If you keep an eye on film and television news, you may have come across a small little thing about how Warner Bros. and Amazon are in talks about bringing The Lord of The Rings (LoTR) universe to televisions via a series that is similar in tone to Game of Thrones and whilst this, from a financial standpoint, makes a lot of sense, we have many reasons as to why they should just leave it alone.
We've touched upon how nothing is sacred anymore in previous articles about Star Wars and Harrison Ford's oeuvre, so it doesn't really come as much of a surprise that Warner Bros. and Amazon want to cash-in on one of the greatest films of all time despite it being a bonafide classic, but we're going to whine about it anyway. As a trilogy, LoTR won a staggering 17 Oscars, made fantasy a viable and serious genre and sparked this whole craze for sword and sorcery that media seems to be going through at the moment. Some 14 years later and they remain stone, cold classics.
Now, we know Warner Bros. has previous in this area as they tried to milk The Hobbit novel (prequel to LoTR) for three movies in such a cynical and poorly thought-out fashion that it mainly acted as an extended tourism advert for New Zealand with some special effects thrown in and Martin Freeman doing that one face he knows.
Anyway, it was a cataclysmic mish-mash of mediocrity that was a world away from the LoTR films in quality and content so why did that happen? Because they didn't respect the concept of the books!
Where The Hobbit films fell down was by overextending themselves. The book it is based on is a 300-page long kids story as opposed to the 1200 page epic of LoTR, so making a trilogy of a single book seems a bit of a stretch. Where LoTR succeeded was almost the exact opposite of this. Three three-hour-long films (that were extended beyond even that rather long running time by special editions) with years and years of research and dedication put into each shot and piece of costume as the filmmakers looked into the nine years of research author J.R.R Tolkien put into his own novel, creating unique languages, races, and realms and those behind the movies knew this and did their homework and presented a piece of fantasy that felt rooted in reality.
Despite all of this, the story also acts as religious allegory for Tolkien's Christian viewpoint and has some possibly questionable approaches to race and other religions and if you have the time to squirrel away days on end down the rabbit hole that is the internet, there is an ongoing debate as to whether the iconic author was a racist or quite progressive in his thinking, however, there is no denying that his belief system permeated throughout his works.
As such, it is rather a chaste series when it comes to things like sex, we know that races mate and are 'bred, ' but any focus on the more titillating or salacious aspects are absent. As with gore, although the battles are epic and core to many key plot points, the violence always has a justifiable end, it is a clear-cut narrative about good and evil and there isn't a lingering over the blood and guts of it all.
Tolkien's universe is also startlingly white, something of a nod to his vision being an homage to medieval England that, in the period of 1937 - 1949 when it was written, would not have garnered as much attention as it does now but was something the films, for better or worse, also stuck to.
Now if you skip back to the very first part of this article you may want to re-read the phrase 'similar in tone to Game of Thrones' and start worrying. Game of Thrones (GoT) is a smash hit TV series for HBO and this is partly down to its use of gratuitous violence, nudity, and sex scenes. GoT also recently came under fire for its lack of characters of color (granted there are some but usually in minor roles and with a hint of them being repressed a la slavery) but used the same excuses of harking back to medieval Europe as inspiration, something that probably shouldn't fly in modern day fantasy. The key word there being 'fantasy', a genre on which literally anything can happen.
Now, take this formula for success and supplant it into a LoTR universe and you start to have issues in that, by its very essence, it can not be a LoTR universe. It can be a fantasy universe with a LoTR plot line, but it can't be anything akin to the original creator's vision, it is something merely playing on the name of it. Create a violent, sexualized world and it can not be called anything like Tolkien's and create a multi-ethnic world and you are also diverging from Tolkien's vision, even if it is for the better, that will undoubtedly upset Tolkien purists...and racists. That being said, if you create a TV show today that doesn't have representation of people outside of being white, then you are also a massive tool who is contributing to the culture of whitewashing.
Which begs the question then, why not simply make something original? Just get the best writers and actors you can and make your own fantasy vision, make it as gory and sexy as you like and use every possible race and representation of humanity possible in it, just don't call it LoTR.
It is time fantasy adapted and pushed forward with a sense of modernity to it so stop looking back to its past and do something new, exciting and inclusive, stop being a tool when it comes to representation, and you'll probably get a darn a good few viewers off the back of that.
So it's time to move on from Tolkien because even though his works and earlier adaptations were successful, the world moves on and so should media with it.