Tolkien fans are desperate for news about Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings TV series, which is set to premiere in September 2022. At present, all we’ve had to feed on is a few map teasers and one measly poster - hardly a feast fit for a hobbit, right?
It’s for precisely that reason that some fans are looking forward to The Wheel of Time, another fantasy epic Amazon is adapting for its streaming service. The first three episodes release today, November 19, and Lord of the Rings fans will be tuning in for a glimpse at what their precious Silmarillion-inspired show could look like. But they could be clutching at straws.
Listen, I get it. Two fantasy series from the same studio are bound to pique interests, and there’s sure to be a lot of crossover in terms of the vibes. Fans of Middle-earth will likely get a lot of enjoyment from an adaptation of Robert Jordan’s epic series, but a shared genre is likely where the resemblance ends.
Amazon Studios is funding both series (to the tune of $465 million for LotR), but as far as we know there are different staff working on each production, especially on the creative side of things. We know that Rafe Judkins developed The Wheel of Time and Uta Briesewitz is directing the first two episodes, whereas the little information we have about the Lord of the Rings show tells us that it’s being developed by J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay, and the first two episodes will be directed by J.A. Bayona. Where are the similarities other than where the money comes from?
As The Wheel of Time series goes on however, Wayne Che Yip is set to direct two episodes, with the director also slated to be shooting four episodes of the Lord of the Rings series. So, we have a couple of episodes that share a director, but what does this mean for the series?
In all likelihood, not a lot. While directors have their own distinct styles, since different scripts and showrunners will work with Che Yip across both projects, I fully expect his episodes of each series to have little in common with each other. Maybe film buffs will be able to see directorial parallels between his episodes, but us plebs will likely miss some of the subtleties. If you subscribe to the directorship giving us a taste of the Lord of the Rings series’ direction, you can go and watch The Witcher right now on Netflix as Charlotte Brändström, who will take the helm for two episodes of the Tolkien adaptation, directed two episodes of that. But why stop there? Watch Bayona’s A Monster Calls while you’re at it, as the fantasy drama has the added bonus of Sigourney Weaver, who’s obviously great.
What I’m saying is, we can compare two series of the same genre and we can even compare series with the same directors, but none of that will answer our questions or calm our nerves. At the end of the day, these are all huge productions with eye-watering budgets - they’re all going to look slick and have very good CGI and all that. What us fans are really looking for is how faithful the productions are to the original works - to all 29 pages of Second Age content in The Silmarillion.
Rings fans who aren’t well-versed in Jordan - and I include myself in that group - should look to the reactions of The Wheel of Time’s own fans rather than over-analysing the undoubtedly slick series itself. Is being faithful to the text the be-all-and-end-all when translating a story across media? No. But it’s our best bet of guessing how the Lord of the Rings series will turn out. After all, they haven’t given us anything else to go on, and fans are hungry for second breakfast.
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