Amazon Prime’s $715 million “Rings of Power” shines


Image used with permission from Prime Video

Amazon Prime’s new series, a prequel to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, takes its characters on several journeys throughout the J.R.R. Tolkien world. This scene appears in the third episode of “The Rings of Power” in which one of the protagonists, the elf Galadriel, travels to Numenor, the land of men.

July 29, 1954, marked the beginning of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and decades later, the “Lord of the Rings” movie franchise, leading fantasy-fiction fans down a winding path of elves, hobbits and, of course, the rings of power. 

Amazon Prime Video picks up where director Peter Jackson left off in 2003’s “The Return of the King,” spending $715 million on the first season of its new TV series, “The Rings of Power,” a prequel based on The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s appendices.

The first episode, “A Shadow of the Past,” which aired Sept. 1, seamlessly sets the backstory of the famed trilogy, successfully hooking viewers in with complexity of the plot. 

“The Rings of Power” follows four main characters – Galadriel (Morfydd Clark, “His Dark Materials”), Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh, “My First Summer”), Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi, “Bombshell”) and Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova, “The Undoing”) – who are introduced gradually in the first episode. Viewers will get a sense that each will follow a different storyline that will most likely bring the foursome back together at some point in the series. 

Galadriel may be the most recognizable character from Tolkien’s novels and the “Lord of the Rings” films. We see a much younger version of her as a commander of the elven army; in one flashback, viewers see her interact with her older brother, which sets into motion her drive to seek out and destroy evil (Morgoth’s orcs) at all costs.

Image used with permission from Matt Grace / Prime Video
Morfydd Clark plays a younger version of Galadriel, one of the main characters in Amazon Prime’s new series, “The Rings of Power.” The prequel to the “Lord of the Rings” movie franchise focuses on the “Lord of the Rings” character before she meets the hobbits.

Seeing her numerous victories utilizing the trauma of her childhood is a believable motive for her endeavors in battle. 

Upon her return to her kingdom, Galadriel has to decide whether to accept the offer to return to her childhood home or stay to fight the evil she feels is suffocating her. 

Director J.A. Bayona (“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”) vividly foreshadows the eventual return of the antagonist found in the original trilogy, and in doing so successfully pulls viewers in for the ride. 

Instead of hobbits, viewers learn about their likely precursors – the Harfoots, scavengers who rustle through the land, hiding from visitors. Strangers who encroach on their land pose a potential threat to the villagers and create an uproar among children and adults. 

Brandyfoot attempts to ease the mind of the children by guiding them through an abandoned farm, but instead has to lead them away from danger. She sets herself up to be an admirable character by playing the role of the town big sister.

One last plot that the first episode highlights concerns the Land of the Men, where mother Bronwyn sets off on a journey to her homeland, Hordern. Battling through dangerous evil with fellow traveler and potential love interest Arondir, an elf, the two hope to find the source of a disease affecting the local cows.

Image used with permission from Ben Rothstein / Prime Video
By episode three, Ismael Cruz Córdova’s character, Arondir, comes face to face with an orc, an evil species that elves have been trying to eradicate.

“The Rings of Power” promises intricate characters with its diverse cast.

From the extremely realistic ragged Harfoots to the Earth-like high kingdom of Lindon, Bayona astonishes us with upgraded technology for special effects; the characters’ wardrobe and makeup are also eye-catching. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ commitment to pour money into the “Rings of Power” budget may replace other hit fantasy shows such as ABC’s “Once Upon a Time.”

Although seeing the return of four characters (Arondir, Bronwyn, Galadriel and Nori) within one episode is exciting, one weakness stems from the writers forcefully including too much information into this 66-minute debut, requiring two rounds of streaming the show to fully understand the plot.

Despite this, all three plots seem to be building up to a major one, leaving room for many theories on how they will all get together.

The cliffhanger at the end of the first episode leaves fans at the edge of their seats as it begins to incorporate elements from the original movies and books. 

Image used with permission from Ben Rothstein / Prime Video
Robert Aramayo plays Elrond (left), a confidante of Morfydd Clark’s character, Galadriel, in Amazon’s new series, “The Rings of Power.” Both elves in this prequel to “The Lord of the Rings” franchise also appear in the “Rings” trilogy.

People who have not watched the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy or read it may be hesitant to jump into this adventure. However, the first episode does not require an understanding of the prior-released plots. Instead, it sets up small ideas that lay the ground for viewers to start watching the Jackson-directed movies or reading Tolkien-written work.  

Combining the mystic and fantasy aspects with the cliffhangers, ideas are already starting to tie together and that create a drive to finish the series. 

​​The fifth episode, releasing on Sept. 22, is surely expected to pull in the same 25 million views — if not more — the premier pulled in as this “Rings” series has the potential to “rule them all.” 

Amazon Prime releases each new episode weekly on Thursdays at 9 p.m. with the most recent, fourth installment that just came out Thursday, Sept. 15. 

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