‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ Review: A Stunning Adventure in Perilous Middle-earth

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It has been eight years since the final movie in The Hobbit trilogy was released in theaters. Though the series came with mixed reactions, it was still an adventurous look back at the history before Frodo and his Fellowship for lovers of the world of Middle-earth and The Lord of the Rings. When Amazon Studios announced that they would be creating a series based on the Second Age history of Middle-earth, fans were once again reinvigorated to look into the world of J.R.R. Tolkien.

When it comes to high fantasy creators, Tolkien is easily one of the pioneers of the genre. Taking inspiration from folklore and using his skills as a linguist, Tolkien created a rich world that inspired much of contemporary high fantasy. Although we primarily know the goings-on of the Third Age, when Frodo and his friends went on their quest to destroy the One Ring, Tolkien mapped out much of the history of Middle-earth and separated them into different ages. The Rings of Power takes place during the Second Age, predominantly known for being the time when the titular rings of power were created, including the One Ring.

Developed by J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, The Rings of Power dives into a familiar landscape but gives us an entirely new cast of characters to meet. There are some recognizable names, thanks to the longevity of elves, but we’re taken to new locations, and see a world that is thousands of years in the past. The cultures of dwarves, men, and elves are different, and even the hobbits we have known and loved have not settled in the Shire. Among the familiar, we have Galadriel and Elrond, played in this series by Morfydd Clark and Robert Aramayo, respectively. By the time of the Fellowship, these two are established pillars of the elven community, but in The Rings of Power, they are still in their youth. Galadriel is a warrior, intent on finding the source of evil that she believes is still lying in wait in Middle-earth, while Elrond acts as a politician, aiding the High King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker).

Unlike the film series we already know, The Rings of Power does not follow a core group of adventurers, but rather splits the story into several main point-of-view characters. A choice reminiscent more of contemporary fantasy, this allows the show to expand in scope and show us the different corners of the world. Apart from Galadriel and Elrond, we also meet original characters like Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), a Silvan elf who forms a forbidden romance with a human woman, and Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh), a precocious young Harfoot who quickly gets entrenched in the larger plot of the world.

These original characters offer Tolkien experts who have pored over the tomes and appendices of The Lord of the Rings something new to look forward to. While the author laid out the general history, the series will go into the details to flesh out the stories involved. Sauron is thought to have been vanquished, but we obviously know the truth, and there’s an element of mystery and suspense as a shadow looms and evil threatens a return. Tolkien fans are sure to be excited to see places like Lindon and the Noldorin elves (who are all but non-existent in the Third Age) and the human island kingdom of Númenor, as well as the halls of Khazad-dûm at the height of their beauty. (Movie fans will know Khazad-dûm by its other name — Moria — where the demise of a certain beloved wizard takes place in Fellowship of the Ring.)

This is only an offering of the sheer scope of Amazon’s series, which feels absolutely immense. From the tempestuous Sundering Seas to the glorious halls of the dwarven kings, each location is richly created. It’s clear how much of the budget went into making these places look as magical as imagined. On top of that, composer Bear McCreary’s soundtrack plays off the familiar tunes of Howard Shore’s iconic soundtrack and instantly tugs at the heartstrings of anyone who would find themselves affected by the music of Middle-earth.

As far as characters go, it is quite easy to root for characters like Galadriel and Elrond, despite how austere they become in the thousands of years in between now and when Frodo visits them. They’re young and passionate — and Clark’s Galadriel, in particular, is a bit of a firebrand and an inspiring figure. The downside of all of these characters means that it often feels like a lot is going on in each episode. While having a main ensemble means there is less plot to explore outside the group, a multiple POV story does create a wealth of storylines that require viewers to follow along closely, lest they lose track of what is going on.

Ultimately, though, The Rings of Power does a good job of keeping you apprised of the rising evil to come and feels as if it is moving toward assembling a potential Fellowship all its own, with Galadriel at the lead. Although the titular rings are not playing a role so early on in the show, there is more than enough to keep audiences entertained — mysterious figures, political plots, dire survival situations, and more. The series marries what we’ve learned to love about contemporary fantasy, like Game of Thrones with its multiple main characters, with the depth and detail of Tolkien’s universe. While there’s still a whole season to watch, The Rings of Power is off to a successful start in delivering on its promise of quality and firing on all cylinders

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