‘The Rings of Power’ Delivers a Complex Story and Breathtaking Visuals
However, Prime Video’s ‘Lord of the Rings' series introduces so many new characters in its opening episodes, you'll need a PhD in Tolkien to really understand.
The new show is based on the work of author J. R. R. Tolkien, and is set thousands of years before the events of 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings.' Specifically based on Tolkien's history of Middle-earth, the series begins during a time of peace after the great war, and is set to cover all the major events of Middle-earth's Second Age, including the forging of the Rings of Power.
Created by J.D. Payne, Patrick McKay, and J.A. Bayona, the new series includes Elves Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and Elrond (Robert Aramayo), who were played by Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, respectively, in the Peter Jackson movies. The show also introduces never before seen Tolkien characters like High King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker), Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur), and Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards).
The result is a breathtakingly beautiful looking series with some wonderful characters and performances but no real sense of direction. In its first two episodes the series introduces so many characters and locations, it feels like you are reading a Tolkien encyclopedia or need a PhD in Tolkien to really understand what’s going on.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s work is dense, to say the least. There is a lot of information in those texts, and he certainly knew how to world-build. But as rich as his material is, that makes it really difficult to adapt to live-action, because there are so many characters and locations in his world to choose from. Which is why director Peter Jackson made ‘The Lord of the Rings’ into three separate two and a half hour movies! So, after obtaining the rights to Tolkien’s work, Prime Video wisely chose to adapt his work into a ‘Game of Thrones’ style TV show.
Having only seen the first two episodes, I can say that there was a lot of promise, even if the characters and plot have not been fully fleshed out yet. The series begins after the great war and the darkness has seemingly been put out. Galadriel still believes that the darkness is out there, and tries to convince Elrond and Gil-galad. The remainder of the first two episodes sets up all the other characters, and their particular journeys.
Moved by Galadriel, Elrond soon meets Celebrimbor, the man who will presumably make the rings, and they travel to seek the help of Durin IV, an old friend of Elrond. We also meet Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), a human healer and Silvan Elf that are forbidden to fall in love.
Finally, we meet the Harfoot clan, which are basically precursors to the Hobbits. Nori (Markella Kavenagh) and Poppy (Megan Richards) are kind of this story’s Frodo and Sam, and they soon meet the Stranger (Daniel Weyman), who apparently fell from the sky in a flaming meteor. Meanwhile, Galadriel decides not to take Gil-galad’s advise and return home, and instead finds herself lost at sea with Halbrand (Charlie Vickers).
As you can clearly see, there is a lot going on, and the first two episodes do a good job of setting up what is yet to come. But there is a lot to explain, and I’m hoping the series as a whole does a better job with juggling all of the characters and stories.
Galadriel is definitely the main character and Morfydd Clark is excellent at filling the shoes once worn by Cate Blanchett. The actress totally makes the character her own and shows us a rebellious side of Galadriel never seen before on screen.
Robert Aramayo is also strong as Elrond, and brings a youthfulness to the character. I also enjoyed his relationship to Durin IV, who is wonderfully played by Owain Arthur. Nazanin Boniadi is excellent as Bronwyn, and her storyline with Arondir is one of the most interesting of the inaugural episodes.
Charlie Vickers’ Halbrand seems like he will be an important character in the series moving forward, but what role he will play in the other storylines is still unclear as not enough time was given to his character just yet.
J.A. Bayona, who directed the first two episodes really delivered a beautiful looking product. From the luscious landscapes, to the gorgeous costumes, and the carefully applied use of practical and visual effects, Bayona has created an immersive world, large in scope that even Tolkien would be proud of.
My biggest problem with the first two episodes isn’t that I didn’t like them, actually, I thought they was pretty great. But it did leave me confused as to what was going on. My limited knowledge of Tolkien’s work (basically reading ‘The Hobbit’ when I was a kid and watching all the movies) is probably still greater than the average viewer’s Tolkien knowledge, and I was still lost at times, so I fear others may have a similar issue.
And at the end of the first two episodes I couldn’t tell you what the series was actually about, other than the assumption that the darkness will return, our heroes will try to fight it, and eventually the rings will be made. But will that all happen in this first season? Or will it take several seasons for the rings to be made? I sure hope not.
In the end, Prime Video and the showrunners have delivered a series worthy of the IP it was adapted from. Even with its packed character roster and complex storytelling, the first two episodes set-up countless possibilities for what this show could ultimately turn out to be, and I for one will keep watching.
‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ receives 4 out of 5 stars.
You can click on the video player below to watch our interviews with the entire cast of Prime Video’s 'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.’