A week has gone by since we gathered with fellow fans in the belly of the beast for Dragon Con 2022 – a return to pre-Covid type revelry; though with slightly reduced numbers this year.
This year’s convention was a great success – and it has to be said, the reduced numbers make a BIG difference. The event still felt crowded, but it was possible to move around without getting stuck in a crowd and coming to a complete standstill.
For Tolkien fans, there was plenty to love. On Thursday 1st September, staffers deej, Madeye Gamgee and greendragon started us off with a look at what we might expect to see in Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Folks then dispersed to various room parties to watch the first two episodes, as they released that evening.
Very Special Guests
Friday 2nd brought what was for many the most exciting panel of the weekend – a chat with dialect coach Leith McPherson and artist John Howe. Hosted by greendragon, this conversation could have gone on for much longer than an hour. McPherson and Howe are both passionate, insightful and charming – and had much to say! Their love for Tolkien, and their desire to respect his creation whilst bringing something new to the screen in The Rings of Power, was evident. Listening to them speak, noone could doubt the earnest desire of the showrunners to honour and cherish Middle-earth, and all that it means to people, in this new manifestation. (Whether they have succeeded or not remains a matter of opinion and personal taste; but the sincere wish not to break something beautiful, as McPherson put it, cannot be doubted.)
After the panel, DragonCon TV caught up with the two guests:
Friday – An Evening at Bree
That evening, TORn joined the High Fantasy Track to host a long-standing Dragon Con tradition – An Evening at Bree. This year we had three musical acts: The Brobdingnagian Bards, Beth Patterson, and Landloch’d. All had partygoers up on their feet, dancing and swirling. The Elf Choir sang as beautifully as ever, providing a moment of ethereal calm in the revelry.
The highlight of Bree is always the costume contest, and this year was no exception! McPherson and Howe joined us to judge the entries – and were joined by experienced cosplayer Joshua Duart, in full Thranduil regalia! They had their work cut out for them – with 30 entries of a very high standard, it was not easy to choose winners!
On Saturday morning, some hardy souls were up early, to march with the Arms of Middle-earth in the Dragon Con parade! Further Tolkien panels in the High Fantasy Track included a discussion of ‘Underworlds of Middle-earth’ and ‘Gandalf vs Sauron – Angels at War’. We also explored the upcoming anime film The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim – and during that panel, we shared a special video message for fans at the con, from Philippa Boyens and Richard Taylor!
Hobbit Drinking Songs with the Brobdingnagian Bards drew the usual crowd on Sunday night; but we were back at it bright and early Monday morning, for a TORn panel discussing what we had seen in Episodes 1 and 2 of The Rings of Power – and speculating what might be to come…
There was just time for folks to stop by our table and buy a button or shirt before the con drew to a close on Monday afternoon. The Dragon has returned to its lair for another year! But Tolkien fandom is alive and well, and Middle-earth was well represented at Dragon Con 2022.
See you next year!
We must thank Amazon Prime Video for arranging for Leith McPherson and John Howe to join us this year. We hope for more exciting guests next year! Thanks of course to the High Fantasy Track, and Dragon Con in general, for continuing to invite TORn to participate. We look forward to seeing our fellow fans again next year!
As the co-owner of this website, having been here from the very beginning, I’ve seen my share of online Tolkien community related collective anxiety. Our massive community is not dissimilar to that of Star Wars – we have our whacko fringe segment and we have the numbers to attract a matrix style army of Russian bots.
Weeding through all … of … that … noise (if that sounds exhaustive, that’s intentional) is so hard to accomplish in 2022. Apparently with age, comes wisdom, and apparently with wisdom comes the ability to dissect myself from most of the drama in the lead up to ‘The Rings of Power.’
Sure, did I occasionally get caught up in the tasty morsels of ‘Tolkien with nudity’ or the ‘Gam(of Thrones)ification’ of Tolkien? I admit – it caught me every few months. But all in all, through most of this journey to September 2nd, I found myself more concerned about aggressively protecting the ‘good’ in our community. Protecting those of us who don’t tell you how to enjoy your Tolkien. Aggressively pursuing the bad actors, trolls and goblins of the online space. Yup, I’m looking squarely at you Twitter. Your cesspool of existence had me pretty close to closing down our official account a few times!
Just a Casual Fan…
All that said, I decided to write my thoughts on ‘The Rings of Power’ today because I feel I may represent a segment of our community that simply is Tolkien adjacent these days. Sure, we were avid fans and very active 20 years ago, but work, families, and simply time have calmed that passion down…just a tad.
I should also mention, for the umpteenth time, that I am a ‘Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ reader. I tried to read the Silmarillion ages ago…not again. Nope, I didn’t read the Histories of Middle-earth or the new books that mystically appear every few years. I’m just a fan of Tolkien’s most popular works – judge me if you will.
With the multiple premiere’s happening around the globe, TORn staff were attending and reporting through the generosity of Amazon. Last week, I had actually scored a pass to the NYC Premiere, but after an enjoyable vacation I came back with a cold worthy of Sauron’s envy. I had even bought a sweet outfit for the occasion, but alas, it was not to be. (Nope, it wasn’t COVID, oddly enough.)
So like everyone else, I waited patiently until the show premiered last night on my Amazon Prime account. I should also note, that I’m such a casual fan these days, that I ended up watching the first half of the Penn State vs. Purdue American football game (PS – Penn State is where this website found its genesis), before deciding to check to see if ‘The Rings of Power’ was out a bit early. And yay…it was!
So it begins. Lights off, Apple AirPods Pro Max activated, and let’s do this!
I’m going to share a minor-spoiler stream of thoughts. I’m doing this for those of you who are like me – casual, Tolkien adjacent fans. Folks who may not be the most educated Tolkien scholars of the bunch – nor – *gasp* – really want to be. Folks who don’t want to participate in the drama of the community and just want to watch a good show and celebrate with the community.
So my quick review: this show nails it.
I wanted – no, needed – a thread – a connection to the films I so loved 20 years ago. ‘The Rings of Power’ delivers big time.
Just a few clear reasons why…
We get Galadriel, one of the best characters in all of Tolkien’s works, as the lead, the main focus of the series. I’m pretty sure I had not seen Morfydd Clark in any other show/movie before this show, and she is simply a gem. The strength she exudes with just a stare is mesmerizing, and her acting prowess is top notch. This series is in great hands with her in the lead role. The decision to focus on Galadriel from the very start is genius. I truly want to know her story, and I can’t wait to learn more.
We get breathtaking action and visuals. How cool is it to see battle sequences of Middle-earth in such gigantic scale. Did I really just watch a Fell Beast take out a giant eagle?!
We get amazing music from the talents of Bear McCreary. Throughout both episodes, it is clear Bear understands the musical ethos that is required for this world. So amazing. (Yes – already listening on loop while working!)
We get a taste of the innocence and simplicity of Hobbits with the whole Eleanor Brandyfoot plot. Markella Kavenagh is wonderfully cast in this role as a bright eyed mischievous Hobbit…err…Harfoot. In fact, when I look at her, I think of those quick takeaway shots of those cute Hobbits watching fireworks. (Pretty sure those were PJs kids?) And I’m pretty sure, by the end of this series, we are going to get the clear implication that Bilbo and Frodo are descendants of Eleanor. (Oh wait, my lack of Tolkien knowledge might be coming through…is that already spelled out in a genealogical chart somewhere?)
We get an Elf military that is stationed throughout areas of Middle-earth to protect her ungrateful residents? Noice! Wait – a Legolas 2.0 with Ismael Cruz Córdova’sArondir? YES. If you aren’t excited to see him kick some major arse in this series, check your pulse. BTW – he’s okay right? I mean…we did get a bit of a cliffhanger with him in Episode 2. (Obviously we do)
We get to see a whole thriving Dwarven culture. Am I really under the mountain and watching the genesis of semi-familiar names and their eventual (spoiler!) downfall? After all, I did see that Balrog in the trailer…you all are going to delve too deep…aren’t you…?
We get some REALLY impressively designed baddies. That orc/goblin that shows up in Bronwyn and Theo’s house…nightmare fuel. The ‘worm’ of the ocean – can I can get a fine art print of that in someway? That brief look right before taking out the raft…yikes!
Who the heck is this Meteor Man? How cool would that be if that’s Gandalf? Probably won’t be – but I’m game for having no clue, and finding out as the show unfolds. I do get a baddie vibe, but obviously they are trying to lead the viewer in that direction.
Hold up. I was worried this show might not be something I could watch with the family. Sure, the baddies are a bit scary, but as of right now, this is a family (10+) show. Well done, Amazon!
Two episodes in, and there is so much to love about this series.
You know you got it right when…
The biggest compliments I can give this series are twofold:
I did not look at my phone the entire time. This is pretty impressive, considering the Penn State game was very close at halftime and I had relatives and friends dinging my phone and watch. The ‘tap’ of the watch was going mad at some points during the show, but I was so engaged in the show, I didn’t bother. And also…I ALWAYS look at my phone during shows.
I usually will make myself some popcorn during shows. I’ll get up, walk away from the TV with my headphones on and watch from the kitchen. Nope – not in this case. Popcorn was only made when the first episode ended.
In summary, I’m fully in. Well done to the entire team involved in this production. Sure, it was insanely expensive, but for this Tolkien adjacent fan, you’re nailing it.
If you are a casual fan of Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, you are going to absolutely love ‘Rings of Power.’
DragonCon is upon us! For the first time since 2019, the full Dragon (almost – numbers are slightly limited again this year) is being awakened. And TORn staffers are there to share the fun.
You can find staffers deej and greendragon at TORn’s ‘fan table’ (which we believe will be in our usual spot, in the Hyatt opposite the entrance to the Art Show) throughout the con. We’ll have new button and shirt designs on sale, and all kinds of fun things for fans to look at. You can also sign up at the table for the Evening at Bree costume contest! (Sign up is also available in the High Fantasy Track Room, Marriott L401-403).
Events of interest to Tolkien fans during DragonCon are as follows:
Thursday 1st 7pm TORn’s Rings of Power preview
A last chance to speculate what’s coming in Prime Video’s highly anticipated show, before it becomes available to watch at 9pm ET. Spoiler-free speculation! Marriott room A601-602
Friday 2nd 5.30pm Behind the Scenes of The Rings of Power
TORn staffer greendragon hosts a panel with very special guests artist John Howe and dialect coach Leith McPherson, talking about their work on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power – and beyond. Hilton Grand West
Friday 2nd 8.30pm An Evening at Bree
TORn is delighted to join the High Fantasy track again to host a long standing DragonCon tradition. Party like a Hobbit! We have three live bands this year, to get toes (hairy and otherwise) tapping – The Brobdingnagian Bards, Beth Patterson, and Landloch’d. We’ll also have the Elf Choir, and of course the costume contest. If you’d like to enter, please sign up in advance of the evening, at the TORn fan table or the High Fantasy track room. Our panel of judges this year will be cosplayer Joshua Duart, together with very special guests John Howe and Leith McPherson.
Saturday 3rd 1pm War of the Rohirrim
Find out more about this exciting anime film, telling the tale of Helm Hammerhand – coming April 2024. Marriott room L401-403
Monday 5th 10am Rings of Power After Hour
Discuss and reflect on the first two episodes, and what may or may not be to come this season and beyond!
Let the games begin! Please come and say hi if you’re in Atlanta; see you in the belly of the beast!
At last, we have a full length trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Though Prime Video are still referring to this as a ‘teaser trailer’, the new footage runs 2 minutes 30 seconds long. And it is packed with good stuff, to pore over and to wonder about. Take a look:
So what do we see?
The trailer opens panning over stone profile, carved in rock. (This is a very strange profile, with a big nose and a bulky eyebrow – who is this supposed to be?) As we sweep over the carving, we see beyond a ship sailing between the cliffs, heading towards as city. This is presumably the Numenorean city with have seen before – perhaps Andúnië, as it’s a port and the home of Elendil. (See the EW article which came out yesterday, which sheds a LOT of light on all the glimpses of Numenor we see in this trailer.)
VO (Galadriel) ‘There was a time when the world was so young…’
A shot of Galadriel raising her eyes – it’s Morfydd Clark, of course, but this is a VERY Cate Blanchett moment. And as we see this, we hear a rising musical phrase which is definitely from Howard Shore (Rivendell theme).
VO (cont) ‘…there had not yet been a sunrise…’
Here’s the first teaser image we saw, with our short haired elf (Finrod?) walking up the hill – beyond we see a city (Tirion?) and in the distance, the two trees Laurelin and Telperion.
VO (cont) ‘But even then, there was light.’
Prime Video logo on black screen
Some beings – elves, possibly? they seem to be cloaked – seen from above, running across a landscape. (Looks like they are crossing one of New Zealand’s many braided rivers.)
SINGER ‘Come to me come to me…’
Elves in silver cloaks (the same from previous shot, maybe, now on a different part of their journey?) are seen crossing a snowy mountain top. As the camera sweeps beyond them, to the sky beyond, we see a bird flying. Looks BIG – eagle sized – but looks like a seagull. (But maybe that’s just me seeing things…)
SINGER ‘…land far away…’
The camera pans over and around our golden elvish realm – presumably Lindon?
VO from a Harfoot (‘country’ accent) ‘Elves have forests to protect…’
We are treated to an incredible shot inside Moria; what a stunning citadel!
VO (cont) ‘…dwarves their mines…’
Pan over men harvesting with scythes – looks like the south country we have seen before, where the healer Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) dwells.
VO (cont) ‘…men their fields of grain…’
Pan over what appears to be stalks of corn in a field; but it turns out to be headdresses worn by Harfoots. One turns in profile and puts a small musical pipe to her (his?) lips.
VO (cont) ‘But we Harfoots have each other…’
We see Harfoots amongst trees, dancing – some kind of ancient ritual. These are clearly nomadic, ancient ancestors of Hobbits, reflecting past pagan customs of Britain.
SINGER: ‘For I must now wander, this wandering day…’
Now we see the speaker of the VO – it appears to be Marigold Brandyfoot (Sara Zwangobani), who says, with a shrug, ‘We’re safe.’ [DRAMATIC IRONY!!]
Harfoot Nori watches meteor streak overhead and crash beyond the trees. Music becomes more urgent.
Text on screen: ‘Based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien’
Sweeping shot round waterfall on ice cliff – we’ve seen this ice cliff being scaled by Galadriel in previous teaser.
VO (Elrond): ‘You have fought long enough Galadriel…’
Galadriel is seen looking at another male elf, on the snowy mountain top. She does not look impressed; she slams her sword into the ice.
VO (cont): ‘Put up your sword…’
We see Elrond speaking urgently to Galadriel. Again, she doesn’t look impressed. Cut to elves fighting through the snow storm, bearing torches.
VO (Galadriel): ‘The Enemy is still out there…’
We see Galadriel talking to Elrond – ‘…the question now is where?’
Elves in an ice cave – in the foreground we see a hand on the rock of something watching them. Is this John Howe’s snow troll?
Camera pans over a city far below. Is this another settlement of Numenor? I’m not sure we’ve seen this place before… Possibly Romenna?
Elrond and Galadriel’s conversation goes on – E: ‘It is over.’ G:‘You have not seen what I have seen.’ E: ‘I have seen my share.’
Galadriel’s words become VO: ‘You have not seen…’
We see Galadriel in some fiery place – with bodies seemingly floating in fiery air (or are they under water?). It looks like some kind of purgatory. She looks seriously beaten up, and covered in ash. Is there a fiery body in the middle? Could this be Morgoth? Are we seeing the ‘tempest of fire’ at the end of War of Wrath?
VO (cont).‘…what I have seen’ – cut to Galadriel looking urgently at Elrond.
Text on screen: THIS SEPTEMBER (Music becomes more urgent again.)
Sweeping shots of our ship from the opening of this teaser, sailing into Numenor (poss Andúnië). (Maybe all these Numenorean city views are just the same city from different viewpoints…?)
Text on screen: THE LEGEND BEGINS
Lindon, with Gil-Galad and Elrond. Gil-galad says, ‘Darkness will march over the face of the earth…’
Overhead shot of orcs with flaming torches, marching along a bridge (looks like the march out of Minas Morgul in RotK).
VO (Gil-galad): ‘It will be the end not just of our people…’
Sweeping shot of seabirds circling over a ship.
Galadril in profile, in a pale shift dress, golden light – she looks up to her left. She appears to be on the ship, looking up at the birds, maybe?
Miriel of Numenor is seen walking through the city, and also looking up; something (ash?) seems to be falling on the city. Behind her, we see a solider with the golden sun which seems to be the emblem of Numenor – again, see the EW article. (Is this to indicate the descent of Numenor’s Kings from Finwe or Fingolfin? Amongst the heraldic devices Tolkien sketched, theirs are the closest to this sun image.)
VO (cont) ‘…but all peoples.’
Harfoots are seen, also staring up. This is the arrival of The Stranger (aka Meteor Man) – it clearly is not meant to be a good thing. Nori and her friend Poppy gape open-mouthed – fire sparks dance around them. We see a hazy Stranger – he appears to be controlling or manipulating the fire.
Elrond is seen being lead into Khazad-dum by dwarf guards. He stares around him at this incredible metropolis.
King Durin [first glimpse of him] is seen, saying, ‘I am sorry, but their time has come.’
We see Prince Durin cracking the stone – this is footage we have seen in the previous teaser.
Ice falling from that wall of ice the male elf is climbing.
Halbrand appears to be in some kind of throne room.
VO – leading to a shot where we see it is Arondir speaking: ‘The past is with us all.’
Arondir seems to be in an inn or something? (There is maybe a slaughtered pig hanging behind him?) He is looking quizzically at someone.
Charging horsemen – from Numenor.
VO (new voice): ‘The past is dead.’
Harfoots Nori and Poppy hugging.
Galadriel on raft in stormy ocean. She appears to be swept overboard.
Isildur on board ship.
VO (cont): ‘We either move forward…’
Two horses with riders – EW’s article reveals this is Galadriel and Elendil on Numenor’s coastline. They are racing over a beach towards a city (which looks like Mont St Michel in France – a Minas Tirith ancestor?). Close up on blue swirling robes of Galadriel.
VO (cont): ‘…or we die with it.’
Now we see the speaker – it is Elendil (Lloyd Owen). If he is in the same shot as where we saw Arondir earlier, there appears to be a third, seated, person to his right.
Crowd of Numenoreans are seen cheering someone who has raised arms. Switch POV – we see a bearded man in front of great doors to some kind of citadel, being acclaimed by the crowd. This is Pharazon (Trystan Gravelle).
Horseman with spear, galloping – he looks rustic and like a ranger compared with the men we just saw. (Is this Halbrand again?)
Prince Durin offering a gem to someone; he says, ‘This could be the beginning of a new era.’
Elves in armour drawing swords in Lindon.
Arondir is in some kind of pit, chained by the ankle. He leaps and spins – it’s a Legolas type stunt – and appears to be battling some kind of warg. Looks like a dead body (or at least someone unconcious) in the pit with him.
Snow troll attacking Galadriel and her crew in the ice cave.
Hand of The Stranger on rocks around him. Rocks and fire swirl in towards him – and for a fraction of a moment appear to make the shape of the Lidless Eye, before they disappear. Big clue as to who The Stranger might be…?
Feet of a Harfoot walk into shot on grass – this is Sadoc Burrows (Sir Lenny Henry). He carries a walking staff. Followed by Nori, Poppy, and other rustic Harfoots.
SINGER: ‘Away I must wander this wandering day…’
Text on Screen: THE LORD OF THE RINGS THE RINGS OF POWER [as logo]; New series Sept 2
Prime Video logo appears on blue background as music sweeps to a very drum-filled, Game of Thrones reminiscent crescendo and finale. END.
You can expect more discussion and speculation on this trailer soon, from TORn staff. Meanwhile, here’s what Prime Video say, in their official press release:
“THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RINGS OF POWER
NEW TEASER TRAILER RELEASED
THE HIGHLY ANTICIPATED EIGHT-PART SERIES WILL PREMIERE ON PRIME VIDEO ON 2 SEPTEMBER 2022
CULVER CITY, California—July 14, 2022—A second teaser trailer for the highly anticipated The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power television series from Amazon Studios was released today. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is an epic and ambitious telling of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fabled Second Age of Middle-earth and launches globally on Prime Video on September 2, 2022.
The new two-minute, 30-second teaser trailer delves even deeper into this series adaptation, giving fans the first ever look at some of Tolkien’s legendary characters from the island kingdom of Númenor, that until this new series have never been seen on screen. The characters are Isildur (Maxim Baldry), Elendil (Lloyd Owen), Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle), and Queen Regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). Additional Númenóreans also recently announced are Kemen (Leon Wadham) and Eärien (Ema Horvath).
The teaser trailer also highlights some of the realms viewers will visit over the course of the eight-part series, including the Elven realms of Lindon and Eregion, the Dwarven realm Khazad-dûm, the Southlands, the Northernmost Wastes, the Sundering Seas, and the island kingdom of Númenór.
Also featured are key cast members Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), Elrond (Robert Aramayo), High King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker), the Harfoots Marigold Brandyfoot (Sara Zwangobani), Elanor ‘Nori’Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh), Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards) and Sadoc Burrows (Sir Lenny Henry), The Stranger (Daniel Weyman), the Dwarves King Durin III (Peter Mullan) and Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur), Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), and Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova).
The multi-season drama will launch on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide on Friday, September 2, with new episodes available weekly.
About The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and one of the greatest villains that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared reemergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the farthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.
The seriesis led by showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay and stars a celebrated cast led by Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Maxim Baldry, Nazanin Boniadi, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Charles Edwards, Trystan Gravelle, Sir Lenny Henry, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Lloyd Owen, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Leon Wadham, Benjamin Walker, Daniel Weyman, and Sara Zwangobani.
Joining Payne & McKay are executive producers Lindsey Weber, Callum Greene, J.A. Bayona, Belén Atienza, Justin Doble, Jason Cahill, Gennifer Hutchison, Bruce Richmond, and Sharon Tal Yguado, as well as producers Ron Ames and Christopher Newman. Wayne Che Yip is co-executive producer and directs, along with J.A. Bayona and Charlotte Brändström.
As September 2nd draws ever closer, we’re seeing more and more glimpses of what is in store in Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Most fans will already have seen the amazing images, and read the interviews, from the latest edition of EMPIRE magazine – including artist John Howe’s incredible snow troll sketch, which features on the cover of the special subscriber’s edition.
Back in early May, when staffers Justin and greendragon were invited by Amazon to join a group in London, to see footage from The Rings of Power and to talk with showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay, John Howe was also part of the gathering. There were gasps of delight from many in the audience when he was introduced; all were thrilled to have a chance to talk with such a legend. It was also reassuring to hear, from his own mouth, that Howe is actively involved in the design and creation of this new Middle-earth adaptation.
That same day, Prime Video also treated us to a closer look at three costumes from the show. Stay tuned for more from greendragon on what we saw and heard that day; we’ll also share posts from other sites, YouTubers, tiktokers and fans who were there. To start us off, here are Justin’s reflections:
[Continuing the high levels of secrecy around this show, there were no phones or recording devices allowed; therefore all quotations are paraphrased from notes & recollections.]
As the lights came up from the very first sneak peek at The Rings of Power footage (some of which we expect in the first proper trailer releasing at SDCC) the nervousness in the air was thick; not only from the thirty or so fans assembled, but also from showrunners Payne and McKay. Will we like them? Are they two of us?
“We were with you all refreshing TheOneRing.net every day for the latest news on Peter Jackson’s films!” McKay told us. These lifelong fans, Ivy League Yale educated, committed to their church, might be closer in disposition to JRR Tolkien than any filmmaker that has come before. They study every book, revision, note, letter, and interview Tolkien ever shared, to understand his motivations and inspirations. It is this thorough knowledge of the context of Tolkien that has inspired confidence from so many Tolkien influencers.
As the showrunners wrapped up the open-ended Q&A, the biggest surprise of the London trip occurred – artist John Howe walked out with a sketchbook in hand. He explained how he got involved, how much work has been put toward The Rings of Power, and took questions from an awestruck group of scholars, fans and podcasters.
“They just kept asking me to sketch things they were considering. There are 40 sketchbooks full of drawings for this show.” Howe then opened up his sketchbook to the original drawing of the ice troll. I find it very curious that our very first leak from the ROP set were photos of an icy mountain set, then leaks of a snow troll (instead of a cave troll), which carried through to the Super Bowl teaser featuring the troll, and now John Howe’s sketch. Did Amazon leak the icy set pics in the first place, as part of a long marketing game? Or is Prime Video responding to uncontrollable leaks and only revealing what’s already been hinted at? Howe did not turn the page to show any more drawings.
When asked how he keeps this new work separate from the award winning (and trademark protected) work with Peter Jackson, John Howe responded with incredible awareness and insight. “We are all professionals here in the room. You all understand running your business. Whether I’m designing for movies, or book covers, or a streaming show, there are creative briefs to respond to. But the people in charge also know what they are getting from all my previous work.” Howe went on to explain that the true creative separation from Jackson’s films is actually INSPIRATION in the new locations this show visits. “We’ve never seen the oceanic areas of Middle-earth, and it is incredibly exciting for me to discover the great seas and areas that haven’t been explored. That is the true departure from what has come before.”
While John Howe had a plane to catch, showrunners Payne and McKay hung around with fans for some social conversations in the lobby, where three actual costumes were on display. The two guys held their own in deep lore conversations with several Ph.D.s, such as ‘The Tolkien Professor’ Corey Olsen and Dr. Una McCormack. At any fan event full of world-leading-expert-podcasters, there is a tendency to weed out inauthentic creators with deep lore questions. Again, Payne and McKay held their own. There is a reason the reaction a few weeks ago was unanimously supportive of the showrunners: they know their Tolkien, and they know the lore.
The Rings of Power showrunner Patrick McKay suddenly confronted me in the lobby, as his conversation circle moved to catch up. Matt (Nerd of the Rings) was shocked at some of the things we talked about – secret things I’m still hesitant to reveal. McKay wanted to know how I felt about the footage. He was extremely interested in my honest opinion. He cares what we think, what our response is to the hard-earned work over the last three years, if we feel he’s doing right by Tolkien and by fans. My direct response was the footage “looked like it should”, as I wrote a few weeks ago. It wasn’t the overwhelming enthusiasm I think he wanted, but that’s the legacy this entire show is up against: the most awarded films in entertainment history make for a high bar set by New Line Cinema.
To close, here’s one exclusive comment I will share today: McKay was adamant that this sword (below) is NOT Narsil, despite our early spy reports from people who have laid eyes on scenes featuring this sword. We will find out what’s true September 2nd; but I can’t help but remember how adamant JJ Abrams was that Cumberbatch was NOT Kahn. The only job these showrunners had in Hollywood was working for JJ Abrams, before landing this dream gig in Middle-earth…
Maybe it’s the time zones, but I really thought that John Howe’s interview with Empire about The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power was coming out tomorrow. Instead, if you’re keen (and an Apple News subscriber), you can read it right now over on Apple News.
The interview expands on the teaser Empire provided the other day, that “this is not the Middle-earth you remember”. Instead, it’s a story of a different time (the Second Age), when Middle-earth was visually and politically a different place.
Howe can’t elaborate on what that tale may be, but does hint that it takes place against a backdrop of “Sauron’s rise to power, the forging of the Rings of Power and the epic tale of [human city] Númenor” — all events with important repercussions for Middle-earth.
“I was convinced the Hobbit trilogy would be the last we’d see of Middle-earth on film,” Howe admits, explaining that it took an exciting new approach to Lord Of The Rings lore to unlock a story worth telling.