There’s arguably no bigger property in the world of fantasy than The Lord of the Rings, and with every network searching out the next Game of Thrones, it should come as no surprise that Amazon Studios is putting its considerable weight behind a series adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s acclaimed and influential world.
Following a well-publicized bidding war with Netflix, Amazon walked away with the rights to Tolkien’s Middle-earth canon and quickly set to work on a multi-season show to capitalize on its newfound property.
While there were initial inklings that this new series would follow the exploits of a young Aragorn, Amazon has since shot those down and revealed that the while the series in indeed a prequel, it will take place in the Second Age, thousands of years before the formation of the Fellowship. Amazon has largely done a remarkable job of keeping series details under wraps.
However, just knowing this series will take place during the Second Age has us excited. Here are a few of the things we’re hoping to see in the Amazon Lord of the Rings series.
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The Second Age and the Rise of Sauron
In a move that is likely meant to separate the series as much as possible from the time period of the Peter Jackson films – all of which took place during the Third Age of Middle-earth – the Amazon Prime series will be set during the Second Age of Middle-earth.
This is an exciting narrative move for multiple reasons, not the least of which being that it all but guarantees a fresh look at the Lord of the Rings world – and let’s face it, after the over-wrought and over-extended exercise in cinematic mediocrity that was the The Hobbit film and its sequels, fans deserve a fresh perspective.
More interestingly, this is a period often alluded to in Lord of the Rings but this aspect of Tolkien's books has never been given the same narrative treatment. J.R.R. Tolkien thoroughly outlined the history of the Second Age in the Silmarillion, but the actual stories of the second age – the in-depth tales and adventures that truly comprise the period have never really been explored in great detail.
This obviously opens the door to a host of storytelling potential. One of brightest of these potential stories also happens to be the most the sinister: The rise of Sauron.
The Second Age is a deeply important one to the Lord of the Rings mythos. It is defined by the rise and eventual fall of Númenor (more on this in a bit), the creation of the One Ring and the Ring Wraiths, and most importantly the rise of Sauron and his eventual defeat by the alliance of Elves and Men. It’s a period that is certain to make for some compelling TV.
A Return to Peter Jackson’s Shire and Beyond
While the series will take place in a completely different age – and thousands of years before – Jackson’s beloved Lord of the Rings adaptation, we’re hoping to see a similar aesthetic.
Of the many things Jackson’s adaptation got right, it really gave Tolkien’s trilogy a lived-in, believable feel. From the intricate costuming to the care put into weapon crafting and most importantly the set design, Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy set a standard that has really yet to be matched in fantasy adaptations.
Reports indicate that Amazon's Lord of the Rings will film in New Zealand, and we certainly hope this is an indication that Amazon’s take Lord of the Rings will take its visual cues from Peter Jackson. And on that note…
A Return to Practical Effects
It’s no secret that Amazon is dropping an obscene amount of money on this series, with some reports putting total production costs at upwards of $1 billion. One of the key reasons for the enduring success of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was its reliance on practical effects and the attention to detail. That’s not to say that Lord of the Rings and it sequels shunned CGI – they definitely did not, and in many ways they revolutionized what could be done with CG effects.
But, much of the magic of Jackson’s series revolved around his insistence on the use of classic practical effects, from intricate puppetry and makeup effects to camera angles and the use of perspective. It grounded the entire film trilogy and gave a sense of realism that truly lifted the entire affair.
In fact, I’d argue that the overuse of CGI – particularly effects that felt rushed – was a major hindrance to the quality of Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. Given the amount of money Amazon has tied up in this deal, here’s hoping they take the time to get this aspect right.
The Rise and Fall of Númenor
The legendarium of Tolkien’s Middle-earth is an incredibly complex and detailed monolith. Tolkien literally mapped out thousands of years of history. The Second Age itself covers approximately 3,500 years and is marked by the rise of Sauron and his corrupting influence on the denizens of Middle Earth. But, in many ways, the most fascinating aspect of the Second Age – and where we hope the series will center its focus – is the rise and eventual fall of Númenor.
The Altantis-esque island of Númenor was lifted from the sea and gifted to a powerful race of men who began the Second Age as a heroic and noble people but slowly devolved into brutal colonizers.
While they initially interacted peacefully with the other races of Middle-earth, bitterness toward the godlike Valar and growing avarice seeded by Sauron turned the Númenorians into seafaring tyrants feared the world over. With the growing threat of Sauron, they eventually joined with the Elves to bring down the Dark Lord, but by then the corruption of Númenor ran too deep.
Even with their victory over Sauron, Númenor had pushed their luck too far. The island nation – and most of inhabitants – were destroyed by the wrath of the Valar. While we’d obviously love to see more of Sauron – particularly in his more insidious and seductive form during the Second Age – witnessing the tragedy of Númenor could make for a truly epic series.
Featured still from "The Fellowship of the Ring" via New Line Cinema