After all this talk about how ironclad and constricting this rights situation is for “The Rings of Power,” however, it’s worth noting that not all aspects of this Amazon deal seem to be as intractable and nigh indestructible as the One Ring itself.
Consider the very glaring fact that, despite taking place in a separate continuity entirely, certain aspects of “The Rings of Power” appear to be pulled straight from Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” movies. For one thing, the Amazon series brought back artists such as composer Howard Shore, concept artist John Howe, and others who were involved with the original movies, adding more confusion to the proceedings through this shared DNA. But much more noticeably, several character and creature designs — from the look of Sauron himself (as glimpsed briefly early in the premiere) to the fiery balrog to even invoking certain “Silmarillion”-exclusive lore (as noted by Collider) — are exactly as they appear in material outside of Amazon’s purview.
How to explain the studio’s apparent flouting of their own deal?
Well, consider that the show’s creatives worked closely with Tolkien Estate director and Tolkien’s own grandson, Simon Tolkien, throughout the process. This unprecedented collaboration, previously unheard-of in the history of the Tolkien Estate and its tumultuous relationship with previous adaptations, almost certainly thawed the frost between both parties and allowed for a relaxing of the rules. This seems to have been alluded to in a recent Variety profile of Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke, who remarked on Simon Tolkien’s work on the series and that “…the estate was very open and encouraging for reinvention, but always in ways that stay true to Tolkien. We all have the same kind of vision for this property. There was never any disconnect there, which is probably why it worked out so well.”
This partnership seems to have worked out so far on “The Rings of Power,” giving us a thrilling and unique fantasy story that — complicated rights issues and all — should provide even more excitement to come.