successful sci fi serial ‘Stranger Things.’ (Side note- I promise to get through a blog one day without mentioning ‘Stranger Things.’) If the intention is to make a huge, multiple character spanning and multi season product that also carries a familiar tone, then ‘The Silmarillion’ seems like the obvious choice. This is one use of the franchise that I would actually be quite happy to see as while it may have a familiar setting and tone, no doubt with references galore, it is still a new IP; something that we’ve never seen on screen before and a work that isn’t massively well known to the general public. If this is the direction they decide to go, I’m all for it.
What I am not all for however, is a ‘LOTR Origins: ARAGORN’ or ‘Bilbo Begins.’ A prequel series that is set shortly before either ‘LOTR’ or perhaps more sensibly ‘The Hobbit’ have no business being made. All this will accomplish is a demystification of characters already familiar with audiences, as well as feeble attempts to tie their ‘previous’ adventures into existing lore without creating a time paradox. Think back to the dismal failure that was the third ‘Hobbit’ film; what were the worst parts of that? It was the elements that attempted to ‘fill in the gaps’ to ‘Fellowship of the Ring.’ The inclusion of Sauron (yes, yes the Necromancer- whatever), the huge battles not present in the books and basically everything that happens after they defeat Smaug, were hugely uninteresting, because they hadn’t come from Tolkien’s brain and therefore, felt out of place and weird. It’s the same thing with ‘Game of Thrones’ going of course in later seasons as they strayed further from Martin’s works. Sure, you get to roughly the same place in the end, but if the journey was haphazard and worse than previous seasons; what was the point? What I’m saying here, is nobody really wants to see Mike from ‘Stranger Things’ (damn, there I go again) playing the youngest Bilbo we’ve seen yet, getting into made up adventures with characters we’ll never hear about in future instalments, while also shoving in references to things that he shouldn’t know about for another thirty years, just so the audience can declare ‘I understood that reference’ at the television set every thirty minutes. Please Amazon, for the love of God, do not turn this into another ‘Gotham.’ As another side note, if you think ‘Gotham’ is a good representation of the ‘Batman’ franchise, you’re wrong. But that’s a topic for another day.
So, although nothing’s confirmed, we’ve established a few things: It probably won’t be a re-telling of ‘Lord of the Rings’ again, thank God. It also probably won’t be a re-telling of the Hobbit. Ok. It could disturbingly be some sort of contrived prequel focused on a main character from one of these works. Hm. It could be an adaption of ‘The Silmarillion’ giving us the first on screen adaption of this work and its characters. Ok, that actually sounds pretty good! Or, it could be something else entirely based on either relatively unknown or even unreleased material from Tolkien. Who knows. The final question posed is, assuming this does indeed take a brand new tangent, adapting either ‘The Silmarillion’ or another obscure Middle Earth work: will it take place in an all new ‘LOTR universe’ or the existing Peter Jackson universe? Many fans, myself included, see his trilogy as the definitive adaption and the new series is in conjunction with New Line Cinema, the distributors of the original trilogy. If they’re going to reboot the existing works, then obviously this wouldn’t be the case. However, if we are going down the favourable road of new source material, then why not have it set in the Jackson-verse? It wouldn’t change a whole lot in a narrative sense, but the inclusion of the familiar filming styles, sets, costumes and in particular, Howard Shore’s absolutely iconic score would be incredibly welcome. Seriously, can you imagine a Middle Earth story without the triumphant ‘Lord of the Rings’ action theme, the ‘Concerning Hobbits’ theme for the Shire, or ‘the one ring’ theme for anything to do with Sauron or the ring? I’m not saying all of those elements would be present, but whilst I struggled through the painfully average ‘Hobbit’ trilogy, the soundtrack, both new and re worked existing tracks, was one element that helped me find enjoyment in that mess.
So, that’s my speculation on the new ‘Lord of the Rings’ based Amazon show. It’ll probably be average to crap, but hey, who knows; it could be absolutely fantastic and along with Disney’s ‘Star Wars’ television show, start a whole new trend of existing IP’s getting their own massive tv show universes instead of new film remakes. It seems like a logical progression with how much film and tv are blending into one medium at the moment with more and more huge budget shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ rivalling big Hollywood movies in terms of sets and stunts. Perhaps we’ll see a ‘Blade Runner’ tv series, or ‘Jurassic Park’, or even, dare I say; ‘Ghostbusters’? Oh, how the mind boggles. Let’s wait and see.