Game of Thrones has often been compared to Lord of the Rings. Both franchises involve swords and sorcery, with complex literary source material adapted into wildly popular screen entertainment. Both have rabid fan bases that scrutinize every scrap of minutia it’s possible to debate.
Game of Thrones was a phenomenon that, at least until recently, thrilled its fans. The works of JRR Tolkien have spawned not one but two very successful movie series, with one entry winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It’s not unreasonable to gamble that somehow combining the two would be a winner, and Amazon has placed its bets.
However, as any seasoned showbiz observer will tell you, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. A Lord of the Rings series with a Game of Thrones writer may seem like a good idea on paper, but lightning in a bottle is hard to capture twice, even with copious CGI.
Amazon wants to run ‘Lord of the Rings’ around HBO
Amazon has brought in Thrones writer Bryan Cogman to work on their show. According to TV Line, Cogman had worked with the series since the beginning, having stated as an assistant for showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. He went on to write 11 episodes. Clearly, the intent is for Thrones and Rings to share more DNA than the swords and sorcery.
Not much is known about Amazon’s show, except that the streamer/e-commerce titan has already committed to several seasons. Sharon Tal Yguado of Amazon said in a statement. “We are honored to be working with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line on this exciting collaboration for television and are thrilled to be taking The Lord of the Rings fans on a new epic journey in Middle Earth.”
This “new” journey will take place before Lord of the Rings, although it is not clear if it takes place before or after the events of The Hobbit. In either case, Amazon’s show may play like James Bond movies once they ran out of Ian Fleming stories to adapt.
Recent ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ projects underwhelmed
By now, many viewers seem to agree the final season of Game of Thrones left a great deal to be desired. An IMDB ranking of Game of Thrones episodes placed season 8 episodes toward the bottom, with the hotly anticipated finale being dead last. Fans argued that Benioff and Weiss tried to cram too much story into too little time, and the series ended with more of a whimper than a bang.
Then there was the recent Tolkien biopic starring Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins. It underwhelmed both audiences and critics, making only $4 million domestically. Fans may argue that a biopic and an actual Tolkien adaptation are different, but Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy didn’t capture the same affection as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Yes, all six movies were box office hits, but many people thought that stretching one book into three long movies was more a cash grab and not so much a good idea.
The Return of the King swept the Oscars in 2004, but the Hobbit trilogy won no Oscars at all. The Lord of the Rings trilogy earned more than $1 billion at the US box office, but The Hobbit trio grossed $816 million, a significant step-down.
One series to rule them all?
Amazon could still surprise us, especially if Ian McKellen reprises his role as Gandalf, as has been rumored. Just as we don’t know it will be a hit, we also don’t know it will be a failure. Still, there are skeptical voices out there. Johnny Oleksinski of the New York Post writes: “LOTR is jam-packed with battles, which don’t play as well on TV. And its characters, by and large, are more concerned with the greater good and maps than with juicy interpersonal conflicts. It’s just too big for the small screen.”
Vanity Fair doubts that “there will ever be another Game of Thrones. The viewership is simply too fractured and too distracted now to allow any show, no matter the subject matter, to capture a Thrones-level audience ever again.”
If only Amazon could actually use that infamous ring. We’ll see if their show will be precious or not.
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