Game of Thrones defined an era by announcing the imminent arrival of winter. Now, with fall just around the corner, here to remind us about it is the first season of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, the Amazon Prime Video series that brings the world of the famous novel by J.R.R. Tolkien to our TV screens. The series premiered on the platform on September 1st. The first two episodes (of eight) are already available; the following six will be released one by one every Thursday.
In Los Angeles, a city where witnessing the transition of the seasons is not easy, the arrival of autumn cannot be perceived by the color of the foliage. However, this year it can be noticed thanks to the billboards that announce the series on the city’s highways. The great television premiere of the fall has flooded a city already saturated with advertising for audiovisual productions. The orcs, elves, wizards, dwarves and other Middle-earth creatures imagined by Tolkien are everywhere: in the streets, on the press and even in the Amazon boxes that arrive at people’s homes.
They are even in the sky. And not metaphorically. Amazon Prime Video announced its intention to finally make a name for itself in the entertainment industry with an exclusive party in mid-August. In a celebration full of symbols, Jeff Bezos’ company opened the doors of their studio in Culver City to celebrate the occasion. One of the guests was Simon Tolkien, the grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien, the Oxford academic who created the benchmark for fantasy literature of the 20th century and for which the on-demand content platform paid $250 million to adapt the novel to the small screen. Simon Tolkien had his picture taken on the steps of the mansion, built in 1918 and famous for appearing in Gone with the Wind. That same residence, built in the image and likeness of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, was home to movie titans like Cecil B. DeMille and David Selznick. The highlight of that evening was a drone show in which hundreds of flying devices formed figures related to Tolkien’s saga.
The series is not a strict adaptation of the novel; it is based on the appendices that Tolkien left behind. Its budget is around $58 million per episode, almost $40 million more than what HBO paid for each installment of House of the Dragon, the prequel to Game of Thrones. In other words, it is the most expensive series in the history of television.
Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, was one of the politicians who walked the red carpet at that presentation evening in L.A. The cast was also there, along with the crew and top Amazon executives. Some of them took the time to chat with Juan Antonio Bayona, who directed the first two episodes. The Catalan director listened to the elated reactions that the screening caused among the spectators. Bayona, who sat behind Bezos, said that the first meetings he had for this project had taken place right there, in the same place where Citizen Kane, by Orson Welles, and Spellbound, by Alfred Hitchcock, were filmed. He also said that what most caught his attention at those first work sessions was how the heads of the series, Patrick McKaye and John Payne, already had a very clear idea of the narrative arc of the five seasons they intend to shoot.
Many of the guests claimed that the first two episodes took them back more than 20 years, to when the first The Lord of the Rings movie, directed by Peter Jackson, was released. Robert Aramayo, one of the stars of the new series, was only nine years old when the film came out. The British actor plays Elrond, one of the most important characters among the 23 protagonists of the first installment. That day he told the handful of fans that had been invited that the first thing he did after his agent informed him that he had landed the role was to run to buy The Silmarillion, the forerunner to The Lord of the Rings.
Aramayo’s presence in the series creates one more link between Westeros, the universe in which Game of Thrones takes place, and the Middle-earth of The Lord of the Rings. Comparisons between the two series will be inevitable, and Aramayo, who appears in both (as a young Ned Stark in the former), is proof of that.