author: Hubert Sosnowski
Rings of Power Brought Back the Sense of Adventure I've Been Missing - Review
We waited, we feared, and like gamblers we bet on what this series would be like. Good? Faithful to Tolkien? The first two episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power explain a lot. First of all, they remind us what adventure cinema should be about.
It could still go south. Rings of Power may succumb to the forces of creative evil and mediocrity. They may fulfill the darkest fears of all the YouTubers and Reddit villains whose opinions we so eagerly proclaim as our own. For now, however, after the first two episodes, everything seems to indicate the exact opposite. The Rings of Power has the power of attraction; the power to enchant with cinematic magic on small screens. The series avoids most of the pitfalls we feared. Although, it must be admitted, not everyone will be thrilled with it.
Promotional materials for the series The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power filled us with moderate optimism. Something between "a little indifferent" and "well ok, it looks very nice." The visuals and vivid sceneries caught the eye already in the trailers, but this is, after all, a scenario that doesn't guarantee huge success, and often means there's nothing in the box for us. Not this time! Since we already started talking about visuals, let's begin with them.
A window on Middle-earth
I was expecting a spectacular series, something to rival Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon. Meanwhile, I got great cinema on small screen.. It's a cinema that's juggling classic film shticks with great skill.. New Zealand's landscapes, ruins, palaces, seas or dusty huts come to life before our eyes in a way that's expected in a cinema, but not necesarily in your bedroom. The cinematographers did a good job, however. They take us right into the Middle-earth of the Second Era, exposing and pronouncing the life given to the lush sets and background imagery. On the screen, it's sometimes beautiful, impressive, adventurous, idyllic, monumental, but when necessary – the creators knew how to arouse anxiety, or present a monster, so that we feel the thrill of adventure similar to classic horror films, not too scary, but with stuffy atmosphere.
Above all, it is always livly, the special and practical effects and decorations intertwine well here.. The team not only got a heap of funds from Bezos, but also knew how to spend it well. The views and impressive action pieces alone are enough to make it worth to start the adventure with Rings of Power, and so are the intimate scenes that develop the characters. What's more, this world has texture, it looks like someone is actually living there. It does work great.
Without the story and characters, however, this world would be just a very expensive sightseeing tour, an amusement park with a few thrills for the eye and ear. Fortunately, the screenwriters have done their job well, too. They may have taken a fairly casual approach to the source material, but in the episodes made available before the premiere, they began to build the narrative firmly in the spirit of the writer. The atmosphere of a monumental, larger-than-life adventure pours off the screen. An adventure potentially beautiful and terrible, seizing both the legends of Middle-earth, and the commoners who just want to get out of the routine of life.
Sauron like Moby Dick
The story begins in a familiar way, similarly to what Peter Jackson got us used to in the Lord of the Rings. One great evil (Morgoth) is defeated, but another (Sauron) has already planted its seed and escaped final defeat. However, the world has had enough of the Great War, and needs time to recover. Only a few – such as Galadriel (the excellent Morfydd Clark) – have the power to rise up to the challenge.
The action proper kicks off when the elven woman doesn't give up and wants to continue a chase to avenge her brother's death. In spite of the king's orders and the pleas of her charges. Forced to return before the elven ruler, doubts and vengful feelings follow her. Galadriel beautifully slashes through enemies, but what did I expect, she's a long-lived warrior who had time to learn a few moves) and she is able to inspboth her comrades and the audience, and yet she's far from perfect. On the one hand, she wants to stop evil, on the other she is a bit like Captain Ahab from Moby Dick. She's that Mellvile-esque charismatic individual, possessed by a revenge, whose beautiful soul is restrained by her lowest instincts and anger. And she herself knows that she has darkness inside her, but succumbs to it anyway. This makes this heroine's journey far more interesting than it might originally seem.
Surely, we already know where she ends up in The Fellowship of the Ring, but in Rings of Power, I think we will come to know the answer to the question of how much the acquired wisdom really cost Galadriel. And even if the course of the journey offends Tolkien's canons, it still fits nicely with the scene from the Trilogy in which Galdariels terrifies Frodo and rejects the One Ring.
The other storylines are pretty powerful as well, with Elrond (decent Robert Aramayo) embroiling himself in a story that will probably result in one of the biggest mistakes in the history of Middle-earth, while balancing the attitudes of a canny politician and just a kind person – another character with intriguing duality. Like the guy who fell from the sky – will he bring evil or the answer to it? And like the story of Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova), showing the strained relationship between elves and humans, full of mutual, quite justified distrust.
The filmmakers have given the characters and factions as a whole enough time to build complex relationships, outlining the moral dilemmas they will all face. Even positive Tolkien heroes should have their issiues, after all, we all remember Boromir, right? These are not political dilemmas straight out of Game of Thrones. It's simply making sure that the heroism doesn't bore us, that the characters have something to develop for, and that they have to fight not only against the others, but against themselves. So that the challenge is real. Over the course of two episodes, there's a nice balance in this. If the personal stories don't get out of breath at a faster pace, we will remember this journey for a long time.
Voice of Middle-earth
And so far that's what it looks like. A sense of wonder and awesomeness breathes from the screen with each new scene, and we can hear that call of adventure that accompanied The Fellowship of the Ring or even the beginnings of the cinematic The Hobbit. Bear McCreary's music, kept firmly in the spirit of what Howard Shore composed for Jackson's Trilogy, is partly responsible for this. It, too, is epic and upbeat, but also lyrical, sometimes melancholic and dark. You'll hear many shades of great quests and high-stakes intrigues here. Even if the plot deviates from the expectations of the most dedicated Tolkien lovers – the music definitely doesn't.
It's true that the creators took a very casual approach to the source material.. If this bothers anyone; if you wanted a faithful transfer of Tolkien's works to the screen, I guess you still have to wait, and subtract from the final rating as many points as you like. You can even call Amazon's production a fanfic, if you must.
And those looking for a cinematic adventure are in for a treat, big time.. While the story isn't faithful to the books, it simply works on its own, unlike, for example, Netflix's The Witcher, which held as much water in terms of logic as a colander. Regardless of whether or not we used Sapkowski's books as a yardstick. The biggest sin of Rings of Power – so from the perspective of a casual viewer – is a few not very skillful jumps between storylines and regions of the world, but these are small things that can be forgotten after a while..
The first two episodes of Lord of the Rings have their own weight, allowing us to breathe Middle-earth in and find ourselves in the action. After the intense prologue, the creators stop rushing. For some, the slower pace of events may be a disadvantage, but everything still keeps you hooked. It's shown really well that there is still a shadow lurking on the verges of the world, licking its wounds. What we see on the screens simply makes sense. It's the seed of a fairly universal story, a bit different from what Tolkien wrote, but against all odds – kept in his spirit. So if you wanted someone to finally set off the magic of cinema on the small screen, if you want to travel to a known world that has a new spin to it, then pack your backpacks, or at least take some snacks. The expedition awaits, and its beginnings are promising.