Monday, November 06, 2017

One stream to rule them all

Ok, so I'm behind because I didn't mean to blog about this. It really makes me seem far more concerned with the issue than I really am.

But then I also felt I wanted my thoughts out there and saved for posterity, so maybe I'm more concerned than I allow myself to acknowledge.

Lord of the Rings.: Amazon, Warner Bros. in Talks for Series Adaptation.

Is this series a good idea at all? The books are wildly important in fantasy literature. The movies are great achievements. I love all of them strongly and sincerely, not only for what they are but for what they built for genre work and the perception of it.

And a series could put the work in, dig in and really complicate all of characters and relationships in ways that are more tenable to a modern audience. Certainly Peter Jackson and company took big strides in that work, and I love them the more for it. I just revisited the Extended Editions about a year ago and still love them wholly.

But really, the message of the story, much as J.R.R. Tolkien struggled to deny it, is so anti-modern and the divisions of the people of Middle Earth along racial divides that are real and important are so big a part of their DNA that I'd worry that trying to reach them beyond that by giving them more room, you seriously risk exacerbating the problem.

Those of us who have grown up with fantasy through the Middle Earth saga, Dungeons & Dragons and all of the works inspired by them take for granted core confirmations of the underlying ideas of racism that they confirm constantly, in barely veiled metaphor, but I believe there is fantasy out there that approaches these kinds of worlds with a more modern view.

The deadening silence my concerns have met upon being voiced tells me that many fantasy lovers are not quite ready to face this head on, but I can't help thinking that if Amazon Video wants to avoid being committed to something that looks backward while it's still going, they might want to consider that.

I think the environment of whichever future year it delivers this, will be a different on than Jackson and company walked into in 2001, and how this story is responded to in this environment could be different. So the political concerns I suggested are a real concern that I think they'll be foolish to ignore.

But the more obvious concern here that I'd see as a executive considering developing this into a new Game of Thrones type property is that people know it. A huge part of the watercooler appeal of "Game of Thrones" is the "what's going to happen?" With the novels unfinished, this even offers one of the addictive parts for people who had read the books and were largely see adaptations of stories they knew early on, with the producers supposedly knowing the ending and having Martin's involvement could be adapting it in ways to lead to that as well as foreshadowing in ways the books hadn't.

There's really nothing to compare to that in "Lord of the Rings". There isn't an alternate ending or missing twists of significance. Being able to meander the story to visit goddamn Tom Bombadil isn't going to generate a lot of chatter at the watercooler, literal or virtual.

There are plenty of fantasy series out there that could be developed into something that would fit their needs if they could make them right.

A Song of Ice and Fire, the basis for "Game of Thrones" certainly didn't have anything like "Lord of the Rings" recognition with the general public when the show came on. A show that delivered the intrigue and excitement of "Game of Thrones" could bring the audience.

I'm not sure even a solid "Lord of the Rings" show brings a substantial group of viewers to Amazon. I think it might really need to be better than the Jackson movies in order to generate the kind of excitement it would need to bring in the audience they'd want to justify that kind of expense. That seems to me like a taller order than you want to need as a starting place for a new series.

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