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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Review

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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is likely to divide opinion, particularly if you view it on a big television or squint at its splendor on a phone or computer. It’s so gorgeous and detailed that the first episode might simply be spent gawking at the scenery as it flies between elven and dwarvish lands, human and harfoot territory. This is TV meant for huge TVs, but I’m sure we’ll see it on even smaller ones.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Review

The Rings of Power series is difficult to judge because so much about it is extraordinary. Tolkien’s world is already well-known and loved by many, through the books, Peter Jackson’s films, or both. Before any viewer even presses play, there are a lot of expectations. Given that this TV series reportedly cost $465 million to produce just eight episodes, it’s tough to see it as anything other than an event or spectacle. And while it may not be perfect, does that make it a failure?

The opening episode begins at a steady pace which gradually intensifies, with the first 10 minutes being Fantastically busy and robust. It starts serenely yet beautifully, with Galadriel leisurely sailing a paper ship in “the undying lands” of Valinor. However, the calmness doesn’t last as it quickly jumps through centuries of history and war most importantly is the overthrow of Morgoth, the dark lord. I am usually hesitant to read primers before starting something new; it should be able to stand on its own.

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The Lord of the Rings The Rings of Power Review

By the time it has calmed, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) is commander of the northern armies and the Warrior of the Wastelands, still looking for Sauron’s lieutenant, many centuries after most elves believe he has been destroyed.

Galadriel the fighter is my favorite Galadriel. She’s as fierce as she is brilliant, scarred by war and with a thirst for vengeance. If that fighting description doesn’t pique your interest, wait till you see what she does to a snow troll.

The nymphs, on the other hand, are more cheerful and fun. If it’s the elves who have a strong sense of passion and urgency, then there’s plenty of earthy light and joy in Tolkien’s predecessors to the hobbits, who are getting ready for their yearly trek. The young harfoots search for berries and have fun in the mud while their elders (including Lenny Henry) explain how everything fits together with some not-unwelcome exposition on who lives where and what land they protect. The opening episode also introduces us to the Southlands, where elves and humans live uneasily side by side amid decades of hatred following the conflict.

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It’s only after the second episode, when the dwarves arrive, that this immersive sensation really takes off – and that sense of something being a fully realized world in which you might immerse yourself enthusiastically. The dwarves establish it and temper some of the program’s more grandiose ideas. It is not much of a surprise to learn that the peaceful beginning is soon shattered. The elves’ declaration that “our days of war are over” isn’t just a dream but rather an expression of hope. From the start, there are hints that something is wrong, and it doesn’t take long for those hints to turn into full-blown warnings. When it gets scary, it’s genuinely frightening. Towards the end of episode two, it’s incredibly tense and more gruesome than I anticipated.

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I have a couple of reservations. On occasion, the acting seems “smell-the-fart,” which is perhaps hard to avoid when every other line is a poker-faced aphorism such as: “A dog may bark at the moon, but he cannot bring it down.” The pace too is either all or nothing either racing through astonishing action scenes or lingering on a single conversation or meaningful look. But these are quibbles and in the end, spectacle wins. This show is immensely enjoyable TV a cinematic feast! Now I just need someone with an extra large television so I can watch it with them.

Conclusion

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is telling its own story, using Tolkien’s lore as a foundation. While the first episode gets bogged down in exposition, the second episode builds on the characters and their relationships more naturally. This sets in motion a few intriguing subplots and provides ample opportunity for action. The ensemble cast does a great job, and the production value is very high with impressive cinematography, effects, costumes, and original music.

Trailer

Creators

Patrick McKay, John D. Payne

Stars

Morfydd Clark, Nazanin Boniadi, Peter Mullan, Robert Aramayo, Benjamin Walker

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