Fools Parade – Lord of the Rings: The Rings of PowerThe Dark Herald
But now Ilúvatar sat and hearkened, and for a great while it seemed good to him, for in the music there were no flaws. But as the theme progressed, it came into the heart of Melkor to interweave matters of his own imagining that were not in accord with the theme of Ilúvatar; for he sought therein to increase the power and glory of the part assigned to himself. *
Some things get a little better when you think about them for a little bit.
This ain’t one of them.
Whenever you are surveying the smoldering wreckage of a horrifying man-made disaster, the same questions are always asked. How was this allowed to happen? Wasn’t it someone’s job to prevent this? Was it a deliberate act of sabotage? How is the richest man in the world this fucking stupid?
These are all valid, simple questions with complicated answers. Which I shall endeavor to answer for you.
If you ever do any kind of investigative work on a man-made disaster you will invariably find the same thing. It wasn’t just one man that did it. It is always a string of bad decisions that lead to the event.
This time it began with Jeff Bezos. His priorities changed massively when he acquired his mistress. He started dressing like the world’s richest pimp. He veered sharply into left-wing politics. He built a ludicrously big yacht. And he quit the day-to-day running of the **company he built, to pursue hobby businesses.
The rocketship was cool. If my life had turned out massively different it would have been on the top of my bucket list too. But being a movie mogul was a seriously terrible idea. Particularly in 2017. Woke Feminist politics were the all and the everything during the Trump years. So, it was a really bad time to start an ambitious entertainment product.
Bezos decided for whatever reason, that he wanted his own Game of Thrones. On the face of it, this seemed like a good idea. That was actually a terrible idea. I’ll discuss Wheel of Time separately.
Having the most successful television show of the decade is usually a solid business strategy for any TV entertainment provider. Problem: If anyone could do it, everyone would.
It appears that Bezos simply ordered his Game of Thrones pastiche to be great. Making the best show on television isn’t easy but making the most expensive show on television is exceptionally simple. Just throw money at a production until you break the bank, done, mission accomplished. The sad part is that for fifty million an episode they should have had something that looked so much better than what they got.
Regardless, the word went out that Amazon was committed to breaking the bank on a fantasy production and pitch meetings were held.
The real pity here is that there undoubtedly are some projects that could have been genuinely amazing. John Milius (Conan the Barbarian, Rome) is rumored to have pitched a story about the Praetorian Guard set in the immediate aftermath of Nero’s death. Then there was the one about a fantasy version of the break-up of Alexander the Great’s empire (a period of time that makes the Westeros dynastic wars look like gentle clerical dispute). But with all that money flying around, Bad Robot had to come sniffing around.
Their pitch was simple enough, a TV version of Lord of the Rings. Greenlit!
It was open knowledge that as part of an arbitration settlement, the Tolkien Estate was required to make available for sale, a TV series based on the only thing not covered specifically in previous licensing agreements, namely, the appendices published at the end of Return of the King. Although these rights were for sale they came with a big condition:
He would have the absolute right of veto over everything. And he used it continuously.
Sadly, he could not use it from the grave. After he died, the Tolkien grandchildren apparently didn’t resist any further.
The Amazon Fool’s Parade had begun.
The secret to the Bad Reboot school’s success is a combination of an established reputation for success, superb salesmanship (I have to give them that), and a mastery of studio politics as well as fashionable politics in general. Additionally, Bad Reboot skillfully manages its relations with the press. Finally, the disciples of Abrams rigidly follow their business model and always get out before the burning building collapses on top of them. If they were trying to make anything good, I could admire the professionalism.
The fundamental problem is that they don’t know how to make anything good. It’s like cotton candy, it looks big and smells great but once you take a bite the only thing you have in your mouth is empty sugary grit. If you are only trying to grind out pablum like summer tentpoles then that is good enough. Honestly, most fandoms really do only want that, just consume product and get excited for next project.
Tolkien fans aren’t remotely like that. The magnitude of this disaster would have been manageable if they had just invented their own IP that kind of looked like Tolkien. But as it is, they put The Lord of the Rings label on this, so that was the standard they would have to meet.
Ha! Ha! Ha! (*gasp…wheez…gasp*) Ha! Ha! Ha! (*wipes eyes*)
Expecting Bad Reboot alumni J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay to meet that standard is like expecting Ariana Grande to win the Noble Prize for Physics. Theoretically possible… But not likely.
Tolkien fans have been arguing over the same five books for better than half a century. The body of scholarly work based on it is gigantic. It is the entire bedrock of modern fantasy. Every fantasy writer has to consciously adopt or reject the Lord of the Rings, but you can’t possibly ignore it. There are frequent and violent arguments over what exactly the Valar were. What was the nature of Tom Bombadil? How much of the legendarium was adopted from Celtic myth? This was not the kind of fandom that you can use as a base for a popcorn burner. And there was no way in hell a couple of graduates from the Bad Reboot school of non-writing were going to be able to fake their way through a five-year series. This project was doomed from its inception.
There were several people at Amazon whose jobs it was to prevent something this bad from happening. As near as I can tell, all of them were circumvented. There is no way in hell these scripts looked good.
So where did the money go? O-k-a-a-a-y, I am going to have to use the word “allegedly” quite a bit here. In truth, I’m really only going off of rumors that while I find credible would not be legally admissible by my lawyer. All of the next three paragraphs are based on rumors.
First, it is alleged that Bad Reboot and all its children always make sure that any action figures and merchandise are legally distinct and that they always get a cut from that which is locked in stone. This is the source of the “25% different” requirement that is allegedly required by anybody following J.J. Abrams’s school of film business. This is apparently, the reason the Klingons looked wrong, and C3P0 had a red arm. If true, it would also explain why the elves all have short hair in the Rings of Power.
Additionally, and allegedly these Bad Reboot offshoots all charge too much for what they provide in terms of delivered product. Meaning? Well, Secret Hideout leased all the studio space it could get its hands on for years to come, more than it needed for Star Trek Discovery and it started renting the excess space out to other production companies. Perfectly legal but CBS was dumb to pay for it.
The business model is rumored to be shifty but never illegal, allegedly.
They also seem to be extraordinarily good at locating, identifying, and selling to senior executives who don’t know a good story from shit. Bad Reboot is great at that. Kathleen Kennedy, Anne Sarnoff, whoever the hell greenlit Star Trek, and now Jeff Bezos.
Also, it seems to be coming to an end. Warner Brothers’ is in the process of canceling the contract they made with JJ Abrams. He’s trying to get Star Trek films going again but Chris Pine won’t do it for less than his promised $13 million. Which means that Zoe Saldana won’t come back for less than what Chris Pine is making. Zachery Quinto wouldn’t cost much but Karl Urban has come up in the world. Plus, they want Chris Hemsworth to play Kirk’s Dad again. Considering that Abrams will have to keep the budget under $120 million, there is no way to make the numbers work.
Unless a new team of incompetent but moneyed film executives comes along, Bad Reboot maybe having to sail into the sunset. Abrams has to be eyeing Tim Cook with desperate longing.
You are probably a little curious about why the critical rating is so low for something this ungodly expensive, intersectional, and Woke. And you’re right. Usually, a production like that would come in at 95% fresh on RottenTomatoes.com.
Once in a while, even the access media has to worry about its reputation. If they can’t get access, they are no better than the Dark Herald. Now the whores like John Campea have no reputation at all. The people listening to them are the ones that do only want to “just consume product and get excited for next product.” But the rest have to occasionally worry about their reputations. They can get away with a glowing bullshit review if the product is politically committed, i.e. The Last Jedi or Ghostbusters (2016). Their view being, “it’s like political promises. People understand.” And more importantly, they will maintain early access. Depending on the studio that can be pretty critical. Disney for instance never forgives and forgets. I’ve heard critics literally say, “you have to pick your battles carefully.”
More importantly, in this case, there is a lot of stuff that comes out of the Disney pipeline.
But Amazon? Not so much. Prime Video is a free bonus service provided for people who did the math and decided they buy enough stuff from Amazon that Prime is a money saver. But they wouldn’t pay Prime Video by itself. No one would, apart from a very few original shows, its content is no different from the completely free Tubi.com.
Prime Video does not do theatrical releases. So, they never have major blockbusters. And they don’t have that many big series launches. The critics can afford to offend Amazon. Also, a lot of the remaining critics that are rated “Fresh” are gaming the Rotten Tomatoes system. If you actually read the reviews you see a lot of them scream for a few paragraphs about the thing they hate the most but the rest of the review is vaguely supportive. So that review gets counted as a positive. “Hey, I didn’t say it was Fresh. Rotten Tomatoes did.”
The fundamental problem with Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is that it started as a vanity project and Amazon completely lost sight of this. I’m certain there were plenty of people at Amazon Studios that could see just how bad this thing was going to be, but once the Fools Parade begins, it’s almost impossible to stop marching along with everyone else. At least until everyone falls off the cliff.
Okay, I’m done here.
IMDB.COM (Amazon subsidiary) has compromised its review system for The Rings of Power.
Amazon itself is still not posting reviews at all.
SIDENOTE: The Wheel of Time 3/5 stars.
*I had thought to replace Ilúvatar with Tolkien and Melkor with Bezos but I can’t rewrite Tolkien. I just can’t.
** For a while I honestly thought he’d lost a boardroom battle but since he remains Chairman of the BOD that wasn’t the case.