The long-awaited prequel to the Middle Earth franchise reinforces expectations that even a billion-dollar spectacle may fall just short of living up to Peter Jackson’s trilogy.
The series has had a lot riding on its critical and commercial success from the get go, shouldering the gargantuan burden of having to satisfy some of the most particular group of fans on the planet, with Big-Boss Bezos breathing down its neck the entire time. A daunting task, to put it lightly.
Make no mistake, despite grappling its way out of the shadows of its Academy Award-winning predecessor, the series has firmly established its footing as one of the richest, most captivating pieces of fantasy to grace us in a period where nothing short of Game of Thrones would make the cut for most.
The Rings of Power wastes no time in answering the increasingly pertinent question of what use are the Amazon big bucks being put to, casting us into the most exquisitely crafted landscapes, both fresh and familiar, the likes of which would have Tolkien fans frothing at the mouth.
From the mesmerising Two Trees that illuminate Valinor, to the intricately chiseled dwarvish halls of Khazad Dum; cinematographer Oscar Faura makes it quite the task to focus on any one portion of each frame, positively brimming with the finest details.
Composer Bear McCreary’s phenomenal score stands the test of its legendary predecessor in Howard Shore's music for The Lord of the Rings, which, as ardent fans would know is no ordinary feat.
The first two episodes of the series spend a decent amount of their runtime establishing characters and setting, the context to which though crucial for expanding the narrative, falls prey to expository dialogue at every possible opportunity.
The stand-outs from an excellent cast of new characters are of course, Morfydd Clarke’s Galadriel, whose steely-blue eyes reflect her relentless tenacity, a stark contrast from Clarke’s character from previously BAFTA nominated Saint Maud (2019).
And though fresh faces, Markella Kavenagh’s mischievous Nori Brandyfoot will have fans reminiscing over a certain meddlesome couple of hobbits, the Dwarvish royalty, Prince Durin and Princess Disa, played by Owain Arthur and Sophia Nomvete respectively, were the real show-stealers of these pilot episodes, bringing some much needed frivolity and warmth to the narrative.
Despite its best attempts, the series is likely to come off as intimidating to the unaccustomed, the sheer scale of Tolkien’s dense mythos enveloping the inexperienced watcher in a series of name drops and hidden easter eggs that would have seasoned fans grinning from ear to ear. However, what is more likely is that the volume of Middle Earth lore may be evenly spread out over the span of the entire season.
There’s way too much to unpack in The Rings of Power and certainly far more to ponder over in subsequent episodes. For now, the series premiere builds in suspense and nerve-racking anticipation towards an all-too-familiar evil, one whose mere influence seems to pierce the hearts of fans and characters alike.
As Galadriel prompts, “Evil never sleeps, it waits”, the pay-off is coming (hopefully in the form of a certain Dark Lord), it just isn’t here yet. But something tells me when it does, the wait would have been worth it.
In a brilliant piece of foreshadowing dialogue, the Elven smith Celebrimbor suggests, “Who could divine the beauty of what is, to the beauty of what could be”, a manifestation of the potential this series holds in the weeks to come. The Rings of Power is off to a precarious albeit promising start.