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The 1% of Middle-Earth | Premiere

My experience at Amazon’s The Rings of Power premiere

By Emma Havia

Amazon, one of the world’s largest companies, bought rights to adapt JRR Tolkien’s works from the Tolkien estate in 2017 for $250 million. The adaptation in question turned out to be a multi-season series about the Second Age of Middle-earth, which is set before the events in The Lord of the Rings and The Third Age. It is set to be the most expensive production in TV history with $462 million spent on the first season alone. The series has been a controversial topic ever since it was announced and this is not only due to the grossly large budget.

Being one of the people sceptical and even apprehensive about the new series, I debated whether to even watch it at all. Fate seemed to have other plans, as I was presented with the opportunity to attend the red carpet event and the world premiere where the first two episodes of The Rings of Power were shown in London Leicester Square.

As I arrived on scene I was greeted with massive walls closing off nearly all of the square. After collecting tickets I waited in line for some time before being led through to the red carpet area. The carpet mimicked a woodland path surrounded by trees, real and artificial, and they shadowed over us as we walked towards our section. There were lanterns hanging from arches akin to those in the last homely house in the Jackson films. The pen, to which my group was shepherded in, was near the stage where many interviews were conducted. For the rest of the evening I had a restricted view towards anywhere else. Then we waited.

Courtesy of Author

Eventually, the program began but none of us could hear what was going on. As minutes turned to hours it became apparent that Amazon did not know how to treat their guests much better than their employees, because, for some three hours, we were restricted to standing in the pen without food or drink, and without a possibility of a bathroom break. Indeed, we had been explicitly told not to bring food or drink and that water would be provided for us (it was not, until much later). All this could have perhaps been forgiven had there been anything worth standing around for, but the spectacle was for the cameras only.

Despite the number of interviews and programs going on we couldn’t hear a thing. The mics weren’t set to broadcast to the live audience at all—clearly, we were there as props to the cameras, because at certain intervals someone would motion us to cheer and clap. Most of the three hours I spent getting to know the people around me instead. We were from all walks of life: there was a woman next to me who must have been at least in her 80s who soldiered on even though there was no seating provided for her. Some had flown in at the last minute for the premiere—one fan, dressed in cosplay, was there on a cycling tour from Germany.

The cast was understandably excited as we spotted them doing their rounds. While they were unknown to me, and many of them were indeed lesser known names for now, a pair next to me got extremely excited as Sir Lenny Henry came to greet us. He had been instrumental to their childhood, they explained, and I could see the appeal; he was bitingly funny and laid-back as he took the time to speak with the fans. For me, the highlight was John Howe, an illustrator who was instrumental in designing and shaping the way Middle-Earth looked in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy (along with Alan Lee) and now once again, as a part of the team for the new series. These interactions with the cast and production members kept us in good enough spirits until we got to the theatre.

The overarching emotion as we finally stepped into the theatre was a mix of exhaustion and irritation. I was annoyed at myself for having decided to bury the hatchet with Amazon for the night only to get slapped back into reality, where it was clear that this company is incredibly out of touch on all possible levels. As I was finally sitting comfortably in my seat, who was called on the stage to make a speech but Jeff Bezos himself.

As he spoke about his love for Tolkien, I became uncomfortably conscious about the money poured into this apparent passion project; how many resources that had been pinched from the bottom up, the lack of care to the negative effects the company causes to the world.

How messed up our priorities are that everything is poured into visual media and the appearance of wealth and abundance. I gave my thoughts and prayers to the world by not clapping for him.

On the series itself I will say only this: I was left more hopeful for a possibility of something good to come. Which in turn makes it all the more difficult. Is it possible to enjoy something with a good conscience when it’s all a part of a sleight of hand? Like the structure of the red carpet itself, and Sauron himself in the Second Age, it's beautiful to the eye of the beholder but sinister below the surface. Behind this beautiful series there is a multinational corporation that is absolutely inhumane and exploitative—but hey, at least the show didn’t suck, right?


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