September 2, 2022: That’s the day that Gil-Galad, Elendil and Númenor start becoming household names. Today Amazon Studios announced the title for its long-awaited $465 million Lord of the Rings streaming series: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
Amazon released a teaser trailer to debut the title, and reveal a bit more of the mood board:
— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) January 19, 2022
While the show was known to be set in Middle Earth’s Second Age, showrunners also confirmed the focus in a statement.
“This is a title that we imagine could live on the spine of a book next to J.R.R. Tolkien’s other classics,” said said showrunners J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay. “The Rings of Power unites all the major stories of Middle-earth’s Second Age: the forging of the rings, the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron, the epic tale of Númenor, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Until now, audiences have only seen on-screen the story of the One Ring –but before there was one, there were many… and we’re excited to share the epic story of them all.”
For Tolkien buffs, this opens up seasons and seasons of storytelling. Shortish version: After laying low following the defeat of his master Morgoth in the First Age, Sauron reëmerges and deceives humans and elves into thinking he’s not so bad (Galadriel tried to warn them but they didn’t listen!). With the aid of Elven wright Celebrimbor, he forges 17 rings for elves, human and dwarves while secretly forging the One Ring to control the other rings of power. After defeat by a combined army, Sauron once again lays low, only to eventually trick the egotistical ruler of the human kingdom Númenor, Ar-Pharazôn, into attempting to conquer the Undying lands of Aman, with disastrous results. Finally, the Last Alliance of Men and Elves gathers, led by elvish king Gil-Galad and Aragorn ancestor Elendil, to invade Mordor. And then all hell breaks loose.
So yeah, lots of material here!
The teaser trailer is nice, with a woman reciting the poem about the rings in the Common Tongue:
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
Interestingly, the teaser was filmed using practical effects under the supervision of effects consultant (and legend) Douglas Trumbull, which is a promising sign. Rather shockingly, the images of molten metal filling a mold were made by…filming molten metal filling a mold.
A whole lot of small details came together to create what can only be described as literal movie magic. For starters, the hills and valleys you see throughout the title treatment are actually a huge (sustainably sourced) hunk of reclaimed redwood. And that water? That’s actually molten metal. “There was a desire in shooting this title reveal to have a wash of water come through, which I thought was a very beautiful idea,” Trumbull explained. “The question was ‘well, would it be water, or would it be something else?’ to give the ‘burbling’ effect. That’s a very difficult thing to do with computer graphics because it’s in the realm of fluid dynamics which are very hard to calculate. They’re some of the most challenging elements of computer graphics to execute and you can wait days and days for some frames to render. Whereas, if you’re on a set and you have REAL hot, molten metals and super cold water interacting with this, you’re almost CERTAINLY going to get some surprising visual effect which — on camera — will look really great, particularly if it’s shot at 5000 frames a second.”
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy is widely beloved for it’s use of practical effects, including models and costumes (the Hobbit…not so much) and not over-relying on CGI is definitely the right esthetic for any adaptation of Tolkien’s works.
Anyway, if you’re a Tolkien freak like me – or just waiting for a new high fantasy series to binge this fall – the countdown begins!