Amazon & Netflix Fight Over Game of Thrones Audience

The epic fantasy genre has an empty throne (pun intended) now that the award-winning Game of Thrones  has ended its eighth and final season. And like with all empty thrones, rival players are already circling it.

As far back as 2017, when Thrones was in its penultimate season and preparing to take a hiatus the year after, both Amazon and Netflix were searching for ways to replace the saga with their own dark, gritty fantasy serial.

It isn’t hard to imagine why; as one of the most successful television shows in history, even taking its insane episode budgets into consideration, Thrones was always the show to beat in the primetime slot ever since 2011. HBO, the network behind the phenomenon, is hoping that new releases like their Watchmen series will keep viewership up, but even they’ve already confirmed up to three (!) spinoffs, prequels, and/or further adaptations of the popular novels written by George RR Martin.

HBO’s new rivals in the fantasy department are also going down the adaptation route. In May of 2017, Netflix announced that it had secured the rights to adapt The Witcher, a fantasy series written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Later that year, Amazon one-upped them with the surprise announcement of a Prime series in development set in the world of Lord of the Rings. 

Although Sapkowski isn’t as well-known as Martin or, certainly, Tolkien, Netflix’s The Witcher is banking on the popularity of a previous adaptation, a video game trilogy of the same name published by CD Projekt Red. The third installment of the RPG series, The Witcher 3, was one of the biggest games of 2015, winning a plethora of awards.

Both Sapkowski’s books and the games revolved around Geralt of Rivia, a supernaturally-augmented hunter of monsters (called witchers) and his family, love interest Yennifer and long-missing daughter Ciri. All three characters have been cast by Netflix, with Geralt being portrayed by Man of Steel star Henry Cavill. Set photos of the lead actors in costume were released on Monday.

Amazon’s Rings series has been much more secretive. Working closely with Christopher Tolkien, whose estate carefully monitors all official additions to the works of his beloved father, the studio has released virtually no information regarding plot details, characters, or casting. On Wednesday, though, they finally announced a director and a writer hired for the show: Jurassic World director J.A. Bayona, and veteran Thrones writer Bryan Cogman.

As far as the world of the show, the Lord of the Rings on Amazon Prime Twitter handle has been dropping a series of increasingly-detailed maps of Middle-earth, the fictional setting of the franchise. Their most recent map back in March added region names, new landmasses, and a caption which read “Welcome to the Second Age,” confirming that the series is a prequel set in the distant past of Tolkien’s world.

Fans of both Sapkowski and Tolkien are equal parts thrilled to see big-budget adaptations of their favorite fantasy, and understandably nervous that things will get messed up in the translation from book-to-screen. Kotaku’s Gita Johnson wrote a… colorful series of roasts reflecting her disappointment with Cavill’s costume, specifically his hair.

He looks like they ran out of money for wigs. He looks like they asked the stylist for ‘above average cosplayer.’ He looks like Superman coming up with backup undercover ideas to use whenever people figure out the Clark Kent thing. He looks like Viserys Targaeryen from Game of Thrones started taking steroids. My man looks like he’s wearing leftover Pride Parade confetti on his head.”

Elsewhere on the Internet, fans of the Witcher books and games have been clashing over the latter’s disappointment with certain elements of the promotional material, such as the fact that Cavill’s Geralt doesn’t carry two swords and lacks a beard, both elements which were invented for the games and are not present in the books. Book nerds fighting with “casual fans” over tiny details is probably a sign of a healthy franchise, right?

Tolkien fans are much more cautiously optimistic, with many afraid of their preferred fantasy series being turned into a direct clone of Game of Thrones, a show which partially sold itself on being unlike Lord of the Rings. As commenter BoardroomBimmy put it, “I just fear that the studio execs are going to be like ‘This is what the kids are into these days!’ If half of the dialogue can be boiled down to ‘We’re going to war!’ then I’m out. If the trailers contain the phrase ”The world is changing’ I am going to throw up.”

These two aren’t the only epic fantasy shows announced in the wake of Thrones’ finale. Amazon has also acquired the rights to adapt The Dark Tower and The Wheel of Time, while Netflix is also considering a remake of The Golden Compass while HBO is trying another go at The Chronicles of Narnia. 

Season 1 of The Witcher is currently set for a “late 2019” release on Netflix. Amazon’s Rings show has tentatively set its own premiere for 2021.

 

What do you think of Amazon and Netflix’s forrays into epic fantasy? Are you excited for their upcoming shows, or do you think it’s all a cash grab? Let us know in the comments!

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