It’s been a little over fifteen years since Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings trilogy concluded and you know what that means: remake time!
As Deadline reported today, the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien is currently shopping around rights to a TV series based on The Lord of the Rings with a hefty sticker price. The Tolkien estate has put a price tag of $200-250 million dollars on the rights and is currently taking meetings with Netflix and Amazon to discuss the next iteration of the beloved fantasy novels. Whereas earlier reports suggested that Warner Bros. Television and Amazon were already in talks for the series, it seems that Netflix is still in the running, whereas powerhouse HBO has apparently already turned down the offer.
There’s good reason for HBO to make that move. It already has Game of Thrones and what is starting to look like an endless series of spin-offs of George R.R. Martin that ensures that they will never have to seriously consider an original idea ever again to make money. On top of that, the $200 million payment is just for the rights and they are apparently quite limited to make sure that any spin-off would have to include another rights payment. This is even before we start talking about production costs, which would put the full price of making this series well over the half-a-billion mark.
That’s likely why Amazon is currently the favorite to take the deal, if it’s taken at all. Amazon honcho Jeff Bezos has mandated that Amazon’s streaming service needs a major fantasy series to compete with Game of Thrones and this would fit his bill, even if there are thousands of other fantasy and science-fiction series that haven’t been touched. Hell, nobody has been able to do a decent adaptation of Orson Scott Card‘s “Ender” series, but then you don’t necessarily want to be giving more money to a vehement racist. The Lord of the Rings offers name recognition and a clear map for spin-off series that could help with Bezos’ push to stop putting money into genuinely great TV (Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle, One Mississippi, Catastrophe, etc.) and move more toward series that could compete against major film franchises.
As Deadline points out, its strange that Warner Bros. and the Tolkien estate are working together after a lawsuit involving the use of Tolkien’s characters on slot machines had them at odds for something like half a decade. Still, nothing brings big companies together like the possibility for more money and the appeal of just remaking or rebooting stories that have already been told ad nauseum. This could very well be the big deal that Bezos has been searching for in his journey for cultural domination. On the other hand, Jackson has already put together over ten hours of inspiring filmmaking and visual storytelling based on Tolkien’s books. Amazon may be able to pay for the right director, writers, crew, and cast to make this thing work but other than fans of the books who feel like they’ve been robbed because Jackson cut out hours of maps, songs, narrative detours, and unendurable histories, is there really an audience for this that would justify spending double the cost of The Washington Post on this?