And in the category of Things We Really Don’t Need To See comes this news of Amazon’s plan for a new streaming series based on Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy. According to Charles Pulliam-Moore of geeky website i09Gizmodo, Amazon Studios and Warner Brothers announced in a press release this week that they have negotiated the rights for and are working on the new series with the Tolkien estate, HarperCollins and New Line Cinema (which produced the Peter Jackson films).
Those of you who follow this blog know I am a huge LOTR fan. I have been reading the trilogy every year or two since the age of 16, and I thought the Peter Jackson films could not have translated Tolkien’s fantastic world and characters to the screen any better. The casting alone was superb. Just think about that for a moment. Not one actor was miscast or less than perfect in the role. From Ian McKellan as Gandalf to Andy Serkis as Gollum, from Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, to Elijah Wood as Frodo.
I can’t imagine that incredible feat being improved upon, much less finding the settings to match the magnificent New Zealand scenery Jackson used to stand for Middle-Earth. And to reproduce those cinematic production values? How much money and time are we talking about here?
Not enough, I suspect, to bring a series up to the standard Jackson set not so very long ago. But apparently Amazon is not fazed. In the streaming world, the stars have aligned in such a way as to make this reboot almost inevitable. Tolkien’s 91-year-old son Christopher recently resigned from his position as director of the author’s estate, loosening his tight hold on adaptations of his father’s works. At the same time, Game of Thrones has ended its long reign over television’s fantasy audience. This leaves a power vacuum Amazon Studios just can’t resist.
But why not fill that empty space with something completely new? There are any number of unexplored SF/fantasy worlds out there for the taking—McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, perhaps, or Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga or C.L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul series, or I could go on pretty much endlessly. Save yourself some money, Amazon, and give your viewers something they haven’t experienced before. And, while you’re at it, give some deserving authors access.
For all the millions of words of analysis about how the upheaval of the publishing world has meant so much opportunity for so many more authors, the truth is still that only a tiny thimbleful of the vast output of those authors ever reaches a substantial audience. Especially for a “niche” subgenre like science fiction romance, readership is numbered in the thousands, if we’re lucky, not in the millions that would view something on television. We could use a bigger platform. So, Amazon, why not seek out new stories among the many that exist, rather than fighting to be the next one to recycle Tolkien’s time-honored, but well-worn tale.
Information for this post taken from “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Son Resigns as Director of Tolkien Estate, Ending Decades of Tightly Controlled Adaptations,” by Beth Elderkin, oneringnet, November, 15, 2017.
“Amazon’s New Lord of the Rings series Will Feature ‘Previously Unexplored Stories’,” by Charles Pulliam-Moore, i09Gizmodo, November 13, 2017.
*Next week I'll be enjoying Thanksgiving with my family, so there will be no post on Friday. Have a Happy Turkey Day!