Tolkien‘s magical world returns in Amazon Studio’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
While Peter Jackson may have a monopoly right now on the Tolkien experience, this new shows purposefully is aiming to be different from the original franchise. Whether the reason is legal issues or simply a different creative vision, this show expands our experience of middle earth during a time thousands of years before what we see in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
My takeaway from the show
There are many concerns about this show, and rightfully so. Its not easy taking a beloved franchise (that to one that has been rewarded in so many ways) and then expect to innovate the experience and tell a new tale for a new audience.
While familiar names such as Galadriel and Elrond bring a distinct connection to the Lord of the Rings franchise as we know, this show does something even more powerful that Tolkien enthusiasts have long yearned for: an expansion of our experience with middle earth.
With the introduction of so many lands and people, the show so far for me has been a return for me to middle earth, and its diversity and glory. With the introduction of so many lands and people, I feel what the show has done so far is help us get grounded in what is the second age of middle earth and introduce us to its many kingdoms and their people, that too with so much detail and awe.
My favourite of these details is the introduction of the various kingdoms of elves and dwarfs. While we got a taste of it in The Hobbit, it was amazing to see the magical sight of these kingdoms in full form.
Amazon has done right by spending upfront on the set designs and environments. You can clearly see the impact of that upfront investment when you are viewing each scene. Sometimes I forget I am watching a television show, which traditionally has smaller budgets per episode and thus less ability to deliver detail that each scene commands. Exceptions exist of course with productions like Game of Thrones. However, I think Amazon has gone above and beyond with Rings of Power and its set design, and its impact on the viewer experience is profound.
The cast of Rings of Power give enchanting performances in this production. For starters, Morfydd Clark is memorizing as Galadriel. She has one tough job ahead of her, given that we have a benchmark for what we perceive Galadriel to be. Cate Blanchett and her performance need no explaining, but Clark has delivered something much more powerful. She has kept the poise and elegance of Galadriel as we know of, but also captures a strong warrior-side that we have not seen before. You are immediately captivated by her character, and that helps engage with the story as a whole.
Robert Aramayo is wonderfully poised as Elrond, a character I was really looking forward to understanding and seeing engage with various other characters. Markella Kavenagh’s Nori is a character that reminds me of Pippin; just naughty curiosity, but a heart of gold. Owain Arthur brings forward a dwarf in Prince Durin IV that is funny, energetic and wonderful as one would expect from a dwarf character of middle earth. Ismael Cruz Cordova actually presents a character I am truly curious about: Arondir, a Silvan elf warrior with an emotional depth that he hides from the world.
I could go on and on about each character, and how their stars just make them shine. Each performance is brilliant so far, so kudos to the casting team for finding such engaging actors and actresses to play quite complex and beautiful roles. Can’t wait to see how all these characters evolve.
Give this show a chance
I know people are going to read this review and be like “BIASED!!”. Yeah, well, I love the world that Tolkien made and I am appreciative of what Peter Jackson did with his productions.
But let’s address the elephant in the room: There is a lot about this that is not Tolkien. If you’ve been keeping up with the news about this production from the very beginning, it uses the source material as inspiration and not a guide. There are so many elements that people have already pointed out as not Tolkien-like. Even this article in Inverse points out that the timeline of the second-age of middle earth is going to be dramatically accelerated to get key happenings done quickly, so you aren’t waiting seasons for stuff to happen.
Honestly, I care as much as the next person that Tolkien’s world be honoured and respected.
At the same time, art is about interpretation and innovation. While the creators are taking liberties with the source material, I want to give this production a chance and see how it evolves. Only then can we truly judge if the decisions the creatives have made have paid off or not.
For now, I am going to enjoy returning to the magic and awe of middle earth.
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is now playing on Amazon Prime.
Cover Credit: Morfydd Clark as Galadriel in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ | Credit: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video. Copyright: Amazon Studios.