Review: ‘The Rings of Power’ is about to kick off in expensive fashion

Photo courtesy of IMDb.

By Clay Thompson | Arts and Life Intern

On Friday, one of the most controversial and discussed shows of the year, “The Rings of Power,” premiered its first two episodes on Amazon Prime. Serving as the prequel television series to the original “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” film trilogy, “The Rings of Power” details the Second Age of Man in the realm of Middle-earth and introduces audiences to the origin of many familiar characters, as well as new characters.

Without spoiling the first two episodes of the show, we can say that it is visually spectacular. Since it is currently the most expensive show ever, I expect the visuals and effects to be top-notch, but I was truly blown away by how beautiful the show looked. Even in its first two episodes alone, I found myself gasping audibly at the beauty of Valinor or the craggy depths of Khazad-dûm. The first two episodes of the series have many wonderful set-up shots, showing off the massive budget of the series and creating a truly impressive visual quality on the series.

However, the visuals aren’t what carry the quality of a show to my mind, and so far that seems to be what Amazon is banking on.

Let me start with my first criticism: the pacing. The second episode does a better job at this, but after watching the first episode of the series, I had no idea what it would be about. As a reader of Tolkien’s work regarding Middle-earth, I had an idea, but would never have discovered it through the series. There are several plot points introduced that are meant to connect to each other or have some meaning, but it felt really disjointed and very fast-paced. Exactly what you don’t want from a pilot episode of a show.

Second, I don’t like the acting or the writing. Shouldn’t I feel the characters? Invest emotionally and care about their travels? From Galadriel being an arrogant lone wolf to the absolutely wooden portrayal of the elf Arondir, I felt the first two episodes should have, at the very least, shown audiences a glimpse of what their character arcs would be, but s there was a hint of them, I didn’t see it. As for the first two episodes, they should build their protagonists. Sure, show the audience their flaws, but don’t let that be all they see. I don’t really care about the main characters so far, except maybe the human character Bronwyn, played by Nazanin Boniadi. She’s the only actress I recommend for a decent performance.

Overall, the first two episodes of “The Rings of Power” are mixed for me. The visuals are amazing, but that doesn’t excuse poor acting and writing to establish compelling main characters. There’s always room for improvement, as there are six more episodes of the first season to be released, but I have a bad feeling because of the series’ two-episode premiere. Apart arguments about casting diversity or Amazon temporarily suspend reviews for the series to choose to value visual style over character and story substance is a misstep that I hope this series can avoid for its future episodes this season.

About Marco C. Nichols

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