Anyone who tells you that they expected the first promotional image for the LOTR on Prime series to reveal an iconic panorama of Valinor — the land of angelic beings of Middle-earth — is either a liar or is inside the production.
Because I’m certain that there was nothing in previously teased material and maps that even hints at Valinor.
What’s more, this single image is as much of a statement as a certain someone recently flying to the very edge of space.
At first, you think: “Well, it’s another Middle-earth city. But, hey, it’s pretty cool.” You’re expecting, perhaps, Armenelos or Rómenna on the island of Númenór. After all, we know the series is supposed to encompass the rise and fall of the island kingdom and there does seem to be a glittering body of water even if it’s a bit small to be a bay, much less the ocean.
Then your eye is drawn inexorably to the background glow and it dawns that what you thought was merely the sun nearly (and neatly) conceals a pair of colossal trees.
And in an instant your whole worldview of the series just … changes.
Because, you know — if you’ve tried your hand at reading The Silmarillion or have delved into the pre-history of The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit — that these aren’t just any pair of trees.
It’s the Two Trees.
The tree of silver and the tree of gold that are the source of all light in Valinor. That provide the light for Fëanor’s Silmarils, and ultimately for the Phial of Galadriel. And whose destruction triggers a cascade of events that stretches all the way to the end of the Third Age.
If anything can be, this is the heart of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth mythmaking.
LOTR on Prime has enormous ambitions and it’s not afraid to declare as much.
It’s declaring that it’s here to challenge the Peter Jackson movies as the definitive visual depiction of Tolkien’s Middle-earth.
It’s declaring that it has the talent, technology and resources, and access to the necessary source material.
I think, above all, LOTR on Prime is declaring to Tolkien fans that it doesn’t want to be underestimated.
It’s declaring that it’s not simply making a Game of Thrones clone for the mass market.
And it’s declaring that they’re going to take us, the readers of Tolkien’s work, to places that we never thought would be possible in a film or a TV series.
Sure, we already knew some of that — intellectually. We knew we were promised 50-odd hours of telly over five seasons. And, we knew that the rights and production investment runs into hundreds of millions of dollars. But you just can’t /feel/ a series of numbers.
This, on the other hand… this is real. Real, tangible proof that we’re on a journey to somewhere special.
Strap in, kids, we’re about to blast off into space.