Friday 4 November 2022

The Rings of Power

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (affiliate link) has concluded on Amazon Prime. Is Tolkien's rich tapestry used to great effect or to boost sales in Alexa's walled garden on Black Friday?

Nick Smith, our US-based stellar scribe, travels back to Middle-earth to witness the forging of the rings of power in the shadow of Mordor.

Guest post by Nick Smith

There was a time long ago when orcs were in. Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy ruled movie theatres and everyone followed the adventures of Frodo Baggins and his furry-toed friends.

Although those moments are lost to all but memory and overpriced DVD box sets, there’s enough love for them and their Hobbit prequels to justify Amazon’s $1 billion series, The Rings of Power.

A reported sum of over $200 million secured the rights to the franchise, the rest goes towards the production of this (hopefully) five-year series.

It's good. It’s epic. The acting is excellent and the heroes are likeable – Robert Aramayo makes a perfect pointy-eared elf ambassador; Ismael Cruz Cordova is a superb, stoic warrior. Archetypes and cultures from the books are present, never looking down its nose at dwarves, depicting the orcs as ornery and formidable.

There was a time, 10,000 songs ago, when all that discerning Tolkien fans dreamed of was a conclusion to Ralph Bakshi’s animated adaptation of the saga. The pioneering, delightfully demented filmmaker used actors as templates for his cartoon characters, giving them hyper-real movement. This was an expensive, arduous process and Bakshi fell out with producer Saul Zaentz.

Bakshi was only able to film part of the saga and fans never thought they’d see The Return of the King at the movies, let alone a lavish prequel like The Rings of Power. Now we are spoiled with stories so long that the tellers can take their sweet time to introduce and develop characters and situations, unveil mysteries and foreshadow the events of the books.

There‘s a reason why television shows were 45 minutes in length for decades. Rings strives to hold our attention for over an hour with segments that eke out the narrative. Impatient people beware. The first episode, for example, opens with several minutes of exposition before we get to the central narrative.

Through it all, we’re led by Galadriel (performed with boldness and grace by Morfydd Clark). The focus on female characters never seems forced and the sense of scale and travel, abetted by maps, is adequately grand.

There was a time, long ago, when the gentle folk of the smokin’ 60s read Tolkien’s books and found that the theme of nature versus destructive progress resonated with them and made their beards bristle. Fortunately, that same theme – developed to great effect in the movies, as the orcs destroyed the landscape – is revisited here.

There was a time, far away in years, when a linguist and educator wrote fantasy novels.

The theme of war’s futility clicked with the veterans who read them. The battle scenes glimpsed in The Rings of Power are lavish and exciting with high stakes for the heroes – one lost skirmish and they could lose their lands, their family or friends.

Magic is used sparingly and shown to be so powerful that the characters can barely control it, let alone understand it.

With The Rings of Power, Jeff Bezos wants a piece of HBO’s action. Both Rings and House of the Dragon are prequels to high-profile fantasy sagas. We know what’s going to happen thanks to references in the original texts.

However, compared to the saucy Dragon, Rings is chaste and far more family-friendly. It’s none the worse for that. Dragon has a seam of betrayal and tragedy that has yet to be mined in Rings, although this is partly redressed with a glimpse of the dreaded Mordor. There’s enough difference between the two shows to make them both worth watching.

There were other times, other themes to explore, and other battles to be fought. But they would have to wait for future years and destined streams ahead.

Have you watched The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power? Let me know in the comments below.


  1. I am glad you liked it. Personally, I tend to agree more with the detractors who have ripped the show to shreds based on some very well grounded arguments regarding script, editing, dialogue, lore departures, logic, etc. Tastes differ. I tried twice and exited after about 15 minutes. Not my cup of tea.

    1. The price of a cuppa has gone up during the cost of living crisis. However, nowhere near Jeff Bezos' budget for The Rings of Power!

    2. One expensive cup of high elven tea


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