Filming on Amazon’s new Lord of The Rings series finally kicked-off on Monday according to a report from Deadline and while most Tolkien fans like myself are eager to see what they’re cooking up it is starting to sound like the new series might not look as familiar as we had hoped.
There are some signs that Amazon could be going a slightly different route with how they want to tackle their version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth for the series and might deviate from the Peter Jackson trilogies.
One of the main issues for me is that while they’re filming in Auckland, New Zealand there haven’t been any grand announcements that either Weta Digitial or Weta Workshop would be returning to work on the series. This doesn’t mean they 100% aren’t helping out but you’d think they would want to make everyone aware of their involvement if they were and the longer they do not mention them the more likely they just aren’t working on it.
It’s worth noting that Stone Street Studios in Wellington has been busy with the Avatar sequels and could be a reason why they opted to shoot in Auckland instead.
However, Jason Smith is listed as the visual effects supervisor on a couple of episodes which is a little odd given that Smith came from ILM and could be another sign that Weta Digital is sitting this one out.
Smith previously working on Bumblebee, Transformers: The Last Knight, and Warcraft. The latter did have work from Weta Workshop so there is a glimmer of hope they have the sense to at least have them come back even if Weta Digital isn’t.
If they ultimately change from Weta Digital to ILM there is going to be a difference stylistically between the two groups of artists given you’ll likely have different people calling the creative shots as well that may want to do something new for Amazon.
However, another division at Amazon might give us some clues.
Here is a job description from Amazon Games Studios, specifically, for their upcoming Middle-Earth/Lord of The Rings game. The language here would outline that a Character Concept Artist would be aiming to create a “fresh” take on the world from the previous games and movies. We’ve been mostly in the dark about how Amazon ultimately plans to connect to the Peter Jackson films, if at all.
This position will work with the Art Director and the rest of the Concept team to build a visual library of the characters and creatures that inhabit Middle-Earth.
We’re seeking an art style for our game that is “different at a glance” from the games and movies that have come before us. We need an artist with bravery and artistic skills to help us do something new.
In this role you will have the huge responsibility of bringing a fresh interpretation to Tolkien’s work. You work will bridge between the vision of the Art Director and the implementation team of character artists, tech artists and animators.
If they are planning on a new look for the game, why wouldn’t they do the same for the series?
I’ve also heard some rumblings behind the scenes that they are indeed changing certain looks from how they were done in the Jackson films for the new series. We’ll have to see set photos, stills, concept artwork, or the final version of the series to make any real judgments on how different they have gone.
Taking place during The Second Age does give them some wiggle-room concerning trying new things, but there are also locations, characters, and creatures from Peter’s films that are expected to inhabit this era as well. The Dark Lord Sauron is a looming force during the entire Second Age and there are plenty of elves from the original films that are alive during this time too.
It remains to be seen if any of the original actors will be involved.
Despite unconfirmed rumors that his character Elrond would be in the upcoming series, film franchise actor Hugo Weaving recently stated to Variety he had zero intention of reprising the role again.
WEAVING: “Matrix might have happened. But Lord of the Rings, no, I would never — I’m not interested in that at all. Look, I loved being in New Zealand with all those great people, and it was like going back to a family but actually, to be honest, I think everyone had more than enough of it.”
“They have to be something really interesting, with a different twist to make me really keen to do it.”
“I’m not saying ‘no’ [to those kinds of tentpole films] because I’m sort of open to anything,” he says. “But I suppose my interests have always lay with this country and trying to find really interesting projects out here. That’s my primary focus.”
Amazon wanting to do their own thing would be certainly commendable from a creative standpoint but that seems like a huge risk given how large the Tolkien fandom has become and their expectations that the series will look like the live-action incarnations they have become familiar with.
We’ll have to wait and see if set photos reveal a drastic change between the Jackson trilogies and this new series.