The era of prestige TV has been studded with big-budget adaptations of significant works. The trend started with Game of Thrones, but it's become almost a requirement for streaming services to have a marquee franchise title where episodes cost millions, from Netflix's Stranger Things and upcoming The Sandman to HBO Max's Peacemaker and upcoming House of the Dragon. But no one has sunk more money into big-budget fantasy adaptation than the world's richest man, Jeff Bezos. In ten months, Amazon Prime Video will have debuted two of the most expensive fantasy adaptations ever, last November's Wheel of Time and now the upcoming Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power.
For anglophiles, these shows are a boon, though many of them could be termed "Transatlantic puddings," in the words of BritBox Chief Creative Officer Diederick Santer recently termed them, more than they are strictly British fare. But Lord of the Rings has more than most, written in Oxford by the famous British author J.R.R. Tolkien and filmed in the Commonwealth of New Zealand. It is also fascinating to see how big a television show can get. It's easy to joke that Tolkien started his Lord of the Rings journey with a map, Bezos, with $250m. But with this eight-episode first season reportedly ringing in at $465m, nearly half a billion dollars, the marketing for the coming series will be driven to come away with a hit.
So far, there's been a minute-long teaser-to-the-trailer, released just before Amazon's usual two-day annual "Prime Day" sales fest, panels scheduled at San Diego Comic-Con, and exclusive photos released. The images are gorgeous, though absolutely none of the characters will be recognizable to the average fan, primarily familiar with Peter Jackson's big screen adaptations. But if you're going to go big and swing for the fences, you might as well go all the way. Showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay certainly did, crafting a story out of Tolkien's lesser-known corners of Middle Earth lore and setting the series in what is known as "The Second Age," the one before all of Tolkien's best sellers were set.
Check out the trailer, which Amazon boasts features the Elven realms of Lindon and Eregion, the Dwarven realm Khazad-dûm, the Southlands, the Northernmost Wastes, the Sundering Seas, and the island kingdom of Númenór.
Despite being set in a time before any of Tolkien's tales, the story isn't that unfamiliar. Cate Blanchett, who played Galadriel in Jackson's films, famously narrated a four-minute summary of it in the trilogy's prologue. Here's Amazon's version, which you can imagine being spoken in Blanchett's voice for full effect.
Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared reemergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains to the majestic forests of the elf capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the farthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.
As expected, the series has an extensive cast featuring Maxim Baldry as Isildur, Lloyd Owen as Elendil, Trystan Gravelle as Pharazôn, and Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Queen Regent Míriel. And that's just the folks in the trailer. The series also features Morfydd Clark as Galadriel, Robert Aramayo as Elrond, and Sir Lenny Henry as Sadoc Burrows. The rest of the cast includes Leon Wadham, Ema Horvath, Benjamin Walker, Sara Zwangobani, Markella Kavenagh, Megan Richards, Daniel Weyman, Peter Mullan, Owain Arthur, Charlie Vickers, and Ismael Cruz Córdova.
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premieres on Friday, September 2, 2022, and (one assumes) will follow a weekly release schedule, though Amazon has not actually specified that.