Long before it was released, The Rings of Power was the subject of much controversy. Could a retail company like Amazon be trusted with the legacy of what might be history’s most popular fantasy franchise? Would they try to just throw money at it and glaze over a poor story with dazzling effects?
Hardcore Tolkien fans were skeptical. This didn’t improve when the Amazon executive team chose JD Payne and Patrick McKay as showrunners, two relatively unknown screenwriters. The more information was released, the nastier Tolkien OGs’ comments got. “There were no Black elves!” some yelled, causing a massive racism debate over casting choices before even a single second of the TV show had aired.
On September 1st, 2022, the first two episodes were released, and lo and behold…most people liked the show! Barring minor criticism for its pacing, reviews were generally positive. The plot was solid, the cinematography epic, and the visuals and music simply stunning. Each character serves a purpose, and most actors play their roles well.
How did they do it? Under all this pressure and negativity, how did the Amazon team manage to make the most expensive show in the history of television, set in the one of the most complex fantasy universes, and yet still (mostly) please fans across the board? The answer includes a lot of people making the right decisions at the right time, but it starts with nothing more than a wish.
Five years before the show was released, just after Amazon had bought the rights to make a prequel to Lord of the Rings, long-time fan and rights-auction winner Jeff Bezos was sitting in his kitchen. His son, a fellow Tolkien nerd, walked up to him, looked him in the eyes, and said: “Dad, please don’t fuck this up.”
Every decision that followed was the result of a father trying to make his son proud. That’s how the right people ended up in the right chairs, how storms of premature criticism were weathered, and how good decisions were seen all the way through to their conclusions.
Never underestimate the power of making a wish.
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This post was previously published on Niklas Göke’s blog.
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