Markella Kavenagh Joins Amazon’s Lord Of The Rings Series!

The Amazon Prime Lord of the Rings series has just tapped its first cast member, not long after several small announcements broke at The One Ring.net‘s panel on Saturday night at San Diego Comic-Con (news which was completely overshadowed by the Marvel panel that same night). Let’s dig into this news – I am literally so excited right now, I can’t even breathe.

Okay, the big news, the reason you’re here: yes, casting has officially begun for Amazon’s series based on the works of fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien – set in the Second Age, long before the events of Tolkien’s most famous novel, The Lord of the Rings, the series is set to explore things like the creation of the Rings of Power, the rise and fall of the civilization of Númenor, and the War of the Last Alliance (which fans of the movie trilogy will remember from the brief prologue in Fellowship of the Ring). I’m giving as simple a version of the story as I can, so that this post is accessible to people who haven’t read the books – but I’m actually dying to just rant for thirty minutes about obscure details from Tolkien’s posthumously published works, such as Unfinished Tales, or about the tale of Galadriel and Celeborn, or the – oh wait, I have news to cover. Right. Let me compose myself.

CASTING HAS BEGUN!

variety.com

Markella Kavenagh, best known for her role on Picnic At Hanging Rock, has been cast for an undisclosed role in Amazon’s series – so far, the only detail about her character is that she might be named Tyra. Now, there is nobody in Tolkien’s works named Tyra, so we can assume that Kavenagh is playing an entirely new character: that’s not a complaint, because it was pretty much inevitable that, to make the show interesting, there would need to be some new protagonists and antagonists. We don’t yet have any details on whether Tyra will be a human or an elf – or, perhaps, a dwarf? Or a female orc?

As for the news from the Comic-Con panel, well, we’ve got confirmation that John Howe, one of the art directors for the original movie trilogy, will be working on the show; J.D. Payne, Patrick McKay and Gennifer Hutchison have been joined by possibly three more screenwriters; J.A. Bayona will direct the first two episodes; Amazon has an interest in exploring stories set in the kingdom of Angmar (a place you may or may not remember from The Hobbit trilogy: it was only briefly touched upon, doesn’t matter, moving on before I start ranting again); and there will be plenty of merchandise from the show, including high-quality jewelry – look out for replicas of all the Rings of Power.

How do you feel about this news? Are you as excited as I am? I don’t think that’s even humanly possible! Leave your thoughts in the comments below!!!

Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” Finds A Director!

Finally!

Lord of the Rings fans have been waiting with bated breath (or, at least, I have been) for news of the upcoming Amazon Prime adaptation of our favorite novel of all time: or, more specifically, the appendices of our favorite novel of all time, as well as posthumously published writings by the same author  – I mean, possibly: we don’t know how much Amazon has the rights to, but the fact that the island of Númenor shows up on their official maps suggests that they at least have the rights to Unfinished Tales, the only time in which that map was published in one of Tolkien’s own works – unless they’re going off of Karen Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle-earth? Or is it possible that-

Sorry about that, moving on. So, uh, yeah, where was I? Oh yes, we’ve been waiting to hear some solid news about the show – there was a flurry of excitement early this year, when Amazon released some maps and a few tantalizing messages on their social media platforms, but since then…nothing. Brian Cogman of Game of Thrones was brought on as a consultant, and there were rumors the show would be filming in Leith, Scotland, in August (as you can imagine, those rumors had me pretty excited, since, you know, the name). But since then, literally nothing.

Over the last week, our excitement has blown up like one of Gandalf’s fabulous fireworks. Conflicting reports started coming out left and right – Amazon was filming possibly 90% of the show in Scotland! No, Amazon had actually changed their minds and was moving filming to New Zealand! The latter seems to be true, with Amazon pretty much officially settling down to start filming in the city of Auckland, New Zealand, where preproduction on the show has already begun. A casting call has gone out for extras, specifically for people to play soldiers and farmers. And now, today, we have breaking news that is sure to divide fans.

Juan Antonio Bayona, director of films such as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and The Orphanage, has joined the series and will direct the first two episodes of Amazon’s Lord of the Rings, along with his producing partner, Belén Atienza. In an official statement, Bayona said he “can’t wait to take audiences around the world to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age” – confirmation, if you needed it, that this show will cover events in the Tolkien legendarium long preceding The Fellowship of the Ring, or The Hobbit. Meanwhile, a new name has been added to the series’ team of screenwriters: J.D. Payne, Patrick McKay and Brian Cogman will now be joined by Gennifer Hutchison of Breaking Bad, a big win for the show. We know from previous reports that Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey is involved as a consultant, and famed Tolkien artist John Howe is part of the show’s creative team.

Coming hard on the heels of Netflix’s first look at their upcoming Witcher adaptation, this is proof that Amazon isn’t about to let anybody steal their thunder when it comes to the fantasy genre. I, for one, am hugely excited for the show (a little disappointed that Leith, Scotland, won’t be the main filming location), and I cannot wait for more news on this front. I’m expecting some more announcements at San Diego Comic Con, where Amazon will also be unveiling shows such as Carnival Row and The Boys.

Amazon Finds A Director For “The Lord Of The Rings” Prequel.

Game of Thrones is over, and has left a gaping hole in the fantasy genre – a hole that multiple film and TV studios are eager to fill. Amazon is the favorite to achieve that, with their upcoming Lord of the Rings prequel series based on the novels and other published works of J.R.R. Tolkien, a five-season, billion-dollar commitment that apparently will also spawn a number of spin-offs and sequels.

That all sounds fantastic, but so far we’ve had barely any indication that this project is even still alive. They confirmed the show’s setting and time-period earlier this year through a series of posts on their official Twitter page, which was followed by a report that shooting would begin in Leith, Scotland, later this summer. John Howe, art director on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Tom Shippey, a Tolkien scholar, both boarded the project at some point as well. There has been very little online chatter about the show, unless you (like I) habitually frequent sites like TheOneRing.net. But that might be about to change with the news that broke today, that Bryan Cogman is rumored to be either the director or a chief consultant for the show.

Cogman’s involvement with the series is interesting news for Tolkien purists who want the core themes of the book to be transferred to the screen – he served as “loremaster” for Game of Thrones, working to maintain fidelity to the George R.R. Martin novels, and has won multiple Emmy Awards. This is not going to please everyone, though – Cogman is now the third white male to board the project, following the firing of Sharon Tal Yguado at Amazon Studios. Jackson’s famous trilogy was extremely progressive in that it was largely written by two brilliant women; Jackson’s wife Fran Walsh and friend Philippa Boyens. Cogman, on the other hand, is in part responsible for some of the most controversial scenes in Game of Thrones history, such as the brutal torture and rape of Sansa Stark, something that (a) is undeniably a key element of Sansa’s brilliant character arc, but (b) was not in the original books and does have some suspiciously sexist overtones. Tolkien’s world is much “cleaner” than Westeros, and one wouldn’t expect to find such acts of violence in Middle-earth – though, then again, this series is not going to be set in the Middle-earth we know from the books and movies: this is going to be a story of an empire falling into decadence and decay, a civilization obsessed with death to the point of madness. This is a subject that has already been debated and argued for years, so I’m not going to dive too deeply into it, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide: is Cogman’s involvement a problem, or are you excited about this news?

(Benioff & Weiss, the Game of Thrones showrunners who have been the target of a LOT of backlash these last couple of weeks, are not involved in the show, by the way – nor are they likely to be, since they’re joining the Star Wars franchise).

“The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King” Throwback

Today is Tolkien Reading Day, the best time of year to go out and read up on the works of the great J.R.R Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. However, if you don’t have access to the books, why not take three hours out of your day to watch one of The Lord of the Rings movies? And since this day is intrinsically linked to things that happened in The Return of the King, Part 3 of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, we’re going to be talking about that film.

Spoilers Ahead!

So let’s start our discussion with a reminder that I am one of those people who read the books first, before seeing the films – but, I am not a book “purist”, someone who believes that everything in the text could have been adapted word-for-word onto the big screen, without any need for changes, additions, omissions, etc.

Now, having watched the film about six-thousand times, I have noticed a number of flaws – little things, for the most part, but we’ll discuss them here: I say “we” because I’m going to be writing this post in Gollum/Sméagol fashion, as an argument between my purist self and my revisionist self. We’ll also discuss a number of scenes that capture perfectly the spirit of the book, and even manage to almost elevate the material (which is so good to begin with).

But, we’ll also talk about the movie in its own right, because it’s just such a good movie. Even if you go into these films never having heard of The Lord of the Rings, or J.R.R Tolkien, you’ll still be swept up into this magical world, and, assuming you’re anything like me, you’ll never leave it again as long as you live. The joy and wonder is still there, every time I open the book or watch one of the movies.

Well, now we’re off at last!

Let’s begin with a breakdown of the plot: the film follows the journeys of a group of Men, Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits as they travel across Middle-earth. Our hobbit protagonist, Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), carries with him the deadly but beautiful One Ring, an object of incredible power that contains the very soul of the Dark Lord Sauron. Only by destroying this Ring can Middle-earth be freed from the horrors of war and evil that have been relentlessly assaulting it. The film opens with Frodo and his loyal gardener Sam Gamgee (Sean Astin) being led through the dangerous country around the Dark Lord’s realm of Mordor. Their guide? A treacherous and utterly wretched creature named Gollum (Andy Serkis), who once possessed the One Ring and wants it back. Can he be trusted? Can Frodo be trusted? Can anyone be trusted around the Ring? – for the Ring wants to get back to Sauron, and it has the power to corrupt anyone who owns it. By the time we see Frodo here, in The Return of the King, the Ring has betrayed many masters: it was cut from Sauron’s hand long ago but quickly killed its new owner, a man named Isildur – it fell into the River Anduin, and was there picked up by a hobbit named Deagol, who was very soon murdered by his friend Sméagol. Sméagol took the Ring and fled with it into the mountains, and there, dwelling in dark caves and pits, he changed into Gollum – the Ring abandoned him too, though, and was found by another hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), but Bilbo was good enough that he was able to give up the Ring willingly – he gave it to Frodo. But the Ring betrayed one of Frodo’s friends as well, the noble man Boromir (Sean Bean), who tried to kill Frodo in an attempt to steal the Ring.

That is, of course, the main plot: the Ring must be destroyed, but destroying it takes great effort and great willpower. And the only place it can be unmade is in the fiery forges beneath an active volcano named Mount Doom, in the very heart of the realm of Mordor. Sauron dwells here, a giant flaming eye atop a horned tower.

Purist’s Note: in the books, Sauron is not a “giant flaming eye”. He has a physical form, but it is terrible and maimed, because he has been unable to take any shape fair to the eyes of Men ever since he fell into the ruin of Numenor in the Second Age. The Eye is merely a metaphor, in the books, for his piercing knowledge of all things that move on Middle-earth.

Thank you, Inner Purist, for making that clear.

Moving on. Many miles away from Frodo, his other friends are busy fighting Sauron’s vast armies of Orcs, Ringwraiths and Haradrim. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) is the reluctant King of Gondor who must rally his people to stand in defiance of the shadow. Gandalf the White (Sir Ian McKellen) is the good wizard entrusted with helping all the Free Folk of Middle-earth. Arwen Evenstar (Liv Tyler) is the Elven princess in love with Aragorn, who must choose between an immortal existence with her family, or a mortal life with the man she loves.

But, the fight for victory will not be easy. Sauron has unleashed all of his forces, and they are heading straight for the greatest city in Middle-earth: Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor. Will Gandalf be able to keep the city’s defenses firm against such reckless hate? Will Aragorn reach the city in time to save it? Will Arwen choose love over the promise of immortality? The stakes are so high, they’re incredible.

Purist’s Note: in the books, Arwen had already chosen love over immortality, many years before the events of The Lord of the Rings. She and Aragorn had been betrothed on the hill of Cerin Amroth, and they had rejected both the Shadow of Sauron and the Twilight of the West.

Yeah, well, that’s not the case here. Here, we have a cast of incredible characters – played by an extraordinary cast – who collide with each other in the most brilliant ways. When the hobbit Merry Brandybuck (Dominic Monaghan) meets Éowyn, shieldmaiden of Rohan (Miranda Otto), will they overcome prejudice to fight in the war for Middle-earth? When Pippin Took (Billy Boyd) swears loyalty to the Steward Denethor (John Noble) will this choice come with a terrible responsibility – to watch as the Steward goes mad and tries to burn his own son alive?

Purist’s Note: well, no, apparently not, because in the movies Denethor releases Pippin from his service – whereas, in the books, Pippin remains in allegiance to Gondor.

This purist is getting on my nerves. You know what, Inner Purist, how about that scene where the Riders of Rohan appear over the hills at dawn and ride down to meet the orcs of Mordor in battle on the Pelennor Fields? Hmm, how about that? Was that not exactly as in the books?

Purist’s Note: well…well, I mean, no, because…

And what about the scene where Gandalf and Pippin discuss the prospect of death, using words directly from the book?

Purist’s Note: okay, that was touching, but the scene itself wasn’t in the books…

How about the scene on Mount Doom? Where Frodo finally stands above the consuming fires, unable to throw the Ring to its destruction? How about when Gollum takes the Ring from him in their last desperate struggle, biting off Frodo’s finger to get the corrupting treasure, dancing madly for joy on the brink of the fire – and falling, to his death? How about that terrifying scene where the Ring sits, motionless, on the surface of the lava, unwilling to be destroyed? And Frodo hangs from the cliff far above, staring down at it, contemplating with himself in those final moments whether he should leap into the fires after the Ring, or if he should take Sam’s hand and be carried to safety? How about that scene?

Purist’s Note: ooh, and how about that tortured look that Frodo gives to Sam as he makes his choice – but then, he reaches for Sam’s hand! And Sam pulls him up! And…uh, I mean, yeah, that scene is fine.

What about the final scene, at the Grey Havens, where Frodo goes off with the Elves to sail across the seas into the West? That emotional goodbye to his friends that has me in tears every time I watch it? That smile he gives as he boards the boat, and you know in your heart that he’s finally going to be healed of all his pain and hurt.

Purist’s Note: and when Sam says “well, I’m back” as he returns to his home, just like in the book…

Well, not just like in the book. If it had been just like in the book, he would have gone home to Bag-end, since in the book he inherited it from Frodo. Also, he should have only had one child at that time, but he had, like, five.

Purist’s Note: well, yeah, but, come on, the emotional heart of Tolkien’s work was all there. Director Peter Jackson could easily have gone for a more traditional route and had them all live happily ever after, but he didn’t. He showed the incredible pain that Frodo went through, and how it could never be healed – unless he left Middle-earth.

Yeah, I know, but Peter Jackson got a lot of things incorrect too. Let’s not forget the infamous scene where Frodo tells Sam to “go home”, which goes against everything in the books. That scene is painful to watch, it’s just so annoying.

Purist’s Note: okay, sure, but don’t forget that that scene was shot really early on, before the actors had any clear idea of the emotional journeys their characters were going on – before Andy Serkis had been cast as Gollum, in fact.

Good point. But how do you explain that scene with the skull avalanche in the Paths of the Dead?

Purist’s Note: wait, I thought you liked that!

I do! But…wait, aren’t you the purist? I feel like things got switched around here. I’m not supposed to be grilling you, it should be the other way round!

Purist’s Note: well, this is pretty normal when dealing with the movies. They’re conflicting, but in the end…they are pretty good movies, even when they’re not great adaptations. And, for the most part, they are great adaptations. Except for…a handful of things.

More than a handful. But, you’re right. No matter how many things might be wrong with the movies, I’m always going to love them. I’m always going to cry when Frodo sets sail into the West, or when Annie Lennox’s beautiful song starts playing over the credits…I’m always going to cheer when Sauron is cast down, and the Eagles rescue Frodo and Sam. I’m always going to feel completely heartbroken after the credits roll, when I realize that the story has finally come to its end. It’s the magic of this movie that makes that possible: you can overlook or even ignore every minor change to a character’s appearance, every faulty line of dialogue, every blunder or misstep. Because the magic is still there.

Purist’s Note: you’re going to tell me what the magic is now, aren’t you?

Yes, I am! It’s the magic of Frodo struggling through pain and torture to do the job that needs doing. It’s the magic of Sam carrying Frodo up Mount Doom, even when all seems lost. It’s the magic of Aragorn going to what seems like certain death so that he can buy Frodo just a little time. It’s the magic of Merry and Éowyn standing up against the Witch-King. It’s the magic of Pippin leaping into the flames to rescue Faramir. It’s the-

Purist’s Note: you’ve gone on long enough. I get it. It’s magic.

It is, and it’s the sort of magic that doesn’t go away, even after multiple viewings.

 

So there you have it: my thoughts on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. No movie quite compares to it, honestly. It is everything I love about cinema, all rolled into one beautiful movie. From the opening sequence to the moment the screen fades to black, I am entranced, brought into another world, a world that I know and love from the books: not everything from those books made it onto the screen, but that’s okay. This sort of magic is rare. Enjoy it as it is.

Movie Rating: 10/10