Back in the first decade of the 21st Century, New Zealand had plenty to show off about. After all, it was Middle Earth, or so goes their tourism promotions at the time, to cash in on the hype of New Line Cinema and Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which was shot on location there. The natural locations were breathtaking, and some of the constructed locales for the film have remained as permanent attractions. When Amazon announced its plans for a “Lord of the Rings” streaming series, fans were apprehensive at the news…until the company declared that they returned to Middle Earth for production.
BBC tells us that New Zealand will once again play host to a major production adapting material and ideas from the Middle Earth books of J. R. R. Tolkien, being made by New Line Television, HarperCollins and the Tolkien Estate for streaming on Amazon. While marketed as “The Lord of the Rings,” this will be a spinoff taking place ages before the events of the books and film trilogy by Peter Jackson. It will also reportedly be the most expensive TV series to see production yet, with an estimated budget of at least $1 billion.
Amazon is well aware of possible fandom reactions from both the original printed material and the 2001-2003 New Line movies, and this decided to take a page from that by heading back to New Zealand for location filming, as revealed by a press release from Amazon this Tuesday, September 17. Already plans are being made to do principal photography in the Auckland area within the next few months, as soon as the pre-production is ready. According to series show-runner and executive producers J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay, they needed locations that were lush with natural life and majestic “primordial” beauty, and agree New Zealand remains the perfect shooting location.
The mention of primordial beauty ties into the setting of Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” spinoff series, which will be during the Second Age of Middle Earth (“Lord of the Rings” and its immediate prequel “The Hobbit” take place during the Third Age). According to Tolkien’s lore, the Second Age saw the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron, once the servant of his predecessor Morgoth who was defeated and imprisoned at the end of the First Age. Possible Second Age stories for the series are those of Numenor, ancestral homeland of the people of Gondor, and even the Last Alliance that defeated Sauron as seen in the first film’s prologue.
No streaming release date on Amazon has been given for the “Lord of the Rings” spinoff series, but two cast members have been confirmed in Markella Kavanagh and Will Poulter. The time spent by the original movie production in New Zealand solidified its status worldwide as a premier filming location, studio and digital effects provider.
Image courtesy of Sky News