Recommended: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power on Amazon Prime Video
What's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power About?
Thousands of years before the events of The Lord of the Rings, the men, elves, dwarves, and small creatures of Middle Earth must contend with the threat of Sauron.
Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?
It's hard to understate just how foundationally shaking Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies were, opening up realms of possibilities for the kinds of stories that Hollywood could tell — big, sweeping fantasy epics with tomes of lore and worlds, packed with different races of creatures, all with their own languages and customs — and that mainstream audiences would flock to. Here, more than 20 years after The Fellowship of the Ring premiered, we are in an entertainment environment that has more than borne that fruit. So what does it mean to delve back into the world of Middle Earth in a world where Game of Thrones and Westworld and Stranger Things and Lost (and so many others) have in some way or another carried that legacy forward?
The first thing to know about The Rings of Power is just how vast and sprawling a world it delivers, pretty much right off the bat. After kicking off — like The Lord of the Rings did before it — with a Galadriel-narrated prologue that tells of battle and valor among the Elves in beating back the forces of Sauron, we are introduced to a Middle Earth that is less connected and more mysterious to itself than it will be for Frodo and pals in the future. Galadriel and Elrond, two of the very few crossover characters, represent polar opposites in terms of the strategy for defeating an evil that is in retreat but not gone for good. Galadriel, who has felt the losses of war more personally, is willing to hunt the enemy down to the literal ends of the known world (and likely beyond) to defeat Sauron, while Elrond cautions her while also looking to build the kinds of coalitions that will ultimately prove fateful to this story.
Those coalitions will have to be built with the races of dwarves and men, and The Rings of Power spreads its story far and wide to include them. The humans in this story — at least in the two episodes that were given to critics — live uneasily with the elves that are in their realm. It's an occupation that's bred resentment among the farming communities. What we know from advance publicity about this project is that it will eventually depict the rise and fall of Númenor, the great kingdom of men that is referenced often in The Lord of the Rings, and which aligned with the elves to fight the armies of Sauron.
But at this point in the story that is far off, and so what we're seeing are the seedlings of events to come. For the here and now, there are mysteries and magicks afoot, many of them among the race of Harfoot people, who are not Hobbits except for how they behave and serve the functions of the story exactly the same as Hobbits. We are introduced to pals Nori and Poppy, a refreshing change of pace to have two female adventurers in the place of where we'd had four young male Hobbits in LOTR. The two come across a mysterious stranger at the end of the first episode, and what he's about remains very much a mystery.
The Rings of Power sets up a vast map for what is to be an epic story. It will likely try the patience of some viewers as they try to sort through the dozens of characters in far-removed locations (one lesson this show could take from Game of Thrones is to use its map interstitials in a way that lets us better orient one storyline from another geographically; as it stands it's pretty confusing).
The advantage The Rings of Power has is in some strong characterizations, in particular Morfydd Clark as Galadriel. Clark is best known for her terrifyingly committed performance as a nun in the horror film Saint Maud. The zealous faith she had to perform in that movie serves her well as a Galadriel who cannot stop herself from her ultimate quest for Sauron. Where that will lead her in this story that has only barely begun, there's no telling. But it's thrilling to watch her operate.
Pairs well with
TOPICS: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Amazon Prime Video, Benjamin Walker, Charles Edwards, Charlotte Brändström, Daniel Weyman, Ismael Cruz Cordova, J.A. Bayona, JD Payne, Markella Kavenagh, Maxim Baldry, Megan Richards, Morfydd Clark, Nazanin Boniadi, Patrick McKay, Robert Aramayo, Sophia Nomvete, Tyroe Muhafidin, Wayne Yip