Lord of the Rings promotional poster

Does The Rings of Power have that cosmic connection?

TV & Netflix

Rather like dear old Bilbo, I’d been feeling like butter scraped over too much bread. I was tempted by the Ring – Amazon Prime’s new ‘Lord of the Rings’. How did I fare on this perilous quest?!

Divisive

I think the show has been divisive, with rather cross Tolkien fans on one side and mainstream critics on the other. The general public reaction has been lacklustre. This surely can’t be claimed as a Stranger Things-style cultural phenomenon for the streaming platform.

The story is set 2,000 years before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – despite Amazon only having the rights to those particular books and their appendices. We can presumably look forward to Sauron crafting the rings and corrupting Númenor, before his defeat at the end of the Second Age. It has already wrought a great many changes to the lore, adding original characters and compressing and reshuffling the timeline.

With early rumours of nudity and an ‘intimacy coordinator’, I suspect the creators and devoted fans got off on the wrong (har)foot from the get-go. After all, Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy received backlash when he introduced a non-canon character – Evangeline Lilly’s elf Tauriel – in an inter-species romance with a dwarf.

Spoilers ahead.

Why I love it….

Admittedly, I can switch off and enjoy a pretty spectacle better than most. Yes, Rings is slow. But I was rewarded with fab performances from a cast of largely unknown actors. A lot of the original characters work well, such as twisted elf Adar (Jospeh Mawle), and dwarven princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete), who is wife to Prince Durin (Owain Arthur).

Some of the best scenes are between Durin and Elrond (Robert Aramayo), which are reminiscent of the Gimli and Legolas bromance. And then there’s the biggie – canon-breaking drifter Halbrand, AKA Sexy Sauron (Charlie Vickers) – who forges an interesting bond with Galadriel (Morfyyd Clark).

That brings me to the bad….

Despite the sexual chemistry between them (and the obvious gossip on Númenor), the two actors have insisted that their characters share a cosmic, not romantic tension. It’s a sinister cosmic connection though – one where Galadriel drags a reluctant Sauron back to his evil ways. I’m joking, but it’s as if writers flirted with the possibility of a Galadriel/Sauron romance, then let it fade into incoherence instead.

The breakout star and clear lead is Clark, best known for the A24’s acclaimed psychological horror Saint Maud, and as Mina in the BBC’s Dracula. Her armour-clad yet diminutive Galadriel is unrecognisable from Cate Blanchett’s regal, ethereal sorceress. She’s forever hectoring, and she’s always right. Whatever happened to you, far worse has happened to her. (We’ve all had a friend like that.) No wonder Celeborn has done a runner. It’s a credit to Clark that she remains luminous throughout.

Sadly Clark – and the rest of the cast – are let down by the dialogue. In a potentially great scene, Halbrand growls: “Why do you keep fighting?” Galadriel’s answer? “Because I cannot stop!”

I’ve cringed at the platitudes, at the terrible fight choreography, and at the dainty Númenorean ships sailing to war. The ineptitude and contrivances are of volcanic proportions and beyond the scope of this blog post, but a mention must go to the ancient Celebrimbor, the greatest of elven-smiths, agog with wonder as he discovers metallurgy 101 from a seemingly random human man.

In conclusion…

The argument will likely rumble on like Mount Doom as to whether the decisions that the Amazon showrunners make are supported by Tolkien’s text. According to IMDb, the current lead writers do not have much experience (although they certainly make up for it with confidence).

I was in the market for a family-appropriate show, so couldn’t be tempted by the buzzier House of the Dragon. But I’d be too embarrassed to recommend Rings. If you’re content with a gentle trip to a Middle-earth theme park, this is your show. I’d describe myself as invested in the actors, and impatient for an (improved) second season that will need to be eerier, faster-paced, and possess more heart, care and attention to detail.

Because rather like the Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts, it has failed to capture the magic.

Credit: Amazon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.