In November 2017, Amazon announced that it would be creating a new “Lord of the Rings” TV series that would be based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary books. While few details have been released about the show, the earliest speculation is that Amazon is attempting to create a new must-watch TV series along the lines of “Game of Thrones.” And to do so, it is ready to spend aggressively – to the tune of nearly $1 billion, according to early reports. So what exactly can we expect from Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” TV series?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Amazon paid close to $250 million just for the exclusive worldwide rights to the show. And that’s just the amount of money required to get the project off the ground – the all-in costs, including production and marketing, could be close to $1 billion. That would make it easily the most expensive TV show of all time.
To put that $1 billion number into context – Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, bought the entire Washington Post for $250 million. And the budget for Peter Jackson’s entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is projected at close to $300 million. So you can start to appreciate the epic scale of what Amazon is trying to create here.
Ever since HBO debuted “Game of Thrones,” every cable TV network and every streaming video service has been in search of their own “Game of Thrones.” In short, they all wanted to create a fantasy or science-fiction epic drama that would be so big and so important that it would become part of the cultural mainstream. And “Lord of the Rings” – with its milieu of elves, dwarves, goblins and sorcerers – would appear to be the perfect replacement. Not to mention the fact that any “Lord of the Rings” TV show will come with a huge, built-in audience. Now that “Game of Thrones” is headed into its final season, is it finally time for a successor?
On the surface, it would seem to be a no-brainer to create a “Lord of the Rings” TV show, right? After all, everyone loved the six huge, blockbuster films from Peter Jackson. And J.R.R. Tolkien’s books have a loyal base of fans and readers who know every single detail about every single character.
But here’s the thing – one of the actors who has appeared in the “Lord of the Rings” movies, John Rhys-Davies, has already publicly commented on the Amazon TV series, calling it (in his words) “a disgrace.” He told a news reporter, “It’s just a disgrace… I mean, poor Tolkien must be spinning in his grave.” From his perspective, this new TV series is just a cash grab, nothing more.
And that might become the sentiment of other fans as well – especially those fans who don’t really want to sign up to become part of the Amazon Prime family. If the new TV series from Amazon starts to tinker with the look and appearance of Middle Earth or any of the main characters, it’s going to be controversial and perhaps alienate potential viewers.
When Amazon announced the new TV series, the company was noticeably short on details on which of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books it would cover. From the various hints dropped by Amazon and speculation from fans, it now appears that the TV series is going to be both a prequel and a sequel, Wait, what?
If you think about Peter Jackson’s films – there are three films in “The Hobbit” trilogy (“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” and “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”) and three films in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (“The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King”). Thus, Amazon appears to be threading a tight needle here – it will position the TV series as a sequel to “The Hobbit” trilogy and a prequel to “The Fellowship of the Ring.”
There are several reasons for doing this. The most important reason is that Amazon wants to create a completely new TV series without people comparing it directly to Peter Jackson’s films. Thus, the TV series will not be a “remake” or “reboot” of a Jackson film – it will be a completely new, standalone TV series with its own unique plotlines and narrative.
The second reason for doing this, presumably, is so that Amazon can add a few “Game of Thrones”-like touches to the TV series. In other words, the studio team at Amazon Prime can insert a lot of controversial sex and violence into the show, just like “Game of Thrones,” to make it a little edgy. Since the TV show will stream on Amazon Prime, it won’t have to be “tamed down” to meet the standards of broadcast TV, which has always been the stumbling block faced by the likes of CBS, NBC and ABC – they could hardly show scenes of nude orgies and bloody decapitations on primetime TV, right?
Amazon has been looking for several ways for a way to topple the industry leader Netflix. The solution, apparently, is to out-spend Netflix, dollar-for-dollar, on original content. Until now, that meant heading out to film festivals and scooping up Oscar-worthy films like “Manchester By the Sea.” But now Amazon has a new way to out-Netflix Netflix – create the most outrageously expensive, epic TV series ever. Just as Netflix is now willing to spend billions of dollars each year on new content, so is Amazon.
So the projected $1 billion price tag might seem gigantic, but if it means that Amazon can woo away millions of fans from Netflix, it might just be worth it. No wonder Jeff Bezos proudly sent out a tweet on November 13, basking in the glory of landing this new TV show. Bezos posted a picture of “the ring” with a simple caption: “Amazon Prime heads to Middle Earth.” So keep your eyes out for more details on cast and budget – this could be big for Amazon.