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  • Writer's pictureMichael Lee Simpson


When J.R.R. Tolkien was a signals officer in the British Army, he wrote a poem titled The Lonely Isle. That writing style would grow until it resonated throughout the fantasy world he would ultimately create. He was only twenty-four, shaken by the horrors of World War I, and moved as he sat on the troop transport during an overnight voyage to Calais.

…Until the sun pace down his arch of hours,

When in the silence fairies with a wistful heart

Dance to soft airs their harps and viols weave.

Down the great wastes and in gloom…”

Long after the war in 1930, Tolkien was at the University of Oxford’s Pembroke College pursuing an academic career. He had written several more poems by then—"Goblin Feet," "The Cat and the Fiddle: A Nursery Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked" — along with stories featuring gnomes, ghosts, and eleven mystical languages. While marking papers, he tore off a blank page and wrote the words:

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."

Over the next two years, he penned manuscripts for The Hobbit and the first two volumes of The Lord of The Rings. It wouldn’t be another seven years until The Hobbit was published and The Lord of the Rings didn’t surface until 1954. By the time he died in 1973, Tolkien couldn’t have predicted his epic, Middle-earth, high-fantasy tales as two Peter Jackson trilogies collectively grossing nearly four billion dollars globally. Now, nineteen years after The Return of the King, the globally-acclaimed series is resurrecting with Amazon Prime’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Let’s look at series in its entirety and what to expect from The Rings of Power.

J. R. R. Tolkien enormously influenced fantasy writing, establishing the form of epic fantasy,” stated actress/director/producer Anna Rezan(Like a Summer Night, Beauty Before Age, My People). “The franchise set the standards for the cinematic fantasy epic. There were inspiring messages, top-notch esthetics, incredible runtime, and perfect continuity. I adore the political thesis and symbolism. It’s a statement that middle-class people are strongly affected by swings of power, but shall use their strength to make political change. Whatever isn’t kindness isn’t being a product of mankind. It’s a metaphysical energy that humanity works together to destroy, and, in the franchise, they do that. To me, that’s absolutely true and inspiring.

Writer, actor, and director Ricardo Cordero (The Escape, Pretend, the Suicide TV series), reflected on his first impression of the franchise years ago: “Growing up in the Bronx, movies were a way of passing time and when The Lord of the Rings was shown as a trailer preview, I lost my mind. Instantly, I knew I was a big fan. The story meant more than just survival—it meant new beginnings and hope for the underdog. I really was surprised and impressed by Viggo Mortensen’s ability to transform himself into a humble protector. I watched the movies and read the books to understand the correlation between both—although I did like the books more because they provide a better account of the story.

Peter Jackson accomplished the impossible,”continued Rezan. “His determination and passion provided us with one of the best trilogies ever made. Jim Rygiel, the visual effects supervisor on all three films, changed cinema. The blending of CGI with practical effects is what made the movies hold up so well.”

The original film franchise, starring a worldly-acclaimed ensemble cast—Elijah Wood as the virtuous Frodo Baggins, Viggo Mortensen as the heroic Aragorn, Sean Bean as Boromir, High Warden of the White Tower, Dominic Monaghan and Sean Astin as Merry and Samwise, Frodo’s noble friends, Ian McKellen as the wise, white-bearded Gandalf, Orlando Bloom as the blonde-haired, arrow-shooting Legolas, and Andy Serkis as the crawling, slimy, notorious Gollum, to name a few—will pass the torch to another cast, which will undoubtedly be as hailed (or not) in the coming years.

Four of the main cast members include Cynthia Addai-Robinson, known for Spartacus and Arrow, will play Míriel, the queen regent of Númenor. Robert Aramayo, who played Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones will be a half-Elven politician and architect named Elron. The National Theatre’s One Man, Two Guvnors Owain Arthur will be Durin IV, prince of the Dwarven city of Khazad-dûm. Maxim Baldry, who played Viktor Goraya in the dystopian science fiction miniseries, Years and Years, will play a Númenórean sailor called Isildur. None of that means anything yet, but the plot is already familiar based on the understanding of original franchises. The Rings of Power will take place thousands of years before the original storylines, covering the Second Age of Middle-earth. Not revealed in detail yet, the basic storyline follows the last alliance between men and Elves, the rise of a Dark Lord and the formation of the Rings of Power.

When Amazon bought the rights in 2017 for $250 million, the contract was for five seasons. Not only that, but the production commitment was also for over one billion dollars, which makes The Rings of Power the most expensive series in television history. For some, The Rings of Power isn’t the long-awaited series-of-the-decade many have put on a gold pedestal; so long after The Return of the King, with already mixed feelings about the original franchise (as well as The Hobbit trilogy), many aren’t exactly waiting in line. As The Matrix Resurrections proved—its last film, The Matrix Revolutions released the same year as The Return of the King in 2003—fall from greatness is always a possibility.

I’m a huge fan of what Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings did to transform storytelling,” said writer, editor, and publishing consultant Stephenie Magister. "And is it even possible not to enjoy the original trilogy of Peter Jackson movies? I even have a fondness for the animated one with C-3PO/Anthony Daniels as the voice of Legolas. But I have a strange relationship with the books. Tolkien tells story like a history teacher. For me, those books are much more about the experience of history and worldbuilding. I’m not there for those things. I want an experience primarily driven by an emotionally-immersive experience of a character. The story is just the cool stuff to bounce those emotional experiences up against.

David Seth Cohen, Founder of Legitimate Rascal Films and writer/director of Finding Sandler, stated, “I think the movies are incredibly well done, but I wouldn’t consider myself a fan because I have only seen the films once or twice and never read the books. I didn’t even know they were making it into a series and don’t have much of a feeling on it. It’s been a really long time since the previous films, and I didn’t watch those many times.”

I don’t think it’s going to do well,” added Magister. “I think it’ll make the same mistake as the later seasons of Game of Thrones. I think they will focus way too much on the history and the worldbuilding and a cool story that intrigues fans and people new to the franchise and the fantasy genre. But it won’t be a mega success because the experience the show manifests for audiences each episode won’t be what hooks audiences. What was the difference in the experience each episode left you with in season one of Game of Thrones versus season eight? For me, the early episodes weren’t just the darkest fantasy story anyone had ever seen. It was a character-driven political drama that rivaled those early seasons of House of Cards. I’m not saying Lot needs to repeat the experience of Game of Thrones. Just that they’ve pumped a ton of money into this, but I don’t think it will be their next early-season Game of Thrones. I’d love to be wrong.”

Jacob Thomas, a fan of the entire franchise, ends on this note: “I’ve read the books and seen the films. I know the characters inside and out, the themes, the incredibly fierce imagination, the story arcs and the Middle-earth world like the back of my hand. The Rings of Power, to me, will be a turning point both in television and the Lord of the Rings legacy. I think they have a good team behind them, a great cast and obviously solid foundational material. I’m trying not to have expectations, but that’s an impossibility when it comes to a franchise you love. We’ll see how it works.”

-Creative Screenwriting Magazine


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