The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power review: this is high fantasy done right

It hardly ever bodes well for a studio to lead its desire for a new project to become the Next Big Thing™ as Amazon has done with its ultra-expensive Lord of the Rings prequel series, The Rings of Power, of co-showrunner JD Payne and Patrick McKay. But despite being a product of the ultimate hype machine and the way it relies on you being fondly acquainted with New Line Cinema’s films based on JRR Tolkien’s books, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is an absolute knockout that brings a vibrant, new energy to the franchise.

Set during the tumultuous days of Middle-earth’s Second Age, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power delves deep into the historical events chronicled in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. After countless years of brutal bloodshed to rid the world of orcs and their creator – the first Dark Lord Morgoth – the elves, humans and dwarves who call Middle-earth their home believe that a new era of peace is dawning and that it is finally safe. is enough to abandon their guards. While almost everyone has lost something in the war, The Rings of Power puts a lot of emphasis on the elves when it starts out to emphasize how much they gave up on defeating Morgoth and because some of them are the show’s most instantly recognizable characters.

Galadriel and one of her soldiers in search of orcsGaladriel and one of her soldiers in search of orcs

Galadriel and one of her soldiers in search of orcs Image: Amazon Studios

Before she reigned as Lothlórien’s Lady, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) was one of several elves who carefree, picturesque and almost immortal life in the land of Valinor – a magical place that takes The Rings of Power a surprising amount of time to explore. Like all elves, Galadriel is as smooth as she loves the beauty of nature. Her understanding of the world is much more nuanced than that of creatures — especially humans — who simply haven’t lived long enough to see what sort of things she has. But because so much of The Rings of Power is told from the perspective of the elves, and at a time when neither Galadriel nor her close friend Elrond (Robert Aramayo) had become Middle-earth legends, the show makes sure to present them. as complicated, flawed humans rather than alien vagrants shrouded in mystery.

Galadriel’s warrior spirit and ingenuity are evident from the moment she is introduced, but it is only when her immediate family is personally affected by death that she is given the freedom to take up arms herself and join the fight against Morgoth’s famous successor, Sauron. Because it summarizes important parts of Tolkien’s knowledge in a compact montage in the first episode, The Rings of Power initially feels like it’s the kind of show that isn’t quite sure what it wants to focus on or what ideas it wants you to keep in the vanguard of your mind. But the pace at which the show moves as it sets its stage actually works as a very effective way of illustrating how elves experience and perceive time very differently than other races that don’t live as long.

By the time The Rings of Power gets into proper gear, so much time has passed since both Morgoth and Sauron were defeated (for the first time, in Sauron’s case) that the friction between elves and men has more to do with the continued presence of the elves in Middle-earth and less about the orcs that have seemingly been driven to extinction. With their mission seemingly complete, High King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) wants nothing more than to send Galadriel and her fellow warriors to Valinor, if only to get her out of his luxurious silky hair. But deep in their hearts, Gil-galad, Galadriel and a number of other core characters of The Rings of Power all know that something very bad is lurking in the world, waiting for the right moment to make themselves known.

some orcssome orcs

Some orcs Image: Amazon Studios

The exact form and nature of that evil becomes increasingly apparent as The Rings of Power begins to introduce more of its original characters, such as Silvan elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), human apothecary Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi), and Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot (Markella). Kavenagh), an adventurous Harfoot whose wanderlust makes her a bit of an oddity. While none of these characters appeared in Tolkien’s works, in each of them you see shades of the personality types and relationship dynamics that made fans fall in love with this world.

Arondir is no Arwen and Bronwyn is no Aragorn, but forbidden loves that go against the teachings of their respective people create a poetic, narrative line between The Rings of Power and The Lord of the Rings that immediately sparkles. Nori reads a lot like one of those terminally curious Bagginses who can’t help but take a peek when something out of the ordinary is going on. But unlike the hyper-domestic Hobbits who are destined to one day settle in the Shire, Nori and the rest of the Harfoots lead somewhat secretive and migratory lives that make it much easier for them to hide from those who call them. want to do harm.

As impressive as many of The Rings of Power’s larger set pieces are, some of the series’ most magical moments take place in the Harfoots’ encampment, as the tiny humans emerge from their hidden lairs – their ingenuity and sizable amount work that went into developing practical effects for the show. Even as it follows characters like Dwarf Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur) to notable locations that have featured in previous Lord of the Rings movies, The Rings of Power gives them a newfound feel by drawing attention to the fine details of their splendor in their prime.

Elrond is accompanied by Khazad-dûmElrond is accompanied by Khazad-dûm

Elrond is mentored by Khazad-dûm Image: Amazon Studios

The moment The Rings of Power shifts its focus to locations not yet depicted as often, such as the Sundering Seas and the bustling human kingdom of Númenor, you really start to get a sense of how Amazon spent the hundreds of millions of dollars it took to create to produce the show’s first season. For each of its VFX-heavy action sequences meant to make you feel the danger the heroes of The Rings of Power find themselves in when confronting all manner of monsters, there are sweeping shots of New Zealand’s wilds that will give you trying to recall the scale and majestic beauty of this world.

Whether streaming or broadcasting on traditional networks, it’s rare for a series to fulfill the studio’s dreams of feeling like a bingeable TV show and a big, expensive cinematic event at the same time. Between a string of strong performances, an eye for impactful detail and a solid sense of its own ability to grow beyond the canon it isn’t technically a part ofThe Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power certainly seems like it could be just that.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power also stars Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Maxim Baldry, Charles Edwards, Trystan Gravelle, Lenny Henry, Peter Mullan, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers and Daniel Weyman. The series is coming to Amazon Prime on September 2.

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