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Recommended: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power on Amazon Prime Video

Return to the realm of Middle Earth in an epic, gorgeous, and densely populated new Tolkien-inspired adventure.
  • Robert Aramayo and Morfydd Clark in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. (Photo: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video)
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    The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power | Amazon Prime Video
    Hourlong Fantasy Drama (8 Episodes)

    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.

    Who's involved?

    • Morfydd Clark is Galadriel, an elvish warrior and perhaps her people's most fierce and battle-tested commander, but whose zeal for fighting the evil forces that once threatened her people (and took the lives of those close to her) has become an obsession. Cate Blanchett played an older and wiser Galadriel in the Lord of the Rings movies.
    • Robert Aramayo is Elron, a (literally) square-jawed elvish statesman who's a friend to Galadriel even as he cautions her, and who sets out to build alliances between the elves and the other peoples of Middle Earth. Hugo Weaving played the older Elrond in The Lord of the Rings movies.
    • Charles Edwards is Celebrimbor, an elvish craftsman of significant ability. Considering the title of this series and the importance that the creation of the great rings are to the lore of this series, one expects he may have a role to play in the forging of said rings.
    • Benjamin Walker is Gil-Galad, the High King of the elves.
    • Owain Arthur is Durin IV, the son of the dwarf king who goes back quite a ways with Elrond, even if there are some hard feelings there.
    • Sophia Nomvete as Disa, Durin's less moody wife.
    • Markella Kavenagh is Nori Brandyfoot, an adventurous young woman of the Harfoot race (think Hobbits but… very slightly different).
    • Megan Richards is Poppy Proudfellow, a Harfoot and Nori's best friend who often gets caught up in Nori's adventures and schemes.
    • Daniel Weyman is The Stranger, a character of strange and unknown origin with odd and potentially dangerous powers, who comes to the attention of Nori and Poppy.
    • Ismael Cruz Cordova is Arondir, an elvish soldier stationed in a human village.
    • Nazanin Boniadi as Bronwyn, a human in the village where Arondir is stationed. She's a healer and a single mother of a teenage son.
    • Tyroe Muhafidin is Theo, Bronwyn's son.
    • Maxim Baldry plays Isildur, a young Numenorean man who, as we were shown in The Lord of the Rings, is the man who ultimately slays Sauron on the slopes of Mount Doom and then makes the fateful decision not to cast the One Ring into the volcano, preserving its evil for future generations.

    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

    • House of the Dragon, HBO's concurrent competitor in the field of medieval fantasy epic programming.(Streaming on HBO Max.)
    • The Sandman (Netflix), which lies on the far other end of fantasy literature adaptations but which nevertheless proves we're living in a golden age of possibility in terms of what stories we finally get to see told on screen.
    • Saint Maud, which you really should track down if you're not too easily scared, just to see Morfydd Clark in action. (Streaming on Prime Video.)

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
    Premieres on Prime Video on September 1, 2022. New episodes Fridays.
    Created by: Patrick McKay and JD Payne.
    Starring: Morfydd Clark, Robert Aramayo, Benjamin Walker, Nazanin Boniadi, Markella Kavenagh, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Charles Edwards, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards, Daniel Weyman, Tyroe Muhafidin, and Maxim Baldry.
    Directed by: J.A. Bayona, Wayne Yip, and Charlotte Brändström.
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    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