Amazon Fine Tunes Lord of the Rings

Following its purchase last November of global TV rights for J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Amazon is planning some alterations in the beloved tale of Middle-earth. What some at Amazon Studios are calling "the new story orc" aims for a less "heroes vs. bad guys approach," one executive said. "Tolkien's treatment takes a traditional, legacy view: creatures are essentially either good or the other thing. A few 'good' characters have crises but recover. On the other hand, several--Gollum/Sméagol, who we may rename Donald, and Saruman--go over to the so-called darkness. That's considered a very big negative and in version 1.0, it's always the fault of a small household-friendly round object, almost but not quite as powerful and magical as the Amazon Echo."

Suggestions to add a bit of evil to the hobbits--perhaps Samwise Gamgee takes the ring from Frodo forever--have been rejected for now because Amazon fears damaging the franchise. Thus, the first season, which will be called LoRings, will concentrate on portraying familiar "bad guys" in a brighter light.

"We're envisioning a more forward-looking world," the Amazon exec said. "For example, Sauron will be a multi-faceted character with an intriguing, sympathetic back story. Instead of a simplistic, evil creature, he's more of a friendly disrupter of civilization." Insiders say the new, more benevolent Sauron will, in contrast to Tolkien's version, have a bodily form: he will be a 50ish, bald, almost childlike creature with large, all-seeing eyes, big ears and a hyena-like laugh. --John Mutter

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