Ambitious ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequel hopes to slay dragons | News, Sports, Jobs


photo ap This image released by Amazon Studios shows Benjamin Walker, left to right, Morfydd Clark and Robert Aramayo from ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’.

NEW YORK — The return of dragons to the small screen has been a huge success. Now is the time for the return of the elves and dwarves.

Amazon Studios is launching “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” an ambitious, years-long, and very expensive salvo that will go hand-in-hand with another pricey streaming fantasy epic: “Game of Thrones spin-off.” House of the Dragon,” which recently became the most-watched series premiere in HBO history.

The series is based on the writings and asides of JRR Tolkien about the Second Age of Middle-earth, which predated the Third Age “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” movies and books. Tolkien’s grandson, Simon Tolkien, was a creative consultant.

“We say that Tolkien kind of left a series of stars in the sky. Our job was to connect the dots and form the constellation, then draw between the constellations to give it a bit more specificity,” said JD Payne, showrunner and executive producer.

Amazon Prime Video will debut the first two episodes of “The Rings of Power” on Friday. After that, the remaining six episodes arrive weekly on Fridays.

The hour-long episodes are packed with action and humor but buckle up: Payne and co-showrunner Patrick McKay plan to use a 50-hour canvas to explore their nuanced characters and complex stories. These first eight episodes are like an appetizer.

The former move through the different regions of Middle-earth, the imaginary mythological past of our planet. Here, some 4,000 years before “The Hobbit”, are elves involved in royal intrigue, dwarves who mine in the interior of mountains, hobbit-like harfoots who are pastoral, humans who seem unusually inclined to violence and evil orcs.

Although it takes place centuries before the books and films that make up Tolkien’s canon, fans of “The Lord of the Rings” will notice some familiar characters, based on the long lifespans of certain creatures, including Galadriel, Elrond and Isildur. Sauron, the evil force, is invisible in the first two episodes but a malevolent presence throughout.

Morfydd Clark grew up in Wales with parents who adored Tolkien’s epic book series and her father read ‘The Hobbit’ to her when she was 9. The movies came out when she was 11, accelerating the obsession. Now she finds herself playing a young Galadriel, a powerful elf later played in Cate Blanchett’s films.

“I think there’s a lot of hope in Tolkien’s world, and with hope comes the courage to stand up and be brave for what you think is precious,” she said. . “The world must be safe enough for the smallest and most vulnerable. And I think that’s something that’s important to remember – just because something works for you doesn’t mean it works for everyone.

That sense of hope is something that sets the series apart from “House of the Dragon,” which revels in a bloody, cynical view of humanity. McKay notes that Tolkien emerged from World War I with a complex fairy tale, unlike many of his literary peers who wrote about wastelands and darkness.

“Middle-earth is a fundamentally optimistic and hopeful place. He wrote about positive values, friendship, brotherhood and outsiders,” McKay said. “He was telling you that in the darkest depths of Mordor – in its desert – friendship could win and that good could triumph over evil.”

The tone of the show changes depending on the location visited. Harfoots, who have Irish accents, are whimsical, communal, and intelligent, while Dwarfs have Scottish accents, like to drink, and are a little rough. The elves are elegant and elite, with English upper-class accents and a penchant for flowing capes and long, elaborate ceremonies.

The cast – a massive ensemble of 22 actors – is multi-ethnic and made up of actors of varying ages and acclaim, from Tony-nominated Benjamin Walker to 2017 drama school graduate Charlie Vickers.

“It’s a very heterogeneous world and if it wasn’t, we’d be facing a dystopia,” said Trystan Gravelle, who plays a royal adviser in an Atlantis-like realm. “I think it’s also very appropriate in 2022 that we reflect that as well. And I think that enriches everything. The world is a richer place for it.

The cast filmed in New Zealand during the pandemic and were away from loved ones for almost two years. The actors rarely visited the sets of rival fictional races, but all got together for potlucks and vacations, often at Walker’s where a mean fried chicken was served. “I got a bunch of babysitters out of it,” he joked.

“What it did was it kind of forced us to lean on each other and it’s a bonding experience like no other,” said Nazanin Boniadi, who plays a human healer. and a single mother. “This brotherhood that you see on screen was forged behind the scenes.”

The production – rated TV-14 for violence compared to the “Game of Thrones” prequel which is TV-MA for violence, language and nudity – is one of the most expensive in history, with Amazon spending at least $465 million for the first season in New Zealand, where the series employed 1,200 people directly and another 700 indirectly. In total, the season would have cost $1 billion.

The music of the choir swells during breathtaking panoramas and the dialogues are thunderous and prodigious. “There can be no friendship between the hammer and the stone. We will surely break,” said a dwarf leader. In another scene, an elf advises another who is confused: “Sometimes we cannot know unless we touch the darkness.”

The new series debuts in the shadow left by Peter Jackson, whose film trilogy adaptation of Tolkien’s books won critical and commercial acclaim in the early 2000s and won the Best Picture Oscar for “The return of the king”. For the series, there was more creative freedom as long as it was true to the author.

“We really tried to get back to Tolkien. It was our mantra from the start: “Just get back to the books, get back to the books, get back to the books,” Payne said. “We always have Tolkien at the base of what we do.”

The new series has a lot of big chewy themes, including overcoming racial differences, environmentalism, the power of friendship, the strength of women, and how even the smallest person can change the world.

“A show like this that has definitely dark themes – darkness itself, the struggle to do what’s right, fighting great forces bigger than you – but it also just has themes of friendship and loyalty and love and hope,” said Sara Zwangobani, who plays new character Marigold Brandyfoot.

The series will have to thread a careful needle in enchanting die-hard Tolkien fans who will seek in-universe connections, appealing to those who have hazy memories of the books and don’t want to be burdened with tons of new material, and youngsters whose latest epic adventure series was perhaps “Harry Potter”.

“It’s kind of the doorway for new fans in that it’s kind of the first chapter, the teenage years of Middle-earth, where the films you can imagine are the age adult of Middle-earth,” Walker said. “So we see all of these characters we know and love — and some we’re introduced to — take the first steps on their journey to becoming their destined selves.”

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