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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 9:12 pm 
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Quite surprised that they already released an official statement.

So it seems they are going for scenario #3 (from all the options I mentioned above). I am still not ruling out a Númenor or Silmarillion series however. For an avid reader of Tolkien's works, the phrase "new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring" certainly sounds like something set directly before the War of the Ring, but as most entertainment consumers are not familiar with Tolkien's wider legendarium, the phrase could also indicate a series set many millennia before the "Lord of the Rings".

As V pointed out, the involvement of the Tolkien Estate certainly serves as a sign that we won't just get an "appendices series", or for that matter a completely invented story-line (for example, I don't know, some war about Gondor battling Sauron's tenth ringwraith in 2700).

Another, maybe even more important aspect, is marketability. From the onset, this series will face one big wide-spread criticism: that it is just a redundant remake of previous adaptation, or that is simply adds unnecessary stuff to an already told story. A series about Aragorn's younger days would certainly face the latter criticism. By adapting the Akallabêth or stories from the Silmarillion, such criticisms would certainly decrease (but not vanish completely).

Ultimately, this all depends on Amazon's fundamental approach: If they primarily rely on the "LOTR" IP and just think "Well it is Middle-earth, people will consume that no matter what. So we just have to remind people constantly that this is about elves, dwarves, and stuff, and nostalgia will take the rest...Gandalf makes a cameo in episode 5...nerdgasm", this will fail, on a commercial level, and certainly, on an artistic level. If key people behind this project realize that this series must rest on its own shoulders, and must faithfully adapt what it promises to tell, then hope remains.

PS: I do not like Amazon as a company in general, but hey, at least it is not Disney.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 10:20 pm 
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I am not optimistic.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 10:53 pm 
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I like the idea of a return to middle earth, and I think a TV series with decent production values is a good vehicle, but I have major concerns about the capability of TV writers to adapt Tolkien without making either a very lame copy copy, or some oh so smart "clever" adaption.


The other thing that also worries me, is that whilst the production values and a couple of the lead actors can be decent in these series often the the secondary roles are filled with actors who are not up to much - eg Expanse, -

My final concern would be if they created a series in line with current values - I don't what to upset people here, but having a bunch of "right-on" characters to fit some identity politics agenda would be a complete anathema.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:12 pm 
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V, if I sounded too optimistic in my previous post, I assure you that this was not my intention. ^^ Overall, I am rather pessimistic about this whole endeavor and would have preferred for a longer pause between Middle-earth adaptations. Given the current mainstream film and the TV market, and more importantly what the masses crave in their entertainment (commodified sex, pornographic violence, pseudonihilism, and false "gritty realism"), I say ill fares the land.

With that said, I am at least pleased that the television series will not merely readapt "The Lord of the Rings". I say the chances for such a series succeeding on an artistic level, would have been below two per cent. The possibility for something of merit has at least increased to nine, ten per cent now. That is still bad, and I think it is best to anticipate a series that is full of famous names but devoid of any deep understanding of Tolkien. If the producers and writers follow the "Shadow of Mordor" approach, we will get a series that borrows certain lines and characters from Tolkien and then turns everything into some postmodern, focus-group-approved entertainment product, hardly standing out among the other drek.

It very much depends on what news we receive in the next months. Who at Amazon is responsible for the series and who are the main writers? I say if the announce a series set directly before "The Lord of the Rings", the chances for success again drop to five per cent.

One key concern is that Amazon executives might pressure the creative team behind this project to release the first season very soon; an issue that also plagued "The Hobbit" trilogy. According to several articles, the acquisition of the "LOTR rights" is part of a new strategy for Amazon Studios. As a company, Amazon is known for its very aggressive growth strategy (for a somewhat funny reference to this, see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzAdXyPYKQo).

Looking at the example of "Game of Thrones", HBO acquired the rights for the books in January 2007. The pilot was ordered in November 2008, and the first season finally began to air in April 2011. If we were to apply a similar time frame to this Middle-earth series, the first episode would be released in early 2022. I highly doubt this will be the case here. I still hope the series will not be released before late 2020; if they decide to air it in 2019 already, this will be a bad omen indeed.

PS: Bezos' Twitter confirmation: https://twitter.com/JeffBezos


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:42 pm 
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Beutlin, I did not mean to suggest that I thought you were being too optimistic.

Matt Galsor, the person quoted in the press release as representing the "Tolkien Trust and Estate" is the head of the Entertainment Group of the law firm Greenberg Gluster, which is the firm that represented the Tolkien plaintiffs in both of the lawsuits against New LIne, WB and Middle-earth Enterprises. So he is certainly qualified to speak for the Estate and Trust.

My guess now is that part of the settlement of the more recent lawsuit might have been revoking the television series option that was granted in the original agreements, allowing the Estate to negotiate this new deal. But of course that is speculation. In any event I continue to be cautiously pessimistic about the prospects of there being anything worthwhile come out of this project.

ETA: Is it at all significant that Bezos's twitter post includes an image of the Ring from Jackson's films?

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:42 pm 
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Am I right in thinking that a "Tolkien Estate" deal might actually have the potential to include Silmarillion rights? As in, these guys are Christopher's team rather than Saul Zaentz?

Realistically, that's the only license that could possibly justify the price tag.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:54 pm 
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Al, I hope that is the case, but as I noted above, I am guessing that the settlement that was resolved this past July might have included a clause rescinding the option to purchase television series rights that was contained in the original 1969 agreements and therefore was held by Zaentz's company. The reasons that I am guessing that are: (1) the person quoted as representing the Estate and Trust is the head honcho of the law firm that represented them in that lawsuit; (2) there does not seem to be any mention of Middle-earth Enterprises in any of the reporting on this deal; and (3) the description of the project refers to it being an LOTR project, even though it states that it takes place before the events of FOTR. The Silmarillion, of course, does take place before FOTR (way, WAY before), but the description "previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings" doesn't sound like Silmarillion events, it sounds like the abandoned bridge film. But we'll see. If they include events from the Silmarillion and/or the second age Númenor stories it might be good.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:20 pm 
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Hi everyone, long time no see.

So to me, the most interesting part of this is the Tolkien Estate's involvement. Christopher Tolkien is, to put it mildly, not a fan of Peter Jackson's movies. I disagree with him at least on LotR (I need to rewatch the Hobbit trilogy to settle my thoughts on it definitively), though I don't begrudge him being a purist - no one alive has more of a right to be, and he has a unique attachment to and vision of his father's work. He has also been fiercely protective of any further licensing deals beyond what his father gave out.

So that being said, what might have gotten Christopher Tolkien to sign on to this? A few possibilities:
  1. Someone is manipulating Christopher in dementia and old age.
  2. Chris has handed licensing decisions over to someone else in the Estate and is stepping aside to let them make the decision here even if he disagrees.
  3. After declining decades of opportunities to cash in on the legendarium by licensing the Silmarillion or with official fan fiction (mostly writing obtuse academic tomes about his father's work instead), Christopher has decided to focus on the money and take the $250 million. This seems odd for someone in his 90s, but maybe he's concerned about his great-grandchildren? Who knows.
  4. The contract has provisions for strong creative roles to people who Christopher absolutely trusts.

I certainly hope it's not 1 (and since he just published Beren and Lúthien, his mind is probably still good). 4 is the best-case scenario but some combination of 2 and 3 is probably more likely. Anyway, the fact that the Estate was directly involved gives me a little reason for hope. But not too much. ;)


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 4:07 pm 
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Nice analysis, k_z. I pretty much concur with everything you say.

One new bit of information that I have come across is that Variety is specifically reporting that The Silmarillion is not included in this project.

http://variety.com/2017/tv/news/lord-of ... 202613609/

Quote:
The Amazon deal does not cover “The Silmarillion,” the third major work taking place in Tolkein’s Middle Earth and adjacent worlds, published after the author’s death.


Of course, just because they say that doesn't mean it is true, but it seems increasingly unlikely that this is going to be anything other than a series of made up events very loosely based on some things that Tolkien may or may not have written, set in some place called "Middle Earth" not Tolkien's Middle-earth.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 4:24 pm 
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For yov:

Maybe they can get George Lucas to write some dialogue for them:

Aragorn: 'I like sand.'

Arwen: 'I gave up immortality for this?'

:P

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 4:28 pm 
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Do all the still-unfilmed "good stories," such as Beren and Lúthien, count as part of the Silmarillion?

By "good stories" I mean ones more easily adapted to television—romance, adventure, swords. (I don't mean to imply that only such tales are "good." Just that they probably have wider appeal.)

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:30 pm 
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Hard to say. Assuming that only the rights to LOTR and the TH are in play, there is a reference to Beren and Lúthien in LOTR. However, in order to avoid copyright infringement of the Silmarillion or the newly released stand alone book, the adaptation would technically need to veer the details of the story as Tolkien wrote it. I would have said that would be impossible to do in a project like this, with the assumption that the Estate would be all over it. But if they are involved in the project, maybe they would allow a little more latitude to allow that to happen in a reasonable way. Who knows?

At the very least, we will be having a fun time speculating on what they might do. And on just how bad it will be!

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:32 pm 
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Oh, let's hope it's actually worth watching. Much less stressful in these dismal times.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:43 pm 
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Maybe they will get really good writers and it will be great.

Maybe.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:44 pm 
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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
(...) but it seems increasingly unlikely that this is going to be anything other than a series of made up events very loosely based on some things that Tolkien may or may not have written, set in some place called "Middle Earth" not Tolkien's Middle-earth.


A sober and yet thoroughly depressing assessment.

I am still holding out hope for a series about the downfall of Númenor, although I am not sure if Amazon has acquired all the rights for such an adaptation.

It again comes down to marketability: if the producers at Amazon think that you need familiar characters to sell a Middle-earth series to a wider audience, they will obviously decide to set their story as a direct prelude to the War of the Ring. Most stories from the Silmarillion and the Second Age do not feature any or only very few characters which appear in "The Hobbit" or "The Lord of the Rings". Some races which are of pivotal importance in Tolkien's most famous works (hobbit, wizards), are not featured at all. It would therefore take some (not a lot but still) guts to make a series set in a time long before the end of the Third Age. And if the people responsible at Amazon think it is safer to make a bridge series, set in the 2970s to 2990s, I reckon that the chances for artistic success are below five per cent.

Personally, I think a series about Númenor would be the most promising and interesting scenario. My issue with a "LOTR proper" television series (which, it seems, is now off the table) is that "The Lord of the Rings" is a story which is much better suited for cinema. And by that I do not mean primarily the large battles and magnificent vistas. In the end, the book's narrative focuses on the stories of only a handful of characters. To simplify things a little bit, before the Breaking of the Fellowship, this is Frodo's story. Afterwards, the readers also follow the separate stories of Pippin, Merry, and to a lesser degree Aragorn; but that's it. There are no chapters in between that feature Saruman, or Dain, or Théoden, or Faramir as their protagonist.

Compare that to Martin's book series "A Song of Ice and Fire": I just grabbed the first book, "A Game of Thrones" and counted the different protagonists for each chapter. Just in the first 150 pages, we are introduced to eight (!) separate protagonists, Catelyn, Daenerys, Eddard, Jon, Arya, Bran, Tyrion, and Sansa; and that exclude the protagonist of the prologue. Even if you are barely familiar with television drama series writing, anybody can see that these books lend themselves ideally for a television adaptation. Just imagine a LOTR series where you already know that Aragorn is the heir to the throne as he meets the hobbits in Bree, where you know for several seasons that Saruman has turned to evil, and so on and so on. A lot of the mystery and wonder of the "Lord of the Rings" which the reader experiences through the eyes of the hobbits would thereby be lost. And the same goes for the main stories in the Silmarillion, in my opinion. The story about Beren and Lúthien does not suddenly come to a halt and shifts its gaze to Túrin's childhood years. All these stories are essentially very intimate personal stories set in a wider world of larger events.

Even though they are not readapting the LOTR now, this prequel could follow a GoT approach: show everything - from Círdan in the Northwest to some Haradrim king in the Southeast.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 7:20 pm 
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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
Maybe they will get really good writers and it will be great.

Maybe.

FWIW, Amazon Prime is currently adapting Good Omens, with David Tennant who's pretty much everyone's dream cast for Crowley, and with the surviving coauthor Neil Gaiman deeply involved. We won't know how that turns out until next year, but at least based on what is known so far, they are willing to work with the writer and hire good actors.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 7:49 pm 
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The difference is that with Good Omens there is actually something to adapt from. Like a book full of plot and dialogue (I assume, not having actually read it). Not a brief mention in an appendix.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 7:52 pm 
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I have no hopes at all. I couldn’t even sit through the Hobbit.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 14, 2017 10:25 pm 
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Here is an interesting tidbit that I just learned. Christopher Tolkien resigned as a director of the Tolkien Estate, effective the end of August of this year.

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/comp ... ng-history

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 15, 2017 12:00 am 
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That is interesting!

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