“The Witcher” Final Trailer Review!

The final trailer for Netflix’s new, completely unhinged, absolutely massive dark fantasy epic The Witcher is – all of those things, times ten. But with Star Wars dominating the news cycle and releasing in theaters on the same day as the first season of The Witcher becomes available, will the series be able to find an audience? I think it’s got a strong chance, but it needs to have a hook that will intrigue viewers who haven’t necessarily read a Witcher novel, played a Witcher video game, or ever heard of The Witcher before in their lives. So far, it’s mostly been directing its marketing toward disillusioned Game Of Thrones fans – you want something a little violent, a little dark, a little edgy? This clearly has all of that.

But the final trailer leans more heavily on appealing to fans of the source material, throwing in a bunch of new concepts we really haven’t seen much of in previous trailers and teasers: concepts that don’t mean a whole lot to me, but sound pretty awesome anyway. The focus here is on the “lion cub of Cintra”, Princess Ciri, whose character appears to be the show’s central plot-point – the people of Nilfgaard want her dead, and Geralt of Rivia has been assigned with finding and protecting her. The powerful sorceress, Yennefer of Vengerburg, presumably fits in somehow, but I honestly don’t care what her purpose is – she’s fighting bad guys while wearing a gigantic, heavy fur coat: a skill-set I thought belonged solely to Jon Snow. If we get more of that Yennefer, and less of the Yennefer who just seems to be hanging around at the palace, whispering about death and destruction, then you can count me in. I may be jumping to conclusions, but I think I like what The Witcher is doing with its female characters: they look powerful, strong (in many different ways), and cool. There are also women of color in prominent roles here, something Game Of Thrones never had.

So what’s the hook? Is it Henry Cavill in a platinum-blond wig (I will never stop making fun of that thing, even if it does actually look pretty decent)? Awesome heroines? Magic? Even as the day of Witcher‘s release draws ever closer, I’m still not sure I can identify anything that will be able to pull in non-fantasy fans. Hopefully, this will be a surprise hit, but I’m nervous to make any assumptions yet.

Trailer Rating: 7/10

Ema Horvath Joins Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings”!

Actress Ema Horvath has joined the slowly assembling cast of Amazon Prime’s adaptation of the novels and unpublished writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, becoming only the fifth actor to do so – at the rate this is going, we should have a full cast sometime by the end of next year: but filming apparently begins in February, so the series’ casting directors might want to speed things up and stop searching relentlessly for hairy bikers and “wonderful noses”. All the wonderful noses in the world aren’t going to help a show that can’t pull together a main cast.

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Still, Horvath’s casting is at least a welcome sign of life from the project, which seems to randomly tumble into our newsfeeds every month or two with a sudden, startling announcement that makes us all sit up for twenty minutes before settling back into the long dark of Moria. Perhaps, if Amazon Prime could release some plot details, character names, or even a few pieces of concept art, we might have cause to get really excited: but these little unofficial news-stories are becoming increasingly infuriating as we’re forced to wait in silence for weeks in between, contenting ourselves with reading frustrating articles about all the things that the show could do wrong or “has” to get right (naming no names, of course).

Horvath herself is not likely to heighten our excitement or give outsiders a reason to get hyped: she’s a relatively obscure actress, with a small resume. I’m not certain which character she could be portraying onscreen, but I hope we might get an indication soon, as the show moves into production. I’d love it if Amazon could surprise us all and suddenly put out a big, detailed press release or something that all of us theorists could obsess over for a couple of weeks. That would be nice.

What do you think of the casting? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

New Details About Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings”!

For what is rumored to be the biggest, most expensive streaming series ever made, Amazon Prime Video’s The Lord Of The Rings prequel, based largely on the posthumously published works of author J.R.R. Tolkien, is barely even on the radar for most people. The series’ official social media accounts post cryptic messages and then go silent for weeks, even months. No cast members have been officially confirmed, even with filming set to begin in February of next year. We, the hardcore Tolkien fans, have to satisfy ourselves with theorizing and speculating about the smallest of details while we wait for any big announcements to break. But in the past couple of days, we’ve gotten plenty of small details, and now, at last, we have another big one.

Just a few days ago, a bunch of character code names for the series were released, with a couple of accompanying character traits that were largely vague and unhelpful. But last night Redanian Intelligence, a site better known for its coverage of The Witcher on Netflix, published transcripts of several audition tapes for some of these new characters, giving us a clearer insight into some of the series’ ensemble cast – specifically, the ones that seem most likely to be wholly invented, original characters designed by the showrunners themselves. And yes, that means it’s time to go through each audition tape one by one, breaking down all the new details and hints.

Obviously, be aware that any and all dialogue in an audition tape may not be indicative of the series’ actual script, and some of the scenarios within may not even be real: though a couple of them are detailed enough that they seem likely to be slightly altered versions of actual scenes from the show’s first season.

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The first two videos focus on the character of Brac. I had previously speculated that Brac, described as “irascible and cantankerous”, might be the Elven King Oropher, lord of the Wood Elves of Greenwood and best/only known for leading his troops in a reckless charge against the forces of Sauron and dying in the process. Turns out, I was far off the mark in this case: based on the clues provided in these two videos, it appears that Brac is a human man. In Tolkien’s mythos, there are many different kinds of humans inhabiting the earth during the Second Age when this series takes place – but for the purposes of this post, I’m only going to be focusing on two, in particular: the Men of the West, who lived on the island of Númenór, and the Drúedain, or “Wild Men”, who lived in Middle-earth but were permitted to travel whither they wished. And Brac is almost definitely one of the latter.

The first video revolves around Brac’s interactions with an unnamed second person who appears to have come from the royal court of Númenór to consult with him about some urgent, mysterious matter. It is clear from context that Brac is living or staying in Númenór, as a guest of the royalty: specifically, Brac references “your queen”, indicating that his storyline takes place during the reign of one of the three  ruling queens of Númenór – most likely Tar-Ancalimë. In Tolkien’s writings, one of the most major events involving the Drúedain takes place during her reign: it was at that time that the Drúedain who lived in Númenór became afraid and began to return across the sea to Middle-earth, realizing in their hearts that doom was coming for the mighty island kingdom, and any who stayed there would be swallowed up in the bloodbath to come.

Brac appears to be a high-ranking member of Drúedain nobility, who is pondering whether to stay on the island or return home. He questions the queen’s messenger, demanding to know the real reason why a Númenórean queen, whose people colonized and “befouled” Brac’s homeland, would suddenly pretend to care about her subjects’ suffering. The messenger gives no clear answer. The scene ends with Brac reluctantly allowing the messenger to spend the night at his house.

In the next scene, it is made obvious that the setting is Númenór, as Brac comments angrily about how much he despises the night sky made bright as noon-day by the lights of the island’s cities. “The night should be a blanket,” he announces, before prophetically adding “I can’t ever quite escape the feeling that it’s all about to fall over.” He announces his intention to leave the island and return to his homeland the very next day, but the second person, here given the name Radagar, pleads with him to stay, even revealing the queen’s bidding: “our people will make amends for each yield of crop you lost during our wars”. Brac appears to contemplate his words, but the scene ends shortly thereafter with no conclusion reached. Until we actually see the episode in which this conversation may or may not happen, we can only speculate about what Brac eventually chooses to do – will he leave the island or stay to negotiate with the queen? We know from Tolkien’s writings that there were no Drúedain still living in Númenór by the time of the island’s eventual downfall and destruction, so Brac will presumably escape death by godly wrath.

The next two scenes give us our first look at Kari, the “village healer with a secret”. I had hoped that her character might be Erendis, the Númenórean queen who raised her daughter, the aforementioned Tar-Ancalimë, in the countryside far from royal interference and male meddling – but unfortunately, it appears I was wrong. Kari seems to be a human, one of the proto-Dunlendings who lived in the regions colonized by Númenór in the Second Age and later reclaimed by nature. She is like Brac in that she is keenly aware of the divide between the peoples of Middle-earth, but unlike Brac, she doesn’t seem to have any intention of leaving her homeland.

In her first scene, Kari speaks to her lover, a soldier named Everad. There’s clearly a divide between these two tormented souls: Everad fears and distrusts Kari’s “disloyal” people, who rose in rebellion in “ages past”. Kari argues on behalf of her kinsfolk, and asks him whether there is “[any] room in your peoples hearts for forgiveness”. It doesn’t seem implausible that the steely Everad is a Númenórean warrior: if that is the case, then both characters are possibly committing a crime against their cultures by being together – and who doesn’t love some forbidden love? Considering that there aren’t any elf/human pairings in the Second Age, this seems like a good fit for the story.

The second scene with Kari is more tense and powerful: she wakes in the early morning and finds Everad already preparing to leave her home, while soldiers search for him in the village outside. There are a whole bunch of weirdly vague hints in this scene: Kari speaks of a “rumor”, and says that “few could” sleep during the night. As Everad prepares to leave her, Kari stops him: “If what you say is true, and this is the last time we are to see each other, please say what you want to say.” The scene ends with Kari telling Everad to wait for her: whether that’s meant literally or not is unclear.

Next, we have Loda: I predicted that Loda would be a boring character, and I’m beginning to think I’m right in that assumption. He’s a father who loves his daughter but doesn’t get along well with his son, who, in Loda’s words, is wasting “the most important years of his life on aimless schemes”. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like it could refer to the character of Aric, whom we met in a previous audition tape: roguish, charming, devious, remember him? Loda, on the other hand, is much more conventional and traditional: the scene opens with him prepping his daughter for her “first day as an apprentice”, and ends with him revealing that he’s…taken in a stowaway? That’s the most interesting part about his character so far, and yet we don’t have any clues to go on about who his stowaway is, or why she’s stowing away. Until we have more to go on, I’m guessing that Loda, like the others in this new batch of audition tapes, is a human – probably proto-Dunlending like Kari, though it’s not out of the question that his character is Drúedain.

Finally, we come to Hamsom. He only has one scene, but it reveals a great deal about his character: initially described as a “loving family man with health issues”, Hamsom is here seen working on his farm, trying to work past those very health issues: his wife tends to him, but wonders aloud whether Hamsom will survive the bitter winter. Her husband promises her that he’ll be there for her, reminding her of the strength of his love for her. He’s already one of the most charming characters in Amazon Prime’s ensemble cast, and I can’t wait to see more of him, though I have no idea how he’ll fit into a story about the creation of the Rings of Power, the downfall of Númenór, and the wars of the Last Alliance. I also don’t know if he’ll even live through the first season, in the condition he’s in. One thing we can surmise is that he is also human. I can’t determine yet which geographical region of Middle-earth he might be from, but his demeanor, and his hobbity name, almost suggest he might be a Halfling – Halflings, at this point in Middle-earth’s history, could only have dwelt in Wilderland, between the Misty Mountains and Greenwood the Great. But since that’s a bit of a stretch, I’m assuming he and his family are of the Race of Man, probably living somewhere in the north of Middle-earth, where the winter season would be particularly harsh.

It’s notable that Amazon Prime might be diving deep into Tolkien’s incredible genealogies for the human species, since Peter Jackson’s films only briefly touched on the idea that there are different groups of Men in Middle-earth – here, Amazon Prime has the opportunity to explore these different groups and subgroups of people, each with their own distinct cultures, customs and characters, from the Easterlings to the Woses (and hopefully, someday, the elusive Lossoth). It could lead to some very interesting – and probably heated – discussions about what it means to be human in Middle-earth, and what responsibilities and burdens go along with that distinction.

So there you go: four more characters, six more audition tapes, infinite questions and few answers. What do you think of this group of characters, and do you think any of them might be from Tolkien’s books, or are all of them newly invented by the team over at Amazon Prime? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Amazon Prime’s “Lord Of The Rings” – Main Characters Revealed?

As production begins on not one, but two seasons of Amazon Prime’s hugely ambitious prequel series to the classic novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, it can’t be long before the cast and characters are revealed to the public – so far, we only have four actors supposedly set to join the series’ ensemble cast, yet none of them have been officially confirmed by Amazon, and we still have no idea which characters (either from Tolkien’s expansive mythos or the showrunners’ imaginations) they might be playing. Today, though, some tantalizing new clues have leaked – not just about the holy quartet, as I’ve begun to call them, but also about a slew of new characters rumored to have prominent roles in the series. All of the following character names are presumably code-names put in place by Amazon to protect the secrets, and absolutely none of this is official.

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Firstly, the obvious, or least, unsurprising. Markella Kavenagh is rumored to be playing the inquisitive teenager Tyra, who is wise beyond her years and all that. We met her in those leaked audition tapes from a while back, remember her? At this point I’d be very surprised if Kavenagh doesn’t end up playing the Tyra character, considering how strong the rumors are – we do have a new tidbit of information about her: she is suspected to be both a dramatic and a comedic character.

Will Poulter is rumored to be playing Beldor, something I suspected: Beldor, a young, politically savvy protagonist, seems like he could very well be the young Lord Elrond of Imladris. The new hints suggest that Beldor will be paired up with more dramatic characters who will provide a stark contrast to his reserved, perhaps even solemn nature. Yep, sounds like Elrond to me. If not, I suspect he’s probably Elrond’s mentor Gil-galad.

Game Of Thrones‘ Joseph Mawle is still rumored to be a central antagonist for the series, though this new report is beginning to confirm our suspicions that his character, Oren, is in fact the deceiver Sauron. A personality “built around a wounded and fallen nobility”, who projects “a sense of timelessness” – those are basically the hallmarks of the fallen demigod Sauron, who turned away from the wisdom of the gods and chose to walk a path of darkness into ruin. It’s unclear whether Mawle will also portray the Dark Lord in his form as the Elven lord Annatar, or whether the character will take many different guises during the series’ run.

The protagonist is rumored to be a woman, the character Eldien, whose description is particularly interesting. Yet another timeless character, Eldien is “complex, unique and formidable”. Who else is complex, unique and formidable? The Elven lady Galadriel, a battle-hardened leader and warrior whose morals are much more gray in the Second Age of Middle-earth than they were later on in her long life – at the time this series takes place, Galadriel, like Sauron, has just rejected the mercy of the benevolent gods and has turned away from their guidance to seek glory and fortune in Middle-earth. I would be very happy if the spotlight is on Galadriel for at least the first season.

Now we move into the rest of the ensemble cast, briefly but vividly sketched out: there’s Neldor, who’s a “similar archetype” as the similarly named Beldor – Elrond’s twin brother, Elros, perhaps?

We have Brac, a character who provides the other half of a dramatic duo – described as “irascible and cantankerous”, Brac’s description isn’t really ringing any bells for me. I suppose he could be somebody like King Oropher of the Wood Elves – in which case, it would be funny if the other half of the duo was Beldor (if Beldor is Gil-galad). The only description we have of Oropher from Tolkien’s own works is that he disobeyed Gil-galad’s orders to halt during the War of the Last Alliance and ended up being killed in a reckless charge at the gates of Barad-dûr. That’s a possibility, but it’s more probable that Brac is a completely invented character.

Eira is next on the list – “a warm and maternal woman”. There’s not much to go on here.

Aric, whom we encountered in the audition tapes, is still on board to be a main character – or at least a series regular. His character, a charismatic rogue, was very well defined in the leaked dialogue, so I don’t feel like there’s too much new material to go over. I’m beginning to guess that Maxim Baldry, the last rumored cast member, is playing this character (not for any particular reason: just because).

Calenon is a “ruggedly-handsome” war hero. He’s also described as “brooding”, which is never a fun character trait. But there is a prominent Tolkien character who does nothing but brood, and that’s Celeborn, the husband of Galadriel. That’s as good a guess as any. Plus, it would be amusing to see Celeborn as a handsome heartthrob, since by the time of The Lord Of The Rings, he, well, isn’t.

As if on cue, we come to Loda, the “earthy” fellow who “doesn’t give his feelings away easily”. Yet another boringly unoriginal trope. Earthiness suggests a human character, though perhaps not a Númenórean (they seem more like lofty, spiritualistic types): so let’s mark Loda down as a possible man, maybe even a Wose of the Woods.

Kari, the next character on the list, is a deserter from the nearest Dungeons & Dungeon campaign, it seems. A “self-sufficient single mother”, she would seem to fit the bill for the character of Erendis, the Second Age’s most iconic unique female character, if not for the fact that she’s a “village healer with a secret”. If we really want to believe she’s Erendis, we could come up with theories that Amazon Prime is changing the story so that the proud Númenórean queen flees to the countryside to be alone with her daughter and there becomes a rural medic, hiding the shocking secret that her daughter is the heiress to the throne – but it’s somewhat more plausible, in my opinion, that she’s playing Tyra’s mother.

Hamson is one of the weirdest names on the list – whereas most of the code-names are vaguely archaic in a watered-down sort of way, Hamson sounds more Old English; more like a certain Hamfast Gamgee of the Shire, right down to the character description as a “loving family man with health issues”. But Hamfast Gamgee wasn’t born in the Second Age, and wouldn’t be born until many thousands of years later, so unless there’s some extreme timeline-muddling going on here, I very much doubt this character is a Gamgee, or even a hobbit in general. Hobbits probably existed in some form or another during the Second Age, but nobody knew about them. To keep continuity with Tolkien’s writings, it would be best if hobbits never showed up in the Amazon Primes series, or only appeared in the story’s peripheries. But in that case, I can’t imagine what or who Hamson is, and what’s he doing in this story.

Finally, there’s Cole, another “charismatic” character: this time, one who carries “the weight of the world” on his shoulders. That could be literally anyone in the Second Age, but for some reason I’m locking in my guess that this character is Celebrimbor, the Elven craftsman who designed the Rings of Power in a desperate attempt to try and rebuild Middle-earth in the image of paradise. He literally carries that burden and responsibility with him until he get killed in a particularly brutal way by Sauron during the Dark Lord’s war against the Elves.

There’s a lot here that could potentially be interesting, even engrossing, when executed. On paper, some of these character descriptions are bound to look a little off-putting to Tolkien purists – brooding heroes, charismatic rogues – but it’s better not to get too freaked out about any of this right now. The series is still very early on in its development, and no footage has yet been shot. Some (or all) of this is susceptible to change. Nonetheless, it’s fun to theorize about these things and wonder what it means for the series.

What do you think of the code-names and character traits? Do you agree with my assessments? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments below!

Amazon Prime’s “Lord Of The Rings” Renewed For Second Season!

With several months yet to go before filming even begins on the first season of Amazon Prime’s hugely ambitious adaptation of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, the studio has already gone ahead and renewed the big-budgeted fantasy series for a second season. There are several new details in the Deadline article which broke the news, so allow me to ramble on about them with urgency and excitement. As you can probably imagine, I’m trembling with anticipation.

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First of all, we have the news that the second season of the series is already in the works – Jennifer Salke, the head of Amazon Studios, has confirmed that as we speak, the writer’s room for the series (which includes J.D. Payne, Patrick McKay, Gennifer Hutchison, Bryan Cogman, etc) is currently collaborating on writing the bulk of Season 2 scripts. As is noted in the article, this is really good news because it means that we, the audience, won’t have to wait that long between Seasons 1 and 2. In fact, at the speedy rate that things are going, we could expect to get the first two seasons almost back-to-back. My heart can’t take this.

Additionally, it has been revealed that after J.A. Bayona has finished filming the first two episodes of the series’ first season, the show will go on hiatus for four to five months, allowing time to review the footage and write more material for the second season before moving on with filming. In Deadline’s words: “By going on a longer than normal hiatus, LOTR will be ready with Season 2 scripts so it could possibly film some Season 2 footage during the Season 1 shoot, or even film the remainder of Season 1 and Season 2 back-to-back.” This is, of course, the same tactic that Peter Jackson used when directing his equally ambitious movie trilogy of Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings. Parallels. Parallels!

The article also notes that the majority of the series is expected to film outdoors, on location in New Zealand, as we suspected. That could mean a return to the practical-effects pioneered by Jackson in his movie trilogy, or it might indicate something else entirely (Deadline suggests that it’s because Tolkien loved the outdoors: I have no idea whether they’re right or not).

So there you have it! This is an extraordinary action by Amazon, as it seems to suggest complete confidence in the fledgling series, which has a long way to go before it gets off the ground. While we wait, leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!