The backend of the summer seeks to bring us all back to the TV for weekly showings of fantasy drama, with HBO releasing the first of, reportedly, many spin-offs to its incredibly successful Game of Thrones series. Mere weeks later, Amazon will try to prove its salt with The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, attempting to show that it can produce must-watch TV for its streaming service and compete for the fantasy crown.
Both of the original works that these series will be adapted from and inspired by are huge in pop culture, but House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power enter the market in very different ways. From the tweaks to the underlying genre to the target audiences and source material, the competing shows’ battle tactics vary.
A vast space of fantasy entertainment
The movie trilogy of The Lord of the Rings certainly brought fantasy to the video media mainstream, while Game of Thrones pivoted from the high fantasy story to create a low fantasy series with much more adult themes. Together, they’re the reasons why there’s now such a glut of fantasy media out there, much of which is of good quality and is very popular.
Netflix is enjoying praise from its viewers for above-average series The Witcher, which draws from the sublime books and video games that underpin the franchise. Other popular series toy with more low-fantasy content, like Shadow & Bone, Britannia, and American Gods. In the ever-expanding space of online casino, fantasy slots continue to rise to the fore. Games like Dragon’s Cache and Kings of Crystals have become the big hitters.
House of the Dragon will adhere to George R. R. Martin’s low-fantasy setting, with little to do with good-vs-evil, magic, or too many bizarre creatures. The Rings of Power will go all-in on its high-fantasy source material, stuffing in orcs, trolls, elven magic, and more to have a much broader appeal.
Target audiences look to hit both ends of the spectrum
House of the Dragon will almost certainly try to piggyback on the adult appeal of Game of Thrones. Perhaps not to the extent of the show that trail-blazed such on-screen scenes in the US, but at the very least, political games and scheming will underpin the story. This doesn’t cut down the audience, though, as proven by the rampant success of the show that it will prequel.
Adhering to the source material
The big way in which House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power look to differ is adherence to the source material. House of the Dragon comes from a universe first published in 1991, but more specifically, the history book Fire & Blood. The showrunners have said that while the events remain the same, due to the style of the source, some creative licence is taken to tell the story and bring it to the screen – which Games of Thrones did in parts.
The Rings of Power will not be doing the same. Amazon’s $250 million brought them the 150-page Appendices to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. This means that anything not mentioned on those pages is off-limits. So, to appeal to J.R.R. Tolkien fans, who have had since 1937 to build a formidable fandom, they need to conjure up much of the story and characters while still adhering to the lore.
Given the well-run rumours that renowned Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey was removed, that Galadriel is a warrior in the trailers, and the interactions between certain characters in the reveals, it looks very unlikely that The Rings of Power will adhere to Tolkien’s works.
This might just be where House of the Dragon wins, sticking to the lore of the original author, while The Rings of Power gets demoted from any semblance of inclusion in Middle-earth fact.