This review of Season 1 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power from Prime Video does not contain spoilers.
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It’s the summer of big-budget fantasy prequels. Just weeks after HBO launched its highly publicized game of thrones epic comes Prime Video’s equally ambitious, and dare I say riskier, entry into the the Lord of the Rings cannon.
The 8-part series produced by Prime Video is expected to be the most expensive TV show in history, with $1 billion spent on its production. For this type of investment and with a property that for many is a key fantasy genre text, meeting expectations was always going to be a tall order. I’m thrilled to report that they somehow delivered.
The story introduces us to the heroes of the Second Age, which includes several familiar faces, elven and evil, and a host of new characters to get to know. Before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, in a time of relative peace, evil once again stirs in Middle-earth, and to fend off a legendary villain, an unlikely group must form and fight. together.
One of the most common challenges approaching a prequel is adding depth to a rich and seemingly already fully realized world without undermining or even taking away from the original. The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings of Power manages to be its own thing, while adding to the depth of the existing canon.
Even on the occasions when we meet characters for the first time, the familiarity we already have with this world and the total comfort with which they seem to inhabit it immediately puts the viewer at ease, knowing that it all belongs, it has meaning and adds to the existing tradition. The show is heavy on story and light on fan service, which is exactly what a story like this deserves. Take note, Disney.
The dialogue, in particular, seems to work like honey, and in the moments where the characters are allowed to have an extended exchange, it feels like the words are flowing straight from Tolkein’s pen.
As you’d expect, given the budget and talent involved, it looks magnificent, with Middle-earth seemingly coming to life on screen. Each of the locations has a distinct personality, and the characters residing there inhabit them convincingly. You understand why the Elves are the way they are when we see how amazingly liberated Valinor is, for example, and that’s contrasted when we meet the grimy humans, living in a run-down village in Middle-earth.
The performances are well judged. Robert Aranmayo’s Young Elrond refers to Hugo Heaving without being an impression of him. It’s Morfydd Clark as Galadriel who jumps off the screen. She brings to the character a sense of barely suppressed rage disguised as heroism and makes the elven warrior the most compelling on-screen presence.
If I had any complaints it would just be that watching something of this ambition and scale that is so well executed would ideally be done with others, on the biggest screen you can find and with the best sound system available. . That being said, if you have to watch something on your TV, you’ll struggle to do much better than that.
What did you think of Season 1 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power from Prime Video? Comments below.
You can watch this series with a Prime Video subscription.
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