The biggest franchises in entertainment are going head-to-head, with Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and Marvel series already battling for your attention.
New shows from Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Marvel and Star Wars are either incoming or already here! Which will you watch?
Marvel's She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is streaming now on Disney Plus. Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon just started on HBO. Lord of the Rings reimagining The Rings of Power kicked off Friday on Amazon Prime Video. And as these huge shows race to their epic finales, Stars Wars spy series Andor will debut Sept. 21 on Disney Plus.
Obviously, if you're a fantasy fan, you're pretty spoiled, and you'll probably check out some, if not all. But which one sets your pulse racing, if you had to choose? CNET staff reveal which they're looking forward to...
Obviously I'm going to watch all of them, even if it wasn't my job. But if you had to put a lightsaber to my head, I'd say… Andor. I mean, I liked the Lord of the Rings movies and I'm certainly curious what the most expensive TV show ever made will look like, but I already feel like I've spent enough of my life watching dudes with silly beards hike across Middle-earth.
Similarly, I feel like I'm done with Game of Thrones. That's not because I hated the final season, like many former fans -- I wasn't even watching it by that point. No, I just got sick of the headlines everywhere.
As for She-Hulk, the first half of the season left me distinctly underwhelmed, especially after the joy of Ms. Marvel. But a Star Wars spy series bringing back the gritty tone of Rogue One, a movie that's grown on me as one of the best expansions of the Star Wars galaxy? Yeah, you got me.
I've been a lifelong fan of Lord of the Rings in a way that I haven't been with Game of Thrones. I read the trilogy twice, The Hobbit a few more times, and even attempted the lore-rich but pretty boring Silmarillion. I even played the Middle-earth role-playing game, and I naturally loved the (first three) movies. But I am not at all excited about The Rings of Power. The biggest disappointment to me was finding that it's based on the flimsiest of source materials, and yet Amazon has spent squillions of dollars on it anyway. I'm keeping expectations low. Low, like my enthusiasm.
The others are a mixed bag, Andor had better be good after the drudgery of Boba Fett. Game of Thrones…whatever at least has the involvement of the creator, and there's a whole book to source from! But it's She-Hulk which I will be watching as soon as I finish writing this -- early reviews have been pretty good, and the involvement of Mark Ruffalo is a double treat.
Unlike others, my excitement is mainly for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Basing it on scant source material means room for experimentation, imagination and growth rather than having fans pick apart exactly who should have been rescuing Frodo and bringing him to Rivendell, and what book Shelob attacks Frodo in, and so on. There's still plenty of material in the appendices of LOTR to use for the series -- I'm sure fans will still manage to find something to argue about the authenticity of -- and knowing the first season was filmed in New Zealand is reassuring.
I'm super excited for the diverse cast, something that the (still amazing) LOTR trilogy and the (less amazing) Hobbit trilogy were sorely lacking. It will also be fun to delve deeper into the worlds of dwarves and elves this time, as well as hobbits and men.
I believe the hype. I'm ready for a new HBO show to be as good as pre-tainted Game of Thrones. I'm ready for back-stabbing, scheming and general smirking across throne rooms. Shock deaths, doomed figures and color-coded dragons are also welcome. Prestige TV for me, please!
I love my TV babies, and will not be choosing between the four at this time, thanks.
Rings of Power is easily the one I am the most excited for. The series has already proven itself to be insanely pretty and thoroughly detailed, with a pair of showrunners who seem to fully grasp the stakes associated with making something for fans with such high expectations.
Andor looks gritty and compelling from the trailers, and I love a small-stakes Star Wars story without lightsabers coming in to save the day. This show will have me on the edge of my seat, I can feel it.
She-Hulk would be higher up on my list if the uncanny valley wasn't so vast in the trailers. Tatiana Maslany is an incredible actor and perfect for the role, and it's a shame Marvel appears to have farmed her visuals out to freshman-year graphics students.
I am of the many who did not love the ending of Game of Thrones, and who thinks Matt Smith looks absurd in his peroxide blonde Targaryen wig, but I'm still excited for House of the Dragon. At a minimum, it'll have great fight scenes and cool dragons. How could I stay away?
As a lifelong lover of all things Tolkien and a full-time hater of Star Wars and the MCU, I am… completely unenthused by all three. Maybe it's just me, but the prospect of delving into a glossy fantasy world just feels like hard work. I was thinking of catching up with that show about the women's baseball team on Amazon Prime instead. I've heard good things about it.
Shortly after I registered my refusal to tune in to Rings of Power, She-Hulk or Andor, my colleague Sean Keane messaged me to remind me that House of the Dragon is also an option. But I think that tells you everything you need to know about whether or not I'll be watching House of the Dragon. Apparently it's Succession with dragons, which sounds excellent – even I can admit that. But what if I just rewatched Succession and imagined them all riding dragons instead? Please somebody get Gerri a dragon next season. She'd be unstoppable.
I will gobble up all four of these shows with relentless enthusiasm, but Andor is the one I'm most excited for. I've been fascinated by the morally questionable Cassian ever since he murdered his ally in Rogue One, so the prospect of diving into his past and seeing how he joined the Rebel Alliance is super exciting.
It looks like the show will feature a delicious helping of the Galactic Empire too; I can't get enough of horrible people in crisp white Imperial uniforms trying to one-up each other while maintaining excellent postures and sneering at everyone around them.
I'm pretty ambivalent about this upcoming slate of shows, which are interesting in their own ways but focused on side characters or, sin of sins, prequel events that are far less exciting than the shows and films they lead up to. And yet, I'm most hyped for Rings of Power, because it's a feat that the show even exists.
I've read the Sillymarilly half a dozen times, and I would love to see its stories in a TV show -- but Amazon can't directly adapt any of Tolkien's lore bible, because the company only licensed the appendices in the back of The Lord of the Rings. You know, those extra chapters you probably never read because the books were exhausting enough? They're filled with character backmatter and select chapters of Middle-earth history, but are by no means comprehensive. Using them as a basis for a show seems like re-creating the plot of Star Wars using half a dozen Wikipedia entries.
The Rings of Power is the most expensive show ever made, and Amazon has placed an enormous bet with source material that's basically a ton of footnotes. I can't wait to watch a sweeping epic that pointedly ignores some of the biggest moments or characters in Middle-earth history because of a licensing agreement. Genuinely hyped to see Amazon make storylines out of hobbit genealogies (Appendix C) and dwarf runes (Appendix E).
Rings and Thrones just seem like expensive DLC for warmed-over original material that we've already wrung too much from. I'm sure they'll be perfectly watchable, but can't imagine them being genre-defining. I like Matt Smith, and I'm literally a lifetime Doctor Who fan, but that white wig looks ridiculous on him.
Marvel/Disney, on the other hand, is batting way above average on both movies and TV series. Why? Because they're not afraid to do small-scale projects, to play around the edges of the familiar and to not treat everything uniformly. For every Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, which was just too grim and relentless, there's a Guardians of the Galaxy or Hawkeye that translates the original fun pulpy vibe of the comics.
There's also so much more to draw from -- 50-plus years of continuous comic history, versus Rings, which was basically based on four books, and Star Wars, built around three movies, then another three movies, then another three movies. As a comic-collecting kid, the Hulk was my favorite character, and seeing this Hulk/She-Hulk/Abomination combo is just catnip to me.
It illustrates the larger reason the Marvel movies and TV shows have hit the mark so often. They take a broad half-century-long mythology, far grander in scope than Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings or really anything else, and take it seriously, despite the inherent ridiculousness. For a Gen-Xer who grew up on '80s Marvel, it's like a big part of my childhood (and we Gen-Xers are all about nostalgia) is getting the kind of serious treatment we never in a million years, or a million multiverses, could have imagined when we were collecting the original Secret Wars comic series.
The amazing thing about Tolkien's Middle-earth is that while we have over a million pages of notes, footnotes, treatises and scribbles on the back of napkins, all of it reads like the collections of a historian, and not a complete universe. Because Tolkien wanted us to believe this could be an ancient history of our world, a lot of the stories are told as whispers of truth, or fragments of ancient tales. That's what makes the Rings of Power so exciting.
Is it based on a couple of appendices in the Lord of the Rings? Yes it is, but it doesn't matter. There is scope, in the thousands of years that those appendices span, to include entire civilizations rising and falling that are never spoken of in the five main books without breaking continuity. It gives a production company and the writers of the show a huge amount of space to build without treading on the toes of those who hate change.
The Rings of Power is ridiculously expensive, it's true, and I would have loved them to have even more source material than they do, but I can't wait to see all of the things we don't know about Middle-earth come to life on screen in such a bright and vivid way. Every photo I've seen and every trailer I've watched has only cemented my desire to binge this show through breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses and beyond.
As several of my colleagues have said, I'm going to watch all of these. I'm most curious, though, about Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. On a personal level, I was one of those kids who had all the extended editions of the movies and read all the books. I think I'm contractually obligated to consume whatever Lord of the Rings content is put in front of me. Admittedly, it will be fun to return to Middle-earth.
I'm also fascinated by the spectacle this show has the potential to become. The Hollywood Reporter has estimated it's going to be one of the most expensive shows to produce – maybe the most expensive – coming in at more than $1 billion. And as a stipulation of getting the rights to the source material, Prime Video had to commit to five seasons. No matter what happened, this is going to be a journey.