I’m not completely oblivious to J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. However, in the interest of full disclosure I saw the Rankin Bass adaptations and rather enjoyed them while I still think the Bakshi version of Lord Of The Rings is a bit overrated. Then again I’m not a fan of Bakshi’s style to begin with so take that as you will. I didn’t see the live-action movies because I’m not a fantasy movie fan. I saw the animated versions when I was a kid and my preferences had not yet taken hold. I do not claim to be any kind of expert on Middle Earth. However, I do learn to trust what people I know to be fans say versus modern day “experts” who are about as knowledgeable about their alleged expertise as Fredrick Wertham was about comics or Jack Thompson about video games. I look into things but a Tolkien book is very long and in a genre I don’t usually dive into.
So when IGN (who apparently are about video games the way CBR is about comics…as in no longer exclusive) brings out an expert to defend The Rings Of Power, the alleged history of Middle Earth that is completely original and not based on actual books Tolkien wrote about the history of Middle Earth I get suspicious. Meet the so-called “Tolkien Professor”, Cory Olsen. In the first video he defends changes made to Amazon Prime’s prequel series and says they’re totally within the world Tolkien created. Above is the teaser (because it’s all teasers) he is analyzing for proper context.
The second video is a counter by someone who is a huge Tolkien fan and reads the books all the time, and comes with quotes. Yes, it’s another visit with Just Some Guy, who speaks the fictional language from the book, knows what the characters should look and act like, and is annoyed at just how many liberties Amazon is making. I show you both videos so you the BW readership can decide for yourself.
If you thinks he makes a good case, here is Just Some Guy. He may not be a professor and he doesn’t have a ten-year podcast just on Tolkien, but he’s read the books, knows storytelling as a comic creator himself, and has a passion for this story while being against the modern “adaptations” by modern Hollywood. He questions many of Olsen’s claims.
The Rings Of Power sound more and more like a combination of all the issues with modern storytelling:
- Using classic names to push an original story because they don’t have enough faith in the original
- Wanting anything popular to reflect their worldview, tonal tastes, and other preferences over what the fans want (the everything for meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee crowd)
- Having no actual interest in the source material, just in the praise of their fellows
- Playing to demographics who don’t care about the source material because they don’t know how to make fans happy while also grabbing the mythical “wider” audience (aka “folks like us who still won’t watch this and we’re deluding ourselves”)
- All the political stuff I don’t talk about because the ideologues wouldn’t be in these positions of iconic overriding if not for the other problems listed above
Could the show be good? Quality wise maybe. From a streaming show original budget I do see some nice looking stuff. As an adaptation the more they tell us the more people who know this material from the books to the Peter Jackson movies to the animated adaptations I know see the flaws. Instead of getting the rights to The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales as well as the book Olsen showed and Guy actually quotes from–you know, the books that actually describe Middle Earth lore–they decided to make something completely original because they only care about the marketing and their own egos. It’s a shame. Books make better series than they do movies. I haven’t read a lot of books turned series but I have read novelizations where they have to pad out the movie to fill the book space while I’ve read books based on movies that had to cut stuff out to fit into the run time. This could have been a better adaptation because they had time to do it right. They don’t care about doing it right; they just care about the money and themselves.