One of Ready Player Two’s litany of pop culture references looks into the future of the Amazon Lord of The Rings show, and the trouble it may face.
Though not the place you’d perhaps expect it, Ready Player Two references Middle-Earth in a way that addresses a major key issue for the upcoming Amazon Lord of The Rings series. Though Ready Player One and its sequel are renowned for an almost obscene number of references appearing throughout their respective plots, these references are usually just nods to various media, abstaining from critiquing them unless they were notably enjoyable or painful experiences.
Ready Player Two is largely comprised of these kinds of references, especially during the quests through the various worlds to find the hidden seven gems that replace the “gunts” of the first movie and book. These worlds exist for the purpose of referencing things – like the area solely dedicated to Prince and various allusions to his work and life – but they don’t exist so that these figures, shows, and games can be critiqued. That is, of course, until the sixth gem, which involves a world based around the Lord of the Rings universe.
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Middle-Earth comprises one of the most enormous universes in history, with every aspect of it unnervingly detailed to such an uncanny degree that it’s easy to see how people engross themselves in its stories. This is one of its biggest blessings, but also ultimately one of its biggest curses, as the world is so sprawling that most people content themselves with only knowing the films, as after that it can be hard to know where to start. Ready Player Two affectionately references this common problem towards the end of its plot, as the heroes have to try and deal with an encounter based around The Silmarillion, only for Wade to sheepishly admit he has no real idea about the First Age of Lord of The Rings history, as it is far before his knowledge base kicks in. It might seem throw away, but it’s a reference to the problem that Amazon’s Lord of the Rings adaptation will face, and indeed the same one that partly ruined The Hobbit trilogy. Without the direct link to Peter Jackson’s movies, there’s an issue.
The problem of lore is ostensibly one of the biggest challenges the Amazon Lord of the Rings show will have to face, as it reportedly covers the Second Age, which still predates the events of the films in the Third Age. Covering events that are relatively obscure even to those that know about the universe due to the time period does present the risk of these potentially committed viewers switching off, as it’s practically introducing a new world to the uninitiated. Similarly, it’s no simple task to balance this series’ tone to suit both fans of the film series and fans of the far more serious works like The Silmarillion, without appearing to pander overly to either. This was the exact issue that arose with Peter Jackson’s big-screen adaptation of The Hobbit, as the added references to the original films appeared to many as a clumsy attempt to court that audience, even though in reality it seemingly served only to alienate many of them by being a somewhat jarring addition.
That said, with such a rich tapestry of lore to pull from, there’s admittedly no shortage of source material to adapt in this manner, meaning that at the least there will be events to suit whatever overall experience the producers want the show to be. However, this may prove difficult, because balancing the need to appeal to different fans, having a genuinely interesting plot, and using the existing lore in a way that both honors the greater Lord of the Rings series without copying it may prove to be a spinning plate act that is near impossible. Seen through the filter of Ready Player Two – a cultural magpie of sorts starring a hero who is suppose to be the walking personification of references and Easter eggs – that lore is reduced down to the problem that faces Amazon. It’s not Aragorn, it’s not the Hobbits and it’s not about the Shire, but there are reference points that the show could be tempted to hang too much on, as in The Hobbit trilogy.
Having established high stakes for a series isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. After playfully mocking the swathe of lore Lord of The Rings leaves out, Ready Player Two establishes that this section of fantasy history is just as engaging as the more popularised events of the Third Age, presenting Carcharoth and Morgoth in such an interesting way that some readers will no doubt be convinced to research further into the comparatively obscure age. Similarly, should the show succeed in its challenging task, it could potentially follow in the same steps as Game of Thrones in both popularity and quality, with the extra benefit of making it far easier for people to know about the different ages of Middle-Earth.
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