“The Rings of Power” Review – Gorgeous Garbage

In November of 2017, Amazon paid $250 million for the television rights to “The Lord of the Rings,” and another $1 billion to produce five seasons of a prequel series. Bringing on J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot pupils J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay as showrunners, Amazon spent nearly five years making “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” before giving the world Season 1 on September 1st (originally they were going to release it on September 2nd, the anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien’s death). So, was it a worthy gamble for Amazon?

No. Not in the slightest.

The Rings of Power

The final product is admittedly stunning from a production standpoint, but the writing, world-building, and characters are all shameful in comparison to Tolkien’s books and Peter Jackson’s nearly perfect trilogy of films. This is a bland, generic, and soulless product that feels absolutely nothing like “The Lord of the Rings.” Whether it’s the fact that characters can seemingly teleport across Middle-Earth like they’re in “Game of Thrones” Season 8, or that the character designs look nothing like Tolkien’s creations, or that returning characters from the LOTR books/movies feel and act completely differently, this show is an insult to Tolkien, to Peter Jackson, and worst of all, to LOTR fans.

The show’s problems stem from the fact that Amazon only has the rights to the appendices from the book The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, meaning they only have the rights to some table scraps and have no clear story to follow, certainly not enough for a $1 billion television series. Therefore, “The Rings of Power” has to make up for it with a narrative that’s almost all filler with some new, made-up characters that are entirely uninteresting and a world that’s quite different from that of the books and movies, as this show takes place in the Second Age whereas the stories we know are from the Third Age.

Because the writers are lazy or incompetent or most likely both, they spend no time on fleshing out the world, establishing its rules, or differentiating it from the Middle-Earth we’re used to. The show jumps from place to place and from character to character with nothing but a map and some throwaway lines to explain where exactly we are, what’s happening, and how the many bloated stories will connect.

There’s no connecting tissue here, so the series just feels like a bunch of boring fantasy tales jumbled together. The only actual through-line is Galadriel’s hunt for Sauron, which is ironically the worst part of the show (we’ll get into that later, don’t fret). When we’re not following her, we’re with a young Elrond as he recruits Dwarves to build something for him (I forget and don’t care what it was). Or we’re with an Elf named Arondir, his love interest, and his love interest’s annoying son who has a legendary puberty mustache. Or we’re with a young Hobbit — sorry, Harfoot — named Lori who stumbles upon some all-powerful, mysterious wizard (who’s obviously a young Gandalf, which nobody wants to see). And these are just the first two episodes; there’s a bunch of new plot points that will be thrown at us in the next few episodes, as many of the characters that we know are supposed to be in the series haven’t showed up yet.

So, Big Issue #1 is that the audience is lost because of how jumbled and thin the stories and world are. Big Issue #2 is Galadriel. What a nightmarish character. In Peter Jackson’s movies, she was played with perfection by Cate Blanchett. An elegant, beautiful, charismatic, and inspirational figure who was the embodiment of goodness. She was even the audience’s guide to Middle-Earth in that epic prologue from the original LOTR trilogy.

Let’s contrast that with the completely different version of Galadriel in “The Rings of Power.” Here, we’re treated to a mean-spirited performance from actress Morfydd Clark. In contrast to Blanchett, Clark has absolutely no charisma, magic, or any hint of likability to her. Part of this is due to the writing, but this is also due to her acting. I get that she has some bad material to work with, but she could have at least tried to be less antagonistic. Her performance is more similar to Brie Larson’s as Captain Marvel than anything else.

The Rings of Power

Speaking of the bad material, let’s discuss it. Galadriel is the most (unintentionally) unlikable, grouchy, and aggressive presence on the series. She talks down to literally everyone she meets. She is always in a bad mood, selfish, and apathetic to the needs of others. The writers want us to think she’s some tough, cool, and mighty warrior but instead we see an utterly nasty individual. Another issue is that the writers intended to create her without flaws. She’s overpowered, stronger than everyone, always right, always the smartest person in the room. Yet, she’ll make dumb choices like jump off a boat and swim in the middle of the ocean with no real destination or sense of direction, but of course, because she’s perfect and flawless and brave and stunning, she’s strong enough to swim for what seems to be hours without breaking a sweat.

Character Writing 101 is to give a character flaws. Without flaws, the character isn’t relatable and the audience can’t connect to him/her, and therefore develops a disdain for the character. People have flaws, so when a character is heralded as perfect, he/she actually comes off as annoying and smug to the audience. Hence Rey. Hence Michael Burnham. Hence Captain Marvel. Hence Jane Foster. Hence She-Hulk. And now, hence Galadriel. It’s a shame that such a beloved and iconic character was morphed into the worst character in a show consisting entirely of bad characters.

The Rings of Power

Big Issue #3 is the dialogue. The writers couldn’t decide on whether to write lines that sound like modern-day linguistics or how pseudo-intellectuals think people in medieval times talked. “The Rings of Power” has some of the worst, most overwritten lines I’ve ever had the displeasure of hearing in any movie or television show. Here are a few bangers I found:

  • “Now we learned many words for death.”
  • “How long can living flesh endure where even sunlight fears to tread?”
  • “Sometimes we cannot know until we have touched the darkness.”

If you read Tolkien’s books or watch the Peter Jackson’s films, you won’t find a single line that’s this pretentious or Shakespearean (in the worst way possible). The writers think they’re so intelligent by writing these bangers, but really they’re just incompetent.

“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” is everything wrong with modern entertainment. It has abysmal writing and gross betrayal of beloved franchises, all disguised under some nice visuals. The special effects, production design, and cinematography are all impeccable, but who cares when there’s a story, world, and characters you can’t connect with?

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