TL;DR – This might be a foundation episode, but it is a strong foundation that I hope they build something grand upon.
Disclosure – I paid for the Amazon Prime service that viewed this episode.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Review –
I don’t think I have ever come into a project with such fraught feelings as I do with The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. For all those who love cinema, there is always a gateway film that first lit that spark in our heart, and for me, that film was The Lord of the Rings. I revealed in its visuals, narrative, and soundscape in the cinemas, devoured it on DVD when it came out at home, and then delved into every aspect of the behind-the-scenes documentaries in the extended editions. They are such a strong foundation in my cinematic world that diving back in was always going to be precarious, even before the thought that its success or failure might change the course of the streaming business.
So to set the scene, it is 5000 years before the events of the Lord of the Rings films, in what is called the Second Age. When the world was young, there was no Sun, but the light was given from the Two Trees of Valinor, Laurelin and Telperion until Melkor came and destroyed them. The elves fought a centuries-long war again Melkor, travelling from their home all the way to Middle Earth to finally vanquish him. But one of his acolytes remained, Sauron, and after he killed Galadriel’s (Morfydd Clark) brother, she swore an oath that she would destroy him. Centuries later, in the frozen wastes of the north, she is the last one chasing down her foe, but when they find his last bastion empty [well, almost empty], her company demands to return home. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
Undoubtedly, the first place that the episode shines is in its visual production, from design to locations to visual effects. One of the biggest strengths of The Lord of the Rings films was the power of Wetā Studios behind it, and you see their hand throughout the series. The fine details in the costumes, weapons, and armour. My favourite touch in the first episode was the faces of wood carved into the armour of Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova). Then there are the locations, another place where New Zealand gets to shine. There is a lived yet wild feeling to many of the locations they use in the show, which adds to the power of the place. Finally, we have the visual effects, which create some spectacular moments. Well, good things happen when you have Wetā, DNEG, ILM, and others teaming up for a project like this. Of course, when all three of these combined, it took my breath away.
The next strength was how it captured that energy that was Tolkien’s world. While The Lord of the Rings just had the issue of trying to summarise the last conflict in its opening exposition narration. The Rings of Power must summarise some of the deepest lore moments in the book’s history. Overall, I think they did an excellent job of creating that foundation for those who may not have read the appendices or The Silmarillion and reminding us that all children are little brats at times. We also get little snapshots that explore all facets of the world. The first of these that filled me with joy was when we first stumbled upon the Halflings/Harfoots/Hobbits. Tolkien always mentioned that they were good at hiding themselves and their settlements but seeing that shown in such detail was a delight and brought a smile to my face. On the other side of the spectrum was Galadriel approaching the Undying Lands. This was an almost religious experience, which sort of fits given the context, but for a crisis of faith moment to work, they needed to sell what she was giving up [for now], and they did.
Narratively speaking, a lot and not that much happened in this first episode, which you should expect when you have an episode about building foundations. We get to see the realm of the Elves and how they have shifted and changed during these years of war, then years of war masquerading as peace. I do love a bit of politics, and watching Elrond (Robert Aramayo) make his moves, knowing where he ends up, was quite fun. We also delve into the realm of men, and here the subtext becomes text in a slightly clumsy way which does not take away from the episode but was still a bit hmm. I did, however, like how they used the map throughout the show. Not just because I like Maps, and I do like maps, but it is used to ground where the story was taking place.
Overall, the main thrust of this episode’s narrative was that everyone assumed that the evil had passed and had become complacent, only for that complacency to get a rude awakening. In comparison, this awaking was punctured by the meteorite crashing to the ground, baring ‘The Stranger’ (Daniel Weyman) [Big Stardust energy here]. The threads of this had been woven throughout the episode before that. Warnings of stars being out of alignment, hunters coming early, grains mysteriously dying, and more. This danger growing throughout the episode made an excellent counter to the Elvan pontifications. It also plays into the audience’s pre-knowledge because we know something terrible is coming even if the characters don’t.
In the end, do we recommend The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Shadow of the Past? Yes, we do. If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, it is a no-brainer to come to check it out. Also, if you liked the films, I would also say that you should give this a chance.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you seen The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Directed by – J. A. Bayona
Written by – J. D. Payne & Patrick McKay
Created by – J. D. Payne & Patrick McKay
Based On – The Lord of the Rings and appendices by J. R. R. Tolkien
Production/Distribution Companies – Amazon Studios, Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Trust, HarperCollins, New Line Cinema & Amazon Prime
Starring – Morfydd Clark, Robert Aramayo, Benjamin Walker, Sir Lenny Henry, Markella Kavenagh, Sara Zwangobani, Dylan Smith, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Nazanin Boniadi, Tyroe Muhafidin, Simon Merrells, Charles Edwards & Daniel Weyman with Amelie Child Villiers, Will Fletcher, Fabian McCallum, Kip Chapman, Thusitha Jayasundera, Maxine Cunliffe, Beau Cassidy, Megan Richards, Geoff Morrell, Peter Tait, Ian Blackburn, Augustus Prew, Jagger Serafin, Eva Gardner & Oscar Beszant