Photo: ‘Lord of the Rings’
It has been nearly eight years since the release of Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’, the final installment of ‘The Hobbit’ films, a series of prequels to the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. Since then, many assumed that audiences have seen the last of Middle Earth. This all changed with the announcement of Amazon Prime’s ‘The Rings of Power’, a new series set to return us to J.R.R. Tolkein’s fantastical world. The show looks to be Amazon’s most expensive production yet, leading one to assume that they are expecting it to bring in massive results for them. Additionally, Warner Bros. has recently announced an upcoming animated film titled ‘Lord of the Rings: The War for the Rohirrim’. Given the popularity and rich mythology of the franchise, it is safe to assume that these won’t be the last ‘Lord of the Rings’ projects to be developed in the coming years.
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‘Lord of the Rings’
It is becoming increasingly apparent that ‘Lord of the Rings’ is following in the footsteps of Marvel and ‘Star Wars’ and that another shared universe is taking shape here. While this will definitely excite diehard Tolkein fans and Middle Earth aficionados, is giving one of the few remaining beloved franchises a slew of spinoffs and prequels a wise thing to do? There are considerable points to both sides of this argument.
Why It Is
The world of Middle Earth consists of decades of history. It is made up of a vast number of groups of people and beings such as elves, dwarves, hobbits, orcs, and a number of other creatures. It features breathtaking locations and places that would be gorgeous to see come to life on screen (with Howard Shore’s ethereal music playing in the background of course). This is a property rich with stories to be told that both diehard fans and newer visitors to Middle Earth would enjoy.
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One argument often made by fans of a story who are opposed to that property getting a remake or a sequel is that it would somehow “ruin the original”. This does not make sense for a very simple reason: the remake or sequel is its own telling just as the original is. If the retelling or follow-up is not something a fan wants to see, they simply don’t need to watch it. They will always have the original to watch until the end of time. Another argument that often falls flat is that a certain property “doesn’t need a sequel or remake”. There is no such thing as a story or property that absolutely needs another telling. Stories are forms of amusement and entertainment. There is no “need” for one to be retold or followed up by another story. However, if there is potential for a story to be retold or continued with captivating characters and a compelling narrative, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be.
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Why It Isn’t
On the flip side, there are strong enough reasons as to why fans may be pessimistic about the prospect of a ‘Lord of the Rings’ shared universe. One is by looking at the current state of other shared universes. In the case of ‘Star Wars’, multiple prequels, sequels, spinoffs, and limited series have been released over the past few years. Some have simply been forgotten or have received lukewarm responses. The only two properties to have seen some success were 2015’s ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ and Disney Plus’s ‘The Mandalorian’ (though a big part of this was that the former marked the return of the franchise to the big screen and the latter made massive profits off of Baby Yoda merchandise).
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Marvel has seen better success, with multiple box office records being broken with nearly each of their new films. However, one can argue that the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ reached its culmination in 2019 with ‘Avengers Endgame’ and is pushing its luck with some of its newer and more mediocre outings that have come out since then. ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ and ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ were able to yield substantive results (the latter to a lesser extent), but this is likely due to the number of returns and cameos rumored to take place in these films. One thing that both of these properties have been seeing recently is the law of diminishing returns. Even the most diehard fans will start to feel overstuffed when the content is okay at best. There is nothing preventing any of this from befalling a ‘Lord of the Rings’ shared universe.
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Ultimately, is it a good idea to give this property its own shared universe? From the studio’s perspective, of course. Peter Jackson’s original trilogy is one of the most critically acclaimed and timeless series of films in history. Why would they not want to capitalize on that to some extent? However, they follow the path of others in the shared universe game by taking a quantity over quality approach and fast track multiple projects at a time without putting much effort into the actual stories, this may not yield as much long term benefits for them and may not even reach the level of success as their predecessors.
From the perspective of a fan of the franchise, this could be a good idea for now. Returning to Middle Earth would really be something special and ‘The Rings of Power’ definitely looks like something to look forward to. But once again, a handful of Middle Earth content can only provide so much entertainment for a given period of time if the meat isn’t there, if the stories are not very compelling, if the characters are not worth caring about. If there is indeed a ‘Lord of the Rings’ shared universe being developed, fans can only hope that it will not follow the path of those that came before it and actually maintain its mystique.
By Nader Chamas
Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.
I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV. media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.”
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Nader Chamas is an aspiring television writer who seeks to fuse thought provoking progressive ideals into the films, shows, and stories that he loves. Having graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Screenwriting, Nader seeks to use his writing to advance causes that do not get enough attention or input across mainstream media. Like most, Nader has his own share of his favorite franchises and stories across pop culture. However, he seeks to contribute timely and relevant topics into these stories as well as in his own original material. This is why Nader’s analysis of popular films and tv shows matches The Hollywood Insider’s practice of discussing entertainment from a socially cognizant and critical perspective.