If you think of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy as being the definitive screen version of Tolkien’s masterpiece, you may have to think again. Amazon is bringing Middle Earth to TV, having reportedly agreed a vast sum for the right to do so.
Amazon plans a multi-series creation, with possible spin-offs to follow. However, the company won’t be trying to do a small-screen take on the revered stories – this will instead be a collection of new stories that take place in the period before The Fellowship of the Ring.
The Hobbit story, of course, also takes place in that period, although presumably there is plenty in the length and breadth of vast Middle Earth history to delve into without having to touch too much on The Hobbit.
“The Lord of the Rings is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of generations of fans through literature and the big screen,” said Sharon Tal Yguado, Amazon’s new head of scripted programming, quoted by The Guardian.
“We are honored to be working with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line on this exciting collaboration for television and are thrilled to be taking The Lord of the Rings fans on a new epic journey in Middle Earth.”
Is the old classic the new Game of Thrones?
Industry observers have been quick to note that Amazon, like others, is searching for the “next” Game of Thrones as that juggernaut begins to roll to an end.
Game of Thrones makers HBO may wish to keep the hoards of long-standing and newer fantasy lovers glued to the screen for high-value Sunday night shows with a Game of Thrones spin-off.
Amazon, meanwhile, has clearly decided that it’s a safer bet to put a new take on the greatest fantasy phenomenon of all time rather than creative a new one from scratch.
But earning the right to put a new spin on Lord of the Rings does not come cheaply. According to Deadline, the Tolkien estate had been shopping the project and had approached Amazon, Netflix and HBO.
In the end, Amazon reportedly agreed a deal worth close to $250 million, with production coming from Amazon Studios in cooperation with the Tolkien Estate and Trust; HarperCollins; and New Line Cinema, a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment.
Matt Galsor, a representative for the Tolkien estate and trust and the publisher HarperCollins, said: “We are delighted that Amazon, with its longstanding commitment to literature, is the home of the first-ever multi-season television series for The Lord of the Rings.
“Sharon and the team at Amazon Studios have exceptional ideas to bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on JRR Tolkien’s original writings.”
Do we want more Lord of the Rings?
Are we excited by the prospect of a long-running original series based on Lord of the Rings? Personally, I was not initially overjoyed by the news, despite being a major fan of the books and the Peter Jackson movies.
But unless the series turns out to be awful, I will doubtless be hooked within a couple of episodes and, once the show gets going, be delighted to enter that world again.
At the moment, the news seems more about big plays in the TV production world, and is more about power in the boardroom than the armies of Middle Earth. But great fantasy, of course, is designed to make you forget all that stuff.