Amazon has acquired the global television rights to The Lord of the Rings, and the Internet giant has already committed to a multi-season TV series rooted in author J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth setting.
Both Amazon’s own press release title (“Amazon to Adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s Globally Renowned Fantasy Novels… “) and earlier rumors suggested that the series would be a direct adaptation of the books, but that is now confirmed not to be the case. Rather, the series will introduce new stories that are set before The Fellowship of the Ring, the first book in the trilogy.
Tolkien estate and HarperCollins representative Matt Galsor said the series will “bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings.” To Tolkien fans, it’s unclear what that means exactly. Will characters and situations be based on unpublished Tolkien works? Many of those exist, but the author’s son Christopher Tolkien has been editing and completing key works in those categories as published books for several years now. It’s unclear what remains.
Alternatively, the series could focus on completely original characters and storylines simply set against the backdrop of The Lord of the Rings’ rich universe. A recent video game release, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, took this approach in exploring the story of a ranger working as an insurgent of sorts in Mordor. However, that game enacted dramatic changes that were thematically dissonant with the source material, to say the least; for example, the spider villain Shelob became a sexy woman with a spider motif instead of an actual spider.
No premiere date has been announced, but Amazon’s press release says the series will be available to all Amazon Prime subscribers and that it will be part of the existing Amazon Prime Original lineup.
This could be part of a larger initiative to focus on big shows that comes down from the top—CEO Jeff Bezos. A Variety report in September said Bezos wanted Amazon’s answer to Game of Thrones in the pipeline, in light of dissatisfaction at Amazon with the progress its Prime Originals have made. Former head of programming Roy Price said at the time that Amazon would focus on “big shows that can make the biggest difference around the world” on Amazon Prime. To date, most of Amazon’s original series have had an art-house or indie ethos to them. Price has since stepped down in the wake of sexual harassment allegations, but the strategy may be the same regardless.
But even as Amazon explores tentpole shows like Lord of the Rings for paying Prime subscribers, the company is looking downmarket, too. AdAge reported today that Amazon is talking to content providers and advertisers about an ad-supported streaming service that would be free to viewers and available sans Prime subscription. The company has expressed an interest in different kinds of programming for that service—like cooking or travel shows. That service would compete with similar free offerings from Roku and others.
To watch The Lord of the Rings, though, consumers will have to subscribe to Amazon Prime.
More Info: arstechnica.com