How To Keep The 'LOTR' Series From Being An Expensive Flop
Amazon just paid half of all the money in the world to get the rights to Lord Of The Rings, and will now produce a TV show sure to be the grandest-scale thing in the history of the medium (and that includes the immaculate NCIS Universe). The $250 million price tag doesn't even include any of the production costs; it's just to get the rights to that sweet, sweet LOTR flavor. But since it's going to be some manner of prequel to the trilogy, we can only pray this doesn't turn into Gotham: Now With More Shire!
The problem with so many prequel ideas is the annoying trope of nudging the audience and pointing out all the origins of things we know are to come. "Remember lembas bread? Well look, there's ol' Alfred Lembas baking it for the first time!" To see how stupid this is in action, observe how Gotham somehow took the story of Batman, an adult man, and haphazardly retrofitted it to the story of a boy who still lives in a city completely surrounded by his entire rogue's gallery of villains, all of whom were apparently shady teens at the same time he was.
Game Of Thrones has proven a massive-scale fantasy series can be a huge success, so Lord Of The Rings, the granddaddy of all epic fantasy, seems like a great candidate for a TV show. However, we can only hope that means we're not going to see the Muppet Babies versions of Legolas and Sauron running into each other as emo teens well before the events of the books/films. No one needs to know that Sauron had potential, but his mom drank too much dwarven wine and the other kids at Maiar Academy used to flush his head down the toilet, and that's why he made that ring. The creative team needs to stay far, far away from the Young Sheldon urge to take us back to Gollum's formative years, with a Smeagol In The City kind of storyline wherein we just learn about what made him the way he was. Or maybe we find out that Treebeard used to be shrubbery trying to make it big in Gondor. I shudder to think.
These sorts of throwback stories tend to create far more loose ends than necessary. Show us where that sexy mithril suit of armor came from, and it'll just take you out of the story because it's like pointing a neon arrow at a thing and saying "See? Here's a thing you know. See??" Also, does anyone care about the mithril armor backstory? Or Sting? The sword, that is, not the awesome musician who would be a valuable asset to the show, should they choose to cast him as an elf. Do you want to see either of those Two Towers get built? Or discover when the first guy from Rohan, maybe Gary Rohan, met his first horse and said "best friends forever"?
It's super early to speculate about where this show is going, since it doesn't even exist in concept form. It's just the promise of what could be. But with the trend in prequels to beat audiences over the head with callbacks and in-jokes and references galore, this could easily devolve into the sort of wink-filled nudge fest that leads to pulled eye muscles.
Since we know Amazon isn't going to be using the main, beloved characters from the film franchise (because they can't), there's no benefit to even dropping hints or playing coy. We all know Middle-earth, we get it.
Amazon, if you're out there, and somehow sentient enough to read articles: Do the right thing. Make a solid, independent, creative story. You've got the universe laid out in meticulous detail. The groundwork is all done. So all you need is to write an original narrative with new characters. No one wants a fast-talking Tom Bombadil skateboarding through the Shire with lil' Gandalf on his back.
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