The last Lord of the Rings titled project came out in 2003 – almost 20 years ago. Then, between 2012 and 2014 we got a trilogy based on Tolkien’s prequel, The Hobbit. It’s quite notable that the three films, with a combined runtime of almost nine hours, came out of a roughly 300-page book. This showed that Tolkien’s universe and characters can be expanded on quite a lot, and that it was just a matter of time until some prequel or spin-off would follow – it’s too much of a cash cow not to, and with Game of Thrones having come to an end, the fantasy universe spotlight can be monopolised once again (or maybe shared with The Witcher). And so, we got a TV series: The Lord of the Rings – The Rings of Power. Let’s go through some key facts we know so far.
1. Format and release date
The first season will comprise of eight episodes, and the first one will be available to stream via Amazon Prime Video, on the 2nd of September 2022 – interestingly enough, almost 85 years after Tolkien published The Hobbit, back in 1937. A new episode will then be released on a weekly basis. What is also intriguing is the fact that the series has already been renewed for its second season – no doubt, it would make perfect sense for the expensive sets and locations to be reused.
2. A significant production budget
Apparently, both Netflix and HBO were in the mix during the bidding process, but in the end it was Amazon who won. Jeff Bezos is a huge Tolkien fan, so this is certainly a personal project for him – but also a very good marketing stunt by Amazon Prime, who are clearly lagging behind both Netflix and HBO in terms of big name projects. And while there isn’t an officially confirmed production budget, the government of New Zealand planned production expenditures for the first season at $462 million – of course, many of these assets will be re-used by further seasons. This doesn’t count in marketing expenditure budget, which will presumably be massive as well. Certainly not surprising, given that Bezos is one of the richest people in the world, and he has the ambition of producing what might as well be the most expensive TV series ever made.
3. The plot and the characters
Although not exactly based on any Tolkien-written material, and without the direct involvement of Peter Jackson, the series intends to capitalise on interesting events that happened quite some time before the two trilogies. One of them is briefly hinted at during the opening scenes of the first Lord of the Rings film – the epic fight against Sauron. And, as the title alludes to, the forging of the rings will be a main topic for the plot – which means that the project will juggle multiple storylines, from the Atlantis-like island, Númenor, to the deep dwarven mines of Misty Mountains and the intricate political events taking place within the elven kingdom of Lindon. Clearly, we’ll get quite a bit of variety.
4. How it will stack up against reference points
The direction that the series will go into is indeed a major talking point. The Witcher is already filling some of the fantasy market gap that Game of Thrones opened up, with quite a mature approach – although nowhere near to the former’s volume of violence, gore and sex scenes. A main question was whether the new LotR series would choose a similar direction – but it seems it won’t, instead staying closer to the family friendly format of the original trilogy, as well as The Hobbit. So, although there will certainly be violent and dark moments, Lord of the Rings is ultimately about friendship, brotherhood and bravery, and intends to make these accessible for young audiences as well.