TV review: ‘The Rings of Power’ may not be perfect, but it has lots of promise

There has been a lot — and I do mean a LOT — of chatter online about Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings series, and to be honest, I tried to avoid most of it in the days leading up to the series’ Labor Day weekend premiere.  

J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic is one of the most beloved fantasy stories of all time, and long-time fans understandably feel protective of it. Peter Jackson’s film adaptations were almost universally well-received 20 years ago, and perhaps because of their beloved pop culture status, I’ve sensed skepticism towards Amazon’s new take on the franchise. 

Let’s get something out of the way before I dive into this review: it’s discouraging to see the online trolls posting racist comments towards some of the actors in this new series. It’s always frustrating to see fans behave with cruelty toward content creators, and this is a large part of why I’m not really involved in the Star Wars online fandom much anymore, even though I still adore the franchise itself. 

Online trolls make it much more challenging to have honest, good-faith discussions about media and storytelling. These days, fans also tend to veer towards extremes when posting online. It’s either: “This is the best show ever and I will punch anyone who doesn’t like it!” or “This is the worst show in the history of time and space!” When for many of us, the truth probably lies somewhere in between.  

With so much chatter online, I wanted to see the new Lord of the Rings series for myself, and then form my own opinion. And now that it’s here, I do find myself landing somewhere in the middle. Is it perfect and as instantly iconic as Peter Jackson’s classic films? No, it’s not — but it does have a lot of promise and I’m excited to see where it goes. 

Years ago, I was one of those fans holding out hope for a big-budget adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, an admittedly complicated series of stories chronicling Middle-earth’s early days. With the rise in popularity of darker, politically-complex fantasy stories like Game of Thrones, I thought this was the perfect time to bring The Silmarillion to the screen. 

Amazon doesn’t have the rights to The Silmarillion, and I’ll be honest, I’m a little disappointed. The Rings of Power is filled with lots of new characters, not all of which shine with the same heart and depth as J.R.R. Tolkien’s original creations. 

That being said, I did enjoy The Rings of Power for what it was. I was entertained, and I had fun watching the series with my friends. We watched the first two episodes together, and I really wanted to watch the next one but we ran out of time. This show has the opportunity to blossom into something great in the coming weeks. 

My favorite part so far is the dwarves. It was breathtaking to see the dwarf kingdom of Khazad-dûm in all its glory. Prince Durin (Owain Arthur) and his wife Disa (Sophia Nomvete) are an absolute delight, and the show sings whenever they share the screen. This show could have been a spinoff series focused solely on the dwarves of Middle-earth and I wouldn’t have complained. 

The settings and costumes are gorgeous, and the music by Bear McCreary feels suitably epic. I love that LOTR film composer Howard Shore was invited back to create the main theme for this series. 

Another favorite character is Ismael Cruz Córdova’s elf scout Arondir. The actor is able to capture a lot of depth with his subtle, nuanced performance; he maintains that stoic mask of aloofness the elves of Middle-earth are known for, yet there’s a quiet longing and sadness reflected in his eyes. As a sucker for a star-crossed romance, I hope we get more background about why an immortal elf like Arondir is so drawn to human healer Bronwyn. Their relationship is intriguing but hasn’t been given much development yet. 

It’s hard to see Galadriel and Elrond played by performers other than Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, but I’m warming up to Morfydd Clark and Robert Aramayo. Overall the dialogue felt kinda clunky in episode 1, but that’s improving too.  

In short, The Rings of Power has a difficult task ahead of it, but I think it’s worthy of fans giving it a chance. I’d recommend watching the first couple of episodes in one sitting, like a film, and I hope that, like me, you’ll be curious to watch more.

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