Binge-watching Lord of the Rings and Hobbit is a great way to kill a weekend, but wouldn’t it be nice for an all-new return to Middle Earth? Luckily, Amazon is finally making all our dreams come true with the upcoming Lord of the Rings series on Amazon Prime.
It’s all been kind of hush-hush, like the series is Amazon’s precious or something. But, there are a few things we know so far, which makes waiting for it to finally air even harder.
Lord of the Rings Release Date
Technically, the series was supposed to premiere in late 2021, but as with most TV and movies being filmed in 2020, COVID halted the project for a while. The good news is New Zealand did an amazing job of keeping the pandemic under control there and the filming delay was short-lived.
However, that pushed the release date September 2nd, 2022. Earlier would definitely be welcome, but don’t count on it. The entire first season has already wrapped on filming and now it’s just down to post-production and scoring.
Lord of the Rings Series Cast
Lord of the Rings on Amazon isn’t just going to be a repeat of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings trilogies. Instead, it’s going further back. Much, much further back,
But more on that later.
First, let’s get into the series cast that’s been released so far.
You’ll find one noticeable difference from the original two trilogies – a more diverse cast, including a diverse tribe of hobbits known as Harfoots. Sir Lenny Henry, who you’ll also find in The Witcher: Blood Origin, plays a Harfoot, and talked about the Harfoots in an interview:
We are multicultural, we are seen as a tribe, not a race, so we are black, Asian and brown, there are even Maori.Lenny Henry
The series already has a large cast, with many familiar names popping up from other well-known series along with up-and-coming actors looking to make a name for themselves in this epic fantasy series, including:
- Cynthia Addai-Robinson – Arrow, Power, Spartacus
- Maxine Cunliffe – Talented musician with small roles in Power Rangers Megaforce and My Life is Murder
- Ian Blackburn – So far only featured in shorts, such as Behold the Ghost and Shelter
- Sara Zwangobani – Nightmares & Dreamscapes, Monarch Cove, and Home and Away
- Sophia Nomvete – The Tempest
- Joseph Mawle – Game of Thrones, Mr. Jones, Ripper Street
- Peter Tait – Played Shagrat, an orc in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
While the actual roles are only speculation at this point, IMDB finally has a cast list so we can all start trying to pin down what characters might be featured in the series.
Introducing Showrunners, Directors, & Writers
So, who’s behind the new series? Quite a few well-known names actually. It all started back in 2018 as studios scrambled to create the next must-watch fantasy epic after Game of Thrones. When Amazon announced the ambitious Lord of the Rings series, the Amazon Studios chief told reporters:
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.Jennifer Salke
Writers Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne, who’ll act as co-showrunners, mirrored that sentiment after beginning on the series. Of course, they’ll get creative support from other writers including Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones), Stephany Folsom (Toy Story 4), Gennifer Hutchinson (Breaking Bad), Justin Dohle (Stranger Things), and Helen Shang (Hannibal).
For the first season, we’ll see the series in the hands of three different, yet highly talented directors. J.A. Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) got the pleasure of directing the first two episodes, while Wayne Che Yip (Doctor Who, Preacher) directs the next four. Finally, Charlotte Brändström (The Witcher) finishes up the first season.
Another exciting addition, hopefully, will be the original Lord of the Rings composer Howard Shore. While Shore’s in talks to return, nothing’s been confirmed yet. I think we can all agree the series needs Shore as the music added so much depth, suspense, action, and drama to the movies.
An Epic Price for an Epic Series
You’d think by using lesser known actors and even some with no film credits, the series wouldn’t cost that much to produce, but if anyone’s got the money to spend, it’s Jeff Bezos. As it is, Lord of the Rings on Amazon is set to be the most expensive TV show of all time at around $465 million for the first season alone.
However, that’s not nearly all. The rights to Tolkien’s legendary world cost $250 million before filming could even get underway. Naturally, you have to add in the costs of marketing, production, and more. Some rumors have the total cost knocking on the door of one billion dollars.
Will it be worth it all? Maybe Amazon’s the new Smaug, putting all the shiny gold into a TV series millions are already talking about every week.
Timing in Middle Earth
If you’re looking forward to joining Frodo, Sam, Bilbo, and Gandalf on another grand adventure, you might be disappointed. Lord of the Rings on Amazon is set thousands of years before the Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, the movies actually highlighted some of the history that the series will focus on.
Set in the Second Age of Middle Earth, you’ll get to experience the rise and fall of kingdoms only talked about in the movies and of course, see what led to the rise of Middle Earth’s greatest villain. As with the movies, the series is set to start during a time of peace, but progress into an era where Middle Earth faces its darkest time and foes.
Amazon recently released an official synopsis, which mentions legendary locations, such as the Misty Mountains, the island kingdom of Númenor, and Lindon, the elven capital. Waiting almost another year to see this show is like dangling the One Ring just out of reach of Gollum’s spindly fingers – torture.
If you want to get more familiar with the history before the show starts streaming, check out J.R.R. Tolkien’s books The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle Earth, and The Children of Húrin.
Faces Old and New
The big question is will we see any familiar faces? After all, we all know some of the characters have been around for centuries and actually told the Fellowship of the Ring much about the history of Middle Earth.
According to MSN, there’s a slight possibility of Gandalf appearing, though it’s unlikely Ian McKellen will reprise the role. Gandalf didn’t actually become a wizard until the Third Age, but is mentioned in the books as being one of the Maiar – spirits who helped in the shaping of the world.
Naturally, we should expect to see Sauron. After all, it was during the Second Age that he gathered his forces in Mordor, which led to the historic battle of all the races.
So far, the only confirmed familiar character is Lady Galadriel, who’ll be played by Morfydd Clark versus Cate Blanchett, who played her in the movies. Since her character is much younger in the series, it makes sense to have someone else in the role.
Many rumors are still afloat as to whether Elrond will return, including whether Hugo Weaving might return. However, Weaving has already put a definitive end to those rumors. In an interview, he said:
No way. Absolutely no. Matrix might have happened. But Lord of the Rings, no, I would never — I’m not interested in that at all. Look, I loved being in New Zealand with all those great people, and it was like going back to a family but actually, to be honest, I think everyone had more than enough of it.Hugo Weaving
So, no, don’t expect Weaving to return as Elrond, though the character could be portrayed by someone else.
Mainly, you’ll see new faces and even races. Some were mentioned briefly in the movies, but Tolkien’s pre-Lord of the Rings books shine a light on many of the characters you should expect to see.
Return to New Zealand
So, we already talked about season one being filmed in New Zealand, which has become the modern face of Middle Earth. Yet, Amazon did the unthinkable and moved filming to the UK. Fans haven’t exactly been thrilled over the change and for good reason.
It’s hard to imagine not seeing the stunning scenery of New Zealand. However, despite getting incentives to film in the country, Amazon has chosen to move filming to the UK for the next four seasons. It’s said that the reason is so Amazon can create a stronger footprint in the UK.
New Zealand was disappointed to lose out on the revenue filming would bring to the area, though the UK is looking forward to the boost.
What Else We Know
The main things we know so far is that everything will be set in the Second Age of Middle Earth and the series will last for at least five seasons. While it’ll be the new norm of incredibly short seasons, at least we have five to look forward to.
Surprisingly, the series might also include nudity. It’s rumored to be tasteful and not sexual, but that’s yet to be seen of course. Does it really need it? Probably not.
Fans are most likely looking forward to the myriad battles between men, orcs, elves, and dwarves. With Amazon’s massive budget, the effects should be mind-blowing.
The series will dive in-depth into how the rings of power were forged. Since the Second Age lasted for over 3,000 years, the sheer amount of lore available gives us nearly unlimited possibilities and stories to tell.
Amazon’s official release synopsis also features what’s rumored to be the Two Trees of Valinor, which later became the sun and moon after being destroyed by Ungoliant, Shelob’s mother.
The countdown is on to see just how well Amazon’s take on Lord of the Rings compares to Peter Jackson’s vision. While Jackson won’t be a part of the project, there’s no reason not to believe the series won’t be just as groundbreaking and memorable as the movies.