When Peter Jackson's take on J.R.R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings series of books were released as films, audiences lapped them up. However, even though the resulting prequel movies based on Tolkein's The Hobbit did gain a large following, they failed to captivate the imaginations of a generation as the originals had done so successfully prior. Now, Amazon takes up the mantle having paid $250 million for production rights in 2017, and committing at least $1 billion for five seasons, making it the most expensive television series ever made.
With such a large budget, the Jeff Bezos firm will be keen to ensure the series' success, and will likely draw on the previous adaptations of Middle Earth's tales for inspiration in how to do so. One factor that made Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy stand out was its realism, strange you might think from a fantasy franchise involving wizards, orcs and elves. However, compared to The Hobbitmovies, The Lord of the Ringsfilms are more grounded, dark and gritty, which makes the movies' fantasy elements far more relatable and far less overwhelming.
The Hobbit trilogy features falls from great heights (seemingly unaffecting the characters involved), battles featuring dwarves in barrels floating down a river and rabbits pulling a sleigh (upon which a grown man is sat). Despite The Lord of the Ringshaving its own "Really?!" moments (Aragorn and Frodo leaning forward to somehow direct a finely balanced pillar of stone in The Fellowship of the Ring), on the whole these are few and far between, overlooking the obvious presence of mythical creatures and all-powerful objects of course. There are certain rules to follow in a fantasy movie such as these; it is fine to include mystical creatures and characters with magical powers, that is the base of the genre, but a line is crossed when the fundamental laws of gravity (for example) are ignored during the course of the film.
The style of the two trilogies' is also something for Amazon to consider. The Lord of the Rings has a far darker, grittier feel, partly due to the use of special effects only when required. The Hobbit however, divides opinion, with its use of special effects appearing cartoonish and shiny to some. Even The Hobbit's trilogy-ending battle in the final film seemed fanciful and far-fetched, a stark contrast to the rain-drenched storming of Helm's Deep in The Two Towers.
It is important to mention at this point that The Hobbit trilogy was still a very successful addition to the franchise, and earned nearly $3 billion globally. Peter Jackson's take on J.R.R. Tolkein's first foray into Middle Earth accurately depicted the storyline shown within the book and allowed audiences the route back into Tolkein's world that they had been craving since The Return of the King was released in 2003. The differences between the two trilogies need not mean that one is somehow superior to the other, it is also important to note that Jackson would need to take the tone of the first book into account when choosing a style in which to shoot the movies.
Choosing a style for the new series will be a difficult task for those in power at Amazon. On one hand you have the very tempting recent success of Game of Thrones, a far darker and anything-goes approach to fantasy drama. On the other, Amazon will be keen to have such a franchise be accessible to all-audiences, and a more family friendly style may be selected. Either way, all eyes, including that of Sauron, will be on Amazon upon the release of the next chapter in the popular franchise.
Like the original trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy, Amazon's The Lord of the Rings will be shot in New Zealand, allowing the series to feel connected to the movies, at least to some extent. It is rumored that the series will be set prior to the events of The Hobbit, in Tolkein's "Second Age" era. Rumors have also swirled about the inclusion of a younger Aragorn than was seen in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, however the series' timeline would seem to dispel this theory.
Despite the company's commitment to five seasons of the new series, Amazon has not ruled out further series, should the show be a success. Spin-off series are also a possibility, with Amazon's production rights allowing for such. With the show being a prequel to Tolkein's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings,Amazon are free to introduce their own characters and produce their own stories, but these must fit around any of Tolkein's work and must not contradict any information included in his twelve books set in Middle Earth.
Speaking to NME, star of the original trilogy Elijah Wood (Frodo Baggins), said: "I find it very bizarre that people are calling it Lord Of The Rings as a shorthand, because it's not Lord Of The Rings! It takes place in the Second Age of Middle-earth.
"I am super fascinated by what they're doing with the show. From what I understand, the material they are working on exists chronologically further back in history in the lore of The Lord Of The Rings or Middle Earth than any characters represented in The Lord Of The Rings. It sounds more Silmarillion era. Not to get nerdy, but it's the Second Age of Middle Earth."
The actor also expressed an interest in reprising the role of Frodo, should the material allow for his return: "If there was a world where that made sense and was organic to what they're doing, then yes.
"Look, any excuse to get to go to New Zealand to work on something, I am absolutely there."
The Lord of the Rings adds to Amazon's growing roster of series including hits such as Mr. Robot, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and The Expanse. Amazon has also recently purchased MGM Studios for $8.45 billion, the company currently run the James Bond, Bill & Ted, Addams Family and Tomb Raider movie franchises. The Handmaid's Tale, Vikings and Fargo are examples of MGM's television properties.