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Rings Of Power's JD Payne Has An Eyebrow-Raising Take On His Massive Budget

After half a decade of talk and speculation, Amazon Studios' "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" series will finally hit the little screen this September. In the interim, everyone and their mother has broken down the little details that the studio has released over the years. While there's been plenty of talk of Dark Lords, Dwarven halls, Hobbit ancestors, and overpowered jewelry, one off-camera detail has come up more than everything else: the show's incredible cost.

When the news of the impending series first broke in late 2017, it kicked off the profligate spending spree with the announcement that the rights alone cost a cool $250 million. Later leaks slapped nearly half a billion more onto the total ... for the first season alone. Now, to be fair, this came with a very large tax rebate, courtesy of the government of New Zealand. In addition, the initial reasoning for the astronomical cost makes sense — so far, it's primarily been attributed to world-building expenses, which is understandable given the epic landscapes that viewers have come to expect from Middle-earth.

Nevertheless, all of the rock-solid reasoning in the world doesn't do much to address the uncomfortable feeling that comes with knowing that nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars have been poured into what will amount to eight to 10 hours of streaming television. In a recent interview with Empire Magazine, co-showrunner J.D. Payne clarified why the costs are so high. He even added that, in his own words, "you could say that it's a bargain."

Massive sets and practical effects are expensive

There are many different factors that are soaking up Amazon's blow-out budget for "Rings of Power," some of which were finally addressed during the Empire interview. The write-up describes enormous sets — sets so comprehensive, Payne describes the experience of filming on them thusly, "Again and again, you had this feeling of being transported."

The report also emphasizes an intense commitment to practical effects rather than CGI. This confirms the desire for the production crew to eschew computer-generated effects, something that was subtly hinted at through the show's initial title reveal. After that short clip was released, IGN published a story confirming that the entire thing was created using practical effects — as in, actually pouring molten hot metal onto a mold.

Apparently, this wasn't just a one-off event to lure in CGI-wary viewers. The actual story of "Rings of Power" is filled with very real effects. According to Empire, the scale of the project even led Galadriel actress Morfydd Clark to muse, "I was not aware of how limited my imagination is until I stepped onto the set. It was like, 'Oh my God, I have the imagination of a paper bag compared to this!'"

The more we hear, the more it would appear that "Rings of Power" isn't taking any shortcuts when it comes to creating a Peter-Jackson-level production. They may have the budget to do whatever they want, but they're putting it to good use.

Season 1 is a bargain -- if you think about it like an eight-hour Marvel movie

One of the more fascinating tidbits revealed in Empire's exclusive is the fact that "Rings of Power" has mapped out way more story than was previously assumed. Rather than the season-to-season renewal treatment, Amazon Studios has drawn on its massive resources to go all-in on the entire five seasons of "Rings of Power."

In essence, the studio is creating a 50-hour movie, and Payne stressed the need to view it in that context. "We even know what our final shot of the last episode is going to be ... The rights that Amazon bought were for a 50-hour show. They knew from the beginning that was the size of the canvas — this was a big story with a clear beginning, middle and end. There are things in the first season that don't pay off until Season 5."

This movie-mindset is the relevant context for Payne as he defends his budget as modest, actually. Later in the interview, he (indirectly) broke down the numbers: "We think it's important to keep the budget in context. Really, this [season] is an eight-hour movie. This is the length of three Marvel films, done on the schedule of two, for the budget of one. Look at it in the context of what's actually being produced and you could say that it's a bargain."

That's certainly one way to look at it. We'll see if Amazon's big bet pays off when "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" premieres this fall.