SERIES REVIEW – After Peter Jackson’s film adaptations, Tolkien finally returns to screens – this time in smaller format, in the form of a series. The series The Rings of Power is set in the “second age” of J.R.R. Tolkien’s (1892-1973) saga of Middle-earth, thousands of years before the events of his novel The Lord of the Rings. Although there are many familiar heroes, the most crucial protagonist this time is the young Galadriel, played by Morfydd Clarck instead of Cate Blanchett. Is this series worthy of the Lord of the Rings franchise, or is Tolkien spinning in his grave? Find out in our review…
The Second Age in the series was a long period of relative peace after the Elves had defeated Morgoth. But his successor, Sauron, has reorganised, and this peace is deceptive. One of the elves, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), knows this all too well, but when High King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) orders her to stop hunting Sauron, she refuses. Meanwhile, another elf, Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards), a master smith, must travel to the dwarves’ remarkable underground kingdom of Khazad-dune, where he meets his old friend Prince IV Durin (Owain Arthur). The Hobbits will also appear in the ‘Rings of Power’ series, and viewers will finally get a glimpse of the island kingdom of Númenor, far to the west of Middle-earth.
The Rings of Power is set in this fragile peace as the world struggles to pull itself back together after a devastating conflict. And meanwhile, series developers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay are working to fill the world-building gap between the beginning of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world and the legends that follow, drawing inspiration from the appendices of the original books, the Silmarillion and the various sagas jammed into the margins of Tolkien’s classic texts.
So, because The Rings of Power is based on the novel’s appendices, which are themselves a dense collection of facts, the producers were forced to create many of their own stories. These now form the backbone of a series which, while not based on the original novels, has a real Tolkien feel. To put it crudely, The Rings of Power is a relatively well done fanfiction.
The visuals are really something to behold!
It’s certainly a great looking fan fiction. Amazon hasn’t been stingy with the budget for the series: they’ve spent a billion dollars on the five seasons, which start with two episodes this Friday, and it shows. The visuals, reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s films, look sumptuous in 4K UHD resolution, with HDR on a 4K TV, and are pretty much on a par with the six Jackson films I scrimped and scraped before the series, with the same parameters. A monster or two, or the elaboration of a scene, is just a tiny bit weaker, and of course the art of the visual world of the series is not up to Jackson’s, but overall the visuals are very decent.
… a bit boring at the start…
As for the story beyond the visuals, the first two episodes start a bit comatose and boring in places, with too much exposition. The latter is particularly the case in the first episode, which, to be honest, I found particularly boring. Fortunately, things pick up later, and the second episode is, compared to the first, very exciting and exciting.
It should be added, however, that the first two episodes (which we have seen) are not expected to be very fast-paced and epic: Legolas (who is not in it, at least not yet) is not going to be shooting orcs to pieces while jumping around in a parade, nor is there any spectacular Aratorn-like mowing down.
After all, it’s a slow-burn series with a lot of characters, so I wasn’t expecting this; I was more bothered by the fact that – apart from Galadriel – there are no overly charismatic characters, and Morfydd Clark is no Cate Blanchett. I don’t want to be too mean, but Robert Aramayo’s mouth goes cold every time he speaks and almost every moment, I thought back to Hugo Weaving, who was a light years more charismatic Elrond. I know I’m being a bit self-deprecating by constantly thinking back to the Peter Jackson films, maybe it was a mistake to have minced them all before the series once again, but I have to say that the actors in the series are no match for the routine stars of Lord of the Rings. Fortunately, there are plenty of new characters already in these two episodes, so the almost “forced” comparisons don’t always come up in the mind of the one-time Lord of the Rings fan.
It’s a six so far, precious…
I give the first two parts of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power a cautious six for now, but I think it will get better; just a bit dry, with a bumpy start, too much exposition and an acting and star charisma that is “more modest” than Peter Jackson’s films. I’m looking forward to the rest of the episodes!