In Defense of a New Lord of the Rings Series
Ever since it was announced in early November, the new Amazon adaptation of Middle-Earth has been generating a lot of reaction on the interwebs. For the most part, the main question people seem to have is about this new Lord of the Rings series is “Why?”
“We have our perfect adaptation already!” the cry goes, referencing Peter Jackson’s iconic early-2000s film trilogy. Cast members of those films have even weighed in, claiming the series is just another money grab (as if making six three-hour multi-million dollar films was not a money grab in itself).
A much more compelling argument against the series is from Book Riot’s own Sonja Palmer, an avowed Lord of the Rings fan herself. Palmer makes the excellent point that if Amazon is going to drop a cool $1 billion on a fantasy adaptation, does it really need to be another one about white men? Here’s hoping the new series will be able to envision Rangers, elves, and dwarves with more diverse skin tones.
With that hope in mind, I actually got excited when the series was first rumored to be in the works. I love The Lord of the Rings as much as anyone. I was in high school when the film versions came out, and I may or may not have waited several hours in line each time a new one came out, first for tickets, and then to get great seats. Tolkien has heavily influenced my own writing of fantasy.
However…I’ll also be one of the first to admit that Jackson’s films were far from perfect adaptations. Even with the extended director’s cut (which, yes of course I’ve seen them all) clocking in at over nine hours total, there’s just no way for three movies to encapsulate all of Tolkien’s nuanced mythology. No Tom Bombadil? What’s with that?
A new Lord of the Rings television series, though, has enormous potential to be a much more faithful adaptation of Tolkien’s work. With a series, you have untold hours to explore various characters, backstories, subplots, and so on. While this often means boredom for a series that tries to churn out 13–26 hours of material in what should only take 8 (see The Walking Dead, any Netflix Marvel adaptation), for something like The Lord of the Rings, it seems well suited.
I’ve long felt that for book lovers who often decry “the book was better!” quality television adaptations might be just the thing we need. Consider the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice miniseries, still beloved by many Austen fans as the most faithful adaptation of her work. Coming in at over 5 hours, it’s easy to see why that’s a much more memorable interpretation than the 2005 Keira Knightley version, which is a little over two hours.
Books are made for long, sprawling hours. While television is certainly a different medium and has its own demands, I think there’s something to be said for books getting serialized small screen adaptations over large screen ones. Of course, the new Lord of the Rings series from Amazon is going to be a prequel story, so most of this is a moot point. I’m less excited for it now, because I think there are many more fantasy worlds and stories that need to be adapted for the screen. Plus, as my wife pointed out when she heard the news, “Isn’t the prequel to The Lord of the Rings just…The Hobbit?
Anyway, I’m still waiting for a BBC miniseries of Harry Potter. Just think of what they could do with Peeves.