The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is Kind of a Disaster, Says a Review of Amazon’s Prequel!
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power executes a prequel incorrectly on every level. It takes six or seven elements from the classic film trilogy, adds a water tank, makes nobody entertaining, teases secrets that aren’t mysteries, and sends the best character on an unnecessary detour.
The latter is the super-elf Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), who spends the entirety of the pilot advising people to fear Sauron. People respond by telling her not to worry about Sauron. One hour down, seven to go in the season. Already sounding like a million dollars?
Galadriel was envisioned by J.R.R. Tolkien as an immortal who longs “to explore the broad unguarded plains” of Middle-Earth and “to reign there a realm of her own will.” Cate Blanchett portrayed Galadriel in Peter Jackson’s films as a Vulcan Witch for Justice.
The new Prime Video series (two episodes of which premiered on Friday) depicts her on a mission of vengeance. Galadriel is “Commander of the Northern Armies” and “the Warrior of the Wastelands” millennia before Gollum. She solos up a frozen mountain alongside a gigantic waterfall.
The war took her brother’s life and bathed the planet in blood. She suspects that defeated Sauron still lurks and has pursued him for eons. The majority of other elves believe that Sauron has vanished forever. The lieutenant urges her to halt the quest and return home because their search group is approaching a country “where even sunshine dares to walk.”
This is not the only unintentionally humorous phrase, but it is the dumbest. Um, Mr. Elf Lieutenant, shouldn’t you seek the evil god monster in the sun-blocking shadow country?
Galadriel narrates a history-lesson prologue. There is a war montage, strangeness in Mordor, and then an abrupt transition to halfling shenanigans.
This is the exact structure that opened the 2001 film The Fellowship of the Ring. Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) even resembles Elijah Wood’s Frodo, with big eyes and shaggy hair; the young Harfoot’s odyssey begins with the arrival of a bearded stranger (Daniel Weyman).
Obvious references do not do credit to this exhibition. Jackson transformed the journey to underground Moria in Fellowship into a cinematic horror-action-comedy rock opera. When a comparable environment comes here, it is large, bright, and unremarkable. It is the scene in which a dwarf laments to an elf, “You missed my wedding!” The tone is awkward and monotonous. They ride in a lift.
Despite all the headlines about the streaming war, this sitcom is nothing like HBO’s Game of Thrones spinoff. The family drama House of the Dragon features dragons.
The two episodes of Rings of Power that I’ve watched feel more like an eight-hour Infinity War, with different elements converging on a single antagonist. Star-crossed in a contested land, Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) and Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) are the only characters who feel novel.
He is an elf who patrols disorderly people who call him names like “Knife Ears.” She is a single mother whose pleasant conversations with Arondir generate social unrest. Tensions span multiple generations. Arondir recalls a time when the populace struggled for evil. Bronwyn’s other villagers resent the invading military left behind from a conflict that no human alive today can recall.
I do not believe Tolkien intended for his elves to appear a little fascist. And Jackson was unconcerned with assembling an ensemble of white British men and white Americans who spoke British. Rings of Power casually diversifies its fictitious races, a casting choice that is, happily, standard in modern fantasy.
Unlike, for instance, House of the Dragon, this series momentarily tackles racism in the fantasy world seriously. The human race dislikes Arondir. The Harfoots are afraid of everyone. Galadriel asks Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), a human with a violent background who is fleeing, “What have elves ever done to you?”
Emphasizing inter-species worry is a novel Middle-earth perspective. I fear it will not endure. As violent forces quickly converge on Arondir and Bronwyn, these actors have one amorous interlude before the action escalates. A dwarf-elf alliance is imminent.
There may be more pressing concerns than interpersonal relationships. Congratulations, Rings of Power authors, for bringing Sauron to television and turning him into a serial killer on the small screen.
What do we desire from The Lord of the Rings at this time? Tolkien drew from a mythic pool that was both elemental and postmodern, dragging ancient moods of dark wizard fairy tales into brave new worlds of super-powered planetary terror. The Silmarillion (posthumously compiled, utterly great) was followed by fifty years of the dead-writer equivalent of missing Tupac records.
(Rings of Power is supposedly “based on The Lord of the Rings and Appendices.”) Age only enhances his expansive imagination; Sauron’s All-Seeing Eye now perfectly encapsulates the digital surveillance state. And Middle-earth is still riddled with enticing secrets along its boundaries, with centuries of eldritch history buried under terms such as “the South” and “the East.”
You would expect that a new story would desire to explore less-visited regions of Tolkien’s vast, undefended territories. Valinor, the previously unseen homeland of the elves, is evoked in Rings of Power in two uncomfortable ways. First, there is a gurgling brook where adorable children play.
Then, there is a celestial ray of light emanating from parted clouds. The latter is virtually a Monty Python special effect, and that’s before one individual decides to swim across an ocean against all fantastical logic. Otherwise, the first two hours consist of familiar locations and mundane circumstances.
The same wind that seeks to extinguish a fire may also cause its spread. Nori says, “It’s like there’s a reason this occurred! Like I was meant to discover him.” Elrond (Robert Aramayo) begins planning a massive industrial project that will require “the largest workforce ever gathered.”
Tolkien’s story was anti-industrialization, hence the fact that Rings of Power is an Amazon offering is amusing. (Imagine Saruman hosting an Arbor Day party.) Much buzz has circulated about the production budget, but if a large budget made great television, we’d be on season 12 of Terra Nova. J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay lack a natural sense of pacing as showrunners.
Some characters appear to teleport great distances, while others stroll between settlements slowly (despite horses, like, existing). A large maritime assault appears incomplete, posing a massive threat that is swiftly ignored.
The director, J. A. Bayona, captures individual instances of grandeur, but the helicopter shots quickly become repetitious. The fights are not as intense as those in The Walking Dead, so Crab Feeders need not worry. Frequent cuts to an explanatory map are more entertaining than educational.
Amazon only provided the two episodes to reviewers. Maybe things will improve. New locales could be less Middle-earth-like. karaoke. As Moria’s spouses, Owain Arthur and Sophia Nomvete have the chemistry of a sitcom marriage, while Peter Mullan is unmistakably sinister beneath layers of dwarf makeup.
Clark is a rising talent whose performance in Saint Maud was unfathomably bizarre. She brings that film’s obsessive passion to a part that (so far) consists primarily of the random-encounter battles that torture Final Fantasy gamers. I was pulling for the orcs because the other characters are so lame.
Rings of Power is no worse than all the other expensively vacuous genre adventures (Altered Carbon, anyone?) that have multiplied in the streaming era, so Middle-Earth fans could be satisfied. But this series is a unique disaster of squandered potential, sacrificing the unlimited possibilities of a gorgeous cosmos on the altar of tired blockbuster desperation.