Welcome back all ye who enter here. See what I did there? As you can see, catchphrases really aren’t my strong suit. Neither is spelling, but that’s what spell check is for. Grammarly may be hailed as the saving grace for mere mortals when writing, but we all know that Spell check is the real hero.
So, now that we have gotten the pleasantries out of the way, what shall we talk about today? I have a few ideas and my opinion on all of them will probably be received with a mixed bag. I recently I gave in and started watching Amazon’s The Rings of Power. Now, I left off the Lord of the Rings part intentionally. Not because I am denying the fact that it is set in Tolkien’s world, but rather because I don’t want to promote this as a prequal to the movies.
Very much in the same way that I don’t consider Star Trek Discovery a prequal, or even cannon, for that matter, I see this as a different entity all together from the Peter Jackson movies. I say this because one of the things that annoys me when discussing this show is that people absolutely look at this show as a prequal to the movies.
Why does this bother me so much? Well, because it is made by entirely different people who have a completely different outlook on both film making and Tolkien and his legacy. Let me describe it like this, it would be like if Rembrandt and Picasso painted the same person. Both would be beautiful, but completely different. Whereas Peter Jackson did everything in his power to try to stay true to Tolkien and his philosophies, Amazon has made it a selling point to say that they are taking a political stance on Tolkien. This means that they plan to change things about Tolkien’s world for political reasons instead of out of story necessity like Jackson did.
Obviously, film is a different medium than print, so everyone understands that things will not translate completely, but any change should only be made out of necessity and not out of the film makers desire to promote their own agenda. Because Amazon’s promoting of The Rings of Power is that it is a show that will be more inclusive and politically relevant than Tolkien’s original work, the show has been met with skepticism and at times outright anger.
I will admit, I was one of those people who had refused to watch the show because of all the virtue signaling Amazon was doing. I find that if your starting point for a story is political, then usually the story itself isn't very good. But, since my children, my brother-in-law and a few friends watched the show and liked it, I thought I would give it a shot.
Now, did I like the show? Well, in a short, yes. I find that the show is breath taking in its cinematic scope, and the effects are beautiful. The acting is quite good, though like most people, I find the actress as well as the character of Galadriel the weakest part of the show. I am sure the actress herself is quite a fine actress and in other roles is probably fantastic, but as Galadriel she just doesn’t do it for me. The historical changes they made are not all that jarring and casual fans will not even notice them. All in all, I have enjoyed the show. The politics are there, but it is not as preachy as I expected.
So now on to what I did and didn’t like about the show. First off, since I mentioned it earlier, I want to tackle what I felt was the worst part of the show, Galadriel. Everyone knew right out of the gate that the character of Galadriel is the aspect of the books that Amazon planned on changing the most. In short, they Luke Skywalker in Last Jedi’d the heck out of her.
She is nothing like her character in the books and they change everything about her personality and her back story. Because of this, it is impossible to see her as the beautiful, regal yet frightening queen of Lothlorien. This is, in my opinion, the place where Amazon fails the greatest. It nearly took me out of the show. If you put the movies, books and pretty much every other place where Galadriel has ever been depicted out of your mind, then she isn’t that bad. She isn’t Galadriel in anyway other than name.
The second thing I didn’t care for was the forced inclusivity.” Now, having people of color in a Tolkien movie is not a problem for anyone. Yes, they are based on European people groups especially those that inhabit the British Isles, but I personally don’t care if you put some people of color in there. Yes, the dark-skinned elf is a little bit ridiculous, but not because he exists, but rather because no others do.
It was the same for the dark-skinned dwarf queen. The actress did a phenomenal job in the roll, but she was literally the only dwarf of color I saw. It was the same for the Hairfoots. You had a scattering of people of color who had children who were as white as ghosts, or vice versa. The regent Queen of Numenor was a person of color as well, but her father was as white as I am.
So, the inclusivity felt forced. It felt like Amazon decided to change characters to people of color at random. As if they put characters on a board and threw darts to see which ones would be people of color. Now, all the actors and actresses did great jobs, but if you are going to have people of color in Middle Earth, then put more of them in so it looks like they belong there. All the people of color we get are main characters and no one else. Where are all the other people of color that inhabit Middle Earth?
So, for time I will move on to what I liked. First off, it was gorgeous. The world felt epic and lived in, especially Numenor. Was it as stylistically beautiful as Jackson’s? In a word, no. I much prefer the style choices they made especially with the orcs. Jackson’s orcs are just frightening, and these felt like knock offs. No, they weren’t terrible, just not as good. But again, this isn’t a prequal to Peter Jackson’s movies, but a different interpretation of Tolkien. (Back to that annoying fact again. It would be like someone writing the sequel to my book but changing everything about it. Kind of like Disney Star Wars.)
Even though it was different, I still felt like I was in middle earth. A different painter’s vision of Middle Earth, but Middle Earth none the less. The music was just as breathtaking as the movie scores, and it added to the effect. Yes, it is a Middle Earth that is 1000 years before the Hobbit, and it does have that feeling of majesty and grandeur that has either been lost or waning by the third age. In this, they did very well.
The changes to the lore are not as bad as I expected and didn’t necessarily take me out of the story. I will admit, I don’t remember much about the Silmarillion or the Histories of Middle Earth, but I do know that they are trying to jam 1000 years of history into one show. Overall, they aren’t doing a bad job. No, so far it isn’t as epic or exciting as Game of Thrones, but it doesn’t feel like a low budget DND knock off either. When watching the show, I do feel like I am journeying to middle earth and I appreciate that.
Overall, I like the show. No, it isn’t as good as Peter Jackson’s films, but to be fair, they have less to work with. The tales Tolkien told about this age are not as detailed as his works about the 3rd age. If you put the films and books aside and simply watch it for what it is, I think most people will enjoy it. No, it isn’t Tolkien at its purest, but other than Galadriel, it doesn’t really slander it either. The show makes me want to see more and that is always good. Any tale that makes you want to come back is a good story.
So, unlike a lot of the Youtubers I follow, I recommend this show. Yes, you may have to overlook the fact that there is forced politics in it, but at least it isn’t as in your face preachy as other offerings from Amazon. Overall, Rings of Power is a good watch, not a great watch, but a good one.