THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RINGS OF POWER -- A Gorgeous but Otherwise Underwhelming Return to Middle Earth
Review by Sean Boelman
There is no question that The Lord of the Rings is one of the most beloved fantasy franchises of all time, and fantasy television is hot right now thanks to the popularity of the Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon. Yet despite having the beast of an IP behind it, the exuberantly expensive The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a dud, a largely dull — albeit gorgeous return to Middle Earth that does not know what to do without Tolkein’s source materials.
Set years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the series follows a group of heroes as they set out on a quest to defeat the forces of evil. The series takes characters and parts of the world that was crafted so intricately by Tolkein and builds upon them in a way that lacks the magic of his extraordinary craftsmanship as a writer.
Like the properties actually based on source material actually written by Tolkien, there isn’t a whole lot of story in these first two episodes. It’s essentially setting up the quest to come in a way that will hopefully pay off in later episodes (the show is starting off with a two-season greenlight, after all) but is quite frankly boring to watch, even if you are invested in the world thanks to the previous films.
However, perhaps the single biggest mistake the series makes is turning this into an ensemble series from the start. The Fellowship of the Ring gives the audience the opportunity to get acquainted with the group dynamic from the start before splitting them up to have their own arcs in The Two Towers. The Rings of Power attempts to juggle multiple storylines from the get go, and as a result, it lacks that all-important connection.
The series features a combination of returning characters and new additions to the on-screen lore. Headlining the cast is Morfydd Clark as Galadriel, and she is no Cate Blanchett. Granted, it is entirely possible that she just wasn’t given enough to work with in these first two episodes, and the rest of the season will fare much better for her.
Indeed, there is a pretty shocking lack of A-list stars in the ensemble cast given that this is quite possibly one of the biggest intellectual properties on Earth. While the casts of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies might not have been household names prior to the films coming out, they at least had a few established legends and promising up-and-comers. The only notable actor in The Rings of Power is Ismael Cruz Cordova, who truly deserves a big breakout like this.
While it’s hard to base off the first two episodes alone, and it is entirely possible that it will improve over the course of the season, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a massive disappointment so far. In terms of fantasy in general, it’s not terrible, but given the budget and IP that went it to this, it should have been fantastic and it simply isn’t.
The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power streams on Prime Video beginning September 1 with subsequent episodes airing Fridays. Two out of ten episodes reviewed.