Just 17 years after the final instalment of Peter Jackson’s epic The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Amazon have confirmed that a new TV series is currently in production. Here, we expose everything we know about this upcoming remake.
Peter Jackson’s take on Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, was a global triumph. Now, six movies, 21 Oscars, and 19 years later, we’re heading back to Middle-earth for a brand new Lord of the Rings TV series.
Amazon, Netflix and HBO had all been in talks for acquiring the rights to the new series. But in November 2017, Amazon finally signed a $250 million rights deal with the author’s estate. Plus publisher HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema to produce a multi-season show for television.
And if you think $250 million sounds like a lot, The Hollywood Reporter stated that the budget is set to be at least $1 billion. Thus making it the biggest in television history.
So with filming now well underway – and two episodes already in the bag. We’ve put together everything you need to know about Amazon’s billion-dollar adaption of Tolkien’s beloved Lord of the Rings.
Where is the series being filmed?
It’s been officially confirmed by showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, that filming will take place in New Zealand. This echos Jackson’s decision to film the movie counterparts there.
Payne and McKay said that New Zealand was the perfect place to reflect the “primordial beauty of the Second Age of Middle-earth”.
“We knew we needed to find somewhere majestic, with pristine coasts, forest and mountains, that is also a home to world-class sets, studios and highly skilled and experienced craftspeople and other staff,” they wrote. “And we’re happy to officially confirm New Zealand as our home for our series.”
“We are grateful to the people and the government of New Zealand and especially Auckland for supporting us during this pre-production phase. The abundant measure of Kiwi hospitality with which they have welcomed us has already made us feel right at home. And we are looking forward to deepening our partnership in the years to come.”
Whilst this is good news for New Zealand and fans of the original Lord of the Rings films, it’s bad news for Scotland. Where it was speculated that filming could take place. According to The Guardian, “uncertainty over Brexit saw [Scotland] fall out of favour with Amazon”.
When is the Lord of the Rings TV series due to air?
Production on Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings TV series was halted in early 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The closure came one month after the series started filming. And after New Zealand instituted protective immigration measures to protect the country from the Coronavirus. This included 14 days of compulsory self-isolation for citizens and visitors entering the country.
Thankfully, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings TV series was among several projects that had been granted a border exemption by New Zealand. The series’ crew aimed to resume filming in September. The Hollywood Reporter confirmed in December that production is well underway.
Prior to these delays, it was thought that a December 2021 release date was in the pipeline (which would have made sense pre-pandemic). Now though, due to these unforeseen circumstances, no official date has yet been released.
Have any of the cast members been confirmed?
A number of cast members for Amazon’s Lord of the Rings TV series have now been officially announced.
“After undertaking an extensive global search, we are delighted finally to reveal the first group of brilliant performers who will take part in Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings series,” said showrunners Payne and McKay in January 2020.
“These exceptionally talented women and men are more than just our actors: they are the newest members of an ever-expanding creative family that is now working tirelessly to bring Middle-earth to life anew for fans and audiences worldwide.”
Robert Aramayo (Game of Thrones), Owain Arthur (The Patrol), Nazanin Boniadi (Homeland), and Maxim Baldry (Doctor Who) are among the leading stars, supported by the likes of:
- Tom Budge (Judy & Punch)
- Morfydd Clark (His Dark Materials) – rumoured to be playing a young Galadriel
- Ismael Cruz Córdova (The Mandalorian)
- Ema Horvath (What Lies Below)
- Markella Kavenagh (Romper Stomper) – rumoured to be playing a character named Tyra
- Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones) – rumoured to be playing Oren, the series’ lead villain
- Tyroe Muhafidin (Treasure Maps and Tinned Spaghetti)
- Megan Richards (Wanderlust)
- Dylan Smith (Total Recall)
- Charlie Vickers (Medici)
- Sophia Nomvete
Plus, just this month (December 2020), Amazon released the details of another 20 cast members:
- Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Entourage)
- Ian Blackburn (Shelter)
- Kip Chapman (Top of the Lake)
- Anthony Crum (The Wilds)
- Maxine Cunliffe (Power Rangers Megaforce)
- Trystan Gravelle (Mr Selfridge)
- Sir Lenny Henry (Doctor Who)
- Thusitha Jayasundera (Humans)
- Fabian McCallum (You, Me and the Apocalypse)
- Simon Merrells, (Knightfall)
- Geoff Morrell (Top of the Lake)
- Peter Mullan (Westworld)
- Lloyd Owen (Cleaning Up)
- Augustus Prew (Prison Break)
- Peter Tait (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) – previously portrayed Shagrat, a Black Uruk (Orc) in The Return of the King
- Alex Tarrant (Mean Mums)
- Leon Wadham (The Bad Seed)
- Benjamin Walker (Jessica Jones)
- Sara Zwangobani (Home and Away)
Although we now know the names of a number of actors set to appear in the series, Amazon are remaining tight-lipped about the characters that many of these cast members will play.
Will the new LOTR TV series be set in the same time period as the films?
No – the Lord of the Rings TV series will explore an era of Tolkien’s world that hasn’t been recreated on film before. The fabled second age of Middle-Earth.
When the series was originally announced, there was an assumption that it would just be a retelling of the trilogy of books: essentially a TV remake of Jackson’s films.
Another rumour was that the series would center on a young Aragorn (portrayed by Viggo Mortensen in the films).
But when Middle-earth maps posted by Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings Twitter profile (@LOTRonPrime) showed lands that would’ve only existed long before Aragorn’s time, it was clear this series would be based in a period far earlier. (Although the show will feature the island of Númenor, the home of Aragorn’s ancestors.)
Thus, it has now been confirmed that it’ll actually be a prequel series, set thousands of years before the time period in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels.
The second age
So while Amazon’s LOTR TV series will be based on Tolkien’s source material, the show will explore new storylines that occur before the events of The Fellowship of the Ring.
According to Tolkien scholar and The Lord of the Rings consultant Tom Shippey, the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien has refused to grant Amazon permission to film anything other than the Second Age, so as not to alter the history of the more fleshed out Third Age. “But you can add new characters and ask a lot of questions, like: What has Sauron done in the meantime? Where was he after Morgoth was defeated? Theoretically, Amazon can answer these questions by inventing the answers, since Tolkien did not describe it,” Shippey explained. “But it must not contradict anything which Tolkien did say. That’s what Amazon has to watch out for. It must be canonical, it is impossible to change the boundaries which Tolkien has created. It is necessary to remain ‘Tolkienian’.”
For reference, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels are set thousands of years after the Second Age, toward the end of the Third Age. The Second Age, on the other hand, is most notable for being the time period when Sauron created the One Ring.
If you’re wondering how much ground can be covered in a series with the Second Age as its setting, the Second Age spans a time period of 3,441 years.
Are there any famous writers/producers working on the project?
Writers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay will act as co-showrunners on the new series. Speaking of their appointment, they said in a joint statement: “We feel like Frodo, setting out from the Shire, with a great responsibility in our care. It is the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime.”
Joining them as a consultant is Bryan Cogman, who was responsible for writing some of Game of Thrones’ best episodes.
Also announced to be writing episodes for the Lord of the Rings TV show are Gennifer Hutchinson (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul), Helen Shang (Hannibal), Justin Dohle (Stranger Things), and Stephany Folsom (Toy Story 4).
According to Amazon Studios chief, Jennifer Salke, the writer’s room is ‘working under lock and key’. “They’re already generating really exciting material. They’re down in Santa Monica. You have to go through such clearance, and they have all their windows taped closed. And there’s a security guard that sits outside, and you have to have a fingerprint to get in there because their whole board is up on a thing of the whole season.”
J.A. Bayona (director of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) will helm the first two episodes of the first season, and will act as an executive producer.
Behind the scenes there are also a number of other noteworthy persons, including costume designer Kate Hawley (Edge of Tomorrow, Suicide Squad), production designer Rick Heinrichs (Sleepy Hollow, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), and visual effects supervisor Jason Smith (Super 8, Avengers). Concept artist John Howe, who worked on Jackson’s epic trilogy, will also have the same position on the show.
“This team is our Fellowship,” Payne and McKay said in a statement. “Assembled from around the world, all walking the road together to try and accomplish something far greater than any of us could on our own.”
Will any of the characters we know feature in the new LOTR TV series?
Due to the period that Amazon’s TV series will cover, there are only a few characters from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy alive at this point.
Morfydd Clark (one of the actresses confirmed to be working on the show) is rumoured to be playing a young Galadriel. Galadriel was born in Valinor during the Years of the Trees – before the First Age had even begun. Considering Amazon’s series takes place in the Second Age, Galadriel is definitely a character that could feature.
Like Galadriel and the race of elves, wizards also have a lengthy lifespan. Sir Ian McKellen – who played Gandalf in Jackson’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies – has said that no other actor could play the wise wizard. “What do you mean, another Gandalf?” McKellen told Graham Norton when asked whether someone could take over the role. “I haven’t said yes because I haven’t been asked. But are you suggesting that someone else is going to play it? Gandalf is over 7,000 years old, so I’m not too old.”
But, although Gandalf is alive during the Second Age, he only arrived in Middle-earth during the Third Age. A period which Amazon is not allowed to explore. So, unless Amazon intends on featuring lands and realms outside of Middle-earth, Gandalf will almost certainly not be featured.
But The Lord of the Rings main nemesis, Sauron, was most definitely alive and creating the One Ring in Middle-earth during the Second Age, so this is certainly a storyline which Amazon could explore.
How many seasons will there be?
Amazon has committed to producing five seasons, with rumours suggesting that the first season will consist of 20 episodes.
Although we could still be over a year away from Amazon’s LOTR TV series, what we’ve heard thus far is certainly exciting.
We echo the words of John Rhys-Davies (who played Gimli in Jackson’s epics) who, when asked what he thought about the new Lord of the Rings TV series, said: “There are so many other histories attached to it and it’s the pre-history and the pre-setting of Middle Earth that Amazon is going to be doing and I wish them well for it. I think a great storyteller’s stories should all be told if they will hold up.”
What do you think about Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings TV series? Are there any actors or actresses you’re pleased to see? Or any you would’ve cast? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.
More of our Lord of the Rings articles HERE.
Read IMDB information on The Lord of the Rings TV show HERE.
Cobra Kai Season 4 – Review
Cobra Kai season four is out now on Netflix and the All Valley is back and better than ever. Here’s our review.
SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the show, but if not there are spoilers ahead.
It’s January, and new shows are popping up everywhere. This brings us to the show that I and my friends have been holding our breaths for: the fourth season of the hit Netflix series Cobra Kai! After three seasons, I wondered if there was anything left to mine from the Karate Kid lore or the Johnny/Daniel dynamic. I am happy to report that this might be my favourite season yet! It manages to not only expand upon the universe it has created, but to bring in a new villain, who is so bad that he threatens to outdo even John Kreese!
Season four sets us off where the third left off, with Johnny and Daniel having joined forces to fight Cobra Kai. Their friendship arc is the glue that holds this season together. The story focuses largely on whether they will be able to pull it together and make their partnership work. As in previous seasons, their relationship has its ups and downs. The stakes are heightened, however, as the season leads up to the All-Valley Tournament. A bet between the three senseis – Kreese, Daniel, and Johnny – means that losing the All Valley is losing the title of sensei.
This season explores the ways that both Johnny and Daniel work with the kids. It also examines the kids’ struggles as they prepare for the All Valley while dealing with conflict within the ever-changing network of friends and enemies in the dojos. Robbie has left juvenile hall and decided to join up with Cobra Kai as a means of inflicting revenge on both his dad and Daniel. Tori and Sam continue their rivalry. And John Reese’s old friend Terry Silver (of Karate Kid 3 fame) shows up to kick Cobra Kai into high gear.
Daniel’s son, Anthony, who has largely been absent until now, faces his own dilemma when his friends begin bullying Kenny, the new kid in town. This soft-spoken middle school character brings us into the world of the younger kids, setting up yet another storyline. Kenny becomes the victim of a gang of kids (including Anthony), enduring round after round of bullying before Robbie takes him under his wing. After his induction into Cobra Kai, the formerly shy middle-schooler becomes a bully himself.
Shades of grey
This brings me to one of my favourite things about the show. The constant back and forth dynamic between characters makes us feel that anything is possible. There is no black and white in the world of Cobra Kai. Where the Karate Kid told us that Daniel was good, and Johnny was bad, this show gives us a very different point of view. It’s a world where we’re never sure who to root for. In this season, we even see Hawk make a return to the “good guys” side after giving up his spot at Cobra Kai.
With Eagle Fang (Johnny’s new dojo) and Miyagi-Do teaming up, the kids – and the adults – have to learn to work together. Of course, complications ensue. Johnny becomes jealous of what he perceives as Miguel’s preference for Daniel over him. Sam wants to learn both her dad’s karate style and Johnny’s, despite her father’s discouragement. Meanwhile, at Cobra Kai, Kreese is losing his grip on the dojo. His former war buddy, Terry Silver, puts off a rather benign appearance in episode one, growing more and more evil with each episode.
This season is lacking in many of the big fight scenes of the previous seasons, instead choosing to focus their energy on the characters. The All Valley Tournament features several great karate matches and offers a satisfying conclusion to Johnny and Daniel’s arc. In the end, Cobra Kai takes the tournament win, but Johnny and Daniel have reached an understanding.
Tori defeats Sam to take the women’s All Valley trophy but later overhears her sensei paying off one of the referees. It’s clear that Cobra Kai has pulled yet another fast one. But the season ends on an even more ominous – and unexpected – note. Terry Silver assaults the over-aged former Cobra Kai member, Stingray, sending him to the hospital. He then makes a deal with Stingray to blame the crime on Kreese. We end the season with Kreese in handcuffs, Terry Silver set to take over Cobra Kai, and the future of Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do uncertain. In a last shocking twist, Miguel leaves town in search of his biological father.
Although some may miss the school hallway throw downs, I found this one satisfying in a different way. It just goes to show that the ever-expanding Cobra Kai universe can keep bringing surprises season after season.
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 9/10
Thank you for reading our review of Cobra Kai season four. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Check out our Hawkeye episode one and two review HERE.
Read IMDB information about Spider-Man: No Way Home HERE.
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