The Lord of the Rings, the property that became a founding mythology for modern geek culture, returned to San Diego Comic-Con Friday with Amazon showing off a new trailer for the mega-budget The Rings of Power TV series. The panel kicked off with composer Bear McCeary and an orchestra (including a choir) performing music from the show for Hall H’s 6,000-strong crowd.
The pageantry set the tone for emcee (and noted Tolkien fan) Stephen Colbert to take the Comic-Con crowd to Middle-earth. The Rings of Power takes place during the Second Age. The series is set thousands of years before Peter Jackson’s films and centers on the rings of power that allowed the Dark Lord Sauron to spread evil across Middle-earth. Colbert noted the Second Age is one of the least-explored aspects in the Tolkien mythology. “It’s a story of loss,” said Colbert of the show, who added he was struck by the “sincerity” and “love of this world” from showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay.
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Payne proved his Tolkien bona fides by speaking phrases in Elvish and went on to explain why the team decided to focus in on the Second Age and the rise of Sauron.
“If we are going to tell 50 hours of story, we want to make it worth it,” said Payne of the series. “We wanted to find a huge, Tolkien-ian mega-epic. Amazon were wonderfully crazy enough to say, ‘yes, let’s do that.’”
Payne was particularly struck by the story of the downfall of Númenor, which is akin to Tolkien’s Atlantis. “It’s deeply painful,” but he said but he noted there might be “something we can learn” from it — given that it’s the story of a society divided. During the panel, there was a clip showing the grandeur of the island city that at the time was in its prime.
The team has been working on the series since 2018, with the creatives — including producer Lindsay Weber — pouring over appendices Tolkien published. They sometimes expanded a few paragraphs into fully fledged characters and races, such as the harfoots — ancestors to The Hobbits. McKay noted as a fan of Tolkien the team felt immense pressure to deliver. “We’ve been the fans who have been disappointed many, many times over — and we didn’t want to disappoint you guys.”
The team showed off a new trailer, which included what may be a balrog — the fiery foe that Gandalf caught in the first Jackson film. The footage had so much packed in that even Tolkien scholar Colbert couldn’t catch it all. Quipped the Late Show host: “I don’t know who the hell some of those people are.”
Of the expansive cities, Weber noted they built much of it. “A huge amount of it was in camera. It was a labor of love of thousands and thousands of crew members,” said Weber.
The crowd also saw a clip showing off the unlikely friendship between Elrond (Robert Aramayo, taking over for Hugo Weaving in the Jackson films) and Durin (Owain Arthur). Elrond visits a dwarven mine and they participate in a test of endurance in which the two hammer rocks until they can hammer no longer. The cost of losing? Elron will be banished from dwarven lands forever. If he wins? He will be granted a single boom from the dwarves.
Actor Sophia Nomvete got applause when Colbert acknowledged she plays the first female dwarf depicted on screen. “Thank you all for the lovely response,” Nomvete said to the crowd. She then revealed she was just two days from giving birth when she auditioned for the role of Disa. She learned she’d landed the part when her daughter was five days old. She went to set when her daughter was eight weeks old and noted her costume opened up so she could nurse her daughter. “That is the power of a female dwarf,” she said to big applause.
Later in the panel, another clip showed the harfoot characters coming across a mysterious man known as The Stranger (Daniel Weyman) who is in the middle of a fiery pit, as though he were a meteor crashing from the sky. “He has a deep sense of purpose,” said Weyman of his character. Colbert said he wouldn’t press the actor with his own theories of The Stranger’s identity (Gandalf? Sauron?).
As the panel neared its end, an action-heavy scene showed off the elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) helping free a group encaptured by goblin-like creatures, one of the moments the actor noted he studied martial arts to get right.
Galadriel actor Morfydd Clark noted she was 11 when the films came out and had many conversations and inside jokes with her family growing up about the character.
The last time the world of Tolkien journeyed to Hall H was in 2014 for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the third and final installment of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings prequel films. Those Hobbit films never reached the heights of Jackson’s Oscar-winning original Lord of the Rings trilogy, but Amazon is betting big on its new series, which is billed as the most expensive TV show of all time, with a spend of $465 million for just season one. (A chunk of that was the cost of acquiring the rights from Tolkien’s estate.)
Amazon is betting big on The Rings of Power, with eight-episode first season debuting Sept. 2. So far, despite the sprawling cast, it’s missing one obvious choice. A fan, during the Q&A portion, got the biggest applause of the entire panel when he asked the showrunners to commit to giving him a role.
Said the showrunners: “The answer is yes.”
‘Lord of the Rings’ Brings Fiery Trailer — and an Orchestra — to Comic-Con