Galadriel looking out in to the distance. PHOTO COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS
Colin Vanden Berg
In 2018, Amazon announced production of a new television series based on JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of The Rings,” which was met with understandable skepticism by fans of the author’s work. When the cast was announced and some production photos shared in January 2022, these fans were joined by a different group of skeptics.
These press releases revealed that the new show– titled “The Rings of Power,”—would prominently feature Black and Middle-Eastern actors, angering a vocal minority online. Despite decent reviews and great ratings, the most prevalent discourse online has been from those determined to hate it since January.
The show’s stunning and expansive presentation of Middle Earth and skillful use of Tolkien’s lyrical prose got fans on board fairly quickly, leaving the haters to hold on to easily-debunked excuses about people of color not being present in Tolkien’s work or the historical accounts they were based on.
The show is a prequel series set in the Second Age (the “Lord of Rings” books take place in the Third Age) and it stars up-and-comer Morfydd Clark as the elf Galadriel. Galadriel was portrayed in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy by Cate Blanchett, and Tolkien wrote extensively about her after publishing “The Lord of The Rings.”
The Amazon series does not have the rights to Tolkien’s most prominent expansion, “The Silmarillion,” but it can access the six Appendices to the series included in “The Return of The King,” that detail much of Middle-Earth’s history, inhabitants, and languages. The show’s story follows Galadriel and a collection of elves, dwarves, Hobbits, and humans as they respond to the emergence of a new evil across their separate storylines.
As with “Game of Thrones’” first season, “The Rings of Power” needs the time it takes to establish its large cast of characters and its world’s rich history. The fourth episode delivers action and intrigue by building off the introductions and mysteries set up in the first three. Clark excels as the wise but over-eager Elven warrior Galadriel, and Robert Aramayo brings an electric charisma to the future elf-lord Elrond that Hugo Weaving portrayed in Jackson’s films. The Dwarf prince Durin (Owain Arthur) and his wife Disa (Sophia Nomvete) are lots of fun, and the elf Arondir’s (Ismael Cruz Cordava) story and portrayal are captivating.
As reported by Variety’s Jazz Tangcay, the series employs 1500 visual effects artists and over 20 visual effects studios, including Industrial Light and Magic Weta FX, who were responsible for the stunning images of “The Mandalorian” and the ground-breaking effects of the original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy respectively. “The Rings of Power’s” visuals are jaw-dropping, and never before has Tolkien’s imagination been so believably realized on screen.
As for fair criticisms of the first four episodes, the pacing—though understandable—is plodding and sometimes the visuals aren’t enough to hold interest in such a detailed and complex narrative. Also, the show’s admirable attempts to imitate Tolkien’s poetic dialog sometimes exacerbate the impatient feelings as much as they impress with their creativity. For example, it’s easy to admire Shakespeare’s writing but it takes a rare performer to pull it off convincingly. The actors in “The Rings of Power” are more than up to the task, but purple prose, as it’s often referred to, can wear out its welcome if not executed with the utmost care and skill. Thirdly, not all storylines are equally intriguing, with some stories like that of the earliest Hobbits taking longer to garner interest than others. However, these few flaws don’t come anywhere close to weighing down what is an otherwise extraordinary debut assortment of episodes.
Fantasy belongs to all people, as it speaks to the innate creativity and longing for adventure in all of us. Don’t let the loudest, most bigoted voices deter you from the promising and lovingly-made series “The Rings of Power.”
First 4 episodes rating: 8.8/10