The Lord of the Rings is leaving Middle-earth, or at least the real-life location that people associate with it.
Peter Jackson famously shot The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film trilogies in his home country of New Zealand, but for the second season of the new Lord of the Rings TV series, Amazon Studios is shifting production to the U.K.
THR reports that Amazon is “packing up The Lord of the Rings and moving its production of the mega-budget fantasy series from New Zealand to the United Kingdom for season two.”
Presumably, this decision means that the second season will be shooting mostly on soundstages with greenscreens. The official press release from Amazon does note: “The shift from New Zealand to the U.K. aligns with the studio’s strategy of expanding its production footprint and investing in studio space across the U.K., with many of Amazon Studios’ tentpole series and films already calling the U.K. home.”
On Twitter, the move has provoked a mixed reaction, with some local New Zealanders and /Film contributors remarking that the country has now been burned by Amazon founder and chairman Jeff Bezos “after bending over backwards to accommodate” him. However, it would appear that production costs aren’t the only thing fueling this move. THR observes:
Another factor was that the country has a very strict pandemic lockdown policy. Insiders credit the policy with helping keep the production safe during unprecedented times, but it’s also resulted in certain logistical challenges – especially given that roughly half the cast is from the U.K. For instance, any time a member of the cast or crew left the country they would have to quarantine for 14 days upon returning to New Zealand and there were limits as to how many people could come and go to the production at any given time.
Having said that, what kind of pipe-weed is Amazon smoking? What is The Lord of the Rings without New Zealand?
Well, first and foremost, it’s a novel told in three volumes by an English author named J.R.R. Tolkien. So “from a certain point of view” (as another wizard, Obi-Wan Kenobi, might say), you could argue that The Lord of the Rings is just coming home to Tolkien’s own native U.K.
This misses the point, however, that the place moviegoers around the world think of as Middle-earth is New Zealand. It’s this country that provided so many of the beautiful landscapes for Jackson’s films. To this day, you can still go there and take a tour of the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata (they even have a “second breakfast” package). A few years back, while highlighting The Fellowship of the Ring as one of his all-time favorite movies, our own Ben Pearson wrote:
The breathtaking landscapes and jaw-dropping scenery of Jackson’s native New Zealand provided the perfect setting for Middle-earth, and when my wife and I visited the country last year (almost entirely because of our love of this series), we found it to be just as awe-inspiring in person as it appears on the screen.
We still don’t know a lot of details about Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series, like what its official title will be. Utilizing an ensemble cast, the series will explore “the long-feared re-emergence of evil” in the Second Age of Middle-earth’s history, “thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books.”
Season 2, at least, will be doing that in the U.K.
Amazon’s untitled Lord of the Rings series is scheduled to premiere on Prime Video on Friday, September 2, 2022.
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