The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power lays out its sprawling epic fantasy credentials from the start: even its title seems like it could be broken into multiple parts. Loaded with a name as unwieldy as an orc’s battle-axe, the Prime Video series also comes under a staggering weight of expectation. In 2017, when Amazon paid author JRR Tolkien’s estate $250 million (£211 million), not for the rights to the remake Lord of the rings or The Hobbit But just to set a story in the author’s fantastical world of Middle-earth, financial watchdogs called the deal “crazy”. Jeff Bezos’ almighty empire reportedly shelled out another $462 million for this first season, averaging almost $60 million per episode. Compared to HBO Game of Thrones, The blockbuster fantasy hit, whose smash hit Amazon is clearly keen to emulate, cost a relatively reasonable $15 million per episode. For what Amazon is paying, at least one hopes they were able to breed real dragons. Can a TV series ever hope to live up to this Caligulan price tag?
There are moments when The Rings of Power comes close. If you like breathtaking panoramas of fantasy cities floating across your screen then I have a show for you. The first two episodes were directed by JA Bayona, who made his film debut in 2007’s Gothic Horror The orphanage before moving to blockbuster fare like 2018 Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. You have to imagine that he encouraged Amazon’s decision to hold a night of cinema screenings on the same day that the episodes appear in streaming. The cinematography is so expansive and cinematic that millions who inevitably watch on their phones will be something lost.
As for the story itself, it seems Amazon has been right so far in entrusting its dump truck full of cash to relatively unproven first-time showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay. That’s how easy (and funny!) it is to laugh at the enormous sum Bezos handed over for the rights to a relatively small part of Tolkien’s work, the author’s long appendices Lord of the Rings naturally provide rich and fertile ground for storytelling. Payne and McKay’s new epic takes place in what Tolkien called the “Second Age” of Middle-earth, thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
This leap into the past means that most of Tolkien’s fan-favorites weren’t even born yet. There are a few well-known elves, however, thanks to their remarkable longevity. The show’s early heroine is the elf princess Galadriel, who finds herself the last lonely voice refusing to believe that the malevolent wizard Sauron is truly defeated. An adult (by elf standards) version of the character was played by Cate Blanchett in Peter Jacksons Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Here she is a headstrong young warrior brought to life magnetically Holy Maudis Morfydd Clark. Every resemblance to the crop of blonde, wayward royal warriors getting down to business on HBO’s right now game of Thrones spin off house of the dragon is surely a coincidence.
Hobbits fans should note that the show takes place so far in advance The Hobbit that hobbits aren’t even hobbits. Instead, they’re a tight-knit group of “harfoots,” an evolutionary ancestor of the creatures we know and love. It’s the Harfoots that really make it The Rings of Power Work. Perhaps it’s just the comforting presence of British comedy icon Lenny Henry in the cast (who plays the elderly Harfoot Sadoc Burrows), but these pastoral scenes manage to capture the magic of the late ’80s BBC version The chronicles of Narnia, an enchanting series that never had this budget. There are a few more standout performances from Megan Richards and Markella Kavenagh as the young Harfoots who, in the words of vanity fair, “Meet a mysterious lost man whose origins promises to be one of the most tantalizing puzzles in the series.” Who could be the tall, bearded, magical stranger who falls from the sky and lands among hobbit-like creatures? Maybe we already know more about the characters.
It’s been 20 years since Peter Jackson’s film trilogy took Tolkien’s fantasy epic and turned it into a cultural giant. Lord of the Rings was such a smash hit that they even dragged along his much shorter book The Hobbit turning into a trilogy a decade later. There’s certainly an appetite to explore more of this world, and for so long The Rings of Power Despite being a brand new story, it still has plenty of authentic Tolkien charm that comes with the best production value money can buy. There are probably better things the richest man in the world could do with his vast pile of gold, but there are definitely worse things to do.
earlier this year, game of Thrones Creator George RR Martin narrates The Independent that he hopes both The Rings of Power and house of the dragon can find an audience and prove that there’s room on television for more than one epic fantasy series. This family-friendly show appears to be doing just that, and will likely draw a wider and younger audience than its obvious rival on HBO. This isn’t Westeros. No one gets their head cut off here. Instead, it’s a spectacular return to a lovingly rendered Middle-earth that promises to deliver an awfully grand adventure.
The Rings of Power will be released on Amazon Prime Video at 2 a.m. on September 2nd
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/rings-of-power-lord-of-the-rings-review-b2161906.html Review of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power