The new trailer for Amazon’s Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power landed on July 14, and to be honest, it looked great. Showcasing more of the characters, designs, sets, sounds, and a real glimpse into the action of this new version of Middle-Earth, it looks like somebody spent around 500 million dollars bringing the Second Age of Middle-Earth to life.
However, with Amazon’s hoards of gold and the scope of talent involved, it was always going to look this good. The real question is whether it’s possible to fill five planned seasons of TV, create a decent plot out of events spanning more than 3,000 years, and still honor the story created by J.R.R. Tolkien. Doing it all at the same time seems nigh-on impossible, but if we’re lucky, we might get two out of three.
It’s not an enviable task. There’s a lot going on in the Second Age of Middle-Earth, an era of uneasy peace that leads to the rise of LOTR’s big bad Sauron. The drama plays out over thousands of years across locations familiar to those who have seen the older films, like Rivendell and Lothlorien, and unfamiliar ones like the island of Númenor. Old faces like Elrond, Galadriel, and Isildur are back, along with new ones like Gil-Galad the elvenking. The Second Age ends with the elves and men joining forces to fight Sauron, which we last saw twenty years ago in the opening minutes of Fellowship Of The Ring.
In order to squish things down into something resembling a plot, lead writers J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay have taken the broad strokes of Tolkien’s notes and used them to engineer a story that spans the entirety of Middle-Earth. They’ve condensed the timelines so that everything happens more or less at once, and invented new characters out of whole cloth to try and stitch everything together.
The Harfoots, one of three types of proto-Hobbit, are barely mentioned outside of the Fellowship Of The Ring (the book), in a long-winded “Concerning Hobbits” prologue. But Amazon’s new show has placed the Harfoots center-stage, designing costumes and culture and turning them into characters that will be heavily involved in driving some of the plot along. It’s the equivalent of turning Luke Skywalker’s throwaway line in A New Hope—“You fought in the Clone Wars?”—into hundreds of hours of prequel content.
Other characters who were previously just named parts of a family tree, like dwarf-king Durin IV, are now flesh-and-blood people with goals and roles to play in the action. An all-new elf-human couple has also been invented, presumably to retread that Arwen-Aragorn forbidden love story.