Rings of Power Review: All the Stunning Pictures and Tired Tales


IIn the beginning, there is Galadriel. How could it be otherwise? Like the black screen that accompanies power ringsThe opening seconds of give way to a beatific scene of elf children in white tunics frolicking in golden fields, it tells the cosmic origin story of a time before evil. At the edge of a stream, a tiny blond-haired Galadriel launches a sort of origami swan boat whose wings unfold into sails when the wind hits them. It’s wonderful, until the other children sink it with stones. Later, Galadriel’s beloved older brother Finrod consoles her, creating an allegory around the crumbling stones and miniature ship, “whose gaze is not downward but upward, fixed on the light that guides it, whispering greater things than darkness has ever known”.

Thus, from the first minutes of episode 1, the central metaphor of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is defined. It’s not particularly imaginative; beyond its central role in JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth lore, the binary of righteous light battling evil darkness permeates Western storytelling from the Judeo-Christian Bible to star wars. In that sense, the choice of metaphor reflects the approach that Amazon and new creators JD Payne and Patrick McKay have taken to the most expensive TV show of all time, which premiered on September 1 at the United States and September 2 in Europe and Asia. , and the Antipodes. Instead of reinventing Tolkien’s lore, they reframe it into a story that reverently and at great expense draws on those viewers will have heard many times before. The end result could be timeless or tired. But in its first episodes, rings of power seduces without challenging.

Nazanin Boniadi and Ismael Cruz Córdova in “The Rings of Power”

First video

As far as I can tell (because Amazon’s extensive security measures included placing huge, opaque watermarks on screener videos), the sight is magnificent. A record budget of a billion dollars allowed him to literally light up the screen. So much adult fantasy TV, not just Game of Thrones franchisebut also the witcher, The Walking Deadand that of Amazon Carnival Rowamong other things, is played out against dark backdrops that create an eerie mood and hide low quality CGI. rings of power could rush to a coming where humans, having the ability to destroy a ring whose very existence keeps evil alive in Middle-earth, instead fall prey to its lure. But like the rest of Tolkien’s canon, it has a more upbeat, all-ages vibe, and so the production design sets a tone that’s more of a wonder than a bleak one. The elven realms seem to exist in an eternal golden hour, while mortals dwell amidst green hills, snow-capped mountain ranges, and frothy white waterfalls. Even the vast underground dwarven realm of Khazad-dûm is lit up with flaming lanterns and emerald foliage.

These perfectly realized environments will host the culminating events of the Second Age of Middle-earth, an era sketched in Tolkien’s story. Return of the King annexes and which led to the forging of the rings which will play such a crucial role in a Third Age chronicled in The Hobbit and LOTR. The immortality of the elves allows Payne and McKay to bring back some familiar faces. There’s Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), of course. A serene and ethereal presence embodied by Cate Blanchett in Peter Jackson LOTR movies, the character is, here, a sword-wielding commander who embarked on his brother’s crusade against evil after perishing at the hands of the supremely evil Sauron (a physical precursor to the movies’ fiery eye in the sky) . After a long period of peace, the elves – led by High King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) and his deputy, a young statesman named Elrond (Robert Aramayo) – behave as if all the evil in the Land of Middle had been defeated. Galadriel can sense not.


Robert Aramayo as Elrond in rings of power

First video

In less rarefied areas, we encounter a handful of new characters invented by Payne and McKay. Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) is an Elf soldier nearing the end of an uneventful 75-year mission patrolling a stretch of farmland for signs of evil forces. Recently, he has developed a forbidden relationship with a human healer, Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi), who is also the single mother of a baby boy (Tyroe Muhafidin). Roaming in other provinces is a bustling community of harfoots – precursors to nomadic, pint-sized, pixie-like hobbits with dirty faces and messy hair, who look like staying too long at the Renaissance Fair. Our window to their world is Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh), a restless teenager who always drags her best friend Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards) on the kind of perilous adventures harfoots rarely attempt.

Cursed romances between humans and elves. Small people with big hearts have a rare chance to prove their mettle. And, in a story that brings Elrond to Khazad-dûm in an attempt at diplomacy with Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur) and his wife, Princess Disa (notably the Middle-earth’s first dwarf woman to embody on screen, played by Sophia Nomvete), mutual distrust as an obstacle to cooperation between elves, who lead the life of the spirit, and earth dwarves. Some of these components are more promising, in the first episodes, than others. But, as the overarching narrative of an impending war in Middle-earth, between good and evil, light and darkness – and regardless of whether said war canonically has a more depressing outcome than LOTR fact – these are all well-worn Tolkien conspiracies with a limited range of results.


Megan Richards, left, and Markella Kavenagh in “The Rings of Power”

Ben Rothstein—First Video

Given the longevity of the franchises of star wars to DC to the MCU, who regularly break box office records by recycling old archetypes and story structures, I have no doubt rings of power will find plenty of viewers, especially among Tolkien superfans, who are legion, and younger audiences. Its scintillating wholesomeness is sure to offer a welcome alternative to blood, rape and body horror births of so many post-thrones fantastic television – just as its clear, deliberately paced storytelling avoids the perpetual confusion of so many prestige dramas. For another subset of viewers, the awe-inspiring visuals, combined with acting and dialogue that neither dazzles nor disappoints, will be enough to propel them through the eight-episode season. And it’s, frankly, always a relief to see a fantastic show bring together a diverse cast and create a number of powerful female leads; in a world of orcs and anthropomorphic trees, a non-white elf shouldn’t raise an eyebrow.

But the series’ simultaneous grounding in established lore and repetition of some of Tolkien’s most common tropes results in a series that doesn’t feel quite right for newcomers. Where existing fans. Maybe rings of power will mature over time (Payne and McKay planned a five-season arc); a handful of early developments suggest there might be more to some of these characters and situations than meets the eye. Even if the show doesn’t stray much further from the initial setup, it’ll be hard to blame too much on the creators whose affection for the source material rings true. While so many IP-based tales reek of cynicism, their scripts read like a heartfelt, if a little too deferential, tribute to Tolkien’s work.

I’m not sure the work was ever adapted to the small screen, though. Television thrives on complicated characters, slow-moving conflicts, and shifting allegiances; it must surprise us, on a weekly basis. That is why thrones worked so well (until it didn’t). Tolkien’s unprecedented world-building is what made the the Lord of the Rings adaptations so immersive and gave the Amazon series so much to live up to. But his moral universe is relatively simple; there is light and dark without much gray area. Can Payne and McKay create space for complexity and ambiguity in another Middle-earth story where good people of various humanoid species team up to battle shadowy, monstrous avatars of evil? It’s probably not impossible, but they haven’t done it yet.

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