When Amazon Studios announced in November of 2017 that they had acquired the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s wildly popular fantasy series The Lord of the Rings and would be producing a TV prequel series for their Prime streaming service, I did what any self-respecting “Ringer” would have done. I sat myself down and watched, in its entirety, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Yes, the extended editions. Yes, it was glorious.
If you don’t remember what it was like to experience The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002 ), or The Return of the King (2003) when they were released, then you are in the minority. These movies not only dominated the box office (stat) and the Academy Awards (stat), but were directly responsible for an explosion of Fantasy / Action content out of Hollywood that included The Chronicles of Narnia and HBO’s Game of Thrones.
It was only a matter of time before audiences would be invited back to the land of Middle Earth. Considering the lukewarm reception of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) and it’s sequels, fans and critics alike are already skeptical that production executives don’t have what it takes to handle the beloved property as faithfully as they would like.
Skepticism aside, The Lord of the Rings prequel TV show is definitely happening.
Here’s what we know so far:
Amazon Studios is Betting Big & Moving Fast
After the announcement was made, Deadline reported that the deal had cost Amazon a cool $250 million dollars to secure the adaptation rights to the property from the Tolkien estate, which apparently had been shopping it to other networks. Reportedly, Amazon outbid Netflix for the project.
The hefty price tag is no doubt evidence of Amazon’s commitment to the franchise, as well as an indication that the studio will be betting big on its original Prime programming in the years to come. In fact, the Lord of the Rings TV prequel is said to have a production budget of over $1 Billion, which could make it the most expensive TV show of all time.
2. The Marketing Has Begun
We haven’t heard much from Amazon regarding the new series, so it’s been difficult to even theorize on what kind of show they’ve got in store for us. Fortunately, the studio has broken radio silence with the sudden appearance of the Twitter handle @LOTRonPrime.
The account’s first words? “I Wisely Started with a Map.” The quote is from Tolkien himself, referring to the method in which he wrote his sprawling fantasy epic.
The quote was paired with a link to this interactive map, which fans were quick to scrutinize for clues. @tolkienthot pointed out, for instance, that the Beleriand region in the Northeast is not pictured, which could mean that the series takes place in the Second or Third Age of Middle earth.
3. It Might Air as Early as 2021
While Amazon’s purchase agreement reportedly included a stipulation that the studio has only two years to start production on the project, there was no initial indicator as to when exactly this next great adventure would be starting.
Then, newly installed Amazon exec Jennifer Salke was kind enough to spill a few beans to THR: “2021 is the hope. But there are other people who wish it was 2020.”
You can go ahead and count us in the 2020 camp.
4. Peter Jackson Might Come Along for the Ride
One of the first questions that popped into our collective head when the news was announced was, will Peter Jackson be returning to direct the series? After all, it was Jackson’s remarkable vision and attention to detail that are credited for making the previous movie adaptations so wildly popular.
However, the fan reception to his three follow-up Hobbit movies was anything but glowing. In fact, even Jackson has admitted that the whole thing was a mess. After a personal loss like that, would Jackson even want to return?
The answer is … maybe. Jennifer Salke, the exec in charge of the project, admitted in 2018 that “The Peter Jackson Conversations” were taking place. As to what that means? Salke had little more to say on the matter: “we’re just in a conversation with him about how much or how little he would be involved.”
Seeing Jackson as director is unlikely, but having him come on as a producer, script editor, and creative consultant might be the perfect way to get fans of the original movies on board for another romp through Middle Earth.
5. We Might See a Young Aragorn
Although we have seen no official reports that confirm it, Lord of the Rings fan site TheOneRing.Net was pretty confident when they tweeted out some breaking news about the upcoming show:
TheOneRing.Net did not reveal where, exactly, this information was coming from, except that it was from within Amazon. While this still hasn’t been confirmed by anyone else, the “Young Aragorn” discussions have been popping up all over the internet as fans try to deduce where exactly in Aragorn’s life we will meet him.
For instance, are we finally going to meet Elrond’s sons, who were basically Aragorn’s BFFs growing up? Or watch as Aragorn rides off to war with Theoden’s father? Something tells us that over the course of the series’ 5 seasons, we are going to see a little bit of everything.
What We Still Don’t Know about THE LORD OF THE RINGS Prequel TV Series
How Many Episodes Are We Getting?
Considering the insane budget that Amazon is starting with, it is likely that #LOTRonPrime will take a note from the final Game of Thrones seasons and opt for longer but fewer episodes.
Will There Be Any Other Familiar Faces?
No casting news has been released on the project, so it is impossible to know for certain whether we will see anyone else we recognize. However it is important to note that there are a number of other Lord of the Rings characters that were alive when Aragorn was young, and long before that as well.
Could Ian McKellen’s GANDALF make an appearance? Hugo Weaving’s ELROND would be a likely choice.
Is This Show Going to be Just A Cash Grab?
The rushed production schedule of The Hobbit as well as the studio’s insistence on splitting the material into three movies are the most likely reasons that the films were so poorly received. Have the executives learned their lesson?
Our best guess? Amazon seems to know what they’re doing. It is doubtful that they would take such an expensive step for a property that they didn’t feel confident that they could handle, especially when there is a multitude of good fantasy novels out there that could be adapted instead.
Our recommendation: Get Peter Jackson. Even just as an adviser. At this point, the director knows what went wrong with the hobbit, and he may be looking for a chance at redemption himself.
Just do us one favor Amazon? If at any point you have the inclination of including a clunky, cringe-worthy Elvish love triangle like they did in The Hobbit, just … skip it.