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Amazon and WB discussing new LORD OF THE RINGS TV series

237 posts in this topic

5 minutes ago, Ran said:

Krishtotter,

The wholesome Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them cleared $800 million globally. The pretty wholesome Marvel franchise (aside from depictions of cartoonish violence) is now the most valuable cinematic franchise in the world.

I don't think sex-and-backstabbing-and-grittiness is necessarily the thing you _must_ have to be a success. It's just one path, and to a certain degree there's a danger in trying to follow a previous show too closely.

Bezos's goal is to find something that can be as bigger or bigger than GoT, not necessarily find something that is literally like GoT in terms of content and tone.

I would like that. "Wholesome" has an appeal of its own, and maybe the sex and grittiness fad was just a particular part of the cycle, with the pendulum able to swing in the other direction too. After all, Star Wars is more fantasy than science fiction in my book, and look how popular that is. I'd argue that without the "Force", Star Wars would not have been half as popular as it turned out to be. And that's fantasy in its purest form, I'd say.

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1 hour ago, Risto said:

The big question...

Where does this leave Sony's Wheel of Time adaptation?

It's certainly dead at Amazon, that's for sure.

Given what's going on elsewhere the window has pretty much narrowed to just Starz or FX (or an ulta-cheap version on AMC or SyFy, which seems unlikely), and they will have to ask whether it's worthwhile having a big fantasy series on whilst a Middle-earth show is running. The fact that GoT was winding down was a strong argument in favour of making WoT (since the GoT prequel will almost certainly be a smaller-in-scale, possibly lower-profile show) and now that argument is out of the window.

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26 minutes ago, polishgenius said:

I hope Netflix' Witcher series smashes it and this falls on its face. Fuck them.


And to be fair, The Witcher, while the books aren't so popular outside of Poland, the games are huge.

Much like GOT, I think the gamble with "the Witcher" is well worth taking. Something with a large non-TV audience getting the HBO/Netflix treatment. Is "witcher" more ameanable to sex and violence?

I bet it's easier to get good merchandising deals with the "lesser known" properties as well while Amazon may not even be getting a good merch deal. More risk, more reward.

I wonder if Netflix will brave it out and wait for "the witcher" to find an audience? It took several seasons for GOT to become the juggernaut it became. Given Netflix is now more keen to axe shows that aren't profitable - will the Witcher be under pressure to perform fast (moreso if it's costly). HBO were wise to be tight with the budget until they knew they could afford to spend more (a lesson they learned the hardway when Deadwood and Rome were largely cancelled due to massive budgets that weren't being recouped until a few years of box set sales).

Amazon is clearly hoping it will get a ton of people buying year prime subscriptions just to watch this new show.

 

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3 minutes ago, red snow said:

Is "witcher" more ameanable to sex and violence?


I've neither read the books (yet) nor played the games, but my understanding is that violence, and moral greyness, are its stock in trade. Don't know about the sex although from what I've seen I can't imagine there aren't avenues for it if Netflix wanted to go there.

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9 minutes ago, Krishtotter said:

 

Indeed but those are film franchises as opposed to episodic prestige TV dramas.They are somewhat different mediums. TV series' are more sprawling and complicated, for one.

The thing the popular cinematic universes have in common, more than anything, is spectacle. And arguably, while the sex-and-violence was a hook, the latter seasons have increasingly proved that it is professional spectacle that is causing the big "wow" moments that propel the show.

An ME series that is spectacular -- which it can't help but be if it's going to be starting with a $100+ million budget for the first season -- will be a success with viewers, if not necessarily with critics, so long as the story is at least passable. 

Middle-earth should not be "gritty", per se, but it can have darkness, and horror, and it can have moral complications and conflicts, because these things all exist within the spectrum of things Tolkien explored in his writings, even if he tended to do it on a heroic plane that provided a certain intellectual remove. I don't think we'll be seeing disaffected Elves attempting to start a coup in Lothlorien, suffice it to say, but feuds among Men or Dwarves or what have you? Why not?

 

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5 minutes ago, Ran said:

Middle-earth should not be "gritty", per se,

 



I find this statement odd coming from someone who I'm positive must have read the Silmarillion (correct me if I've missed the mark there). LotR's canon backstory is as gritty as they come, and is chock fucking full of disaffected elves and things. Heck, even the direct backstory to The Hobbit is kind of fucked up as pertains to why the Dwarves were where they were.


Obviously as discussed it seems unlikely that the show can draw on it directly, but if they aim for the same kind of tone...

Edited by polishgenius

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30 minutes ago, Ran said:

Krishtotter,

The wholesome Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them cleared $800 million globally. The pretty wholesome Marvel franchise (aside from depictions of cartoonish violence) is now the most valuable cinematic franchise in the world.

I don't think sex-and-backstabbing-and-grittiness is necessarily the thing you _must_ have to be a success. It's just one path, and to a certain degree there's a danger in trying to follow a previous show too closely.

Bezos's goal is to find something that can be as bigger or bigger than GoT, not necessarily find something that is literally like GoT in terms of content and tone.

Add star wars to that wholesome list too. You can reach a far wider audience if everyone is allowed to watch it.

23 minutes ago, Krishtotter said:

 

Indeed but those are film franchises as opposed to episodic prestige TV dramas.

They are somewhat different mediums. TV series' are more sprawling and complicated, for one.

Also, it depends if your reaching for the adult market (like GoT) or family viewing with a leaning towards the kids end of the spectrum (like Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts). I think the latter work out better as single, couple of hours-long blockbusters.

 

And while it is true that TV shows do tend to be more "adult" I think we'll all be fooling ourselves if the mass appeal of GOT is entirely due to the over 18 demographic. I bet there's a lot of 11+ year olds watching GOT with or without their parents' permission. So while it's harder for them to sneak into a movie it's not so hard with TV which I think is another reason for the correct observation that "all age films" work better and vice versa in TV.

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33 minutes ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

I would like that. "Wholesome" has an appeal of its own, and maybe the sex and grittiness fad was just a particular part of the cycle, with the pendulum able to swing in the other direction too. After all, Star Wars is more fantasy than science fiction in my book, and look how popular that is. I'd argue that without the "Force", Star Wars would not have been half as popular as it turned out to be. And that's fantasy in its purest form, I'd say.

 

But consider this recent GoT viewer as a paradigmatic example of the contrary impulse among the general public....

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/game-of-thrones-is-a-window-on-our-world-dqwc0k6kk

 

Quote

 

Game of Thrones is a window on our world

Jenni Russell

The epic TV series is a far better guide than Tolkien to human nature, power and politics

Thirty years ago I’d have whooped at the news that the Tolkien family are negotiating to bring The Lord of The Rings to the small screen. Heroes, villains, glory, quests, despair, victory, all strung out over the many hours that TV series can now command; I’d have anticipated pure pleasure.

Now I am thoroughly indifferent, because it feels like a story whose time has passed. Tolkien doesn’t resonate with the lives we lead now or the issues we face. His is a simplistic boys’ own morality tale, without complexity, subtlety or character development, in which good people do good things, and bad people do bad things, and in the end the good guys — if a little more depressed than they were at the start — win out.

The limitations of Tolkien have been made all the clearer by the emergence of the hit fantasy Game of Thrones. And that’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d write. I skipped the series when it first came out, repelled by the reports of gratuitous sex and rape, continual savage violence and a passing glimpse of a zombie corpse with electric blue eyes.

After a while, though, Game of Thrones became such a common, casual reference point in conversations and the media that I began to feel I’d skipped a vital bit of history, culturally if not literally. Even David Cameron used it as a metaphor when I interviewed him and I nodded vigorously, though I’d no idea what he meant.

Just a month ago, almost as a duty, I sat down one evening to discover what I’d missed. I stood up seven hours later, at two in the morning, dazed and enraptured. It took only four weeks to catch up with the seven seasons of the rest. The characters may wear medieval robes, communicate by raven or live in ice walls, but the stories the series tells are so compelling because they reflect and illuminate what’s happening in the world today

Game of Thrones is not principally about sex or dragons but power, and the savagery, cunning, deception, charisma or strategic brilliance that’s necessary to gain or retain it at a time when there are no bureaucratic or democratic institutions to take the place of brute force and fear. Its fictional scenes, inspired by centuries of European history, are not just entertaining; they alsogive us insights into contemporary lives.

 

 

 

It would be remiss, I think, to overlook the extent to which GoT has potentially changed the expectations people have of the genre in its adult manifestation. At least from where I'm standing it seems like a sort of Rubicon has been crossed.

Already, viewers are missing the GRRM-style grittiness and intrigue now that GoT itself has passed beyond much of it post-book phase. There is a huge market there that many would love to be able to tap into, if they just had a means of doing so.

Edited by Krishtotter

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6 minutes ago, red snow said:

Add star wars to that wholesome list too. You can reach a far wider audience if everyone is allowed to watch it.

And while it is true that TV shows do tend to be more "adult" I think we'll all be fooling ourselves if the mass appeal of GOT is entirely due to the over 18 demographic. I bet there's a lot of 11+ year olds watching GOT with or without their parents' permission. So while it's harder for them to sneak into a movie it's not so hard with TV which I think is another reason for the correct observation that "all age films" work better and vice versa in TV.

Oh yes, that's spot on. Tons of under-18s/16s are GoT fans.

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Does everyone watch TV shows because they reflect what's happening in the real world today? Is escapism a thing of the past?

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8 minutes ago, red snow said:

Add star wars to that wholesome list too. You can reach a far wider audience if everyone is allowed to watch it.

And while it is true that TV shows do tend to be more "adult" I think we'll all be fooling ourselves if the mass appeal of GOT is entirely due to the over 18 demographic. I bet there's a lot of 11+ year olds watching GOT with or without their parents' permission. So while it's harder for them to sneak into a movie it's not so hard with TV which I think is another reason for the correct observation that "all age films" work better and vice versa in TV.

Oh yes, that's spot on. Tons of under-18s/16s are GoT fans.

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14 minutes ago, polishgenius said:



I find this statement odd coming from someone who I'm positive must have read the Silmarillion (correct me if I've missed the mark there). LotR's canon backstory is as gritty as they come, and is chock fucking full of disaffected elves and things. Heck, even the direct backstory to The Hobbit is kind of fucked up as pertains to why the Dwarves were where they were.


Obviously as discussed it seems unlikely that the show can draw on it directly, but if they aim for the same kind of tone...

 

Yes, the Children of Hurin for instance and the vengeance quest of the very morally suspect Sons of Feanor are both great examples of gritty.

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1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

This could be really really bad.

It could also end up being really good. Never know. It won’t take away from how awesome the books/films were. So I have no problem with it. 

1 hour ago, polishgenius said:

I hope Netflix' Witcher series smashes it and this falls on its face. Fuck them..

I hope they’re both good. 

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28 minutes ago, polishgenius said:



I find this statement odd coming from someone who I'm positive must have read the Silmarillion (correct me if I've missed the mark there). LotR's canon backstory is as gritty as they come, and is chock fucking full of disaffected elves and things. Heck, even the direct backstory to The Hobbit is kind of fucked up as pertains to why the Dwarves were where they were.x

 

But "grit" isn't really part of LotR, which is where the rights are. I also think that the overall tenor of all of Tolkien's work has very little to do with "grittiness", even if there are things that could be seen that way, so it would strike me as strange and disturbing if this new series ended up being "Middle-earth made gritty!"

This isn't to say that there can't be complicating aspects. But if the whole tone of the show is grimdark, well, it's not Middle-earth.

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The Atlantic argues that "overkill is underrated."

 

 

Quote

 

There are several takeaways here. The most fundamental is that in a crowded media environment, audiences reliably gravitate to stories that they know, not hours of content with no recognizable hook, which might turn out to be a total waste of time. Indeed, despite the fact that Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu are spending billions of dollars a year on original shows, 80 percent of the viewing time on subscription video sites is spent watching “back catalog” content, including re-runs and movies that have left theaters.

Due to this preference for familiar storytelling, it’s difficult for media companies to use a “Moneyball” strategy for entertainment content. Moneyball, for the uninitiated, refers to a strategy of using advanced analytics to spot under-appreciated talent. In a sport like baseball, it often works by identifying middling players who are secret stars, whose star-making skills are unfamiliar to most scouts. But in media, where unfamiliarity itself is the enemy, the most valuable franchises—or, in industry speak, “intellectual properties”—are often, almost by definition, those that are already well known to audiences.

 

 

 

 

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Much like GOT, I think the gamble with "the Witcher" is well worth taking. Something with a large non-TV audience getting the HBO/Netflix treatment. Is "witcher" more ameanable to sex and violence?

Yup. The games have a lot of violence but also a surprising (for a video game) amount of sex. Geralt, the main character, has multiple recurring sexual partners and it's not presented as anything bad or amoral.

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That Atlantic piece is well-put, although to be sure the "Moneyball" thing has worked for Netflix -- their first big prestige show, House of Cards, came together because Netflix recognized that fans of David Fincher films were also fans of Kevin Spacey films, and both together seemed like it'd be a sure-fire winner (and it was, at the time). But the general thrust -- that audiences like the familiar, and they like it _a lot_ -- is right on.

When we thought it was just re-doing LotR, it seemed crazy. This... not so much. If they hit the right notes, evoking the things that made people love the books and the films, then it should be a great success.

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1 hour ago, Ran said:

But "grit" isn't really part of LotR, which is where the rights are. I also think that the overall tenor of all of Tolkien's work has very little to do with "grittiness", even if there are things that could be seen that way, so it would strike me as strange and disturbing if this new series ended up being "Middle-earth made gritty!"

This isn't to say that there can't be complicating aspects. But if the whole tone of the show is grimdark, well, it's not Middle-earth.

 

I agree with you inasmuch as "grit" is not inherently part of LoTR, which is where the rights are. 

But I must contend differently in terms of the Silmarillion and other material pertaining to the earlier ages in Tolkien's legendarium. They have a darker, more gritty tone in many quarters, consciously imitating the Old Testament of the KJV Bible (which Tolkien took as his "model" for the Sil).  

Consider the tale of the Sons of Fëanor.

They are antiheroes who swear in the name of Iluvatar that they will not rest until the three Silmarils (jewels crafted by their father), are in their hands again, and to make war on any who withholds them. Their actions trigger the "War of the Jewels" and numerous kinslayings against their fellow Elves that lead to the brothers being cursed by the gods (Valar). 

The Oath itself is as follows:

Quote

"Be he foe or friend, be he foul or clean,
brood of Morgoth or bright Vala,
Elda or Maia or Aftercomer,
Man yet unborn upon Middle-earth,
neither law, nor love, nor league of swords,
dread nor danger, not Doom itself,
shall defend him from Fëanor, and Fëanor's kin,
whoso hideth or hoardeth, or in hand taketh,
finding keepeth or afar casteth
a Silmaril. This swear we all:
death we will deal him ere Day's ending,
woe unto world's end! Our word hear thou,
Eru Allfather! To the everlasting
Darkness doom us if our deed faileth.
On the holy mountain hear in witness
and our vow remember, Manwë and Varda!"

As a result of this oath, they begin their career of vengeance by slaughtering their fellow Elves in an event known as the "first kinslaying", because they needed ships to travel to Middle-earth, but their cousins the Teleri would not help them. 

Then two of the brothers called Celegorm and Curufin, driven by the oath and the curse of the Valar, are enraged when the Elvish King Finrod of Nargothrond (the kingdom where they are living), decides to help a mortal man called Beren in recovering a Silmaril to win the hand of the Elvish beauty Luthien (out of a debt to Beren's father, who saved his life in battle). They covertly oppose Finrod's mission, and after he has left their scheming causes the people to turn against their cousin Finrod and put them in power in his stead, thereby orchestrating a coup behind their king's back. 

Next, they take Lúthien, daughter of King Thingol of Doriath, captive after espying her passing through their kingdom en route to unite with her lover Beren and intend for Celegorm to rape her. Celegorm and Curufin are already positioned against Beren, but Luthien does not know this. Celegorm dissembles his true intentions towards Luthien: 

 

   [Huan] brought her to Celegorm, and Luthien, learning that he was a
   prince of the Noldor and the foe of Morgoth, was glad; and she
   declared herself, casting aside her cloak. So great was her sudden
   beauty revealed beneath the sun that Celegorm became enamoured of
   her; but he spoke her fair, and promised that she would find help
   in her need, if she returned with him now to Nargothrond. By no
   sign did he reveal that he knew already of Beren and the quest, of
   which she told, nor that it was a matter that touched him near.
   (203)



Holding Luthien captive is indicative of the twisted brothers' intent, partly sexual and partly so as to force a mercurial alliance of kinship with her farher King Thingol, the most powerful of the Elven lords, and this is made explicit in the Silmarillion, "they held her fast, and took away her cloak, and she was not permitted to pass the gates or to speak with any save the brothers Celegorm and Curufin" (203). Celegorm and Curufin's purpose in capturing Luthien is certainly made explicit, as is their treachery: "they purposed to let the King [Finrod Felagund] perish, and to keep Luthien, and force Thingol to give her hand to Celegorm. Thus would they advance their power, and become the mightiest of the princes of the Noldor" (203).

But our wily heroine Luthien escapes from Nargothrond and rescues Beren from the clutches of Sauron, aided by Huan the Hound of Valinor and formerly faithful sidekick of Celegorm, who turns against his master over his abduction of Luthien. 

 Celegorm and Curufin are subsequently ousted from power and expelled from Nargothrond after their deeds (trying to abduct, control and forcibly marry/rape the daughter of another Elvish king) are revealed, to wide dismay in the kingdom. They then vow to destroy Thingol, Luthien's father. 

But unfortunately for our lovesick herores, all four characters meet again in the forest of Brethil where they attempt to slay Beren and again abduct Luthien to cement the coveted alliance with her father's kingdom: 

 

Celegorm and Curufin rode up, hastening through the forest; and the
   brothers espied [Beren and Luthien] and knew them from afar. Then
   Celegorm turned his horse, and spurred it upon Beren, purposing to
   ride him down; but Curufin swerving stooped and lifted Luthien to
   his saddle, for he was a strong and cunning horseman. (208)

Luthien manages to get down from the saddle and Beren duels with Celegorm, defeating him. But Curufin who, "being filled with shame and malice, took the bow of Celegorm and shot back as they went; and the arrow was aimed at Luthien" (209). The narrator spells out that the arrow was aimed at Luthien, and, were we in doubt as to that, it is confirmed that he aims at her again: "but Curufin shot again, and Beren sprang before Luthien and the dart smote him in the breast" (209)

Later on, Celegorm himself dies in the Second Kinslaying, when the Sons of Feanor sack Luthien's father's Kingdom of Doriath to seize a Silmaril in the possession of his grandson and heir Dior, the Half-Elven son of Beren and Luthien. Celegorm had been instrumental in stirring up his other brothers and causing them to assault Doriath. 

Thus Doriath is destroyed and King Dior is savagely murdered, along with his wife Nimloth, in his own hall by Celegorm, as well as thousands of his subjects, as Celegorm had vowed years before after Dior's mother Luthien had escaped from his clutches. Celegorm’s servants then cruelly send Dior’s twin sons, Elured and Elurin on a death march and leave them to starve in a dark forest. The brothers emerge victorious, but Celegorm, Curufin and Caranthir are ultimately slain in mutual massacre at Doriath and the Silmaril is not recovered. 

Lovely, nice little fantasy Elves, eh? ;)

Surely, you can't say this has the same "tenor" as the hobbit and LoTR? 

Edited by Krishtotter

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Krishtotter,

The stories of Kinslaying and the Oath of Feanor are dark, but not necessarily "gritty".

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I am exceptionally familiar with all of Tolkien’s work, and own the HoME and so on, so I don’t need it quoted at me. :) But what Scot says. These are tragedies but on a very different scale and in a very different mode from anything I’d consider “gritty” fiction. “Gritty” literature is about tone, style, and focus — you’re down in the muck and filth.  None of Tolkien’s work is “gritty” to me, from that perspective. But YMMV. 

Edited by Ran

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