It turns out Middle-earth doesn’t come cheap. Amazon Studios is spending an astonishing $465 million to make its Lord of the Rings prequel show... specifically, the show’s first season. That’s over $150 million more than Peter Jackson’s three Lord of the Rings movies cost to make. That’s more than the gross domestic product of 10 countries. That’s a lot.
The news comes from the New Zealand news site Stuff and the New Zealand government’s Official Information Act, and was confirmed by the Hollywood Reporter. Even though we don’t know how many episodes will be in the first season, we know each season of Game of Thrones used to cost a mere $100 million, so this is pretty much absurd.
Of course, you need a lavish budget to truly bring Middle-earth to life with the grandeur it deserves, and the show’s official description pretty clearly lays out where the money’s going: “Lord of the Rings brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.”
Knowing Amazon has effectively written the adaptation of an unseen part of Tolkien’s beyond-epic fantasy a blank check is—or should be—exciting. Instead, it just feels... gross. Maybe it wouldn’t make me so upset if Amazon wasn’t also squashing unions and forcing its workers to urinate in bottles. This Lord of the Rings show feels entirely emblematic of the company’s obscene wealth, and that its workers are literally suffering so Amazon can make a wildly overindulgent show about some dumb elves running around. And this $465 million budget doesn’t include the $250 million Amazon paid just for the rights to make the show.
I’m sure the show will be good and look great, and I hope you’re not as consternated as I am. The show will probably be great and look even better. I just don’t know if I’ll be able to stomach watching it.
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