How The Rings of Power’s record-shattering budget is “a bargain”

Image: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power/Amazon Prime Video
Image: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power/Amazon Prime Video /

This is the summer of fantasy and science fiction television. From Stranger Things to House of the Dragon to The Boys to Westworld to The Sandman and beyond, the schedule for the next few months is so packed that it can be hard to wrap your head around it.

One of the biggest series is The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Amazon Prime Video’s upcoming prequel series to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Amazon’s show is set during a period of Middle-earth we’ve never seen fully explored on screen: the Second Age, when the human kingdom of Númenor was at its height, Elves split time between distant Valinor and their summer homes in Rivendell, and Sauron was just beginning to get his jewelry-making game on.

But The Rings of Power has made the most waves over its price tag. Amazon is spending a reported $465 million on the first season alone. It’s all but certain to become the most expensive television show ever produced. A lot of that money is reportedly being used to build infrastructure that will be used throughout the entire series, but still.

Amazon has been keeping a lot about this series under tight wraps, but now that the premiere date is drawing closer, the wraps are coming off. Series co-creator JD Payne talking about the massive budget in the latest issue of Empire. The way he sees it, if you frame things the right way, The Rings of Power is actually a “bargain.”

The Rings of Power on Prime Video.
The Rings of Power on Prime Video. /

The Rings of Power is a bargain for billionaires

So how exactly is spending almost $500 million — nearly double the $281 million price tag of Peter Jackson’s entire trilogy of films — a bargain? Well, it’s all about what you’re getting for the money.

“We think it’s important to keep the budget in context,” Payne explained. “Really, this [season] is an eight-hour movie. This is the length of three Marvel films, done on the schedule of two, for the budget of one. Look at it in the context of what’s actually being produced and you could say that it’s a bargain.”

On some levels, I can get behind this argument. Over in the streaming world, TV and movies have been colliding to the point where it makes sense to compare what Marvel might spend on its blockbuster movies to what a company like Amazon will spend on what it clearly believes is going to be its next flagship show.

In fact, I just made this argument last week about Stranger Things, which has a reported budget of $30 million per episode for its fourth season. However, the thing that makes Stranger Things unique is that, in terms of formatting and presentation, it feels like it’s bridging that gap between movies and television much more than the average show. The upcoming season finale is two-and-a-half hours long; that’s literally the length of Avengers: Infinity War, so the comparison feels apt.

But will The Rings of Power actually feel like an “eight-hour movie,” or eight episodes of television? That’s a huge question, and it comes down to a lot more than just the budget.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premieres September 2 on Prime Video.

Next. HBO has “a lot of ideas” for Game of Thrones spinoffs. dark

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h/t SlashFilm