Friday, November 24, 2017

More on Tolkien TV

So, in the week following news of the upcoming (or at least planned) LotR tv series broke, there were a lot more signs of what a big deal this is being seen as, and not just among the more-or-less captive audience of diehard Tolkien fans. It only took a matter of days for the news to move from VARIETY and THE ROLLING STONE to THE NEW YORK TIMES and NPR, with lots of discussion on Tolkien-devoted sites like The Tolkien Society's news page, The One Ring forum, and the MythSoc list.

Why such interest? Well, for one thing it's yet another sign of Tolkien looming ever larger in our cultural zeitgeist. There's a reason for the current struggle to claim JRRT as 'one of our own' going on between the alt-right white supremacist groups and traditional Tolkien fans; everybody wants to claim a popular and influential figure like Tolkien has become. *

For one thing, there's the sheer amount of money involved. It's been a while since I reached the sad conclusion that nothing impresses our culture more than money, and this wd seem to be a case in point. According to THE GUARDIAN, Amazon is putting a billion dollars** into this deal: $250 million to secure the rights, and then another $750 million to actually make the show. Which is apparently projected to run for six seasons.*** Which at more than $100 million per season makes it "the most expensive TV show ever" ****

For another, without my quite being aware of it until recently, the Peter Jackson movies are taking on iconic status. Indeed, reading down into the comments of some of the discussions of the various news stories reveals that there are fans of the Jackson movies worried about the new show spoiling their memories of what are for them classic films they grew up watching. So now the old guard, for purposes of this discussion, is people who watch and re-watch the Jackson movies, for whom New-Zealand-as-Middle-earth is as much a default as ruby slippers and emerald cities*****

I'm starting to notice more and more anecdotal evidence re. the iconic status. Case in point: on Wednesday I picked up THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FANTASY: 50 GREATEST FANTASY FILMS EVER!, one of those special-issue theme magazines that come out from time to time. Their number one choice? THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Here's a list of their top ten, to get a better sense of where they're coming from: THE LORD OF THE RINGS (#1), THE WIZARD OF OZ (#2), WINGS OF DESIRE (the original; #3), LABYRINTH (#4), MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (#5), THE PRINCESS BRIDE (#6), PAN'S LABYRINTH (#7), PRINCESS MONONOKI (#8), SPIRITED AWAY (#9), and JASON AND  THE ARGONAUTS (#10).

And what am I to make of a book I saw on the remainder shelf at Barnes and Noble,  a big beautiful book named LEGENDARY MOVIES (2013)?  This is a substantial work of 600 pages, with text by Paulo D'Agostini, preface by Franco Zeffirelli. ( ). And for the cover they chose not Bogart or Orson Welles, Vivian Leigh or Audrey Hepburn, but Ian McKellan, as Gandalf (the white).

As the songwriter once sang, times are a'changing.

--John R.

current viewing: the Japanese adaptation of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (quirky, but better than -- and more faithful than -- the version currently in theatres).

current reading: A TIME TO HARVEST (Call of Cthulhu adventure).
*more on this in another post; it's too big a topic to deal with just in passing

**this is a pretty good investment when you consider that the three Jackson films between them made about ten billion dollars. And presumably Amazon can make their show more economically than Jackson's perpetual reshoot.

***though I haven't seen anything yet to indicate how many shows would be in a 'season'.


*****neither of which appear in the original OZ book.

p.s.: Aunt Jane?


Paul W said...

This is why I am so upset about the Jackson films. In the zeitgeist they have replaced the books, and since they are merely 'thrillers' as I think Tolkien would say... well, there really won't be more Tolkien in popular Culture, just more of the names from his works. It's like renaming bologna prime rib. It won't suddenly taste like actual prime rib, they'll just be more things called prime rib...

ATMachine said...

Uncle Tarzan.