Table of Contents
Photo: ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’
LOTR is Back
It is time for Middle-Earth fans to rejoice once again! The latest epic television series on Amazon Prime Video ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’, starts strong! According to Amazon, the number of views received grew to 25 million viewers for the first two episodes in the first 24 hours. Now that the show is on episode five, we can admire the grandeur that this journey will entail. Although viewing numbers are hard to dictate through streaming companies, according to Amazon this broke their best viewership record for any show.
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J.R.R. Tolkien was a master of fantasy. His writing always reflected his own life in a way but brought you to the enchanting realm of the Valar, Elves, Dwarves, Maiar, and Hobbits. When Amazon purchased the rights, they bought access to one book and a trilogy: The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. Because it is based on Tolkien’s second age, the showrunners J.D Payne and Patrick McKay, found interest in the appendices that Tolkien wrote referencing a completely separate history.
Luckily for us, these two beginner showrunners knocked it out of the park! We will be able to go back into the Tolkien universe and do it within Middle-Earth’s great second age. The age of Harfoots and mysterious meteor Giants. The age of the building of Sauron’s armies and the forging of the rings, after Morgoth’s defeat. Payne and McKay agreed on a five-season deal worth almost a billion dollars. This is the most expensive show ever to be produced, with the first season costing over 715 million dollars alone. These numbers can translate into the beauty you can see on screen. Every scene is fairy-tale-esque, whisking you away to a place where Elves and Dwarves set aside their differences and worked together.
‘The Rings of Power’ – Similarities to Jackson’s Versions
It sets us up in a way that seems very familiar thanks to the production design and costumes. They did not want to copy Peter Jackson’s original versions exactly but use similar designs that reintroduce the culture of middle earth for a new age. This is also thanks to New Line Cinema joining in the production of this fantasy. Unfortunately, the Tolkien Estate did not want Peter Jackson involved with this series, so at that request, the studio cut ties with Mr. Jackson and his different visions for Arda. Fortunately, the beauty that was claimed to be lacking in the films has risen up to shine like the brightest Simarils. McKay and Payne have so much creative power within this universe, due to the limited lore from the appendices. They can create things loosely based on those writings, which can be quite difficult. Therefore, they can tell stories in some amazing and unprecedented ways for a show of this magnitude. Rights are tricky things in Hollywood and have messed up plenty of source material in the past. How about the great lash-out over the last two seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’ (lack of source content,) or even some of the Marvel canon characters like ‘The Incredible Hulk.’
Amazon Comment Backlash
Amazon did have some backlash over the show from people and chose to lock the comments and ratings. These days a lot of people like to make things political, and while information is at our fingertips, it does not seem to make those people check their words before posting offensive remarks. Some of the backlashes were centered around the diversity the show has within the ranks of the Elves and Harfoots. Which is a shame considering film and television have always mirrored the society in which it was made. I commend Amazon for making fantastic casting choices and using the world’s diversity as it should be used. They were right to eliminate this sort of shame from the world, they prove they stand with the diversity in this world as all should. This is actually one of the main themes of Tolkien’s work, as the races of Arda seldomly get along with one another. A true Tolkien fan would recognize this, and be proud as I am of Amazon’s choices.
From the music by Bear McCreary to the costume design by Kate Hawley, you are transported to the realm of Arda in every episode. The continuity between the directors is seamless, and each brings the magical Tolkien universe to life for us all to behold. With a show of this degree that is an incredible feat. It is not easy to take specific material rights and transform them into a visually stunning story. Let the source material be the inspiration for the show you watch while taking in all the new parts with joy! After all, we don’t know how some of these relationships will pan out as we continue our journey to the inevitable War of the Last Alliance.
Diversity Amongst The Cast
The show’s actors are really bringing justice to both new and older characters we have seen. Galadriel played by Morfydd Clark has a vengeance and an oath to hunt down the mighty Maia, Sauron. Her character “can not stop” and will use the will of those around her to hunt down the darkness that murdered her brother. Elrond is played by Robert Aramayo, an Elf who embraces privy political play while trying to have a meaningful existence for those he cares about. He is sent to find the Elves’ lifeline, which he did not even know was the case, causing a ripple throughout the Dwarven and Elf hierarchy. Durin, played by Owain Arthur, may be stubborn like most Dwarfs but trusts his old friend Elrond. Will this relationship become tarnished by the High Elf King Gil Galad’s (Benjamin Walker) lies about Elrond’s reasons for journeying to the visually stunning Khazad-dûm?
Some of the newer characters introduced fall right into the Tolkien universe and they feel like J.R.R. penned them himself. Halbrand, played by Charlie Vickers, is a survivor from the Southlands that vowed never to return there although Galadriel has other plans. He might have run with the Orcs of the Southlands in order to keep people living, which could potentially be tied into the Nazgûl after the forging of the one ring to control them all. Another Southlander is Theo, played by Tyroe Muhafidin, who finds a mysterious sword that is rebuilt through its thirst for blood and fire. This could be the sword (Gurthang but would possibly go by another name) of Turin Turambar, an Elf turned by the darkness of a curse from Morgoth in the first generation from The War on Jewels and The Book of Lost Tales.
His blade quite often talked to him through darkness and once said “…And from the blade rang a cold voice in answer: ‘Yea, I will drink thy blood gladly, that so I may forget the blood of Beleg my master, and the blood of Brandir slain unjustly. I will slay thee swiftly.” This artifact was “black and shone with pale fire,” and used to drink blood as well. Turin was ever so slightly mentioned in The Fellowship of the Ring, which could put him and his sword into the mix of the rights with some creative play. Arondir, played by Ismael Cruz Córdova said the sword was “..crafted to enslave your ancestors” when speaking to Bronwyn played by Nazanin Boniadi.
Darkness is Taking Shape
We can see how this story of loss and darkness is taking shape. Something Tolkien was familiar with writing about based on his own life’s tragedies. This epic storytelling by J.R.R. Tolkien should not be missed for it will set the stage for the war in which Isildur, played by Maxim Baldry, cuts the ring off the Dark Lord Sauron. It was mentioned by Amazon that Sauron was not in this season, but the show has been very tight-lipped so this could be a misdirection. Remember that Sauron can take any form and commonly disguises himself as different living creatures throughout the lore of the show. Darkness is traveling towards the realm of Men and Elf, they will band together in alliance and wage war against the pupil of Morgoth.
Be ready for more Middle Earth in this amazingly entertaining show. ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,’ Amazon Prime Video’s number one drama airs on Fridays. Episode six airs on 9/30/2022. Episode seven airs on 10/7/2022, and the finale takes place on 10/14/2022. Do not forget your popcorn and soda for the next three episodes as they are bound to be incredible. This is for any fan, no matter how deeply they are immersed in the lore of Tolkien. I would recommend patience as any drama needs time to build.
It is smart to think like Pauline Kael sometimes and regard these sorts of entertaining pieces as trash art. High forms of art are locked within the struggle of Hollywood’s need to manipulate you with grand devices. I don’t mind it here because this show is supposed to be a fairy tale. It is supposed to be high fantasy. It is meant to whisk us away to a magical place and time where we can forget our own thoughts for an hour. The show does this and so much more. Bravo!
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By Nathan Paul Pasquale
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