Rings of Power Reviews

For discussion of Amazon's new television show "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power"
N.E. Brigand
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

Post by N.E. Brigand »

Inanna wrote: Mon Sep 05, 2022 2:43 am Isn’t it too early to comment on the characters? I mean, we just met them!
I don't think so. The first two episodes are as long as one average movie, and it's not like anyone said in 1977 that it was too early to comment on the characters in Star Wars.
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

Post by Eldy »

On the other hand, a good deal more happens to the main characters in the original Star Wars than has happened to the focal characters of any of ROP's plotlines in the first two episodes. :P Which is probably inevitable when you have this many subplots running from the word go.
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

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Eldy wrote: Wed Sep 07, 2022 10:44 pm On the other hand, a good deal more happens to the main characters in the original Star Wars than has happened to the focal characters of any of ROP's plotlines in the first two episodes. :P Which is probably inevitable when you have this many subplots running from the word go.
Perhaps compare instead to a multi-story Robert Altman film like Nashville (1975) or Short Cuts (1993)? Those both ran closer to three hours, though, so maybe the Rings of Power filmmakers deserve one more episode before it's fair to make such comparisons.
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

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I liked Celebrimbor.
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

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I liked Arondir and Bronwyn.
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

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I am beginning to get the vibe, not of PJ-LOTR but of Star Trek, from original series to about Deep Space 9. The production values are much higher, of course.
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Frelga wrote:Saw the first one, liked it a lot. So did my son, which was a hit surprising. He's not that kind of nerd, usually. Husband complained about acting, but also had fun watching.
The acting was incredible across the board. Who did he complain about?
Just in general. It was not a significant complaint, based on the fact that he wanted to watch e2 without waiting for son. :D
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

Post by Inanna »

Voronwë the Faithful wrote:I liked Arondir and Bronwyn.
So, you watched the show??

I saw episode 1 last night. Going to see 2nd tonight, hopefully. Will post my opinion after I’ve seen the second one.
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

Yes, I saw the 2 episodes today. I liked some of it and I thought much of it was quite absurd.
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

Post by N.E. Brigand »

I am not paying for a subscription to Seth Abramson's Retro blog just to read this (I also have not paid for access to his Proof blog about the events of Jan. 6th), but for the record, I note the existence of his review, which he very briefly summarizes here:

It’s Time to Admit That “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” Is a Very Bad Show

He claims to be a longtime (but non-"purist") reader of Tolkien's work.
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

To me, that is a huge vote of confidence in the show.
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

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Is he someone of note? Can't say I have heard of him but I don't know what to make of the Twitter thread because all it says to me about the article is "I have 40 years of experience reading Tolkien and writing books so my article is the definitive consensus on why this show sucks and you're deranged if you think otherwise."
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

He is a controversial political commentator and that's all I will say.

Here is a more balanced review by someone who's opinion I very much respect, the Tolkien scholar Dimitra Fimi.

https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/the- ... itra-fimi/
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

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Hidden behind a paywall for me unfortunately!
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

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I'd like to try a small survey - why do you read reviews?

Do you rely on reviews to decide whether to watch the show? Once you start watching, do you continue reading reviews?
His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools -- the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans -- and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, 'You can't trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there's nothing you can do about it, so let's have a drink."

Terry Pratchett, Small Gods
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Rings of Power Reviews

Post by Dave_LF »

For other shows I’ve watched, I’ve often read reviews at places like the AV Club (which is now a tragic shell of what it used to be) because the reviewer and commenters often pick up on things I missed, which helps to deepen my appreciation. With this show I haven’t really done that, because what I get here is better.
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

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Smaug's voice wrote: Fri Sep 23, 2022 3:48 pm Hidden behind a paywall for me unfortunately!
Here ya go!
Following years of speculation over its storylines, source material and the creators’ approach, the long-awaited The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has finally landed. I admit to harbouring mixed feelings about the project. On the one hand, the Tolkien material we knew Amazon had rights to allowed endless possibilities for creative departures, gap-filling and entire invented storylines. Yet the Peter Jackson Hobbit trilogy made some spectacularly bad choices based on that premiss. On the other hand, having written on the representation of race in Tolkien’s work for more than a decade now, I watched with aversion (but, alas, not too much surprise) the reactions of certain sections of Tolkien fandom against the series’ conscious choice of a diverse cast. By all means, let’s critique this series for its creative choices, from the largest to the smallest, but not for the skin colour of its actors, especially when Tolkien isn’t always that clear in his own descriptions, and was writing in another time, when representation wasn’t as valued by society as it is today. Each creative adaptation is a new piece of art, paying homage to its source material, but also belonging to its own time. It was ever thus.

Having said that, is The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power really an adaptation? Well, yes and no. The source material available to its creators isthe same as that offered to Peter Jackson, namely only The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, including the latter’s famous appendices. As many readers will know, these two novels take place in the Third Age of Middle-earth. This was not a mere literary conceit used to imply depth of time. Rather, Tolkien had spent decades prior to the publication of The Lord of the Rings writing, had spent decades prior to the publication of The Lord of the Rings writing, telling and retelling versions of all the previous history of Middle-earth. This included a cosmogonical myth in which the world is created by the Godhead, assisted by angelic beings in lieu of mythological “gods”; the First Age, when Elves and Men appear and take part in epic wars with Morgoth, the original arch villain of Middle-earth; and the Second Age, presenting the story of the Atlantis-like island of Númenor. All these stories, in various versions and degrees of completion, are recounted in The Silmarillion, the Unfinished Tales collection and the 12-volume History of Middle-earth series– all published posthumously and edited by Tolkien’s son Christopher. But the Amazon team does not have access to any of this material, the rights to which remain with the Tolkien Estate. Fortunately for them the appendices of The Lord of the Rings include a brief synopsis of these stories, giving the skeleton of the entire Middle-earth chronology. And that’s what they have toplay with.

The television show, therefore, occupies an unusual position: a creative adaptation that can expand on Tolkien’s outline stories and invent entire new characters and storylines, but also has to stick to the larger frame work of the history of Middle-earth and not contradict key plot points. The best analogy I could think of when discussing this with my students recently was the way Doctor Who’s titular hero can and cannot “meddle” with human history: details can be changed, but the grand narratives should stay the same. And herein lies the pleasure of, as Linda Hutcheon put it succinctly,“repetition with variation”. We know Sauron will rise again. Númenor will sink under the waves. But we may enjoy how the series creators take us there and what else they might show us on the way. Watching the first three episodes of the series both confirmed and challenged the sense of that pleasure for me.

The series uses Galadriel as a central character, not quite the lofty elf lady we encounter in The Lord of the Rings (books and films), but here a commander of an Elvish army and a rebel, bent on avenging her brother’s death on Sauron, even against the orders of Gil-galad, the High King. Tolkien developed Galadriel’s back story after completing The Lord of the Rings, and she certainly has a lot more agency in these later narratives. Nevertheless, itis already clear that the Amazon series has created new motivations and plotlines for her.

In keeping with Tolkien’s “interlace” technique of storytelling, following different groups of characters whose storylines overlap, intersect and interweave at important points, this series also develops other threads and peoples. For example, we don’t get hobbits, but we do have a group of Harfoots (an ancestral strand of the hobbits), who are a nomadic people. The cliffhanger to the first episode sees the Harfoots visited by a Stranger who arrives via a meteor, and his identity remains tantalizing. We also see the men of the Southlands, the place that will later become Mordor, threatened by the resurgence of Orcs. And we visit the Dwarves of Khazâd-dûm (Moria),sought in alliance by a much younger Elrond and harbouring a secret of their own. By the third episode Galadriel has reached Númenor, and all the foundations for portraying important events of the Second Age have been established. It is evident that we can expect to see the rise of Sauron as a seducer and corruptor, the forging of the Rings of Power, the fall of Númenor and the last alliance between Elves and Men. We will, therefore, end up where the prologue of Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring begins. But we have a long way to go before we get there.

What I found jarring was the forced creation of tension or conflict. I do realize that dramatic tension is in the rule book of every film and TV producer, but in order to heighten such moments the series has ended up with characters making choices that aren’t properly justified or don’t ring true. Does Galadriel have to board the ship to Valinor, get all the way to the threshold of Tolkien’s earthly paradise, then decide that she won’t obey Gil-galad’s orders, and jump into the sea? Surely it would have been much more practical to give her company the slip before that? The same goes with Elrond’s rush to the realm of the Dwarves to secure their assistance – why does Celebrimbor need his forge built “by spring”? There is no rhyme or reason for this, other than to increase dramatic tension. And I understand the desire to show some continuity with Jackson’s portrayal of Elf-Dwarf strife, but the reason Prince Durin is so peeved with Elrond seemed far too superficial to me.

I must also grumble a little about some of the language, tone, and accent choices. Morfydd Clark’s performance as Galadriel was excellent in the firsttwo episodes, but the lines she was given while at Númenor gave her an arrogance that jarred with her earlier portrayal. Similarly, the constant direct address of different peoples of Middle-earth by their “species” names(“You, Elf!”, especially – addressed towards Elrond by the Dwarves and towards Galadriel by Halbrand and the Númenóreans) feels artificial. Jackson’s more sparing, derogatory use of “species” names is taken to extremes here. And it would be remiss not to note the use of a mix of“country” British and Irish accents for the Harfoots and a Scottish accent forthe Dwarves. I can’t help but feel that the use of a mishmash of accents from various locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland merely plays into the romanticized view of Middle-earth as resonating with the Old Country, and isaimed particularly at an American audience. The result, rather than celebrating regional distinctions and identities, actually erases them.

Despite these reservations, there have been some stunning moments. These were mostly related to world-building and the wish fulfilment of seeing legendary characters and mythological situations on my living-room screen. The depiction of different Middle-earth cultures was done with care and attention to detail. The Elvish realms of Lindon and Eregion definitely echo the Art Nouveau styles used in the Jackson adaptations (Alan Lee had a handin both), and the stunning underground city of Khazâd-dûm has something of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis in its design and technological prowess. Númenor was breathtaking, both in its larger vistas (the sequence of the ship entering the harbour was magnificent) and in its materiality when zooming in(decorative details and the bright sunshine seem to reference a Mediterranean ambience). I might take issue with Galadriel’s last-minute decision to jump overboard en route to Valinor, but the voyage itself was gorgeous, combining Arthurian motifs and elements from medieval Irish tales of other world journeys (both well-known inspirations for Tolkien). Perhaps even more coveted by longstanding Tolkien fans was the opening sequence of the first episode, in which we see the Two Trees of Valinor, the original source of light in Tolkien’s world, in which, as he asserted himself,“the Sun is not a divine symbol, but a second-best thing” and the “light of the Sun” is a term “for a fallen world”.

I also enjoyed the sudden revelation of the identity of the captain who saves Galadriel and Halbrand, which sustained the pleasure of spotting earlier iterations of characters we know from later stories. The same goes for Elrond, and for the wooden statues we see in Lindon of even earlier characters from the First Age, including Beren and Lúthien, the archetypical Man-Elf couple in Tolkien’s mythology. This theme of forbidden yet significant interracial love is picked up in the series via the story of Arondir and Bronwyn, both newly invented characters. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has provided both enjoyment and slight discomfort, but has primarily left me with questions: who is the Stranger, for example? Is it Gandalf ? Who is Adar? When and how do we get to see Sauron? Let’s hope it will be worth the wait.

Dimitra Fimi is Senior Lecturer in Fantasy and Children’s Literature, and Co-Director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic, at Glasgow University
"Spirits in the shape of hawks and eagles flew ever to and from his halls; and their eyes could see to the depths of the seas, and pierce the hidden caverns beneath the world."
N.E. Brigand
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

Post by N.E. Brigand »

Frelga wrote: Fri Sep 23, 2022 4:13 pm I'd like to try a small survey - why do you read reviews?

Do you rely on reviews to decide whether to watch the show? Once you start watching, do you continue reading reviews?
I'm likelier to read reviews after experiencing a work of art than before experiencing it. Often I may never experience the work in question. I own multiple collections of film criticism which I've read more or less in their entirety and have yet to see a tithe of the movies reviewed in them. I very much have enjoyed dipping into and out of The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature but don't expect to ever read most of the books described there. And I regular read David Bratman's music reviews without having attended the concerts in question and often without knowing the specific piece of music he's reviewing.
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

Post by Frelga »

Dave and NE, interesting! I didn't consider reviews that speak about the technical aspects, like innovative camera work, or practical effects, or even cinematic influences. I was thinking of the kind that focuses on the reviewer's personal level of enjoyment.
His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools -- the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans -- and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, 'You can't trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there's nothing you can do about it, so let's have a drink."

Terry Pratchett, Small Gods
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

Post by Smaug's voice »

Thanks for the Fimi review, V. I really enjoyed it and find myself agreeing with it. (The addressing others by their species name bothers me a lot and the Dr. Who analogy is quite appropriate.)
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Re: Rings of Power Reviews

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Frelga wrote: Fri Sep 23, 2022 4:13 pm I'd like to try a small survey - why do you read reviews?

Do you rely on reviews to decide whether to watch the show? Once you start watching, do you continue reading reviews?
I don't so much 'read' reviews as 'glance' at them. I can usually tell within the first paragraph were it is going and if I want to read more. That said, some I do read have some good insights into the shows. Why I read them as much as I do is to get a rough outline of how the show may be flowing. I do not rely on reviews to decide whether to watch a show or not. That is up to me. I will watch usually at least one episode of a TV show before either nixing it from my list, decide I need to see more right away or as soon as possible, or put it in a 'maybe later category. I do take a look at some reviews after I am watching.

Thanks for the Fimi review. It is pretty much where I am at with Rings of Power. I've given it a 3/5 on the Amazon review at the halfway point of season 1.
Last edited by Snowdog on Sat Sep 24, 2022 4:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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