Who needs Westeros? ‘Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ is a spectacular throwback to Middle-earth

Prince and michael jackson were rivals. Pop music superfans know this, even if they don’t necessarily agree that this competitive relationship was friendly or bitter. Knowing that it doesn’t change the status of either legend Where artistic value. Yet, while alive, some were forced to treat their careers as if they were in constant competition, the success of one costing the other one way or another. But the average person only cares if their music is goodwhat he is.

This is analogous to the discussion surrounding the long-awaited debut of “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power“Jeff Bezos’ titanic game to secure a must-have franchise for Amazon’s streaming service. In a move influenced by the worldwide success of ‘Game of Thrones,’ he threw $250 million at JRR Tolkien’s estate simply to secure the rights in 2017 – two years before HBO’s dragon-powered juggernaut went off the air.

Not to be outdone, a year later, HBO responded by announcing that it was developing an adaptation of “Fire & Blood” that manifested as the “Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon,” whose recent debut attracted the biggest audience for any new HBO original series. the story.

In addition to its still-powerful brand recognition, “House of the Dragon” strategically leans on name familiarity by focusing on the Targaryen dynasty at its peak. This guarantees regular looks at their fire-breathing pets with Matt Smith, still beloved for his tenure on “Doctor Who.”

What HBO doesn’t have is Amazon money to spend on every episode of “House of the Dragon,” which you can tell by looking at the details that went into the sets. Expenses, one might say, have been spared.

High fantasy fans find themselves in the rare position of being treated to two epic series at once. Why choose? They – we – won’t.

Meanwhile, Bezos has dropped at least an additional $465 million on the first eight episodes of “The Rings of Power,” and you can see those dollars glinting in the ornate costumes, elaborate sets, and exquisite effects. New Zealand’s fields and forests are more beautiful than ever, and so are all who walk through them who aren’t orcs or brown-toothed peasants.

Their Cha Ching echoes in the score, too: Ramin Djawadi has created some of the most infectious and haunting bodies of music in genre fiction with his Westeros themes and songs, which means the only way to match that is to hire Howard Shore, who scored Peter Jackson films, to write the theme and Bear McCreary (“Outlander”, “Battlestar Galactica”) to dream up the episodic music.
All of this translates into a veritable mountain of riches for high-fantasy fans, who find themselves in the rare position of being entitled to two epic series at once. Why choose? They – we – won’t.

“The Rings of Power” is virtually critic-proof. Amazon executives are confident about that, as evidenced by the company’s five-season commitment before the premiere, as well as the blink-and-you’ll-miss review window for both episodes given to critics.

This small viewing opportunity was enough to give an idea of ​​the massive scale of the production and to engender in the viewer a sense of caution. This is a series that requires patience and a long memory and presupposes our trust that its vast atmosphere-setting and world-building leads to a place that’s worth it.

That assumption isn’t misplaced, judging by the resilient adoration for Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy two decades after “The Fellowship of the Ring” and “The Two Towers” hit theaters and , with “The Return of the King,” went on to gross more than $6 billion worldwide and won 17 Oscars. The Starks, Lannisters and Targaryens were unknown factors when ‘Game of Thrones’ debuted, but everyone knows what hobbits are – although here we meet Frodo and Bilbo’s distant ancestors, the Harfoots.

The Lord of the Rings: Rings of PowerMarkella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot) in “The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power” (Prime Video)

“The Rings of Power” is set thousands of years before the descendants of the Harfoots became synonymous with The Shire or Bree, allowing showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay to lead us to new lands such as Lindon, the capital of elves, and Númenor, the island kingdom that represents the pinnacle of human glory. The underground mines of the dwarves are crowded and noisy.

Payne and McKay take full advantage of the expanse of Middle-earth by taking their time to acquaint us with characters we’ve never met before, several of whom don’t appear in its first pair of episodes. They can do this because their tale’s arsenal features names that need no introduction, including Sauron, Isildur, Elrond (Robert Aramayo, who played young Eddard Stark), and the elven queen herself, Galadriel. (Morfydd Clark).

This Galadriel isn’t the cosmic-tuned sylph we know from the movies. The intense and driven incarnation of Clark is several millennia younger and a laconic warrior devoted to a hunt that the rest of her people have abandoned, pursuing Sauron to the farthest corners of the world. Sauron represents the last remnant of an evil incursion that has swept across the sea to the elves’ homeland of Valinor, bringing a wave of them to Middle-earth to push back the darkness.

The humans wish they were gone, and many elves agree that the time for war is over. But we all know, from Cate Blanchett’s narration in the opening credits of “Fellowship,” that the country’s problems have only just begun.

The Lord of the Rings: Rings of PowerNazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn), Ismael Cruz Córdova (Arondir) in “The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power” (Prime Video)

“The Rings of Power” is a careful build on every level, evident in its inclusive cast. Middle-earth is represented by a variety of hues: there are brown-skinned Harfoots and a black dwarf princess (played by British-born African/Iranian actress Sophia Nomvete). A future episode features a human queen regent (Cynthia Addai-Robinson).

Jackson’s adaptations of Tolkien gave rise to the unspoken requirement that there must be a hot elf to lust after; here, this task falls to Arondir, played brilliantly by the Puerto Rican actor Ismael Cruz Córdova. And the adventure is not mainly left to the men of each people; this time, a bold Harfoot woman, Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh), pushes beyond the simple life expected of her, not one of her brothers.

At least the directors of the series [and showrunners] take a more enlightened view of what Tolkien’s world can and should look like.

But there is still a hierarchy at work as seen in which the characters are given special attention.

As Roundir patrols the hamlets, the circles in which Galadriel runs are populated by super-blondes who, in one scene, start singing as if they were a pointy-eared version of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Granted, Tolkien delineates classist distinctions within Elvish society, but still – old habits die hard.

At least Payne and McKay and JA Bayona series directors Charlotte Brändström and Wayne Che Yip are taking a more enlightened view of what Tolkien’s world can and should look like. These details only increase the authenticity of a place that some consider an extension of our world.

The Lord of the Rings: Rings of PowerCynthia Addai-Robinson (Queen Regent Míriel) in “The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power” (Prime Video)

That said, the directors know that viewers seek this series to live up to the spectacle of the films, which it does right from the start of a dramatic opening-title prologue summarizing the first major battle for Middle-earth, obligatory (and jaw -release) giant eagle cameo included.

From there, The Rings of Power” sets out to weave together plotlines drawn from the various appendices accompanying the texts of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”, giving the authors some license in terms of subplot development and expansion. screen time for some breakout characters. we see if they will seize this chance or marry more completely the spirit of the series to that of the cinematographic trilogy.

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This is the difficult task facing “The Rings of Power” – in addition to meeting the commercial expectations assigned to it, of course. In an environment where TV producers insist on trying to sell the seriousness of their work to the public by insisting that their show is not a show but rather a 10-hour movie, here is a project whose quest is to take a story most successfully adapted as movies and make the plot work in an episodic form. (Prime Video’s decision to remove weekly installments should help that goal.)

Perhaps that’s why the opening episodes, for all their extravagance, move with choreographed tightness. The same observation was made about the King of Pop, especially comparing him to Prince, who couldn’t match his moves but was a superior songwriter and instrumentalist. Both were wonderful, reliable performers, though one emphasized technical precision to dazzle people while the other excelled at constantly surprising us.

If the same can be said at the end of the first season of “The Rings of Power”, it means nothing but victory for the public, even if it takes time to get us there, let alone to come back.

“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” premieres back-to-back episodes Thursday, September 1 at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET on Prime Video. New episodes debut every week.


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