If someone were to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy in the same manner as Amazon is adapting its appendices that version would go something like this:
Rather than opening on the Shire and Bilbo’s party and a visit from Gandalf, and rather than tell the tale of Frodo and his companions’ fraught departure from their homeland, we would instead be introduced to four separate stories in the opening half hour.
- In Story #1, a fierce Hobbit baker woman would encounter an orc and smack it to death with her rolling-pin. Then she’d gather the rest of the Shire to make for a ruined Hobbit castle, where she’d rally the Hobbits to make a valiant last stand against the nearby ditch-digging orcs led by an evil Hobbit with a striking resemblance to Lucius Malfoy.
- In Story #2, Aragorn and a crack team of Gondor Rangers (go go Gondor Rangers!) would head for Mordor where they’d soon be captured, but Aragorn would be set free to take a message back to his people: Submit to Sauron or face extinction! Sauron is building a realm where evil will not merely survive, but prosper, after all. But Sauron would allow Aragorn to keep his weapons and armor.
- In Story #3, Galadriel would set out from Lothlorien bedecked in full plate armor (as elves do) and head to Rohan where she’d make quick work of Wormtongue and rally the Riders of Rohan to war! She would be sure to show the warriors of Rohan how to swordfight while she was at it, and impress everyone with both her fighting skills and her people skills.
- In Story #4, Elrond would send Legolas to the Lonely Mountain to enlist the aid of the dwarves, but in reality he’d have a secret plan even Legolas wasn’t aware of to trick the dwarves into giving them some precious jewels that would act as, uh, like an EMP grenade against Nazguls or something.
Each of these stories would be filled with mystery boxes: Aragorn would find a mysterious crown that wasn’t actually a crown. What is it actually?
The Hobbit baker lady would encounter a mysterious stranger . . . who may or may not be a good guy or a bad guy, but is almost certainly a guy (maybe?).
Whatever, soon the Hobbits will be at war! That’s the important thing! War!
“I know I’m not the king you had in mind, dear Hobbits, but will you stand by me and fight!?” the baker Hobbit would inexplicably ask her unwarlike people, who have no reason to follow her.
From here, rather than establish an adventure—or a fellowship of adventurers—the adaptation would double down on these branching storylines, making each as big and epic as possible right from the get-go, so that rather than having to craft interesting or compelling characters or stories, it becomes a narrative arms race, constantly upping the ante. The Hobbit baker lady doesn’t need a backstory or even a personality, for instance. Why bother?
Galadriel’s adventure would take her first to the ocean for a long swim, then to the jungles of the Even Further South Southlands, then to the North Pole where she would scornfully refuse advice from Santa Claus (who turns out to be a servant of Sauron and has enslaved worker elves in his diabolical factories).
Finally, she’d make it to Rohan along with her new friend Balhrand (the king of the Even Further South Southlands, we soon discover, and a roguish rogue who may or may not be a good guy or a bad guy but is definitely a guy).
In Rohan, we’d get lots of examples of what incompetent simps the Rohirrim are. Éowyn and Éomer would argue constantly over every imaginable thing. Éomer and his best friends would have an ongoing dispute because he tried to get kicked out of the Rohan Cavalry Brigade (The Plains Are Always Right!) and accidentally got his buddy kicked out, too, for reasons (Éomer is a total loser in this version by the way, and everyone hates and abuses him).
His friend is actually Boromir in this version, too, because why not? They argue a lot. Gosh do they argue. But Boromir is able to get a nick on Galadriel in their ballet sword fight where she takes on seven dozen Riders of Rohan at the same time, so now he’s a General and can abuse his friend even more.
At the Lonely Mountain, Gimli and Legolas would form an odd but endearing friendship marred by the absolutely gob-smacking ridiculousness of Elrond’s bizarre plan to trick the dwarves and neither would spend any time fighting orcs because don’t worry boys: Hobbit baker lady and Galadriel got this, yaaasssss girrrll.