Some of you might already have heard the news, that Amazon has purchased the rights to do a Lord of the Rings tv series. At this point, not much is known about it – shooting has yet to begin and cast and crew are yet to be announced, however it will supposedly be a 5 season long endeavour and there has been claims that it will have an extremely high budget. Rumour has it that it will not be a mere retelling of the LOTR books, but it will heavily rely on the source material provided by the books.
If you wish to stay updated on the subject, Google is probably your best shot, as there’s no website – official or otherwise – for the project yet, at least not to my knowledge.
As a major Middle-Earth fan, I must say, that I’m very excited about the project, but since as of yet, there’s not much known about the Amazon series, I would like to talk more about people’s opinions surrounding the project instead of the project itself.
One of the problems any adaptation faces – especially adaptations based on material with huge fanbases – is the fact, that people… are quick to judge. We’ve seen this with pretty much any movie that ever crossed the big or the silver screen, and when it comes to Tolkien, it’s even worse. People are extremely quick to dismiss upcoming projects as bad, even when they have no logical ground to base this opinion on. Which is unfair, to say the least. After all, if you’re walking into something with your mind already made up, there’s just no chance that you will judge the final product with objectivity.
The signs of this behaviour are already showing, much to my dismay. Most of the comments I’ve seen online about the series have been overly negative, even though there’s nothing yet that could justify such a response. After all, we have nothing on our hands yet, nothing to judge, nothing to analyse, nothing to form a well-reasoned opinion about. And yet, people do the same thing they did with the Hobbit movies, long before any information or press material was released. Purists already declare that the series can only be a failure and that nothing will ever touch Tolkien’s original. Not surprising, but saddening none the less. But, much to my dissapointment, they aren’t the only ones who are being unfair. A lot of people who grew up loving Peter Jackson’s adaptations are guilty of the same nonsensical behaviour. “PJ’s version will always be the best, nothing could ever beat it so this is just a waste of time, a mere cashgrab and nothing more!” And I just can’t help but shake my head in disagreement.
If you’re familiar with my LOTR-related works, or my stance on adaptations in general, you probably know where I stand. If you’re a purist, you probably think that I’m in agreement with people who say that PJ’s the best and this is therefore doomed to fail. The truth is – I couldn’t disagree more. I find that attitude just as unreasonable and annoying as I find purists, because they exhibit the exact same nonsensical behaviour.
A lot of people actually seem to somehow miss this, (most likely because it’s convienient to think so), but here’s the thing – I’m not in disagreement with purists because I hate the books and I love the Peter Jackson movies. I’m in disagreement with purists because their whole outlook on things is just flat-out riddiculous and unreasonable. And the people who are already dismissing this series because they obsess over Peter Jackson’s movies, are following the same ill-concieved ideology, and therefore, I disagree with them all the same. I refuse to side with these people just because they praise the movies that I happen to love. Why you think something has always been of more interest to me than what you think, considering that two separate people can come to the – seemingly – same conclusion for very different reasons, which means that an action that’s seemingly the same can still be radically different.
And this isn’t a problem exclusive to Middle-Earth. Far from it. This is an issue involving all adaptations, or if we’re being honest, all things in general. It affects how we percieve other people, other ideologies, other ideas. So the claim, that an adaptation can not possibly exceed a previous version, whether that version is the original source material, or an older adaptation is simply objectively wrong. It is wrong now and it will always be wrong. You can’t just make absolute claims like that. “This is the best thing EVER” is a nonsensical, unfunded and empty comment to make, because you do not know what the future holds, and therefore, you can not declare with certainty that the best version of something has already been achieved or not.
Now, you might think, wait, didn’t I make similar statements before?
Oh look at that, I did. So did I just contradict myself, or is there something else at play here? Well, when I say, that “best thing ever” is a false statement, I’m talking about the use of that phrase in an objective and serious manner. This should probably go without saying, but we all know how the 21st century works, so I better explain. If you make something for comedic purposes, and you call a film the best movie of all time, that’s quite different from actually declaring the same thing in a way that is meant to be serious. Intent and context is usually of utmost importance, and this case is no exception.
In the picture above, I did say that the LOTR movies were “the best of all time“. But that’s not meant to be an objective commentary on the subject, nor is it meant to be taken literally in a serious manner. Over exaggeration and the use of absolute statements is something widely used in comedy to drive home a point in a humorous manner. Nothing wrong with that, as the intent and the reasoning behind it is far different from using the same sentence in a serious, non-comedic manner.
What is problematic however, is when people start to use statements like that in a serious discussion. So, do I think that Peter Jackson’s LOTR movies are the best movies of all time? No. Why not? Because “all time” is not something that I, or anyone who has ever lived or will ever live, can judge. PJ’s LOTR movies are by far my favorite movies, yes, and realistically speaking, I find it unlikely, that they will be eclipsed anytime soon, and my reasons for thinking so are not based on nostalgia, or fanboying. However, my love for these movies does not mean that I’m not open to the idea that there could be a version that’s even better. Nor do I think that anything else can only be bad and therefore should not be made. Doing that would be completely irrational. Not all adaptations will end up being good but they all deserve the benefit of a doubt. And that’s not to say, that you can’t have doubts. You can, and you should. Doubting is a nescessary part of the process of analysing anything in an objective manner. But don’t let those doubts cloud your judgment to the point where you make .
For argument’s sake, let’s say, there’s a book – any book – that’s already perfect. Let’s say there’s a movie adaptation of the book in question, that is also perfect. Does that mean there should be no more adaptations because perfection was already achieved? Of course not, that would be foolish. For starters, perfection can have more than just one form. Meaning, a new adaptation might be different, but just as good. But even if the new adaptation is not perfect or not as good as a previous one, that does not mean it’s exisctence can not be justified. Not everything needs to be perfect or even be close to that in order to hold value. Now, remaking something the exact same way but making it worse is a bad practice, so don’t think that’s what I’m trying to defend. I’m not. If a new adaptation has the exact same aproach, only with lesser quality, then it is indeed something that’s not worth making. However, if you have a different take on the same story, it can very well be something worthwile, even if overall, it’s not as good as a previous version.
Do I think that Amazon’s LOTR will be bad? No idea. We have literally no sensible way to judge that yet. It’s possible that I will end up hating it, but at this point, it’s just as likely that I will end up loving it. It can end up anywhere on the spectrum, terrible, ok, good, excellent, incredible, you name it. Fact is, we shouldn’t form an unshakeable opinion, when there’s nothing written in stone yet. If you do, you’re not doing anyone a favour. As a matter of fact, you’re doing everyone a great disservice. You’re being unfair to something you have no real way of judging yet, and you’re being disrespectful to the version that you prefer, whether that’s Tolkien’s book, Peter Jackson’s movies or any other version. See, when you dismiss every other version in favour of the one you love, that’s not actual love. That’s not genuine appretiation. That’s good ol’ tunnel-visioned obsession. And if you behave like that, you’re just disrespecting the very thing you claim to love, because you’re not actually appreatiating it for it’s own value, instead you’re obsessing over it due to some pre-existing bias that in truth has actually not much, or nothing at all, to do with it. Don’t be a fanboy. Be a fan. Don’t obsess. Appreciate. Don’t just watch a movie. Take the effort to actually see it. Don’t adore blindly. Analyse, And if a new version comes along, keep an open mind. If you do, you’re making the world a better place in general and you’re treating your favorite version with the respect and objectivity it deserves.
The problem is that a lot of people treat their favored versions – whether that’s the books or the Peter Jackson movies – as some sort of sacred cow, meaning that even suggesting that they should analyse it is treated as a personal attack on them as a human being. The very notion that another version might dare to challenge the place that version holds in their hearts is quite frankly offensive to them. Which is just not a rational stance to have. I’m not saying that feeling protective of something you love is a bad thing, but it can be pushed to very unhealthy and unreasonable levels, and if you’re so protective of your favorite version, that you will not even consider the idea, that maybe, just maybe, a new version might even be better, then you’ve already passed that threshold. Which is something I can not support. It’s unreasonable, it’s self-deluding and you’re only hurting yourself. Why wouldn’t you want a new version that’s even better? Wouldn’t that be a good thing? I for one, love the Peter Jackson version with all my heart, and I could go on for hours as to why, but even so, the idea that a new version might come that’s actually even better, is not only not a threatening thought to me, but it is a welcome one. I’ve been longing for a movie that could give me the same kind of experience that the LOTR movies did for over a decade. If I was given a chance to witness something that’s not only on the same level, but even beyond it, I would be extremely happy and grateful, and so should be everyone else. Adopting “The best might still be ahead” philosophy is much more grounded, reasonable and positive than the “Everything was better in my day” variant.
So what’s the point of this article, you ask? It’s not to tell you what to expect. We don’t know what to expect yet, that’s exactly the point. The point is to tell you what not to do. Don’t jump to false conclusions based on pre-existing, irrational biases. Keep an open mind. Wait and see, judge this new series on it’s own merit when you actually have the means to muster a fair judgment.
Some of you might think, that keeping an open mind is just setting yourself up for dissapointment, but that’s not the case. I can’t guarantee myself, that I won’t be terribly dissapointed with the Amazon series. Hell, for all I know, I might end up hating the whole thing with a passion. It’s possible. But if that shall indeed be the case, I will know, that my dislike for the series is justified, I will know, that I gave it a fair chance, that I crafted my opinion based on analysis and facts, instead of crafting the “facts” to fit my opinion, and that my love for the versions I hold dear was not tainted by nostalgia, obsession, the bandwagon effect, or any other irrational bias, and therefore, it holds real value.
Disliking something is not the problem, people. The problem is when your judgment gets clouded by irrational thinking and misconceptions, when your final verdict predates the analysis process. And that, is the whole point. A point that goes beyond movies, books and entertainment in general, a point that applies to pretty much everything else in the world.