Without a doubt, Amazon plays a lot with ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power‘: its extraordinary budget, exorbitant for a television series and the cost of the license (there is talk of 250 million dollars) They have made the company have to play long distance, and five seasons are planned to tell a story that still has a long way to go. An adaptation of Tolkien that since its announcement has raised the eyebrows of fans.
Leaving aside the usual fans, who do not see well that a fantasy race has black members, the true devotees of Tolkien have found a couple of drawbacks, on paper, with this adaptation. The first is that Peter Jackson’s version of the three key Middle-earth novels is considered pretty much canon: a trilogy that can be improved in its choice of what elements are left in or out and how those elements are combined, but in terms of popularity, prestige and embedded in pop culture, It’s an indisputable adaptationand against which it is difficult to plant competition.
The second drawback, due to the monumental mess of rights available from Tolkien, is that the usual ‘Lord of the Rings’ canon cannot be used as a basis for this series. The three main novels and ‘The Hobbit’ are off limits, which is why Amazon has had to set its series thousands of years before Peter Jackson’s movies. You also can’t use stories taken verbatim from ‘The Silmarillion’ or ‘Unfinished Tales’, but just use those times as background.
The result has been disparagingly referred to (before watching any episode, of course) as “the fanfiction most expensive in history”, and there is something of that from the point of view that Amazon has paid for a setting and a brand, but not for adapting specific stories. The company’s option, far from being the simplest, is the most complicated: you have to replicate Tolkien’s style to create new stories.
An adaptation that limps
This long preamble comes to mind because I couldn’t stop thinking about how Amazon has had a lot against when facing this new contribution to the cosmos of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ while watching the first two episodes of the series, a couple of extensive glimpses into this new world that lay the groundwork for what’s to come. Because all those conditioning factors that we mentioned have had an impact on what has ended up on the screen.
‘The Rings of Power’ place us in the Second Age. The Elves have settled in Eriador after defeating Sauron. Galadriel, the clear protagonist of this first part of the story, unsuccessfully searches for her brother throughout Middle-earth, when a strange body fallen from space arrives in this world. Her unexpected passenger will be the one who introduces the Hairy (a Hobbit subspecies) in this story, as always without them too wanting to be involved in a spiral of violence. We will also witness the meeting between the humans – who are fleeing from an unexpected threat – and the Elves through a forbidden relationship.
There are many simultaneous stories that on the screen are curiously reduced to the anecdotal and in this way they do not convey the sensation of an immense network of lives that punctuate a rich and complex world. The reason is, possibly, that the series often stops at the inconsequential (the relationship between Elrond and Durin IV, the not very interesting part of the humans and Arondir, the slow discovery of the Hairy), and liquidates parts of greater intensity at the stroke of ellipses, like Galadriel’s travels.
It is curious how the series refuses to narrate the adventures of Galadriel in detail (except for the start of the first chapter and her clash with some humans on a raft, significantly the two best moments of these two chapters) while entertaining herself in long conversations somewhat irrelevant. In any case, they are symptoms of a larger problem: the simplification of Tolkien’s proposal, which leads to the characters being all variants of humans.
Thus, there is not that feeling of non-humanity that Tolkien’s Elves transmitted, but we are dealing with mere supermen and superwomen; the Fuzzys are just short, good-natured humans, and the motivations of all the races lack the epic beyond-humanity of the original narratives (although there we can certainly expect changes in the future). And that reduction also affects Amazon’s intention to make a series for all audiences: the action scenes do not contain violence, intensity or massive death, so the set is free of the epic that soaked the best moments of the movies. of Jackson.
Spectacular above all
Is, therefore, this new ‘Lord of the Rings’ a bad series? Although there are many buts to put as an adaptation, and all the problems of pace and character development that comes with it, the truth is that every dollar that Amazon has invested in the series shines. The syndrome of the pelucones and the papier-mâché decorations that sometimes assails ‘the house of the dragon‘ You can’t see it around here, and JA Bayona shoots with indisputable taste, making the most of the series’ impressive natural sets.
One of the great fears of the fans, that the cast did not have enough entity to bring the characters to life, is luckily also beyond doubt. Despite the absence of stars, Morfydd Clarke (Galadriel), Nazanin Bodiani (Bronwyn), Peter Mullan (Owain Arthur) or Ismael Cruz Córdova (Arondir) give their characters enough three-dimensionality to make the series work. Special effects, the costumes, the makeup, absolutely all the technical aspects of the series are up to the task.
And above all, hopefully there is room for improvement: if the series doesn’t overlook the potential for a darker-hued fantasy of characters barely making an appearance in these chapters, like Sauron or the orcs, this first impression that we are facing a naive and unnuanced proposal can fade. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is the heroes but also, to a large extent, the successive incarnations of darkness, so in that sense we can see chapters that go beyond this start.
With two episodes that, to be honest, run smoothly and with a few moments for genuine visual wonder, the future quality of ‘The Rings of Power’ is up in the air. Perhaps the feeling that prevails at this start is that Amazon could have put more meat on the grill, and the series could breathe a little more sense of risk, but the truth is that big problems cannot be blamed on it. For now, the race to be crowned this fall’s great fantasy series already has all its runners taking their first steps. Let’s see how they face the first curves.