Amazon & Tolkien – Where and back again?

If you do not live in a hole under the ground, you are probably aware that there have been some recent rumblings and resurrections in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, this time on the televised medium. Rights have been purchased from the Tolkien Estate, with intentions of producing a multi-season series focusing on events preceding those that took place during the War of the Ring, which was the focus of the famous fantasy trilogy Lord of the Rings, directed by Peter Jackson. The rights were purchased by Amazon during November of last year, and has since been bereft of much official details surrounding plot or regarding the business side of things.

That is, until recently. My intention with this piece is to be as informative as possible regarding several aspects surrounding this deal, such as what the plot of the show could focus on as well as additional information pertaining to the business side of things to easier put things into perspective for those confused on the state of things about this project.

Let us begin by approaching this new upcoming series from a business perspective. What transpired on a corporate level to allow new exploration in Tolkien’s legendarium?

Among the several different studios in talks for acquiring the rights, Netflix and HBO being among them, Amazon came out victorious, having landed the rights for the series by signing a contract worth $250 million just this past November. According to The Hollywood Reporter, obtaining these rights allows for Amazon to produce a multi-season show for television, including a spin-off. When all production expenses are factored in, including casting and producers, the show is expected to cross north of $1 billion, making it the most expensive television series in history. Amazon signed the contract with the Tolkien Estate, publisher Harper-Collins and the American film production label of Warner Bros. Entertainment called New Line Cinema (the same label which released Peter Jackson’s critically acclaimed trilogy).

While no start of production has been announced, the contract entails that Amazon is required to begin production on the show within two years of having signed the contract. This means that the show, whatever form it takes or whoever helms it, will commence production at the latest by November 2019.

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Speaking of possible showrunners, it is unclear if Peter Jackson, the director behind the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, will indeed be returning to guide the series. Whether the director becomes involved as an executive producer or not seems to be completely up to him, given the fact that his attorney Peter Nelson seems to have helped start a dialogue between him and Amazon. While The Hollywood Reporter does report that dialogue has indeed commenced between both parties, no official details have emerged about their discussions.

Separate from these discussions is a very prominent member of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings cast, Ian McKellen, who has also expressed a wish to return to Middle-Earth and reprise his role as one of its guardians, Gandalf the Grey. Given the fact that Gandalf is an ancient angelic wizard from J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories, McKellen remarks that age is not an issue, rather that he simply has yet to be asked to return.

What can be gathered from these discussions is that there simply are not enough official details to go on when it comes to either cast or plot, even if rumblings have begun to stir as to where Amazon is planning on taking the series.

When details first emerged regarding the deal that Amazon was ready to make with the Tolkien Estate and New Line Cinema, the question on most of the fandoms head was surrounding the plot of the series. Given the fact that the news was circulating the web titled “a lord of the rings series” back during its official reveal, many found it to be redundant and off-putting to base the series on events already covered in film. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is among the most critically acclaimed and financially successful films of all time. Having received a total of 475 awards out of 800 nominations, the films are the most awarded film series in cinematic history. The conclusion to the trilogy, The Return of the King, holds the record for most Academy Awards won alongside Titanic and Ben-Hur with a total of eleven Oscars under its belt. Fans were questioning why the series would go back to a story already told so formidably and to such acclaim rather than explore some of Tolkien’s earlier stories from the same universe. Keen eyes would however notice that the press release reported that Amazon was planning on focusing on stories preceding the Lord of the Rings stories. The question then became, which stories?

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One of the most prominent characters of the Lord of the Rings novel is the would be king of Gondor, Aragorn. Portrayed by Viggo Mortensen in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the novel to the big screen, the character is rumoured to be the main focus of Amazon’s upcoming Middle-Earth series.

These reports are all according to TheOneRing.net, the famous fan site created back when production was underway for Jacksons trilogy with the purpose of informing fans about the development of the films. As big fans of the films will know, Aragorn was 87 years old during the War of the Ring, as he belongs to a fantastical race of men whose lineage stretches back millennia to the very beginning of Tolkien’s fantastical world. Every major event which occurs in Middle-Earth is somehow connected to his bloodline, meaning that there is no end to the possibilities this series could present. While the show is supposedly meant to focus on Aragorn’s younger years, which is filled with interesting material that could be drawn from Tolkien’s appendices as well as the information given in the narrative of the Lord of the Rings novel itself, using Aragorn as a jumping off point presents a lot of interesting possibilities for where the franchise could head in the future. Everyone knows that success generates additional content and, as previously mentioned, the Amazon deal includes the possibility of spin offs. Off shoots that could take the story even further back through the ages of Middle-Earth, meaning possible Silmarillion adaptations a lot of Tolkien fans were initially hoping the Amazon series would be based on. While they could have simply adapted Tolkien’s earlier work from the beginning, using the popularity of the character is a simpler route that will more likely result in profit for the studios involved. Considering Aragorn’s lineage is connected all the way back to the very foundations of Middle-Earth, using the popularity of the character is quite a smart way to garner interest for additional content taking place thousands of years before the events of the Lord of the Rings unfold.

However, all of this is based on a small amount of reports that are either not much to go on or unverified by an official source. What the future of Middle-Earth will be in the hands of Amazon is yet to be seen. Regardless of which information surfaces, you can be certain that we’ll have it available right here on ComicBookDebate.

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