I just finished reading “The Hobbit” to my 8-year-old boy. He enjoyed it thoroughly, and probably could have read it himself except for some difficult wording and arcane language (Tolkien, for example, had a habit of using the word “queer” in its correct definition).
He didn’t want to watch the film version until he had read the book. And that’s the proper way to do it with timeless literature like Tolkien.
There’s an entire universe of lore associated with Middle-Earth, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s prolific writing. Hollywood has already hacked this up pretty well, changing key characters and storylines in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, offending many devoted readers. I won’t even get into how badly “The Hobbit” was botched (LOTR was not botched, only marred).
Now Amazon wants to capitalize on the Tolkien universe by turning it into a Game of Thrones killer. It’s an awful, terrible idea, akin to making Dungeons and Dragons into a movie. Oh, yes–that was done, and tanked horribly at the box office.
Of course, Amazon new series won’t be the first new narrative set in Middle-earth. The most recent example is the 2014 video game Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (and its newly-released sequel). The game drew players in by using the familiar setting of Mordor, a familiar timeframe (between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), iconic characters like Gollum and crucial elements like the Rings of Power. But it also starred entirely new characters, expanded Tolkien’s mythology and told an entirely new story.
Two things here.
First, making a movie is different than making a video game. Making movies based on video games generally results in bad movies (“Mortal Kombat,” “Warcraft,” “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” “Super Mario Brothers,” “Resident Evil,” shall I go on?). Making a TV series based on a richly explored mythology described in literature of which movies have already been based is even worse than making a movie based on the video game.
I guarantee whatever Amazon comes up with will be terrible.
Second, Tolkien would spin in his grave. He’s already spinning, after what Peter Jackson did with “The Hobbit,” but he’d spin even faster.
If Amazon wants to mess with Middle-Earth, why don’t they just create a whole new place and populate it with dwarves, elves, orcs, and hobbits. They can come up with a dark lord like Sauron and play it out like a good Dungeon-master.
But Amazon, please don’t make it the Middle-Earth that Tolkien created in painstaking detail (read “The Silmarillion”), and don’t use characters in LOTR.
I don’t want my grandchildren learning about Bilbo and Frodo like it was Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble.
When rumors broke that Amazon was hoping to turn J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings into a TV series, many felt that CEO Jeff Bezos had found his own Game of Thrones. We’re still many years out from seeing a final product, but the first steps were taken today: Amazon just announced that it is producing a multi-season series based in Tolkien’s Middle-earth. But if Bezos really wants to emulate HBO’s wildly popular adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Amazon’s series will likely end up feeling rather foreign to Tolkien devotees.