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The non-war between HBO’s House of the Dragon and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power seemingly just went to a whole new level of passive aggression.
Online ads posted today for Warner Bros. Discovery’s rebranded Max streaming service (formerly HBO Max), show a regal Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones on the Iron Throne and the motto: “The One to Watch When You Want to Rule Them All.”
Anybody remotely familiar with Lord of the Rings knows the phrase “One Ring to Rule Them All.” An unscientific poll of genre fans found the ad immediately evokes an assumption of “ohhh, shots fired.” Yet what’s sly about the ad is that Daenerys, of course, really did want to rule them all, so it also makes contextual sense and gives the company some plausible deniably even if fantasy fans think Max is totally cave trolling their Thrones prequel House of the Dragon‘s head-to-head rival from last fall.
Amazon and Max both had no comment.
It’s also a way, frankly, that gets entertainment sites like The Hollywood Reporter to embed their online advertisement in a story about their ad even if they didn’t buy an ad, so they’re really playing some 3-D chess … or unintentionally blundered into a viral ad, one of those.
Recently, Warner Bros. announced they were also developing their own The Lord of the Rings movies. The films will likely focus on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Third Age (the period of Peter Jackson’s films) instead of The Rings of Power’s Second Age, but still represent the company getting into a creative space currently occupied by Amazon (they’re also minority stakeholders in Rings of Power due to the complicated rights associated with all things Tolkien).
HBO’s Dragon and Amazon’s Rings of Power premiered within a couple weeks of each last fall and were the subject of considerable media debate about which ambitious fantasy prequel series was better and more popular. Both shows are filming season 2 in the UK and are expected to return in 2024 though, one suspects, will avoid once again airing at the same time.
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