The “Lord of the Rings” Series Will Be Family Friendly After All

The “Lord of the Rings” Series Will Be Family Friendly After All February 15, 2022


Contrary to earlier reports, Prime’s upcoming series The Rings of Power, a prequel to Lord of the Rings, will be family friendly.  And, according to those who have previewed the first three episodes, it actually sounds really good.

When the series was in pre-production, as we blogged about, a call went out for extras who were “comfortable with nudity,” and the project hired an “intimacy coordinator,” that is, someone who choreographs sex scenes.  So the legitimate fear went out that Jeff Bezos and Amazon were planning to turn J. R. R. Tolkien’s Christian classic into another Game of Thrones, the sex-and-gore drenched fantasy epic that was a smash hit for HBO.

Entertainment journalists Anthony Breznican and Joanna Robinson were given a preview of the first three episodes, along with access to the filmmakers, including showrunners Patrick McKay and JD Payne.  Their writeup, which includes many details about the production and the plans for the show, was published in Vanity Fair in a story entitled  Amazon’s Lord of the Rings Series Rises: Inside The Rings of Power.

They asked the showrunners directly about this (“Westeros” being the land of Game of Thrones), and here is the response:

So will there be Westerosi levels of violence and sex in Amazon’s Middle-earth? In short, no. McKay says the goal was “to make a show for everyone, for kids who are 11, 12, and 13, even though sometimes they might have to pull the blanket up over their eyes if it’s a little too scary. We talked about the tone in Tolkien’s books. This is material that is sometimes scary—and sometimes very intense, sometimes quite political, sometimes quite sophisticated—but it’s also heartwarming and life-affirming and optimistic. It’s about friendship and it’s about brotherhood and underdogs overcoming great darkness.”

Referring to the “chaos” of pre-production, including the challenge of the COVID lockdown as filming began in New Zealand, the journalists give their impression of the series based on the previews:

Whatever other chaos might befall them, they [the showrunners] finally felt they were on the right path. The first three episodes, which V.F. has seen, suggest they were. The show is a lavish, compelling mix of palace intrigue, magic, warfare, and mythology—and there are enough mysteries to power a thousand podcasts. Some characters will be familiar, and they will be the initial attraction as viewers watch their legendary fates unfurl. But the entirely new faces may ultimately become even more involving, since their destinies are literally unwritten.

The series is about what Tolkien called “The Second Age of Middle Earth,” whereas The Lord of the Rings is set in the “Third Age.  It is based on The Silmarillion and Tolkien’s Appendices to his trilogy.  It will focus on the forging of the Rings of Power, as in the LOTR poem:
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them,
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
As such, the series will tell a complex, interwoven tale of elves, dwarves, men, and rise of Sauron, the “Dark Lord.”  Breznican and Robinson quote showrunner Patrick McKay on the scope of the 50-hour saga, which will be broken down into five seasons of 10 one-hour shows:
Their series will juggle 22 stars and multiple story lines, from deep within the dwarf mines of the Misty Mountains to the high politics of the elven kingdom of Lindon and the humans’ powerful, Atlantis-like island, Númenor. All this will center, eventually, around the incident that gives the trilogy its name. “The forging of the rings,” says McKay. “Rings for the elves, rings for dwarves, rings for men, and then the one ring Sauron used to deceive them all. It’s the story of the creation of all those powers, where they came from, and what they did to each of those races.” The driving question behind the production, he adds, was this: “Can we come up with the novel Tolkien never wrote and do it as the mega-event series that could only happen now?”
The problem is that Tolkien’s history and appendices give a general overview, along with some details, but not enough for a comprehensive story, as he did with his novels.  Furthermore, the events Tolkien chronicles as taking thousands of years will here be condensed into a time-frame that can be streamed on video as a single story.  Thus, The Rings of Power makes changes, including adding storylines and some completely new characters (in addition to younger versions of the long-lived elves of LOTR). Tolkien purists are likely to find such adaptations presumptuous.
But it sounds like the creators of the show are trying to be faithful to the spirit and themes of Tolkien’s vision.  And the story itself, just in its own terms, sounds like something I would enjoy greatly.  So I have put the September 2 premiere on my calendar.
Prime showed a brief trailer as a SuperBowl commercial.  Here it is:


Image by Peter J. Yost, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

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