Five years ago Amazon Prime publicly embarked on a mission of its own game of Thrones.
Here you are, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Powera lavish 8-part series that is said to be the most expensive television show ever produced (the rights alone cost $250 million).
There is money on the screen in this very captivating saga that is aimed more at families than Had never attempted. Coincidentally, it arrives at the same time as HBO’s House of the Dragon and it’s hard not to make obvious comparisons.
With a little CGI help, New Zealand looks as glamorous as Middle-earth, with snowcapped mountains, thundering waterfalls and evergreen pastures that bring to life the elven kingdoms of Lindon and Eregion, the dwarven realm Khazad-dûm, the southern lands, the northernmost wastes, the Sundering Seas and more. Visually this story appears to be heavily inspired by Peter Jackson’s famous triolgies, based on JRR Tolkien’s body of work.
Prime Video has been successful at catering to Jackson’s big-screen motives, and there’s probably something for everyone in the first two episodes that have been released. Truth be told, it’s a sprawling cast tackling epic quests, matched in size and scale.
At the center of this adventure is Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), an elven warrior whose brother was defeated by the evil Sauron, bringing darkness to the realm. Determined to avenge his death, he leads a band of elven warriors into the frozen northern wastes of Forodwaith. But while they prove reluctant to move forward, she refuses to give up until the enemy is defeated. Later, a rather boring High King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) orders her to set sail for Valinor, which like all such quests is fraught with peril.
The charismatic half-elf Elrond (Robert Aramayo), who challenges Galadriel to lead the Elves to their death, will be guided by Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) and charged with building a tower with the help of the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm. But first there’s a little rock challenge to complete with King Durin III (Peter Mullan).
Hunky Silvan Elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), who has spent 79 years watching over humans in the Southland, is entering into a forbidden relationship with villager and local healer Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi), whose teenage son Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) he found a secret sword with the symbol of Sauron.
Then there are the not quite Hobbits, the Harfoots led by the aged Sadoc Burrows (Lenny Henry), whose great book tells of future events and the stars that look down. Teenage Elanor “Nori” (Markella Kavenagh) will bump into a stranger (Daniel Weyman) with ancestry that reminded me Supermanbut which takes a very different form.
Populated everywhere are all kinds of bad guys and monsters in the form of Snow Trolls, Orcs, giant worms swimming in the ocean and more.
There’s a lot to take in as you’d expect from such an epic project, but each sequence is like an adventure within an adventure, aside from scenes to catch your breath and delve into character relationships. There’s also considerable blind casting, but is it stereotypical to have drunken, brawling midgets with Scottish accents? Should Lenny Henry adopt an Irish accent as an elder Harfoot, and it’s hard not to notice that some very strict elves have a decided plum British accent in their mouths. Not a New Zealander nor an Australian to listen to in this neck of Middle-earth, of course…
Morfydd Clark stands out as the very level-headed and determined Galadriel, but spirited teenagers Tyroe Muhafidin and Markella Kavenagh are the ones to watch, while Ismael Cruz Córdova plays a handsome, smoking hot Arondir.
Howard Shore, who composed the two Peter Jackson trilogies, returns to score, although it is composer Bear McCreary’s score that brings to life the elaborate scenes staged by director JA Bayona.
Episode one is necessarily heavy on establishing worlds and identifying exactly what each in this vast ensemble wants, but it’s a pleasant first outing.
We’ll never know if those dragons could conquer these Elves should they ever face a celebrity death match, but fantasy fans probably never had it all that good.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is now playing on Prime Video.