Saturday, August 6, 2022

Tolkien TV Is Almost Upon Us

"It was  like Tolkien put some stars in the sky

 and let us make out the constellations"  

So, I picked up the new issue of EMPIRE that features the forthcoming RINGS OF POWER as its cover story.  After creeping up on us for so long, the show's debut is almost here, scheduled for three weeks plus a weekend away. Thought I'd go through the piece and adjust my expectations, if need be, one last time.

1. "For the first time on screen, it imagines new characters and events within Middle-earth, instead of simply translating Tolkien's prose."

--um, Tauriel?  

--It's not actually as effective as you'd think to show off your knowledge on a subject and get it wrong.  Not when Tolkien fans are notoriously persnickety.


2. They're aware of the "other hands" quote (Letter to Waldman) and use it as justification for their project: "We're doing what Tolkien wanted".

--Fair enough.

3. "We wanted to do a story in Middle-earth that deserves its own space on the shelf, alongside the novels and films."

-- on the one hand, it's good to be ambitious and go all in, as it were. But the idea that this tv show or the Jackson films are the equivalent of Tolkien's books . . . no. that one just doesn't fly.  

4. One of the showrunners said to think of this not as a tv show with episodes and seasons but as a 50-hour movie

In fact, they think it transcends all previous tv ("This show attempts to surpass all TV that's gone before it")"  Or, in that overused phrase, it's a game-changer. Which suggests hubris.

--just as a personal note: you know you're getting old when the thought of sitting and watching a film for fifty hours straight is appalling.

5. "This show has a lot of action in it -- more so than any television or streaming show that we've seen.  Every episode has set pieces, creatures, battles, and white-nuckle fights to the death."

-- I hope they leave time in there between all the special effects for acting.

6. "Gloom is baked into The Lord of the Rings, the first seeds of which were born when Tolkien was fighting at the Somme in World War I"

--I don't know whether to mark this last point as just plain wrong, as in liable to to cause misunderstanding (Tolkien didn't think of the book until twenty years later) or let it pass as sort of right, in a way ( he did specifically referred to the death of best friends in the Somme in his Preface to LotR.

So, soon. Very soon now.

--John R.

--current reading: GAME WIZARDS book.



Paul W said...

It will be hard for my expectations to get much lower. I wish ANY of this felt like Middle Earth, but none of the trailer footage released so far feels at all like Tolkien.

It just makes me so sad.

Doug Kane said...

In regard to the comment about there being a lot of action, in another article in Total Film, in talking with J.A. Bayona, the director of the first two episodes, they say "Thanks to the nature of television, there is more time for the characters to simply talk to each other. Bayona points to a scene in Episode 2 where Galadriel and Elrond have a 7-minute conversation." So, there is that.

I don't know how the show will turn out, but I'm seen enough to be convinced that the showrunners, McKay and Payne, are quite knowledgeable and passionate about Tolkien. That doesn't mean that the show won't be a total disaster, but I do quite like the tone of the one clip that got played when Morfydd Clarke appeared on Colbert's show.

I also am pleasantly surprised that they are using Finrod's death at the hands of one of Sauron's wolves as a prime motivating factor for Galadriel. I've always had a warm spot in my heart for their sibling relationship.

David Bratman said...

Yes. While the trailer scenery looks great, the dialog sounds like the kind of fantasy I turned to Tolkien to get away from. If I get bored and turn the show off after one episode, that'll show that evaluation was right.

The "other minds and hands" quote is the most baldly taken out of context of anything Tolkien wrote. That's what Tolkien said in 1951 had been his idea back in the 1910s when he first imagined the mythology. He may not have still believed it in 1951, and he certainly didn't hold to it a few years later after the first attempts at dramatizing The Lord of the Rings showed him how inept such work could be.