Although I may have my prejudices when a piece of media is going to come out, I always try to be fair when I review something. That being said, I tried to be fair to the Rings of Power first two episodes and tried to see them as what they are: an X fantasy series that happens to take the names of Tolkien characters to create its own story. That means I didn’t look at the series as a “Tolkien series” because it doesn’t respect the lore at all. It presents events that never happened and ignores events that actually happened; it ignores character that actually exist and presents its own made-up characters; and completely messes up the timeline and chronology.
The reason why I this series is not a “Tolkienian series” (as some people say) is something I will explain in the future. In the meantime, saying it’s not a “Tolkienian series” is enough. That’s why I simply call it “Rings of Power” and not “The Lord of The Rings: Rings of Power”, because it’s not worth of the “Lord of The Rings” title.
You can already tell I didn’t like the series.
During the extremely weird marketing campaign (more about that later), one thing that was mentioned is how expensive the series is. It’s “the most expensive series ever made and it revolutionizes the way we will see TV series and direct-to-streaming series!!!”. I have to say I agree with this 50%. Visually, the show is amazing except when it isn’t. The landscapes are breathtaking and the establishing shots are also outstanding. When you are presented with an establishing shot of any of the cities, it’s an amazing sight. Unfortunately, costumes are the complete opposite. Costumes look cheap, and make the characters look like they are cosplaying, not like people that actually live there. The elves’ costumes look like “generic fabric painted with gold” so they have this weird texture to them. There’s a scene where Gil-galad is crowning some elves, and the crowns look like they are made of golden tinfoil paper, and another scene that shows an elven cemetery where statues of fallen elves are carved on the trees looks like a theme park, with artificial lights and painted plastic-looking trees. If not-Galadriel had been wearing a tag on her chest that said “Hello, my name is Galadriel” it would have fit perfectly since the entire thing looked like a Disneyland room.
However, the worst, by far, is the “silvan elves” armor. They have this “chestplate” on the torso that looks like it’s spraypainted foam with an Ent-face on them. This series is even more expensive than the Peter Jackson movies (and, from I understand, Weta Workshop was involved) so I am amazed by how cheap costumes look.
Some people have reported the first two episodes are very boring. I have to say I don’t quite agree with that assessment, but not because I thought they were amazing. It’s because they just feel like padding. For example, there’s a scene where not-Elrond is having this rock-breaking competition with not-Durin, and the thing goes on and on and has no real purpose. This felt like a cheap attempt of making a copy of the “drinking game” scene from PJ’s Return of The King extended edition, except this one didn’t add much because you don’t see those characters as friends. You’re just told they are friends. There are various scenes like this and it’s like the writers were told “make this last this many episodes” because, after 2 episodes, we are almost where we started.
On the other hand, while the series wastes time on these unnecessary filler scenes, it also throws around names and lore dumps that will not make sense to the majority of people here. The target audience is obviously people who liked the Jackson movies but knows nothing about Tolkien. The problem is the series starts dumping lore left and right expecting the audience to already know what they are talking about. The intro talks about Morgoth and then makes a triple-deadly-jump to mention Sauron. It basically goes like “oh yeah Morgoth was bad, did something so we went to kick his butt and after some time he was defeated (yes, you are not shown how Morgoth is defeated, you’re just told he was defeated, because who needs to see the epic defeat of Morgoth anyway) but then Sauron showed up and… he just disappeared”. The sequence even has a short battle scene, but it’s just a zoom-out where you see a bunch of digital doubles fighting.
Since Amazon only purchased the rights to the appendices, there’s not much they can use. However, you’d say they would find creative ways to make the intro actually explain something, rather than just casually mention Sauron. You’re expected to fill the gaps, but how can your audience fill the gaps if your target audience is people that doesn’t know anything about Melkor, the Silmarils, Gorthaur or Fëanor? (and if you’re now thinking “who?” or going to your search engine to look for those names, you just proved my point). There’s even a part of the second episode where not-Celebrimbor casually mentions the Silmarils and Fëanor and most peoples’ reactions will be “The Silmawho?”.
As for the music, all I can say “what music?” Don’t get he wrong, the show has background music. But it’s forgettable and definitely you’re not going to be humming that music for the next 20 years. You still remember the different themes in the Jackson movies, but this show’s music is something you forget as soon as you tune out.
Acting is all over the place. The guy that plays Elrond has a certain charm to him, and so does the guy that plays Durin. There’s a scene that shows a good chemistry between both characters (even if the scene itself feels more like padding than anything else) so that’s a good thing. Likewise, the man that plays Celebrimbor is also good, and Gil-galad has this “stoic” feel to him. However, on the other hand you have Arondir and Bronwyn, who are supposed to be in love with each other (you know this because the marketing told you) but every time they are together on the screen it feels like they are the two kids whose parents want to pair together and they are just spending time together because they have to. They both have pretty much a single facial expression: “concern”. In the Jackson movies you could clearly see the love between Aragorn and Arwen, but these two, you could spread the rumor they are actually mortal enemies and you’d believe it.
Unfortunately, the good acting falls apart when you consider the dialogue. The entire dialogue has this “forced Tolkien-ish dialogue” that makes it sound like they were trying very hard to sound like Tolkien, but they ended up sounding like a guy trying hard to sound like Tolkien.
But my main issue with the series is how it has changed pretty much the entire world to the point you can’t recognize Tolkien’s work in it. Characters are different, elves ditch their established long flowing hair in favor of “influencer haircut” and Arondir somehow got a shaving machine because he has an “army haircut”. On one side, I think this is a total disrespect of the established work, but also I know a lot of people are going to watch this series and never touch the books, and believe this is the real Tolkien, just like there’s a lot of people that think they know Dune when all they know is the Lynch movie, and even go as far as discuss Dune with you, quoting the movie as if they were quoting the actual book, because even if they know the Dune books exist, they never bothered, and will never bother, to read them because it’s easier to just stick to what they were told in a movie (or, in this case, a series). It’s going to be ironically funny when someone wants to argue with a Tolkien fan, explaining how cool warrior-Galadriel is, just to have the Tolkien fan make a funny face.
The problem is, judging by the marketing of the show, and what we were told about the show since it was announced a couple of years ago, it makes me think very little was devoted to the actual creative work of the show, and most of the work was devoted to things that don’t really add anything to the show.
But what do I mean by that? I’ll tell you about it in part 2 of my review.