While SVOD platforms are waging a merciless war, Amazon thinks it has found its most formidable weapon. The Lord of the Rings: Is the Rings of Power a sword in the water? Critical.
Five years ago, Amazon announced that it had acquired the rights to Lord of the Rings. Determined to make a name for itself in the SVOD sector, the e-commerce giant was starting to work on a series inspired by the world of JRR Tolkien.
The aura of the literary saga is indisputable, just like that of the films of Peter Jackson, Amazon Prime Video wants to make it its spearhead. She nevertheless plays the card of caution, moving away from almost everything that the filmmaker has touched on with his two trilogies. Aware that it would put itself in a position of vulnerability in the event of a comparison, the platform prefers to explore new horizons. Direction therefore the second age, several thousand years before the adventures of Frodo Baggins and his friend Sam.
In a time of relative peace, a sleeping evil awakens. Galadriel has made it her mission to hunt him down relentlessly. From the depths of the Misty Mountains to the majestic forests of the Elven capital of Lindo to the Isle of Numenor, characters will build legends that will live on long after their death.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is based on a fairly simple narrative framework. Frodo’s adventures begin with a quest through Middle-earth as he must destroy The One Ring at Mount Doom. Along the way, he crosses paths with several heroic characters who will help him in his quest. It is the medieval story revisited, a biblical and Arthurian mission of formidable efficiency.
To avoid repetition, Rings of Power starts in a completely different way. The narration will be fragmented, dispersed through space, but not time, don’t worry. It is nevertheless Galadriel, confined to the role of adviser in novels and films, who advances at the head of the troop.
The rest of his army is made up of protagonists from the novels and derivative works, or who were purely and simply created for the needs of the series. The result is a choral series that is reminiscent of the dynamic adopted by another successful medieval epic. We’ll let you guess.
Amazon’s approach is no less interesting because it allows you to explore in detail all the parts of the overall plot, without showing the slightest loss of pace. In the two episodes that we were able to discover, this is particularly true. Led at full speed, this opening is of formidable efficiency.
If the profusion of places and issues may confuse some, Amazon’s strategy of broadcasting the first two parts from day one will undoubtedly reassure them. Expect all of these strongholds, scattered across Middle-earth, to come together for the final battle.
The ingredients for a good epic saga are there, even if the set-up is sometimes a bit dizzying. Quickly, things move in the right direction and we find the tenderness of the universe imagined by Tolkien, but also the darker corners of a world plagued by evil and the quest for power. A very solemn tone, which sometimes opposes outbursts of lightness and humor. Different inspirations that coexist rather than fight to gain the upper hand.
A painting between shadow and light that fits perfectly with the idea that we have of the license The Lord of the Rings. Fantasy in its simplest form, punctuated by colossal stakes and populated by strong characters. The story also spends a lot of time explaining each person’s journey. This gallery of protagonists is rather endearing, we can’t wait to discover what the narration has in store for them.
It also largely embraces the epic but also biblical dimension of Tolkien’s works, from exile to destiny, no theme is forgotten. Designers John D. Payne and Patrick Mackey know their base material like the back of their hand, and the designers are determined to pay homage to it. Note that we have not yet discovered all the places that will be explored during this season. The whole part on Numenor is absent from the first two episodes that we were able to discover.
The next six episodes should really launch hostilities. Make no mistake about it, the adventures of our characters will not be closed in eight small episodes, a second season has already been ordered. Amazon also plans to devote no less than five seasons to this epic in Middle-earth.
The (optical) nerve of war
We’ve known for a while, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power cost its weight in gold. For the production of the first season alone, the SVOD platform paid no less than $465 million. It thus becomes the most expensive series ever produced. However, upon viewing the first trailers, fears were great among fans. Too garish colors, lack of texture, the public was not kind to this very ambitious production.
From the first moments, the series directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, Wayne Yip and Charlotte Branström strives to prove us wrong. After stunning flashbacks, the series explores every corner of Middle-earth. She strives to immerse us in the heart of this journey through the bewitching landscapes from the imagination of the English writer. From valleys bathed in light to icy immensities, each place imposes itself before our dumbfounded eyes.
A work of craftsmanship which, if it is not the only argument of the series, greatly contributes to making Rings of Power an experience of total wonder. Aesthetics are the sinews of war for Amazon, everything here exudes scale. The directors don’t limit themselves to tight shots to save VFX, they place their characters in grandiose tableaux that come to life. The framing is studied to bring out a neat aesthetic, full of nuances.
The filmmakers play with virtual and real sets, the immersion is total. After all, the universe created by Tolkien deserved no less. If the aesthetic is brighter than for the Peter Jackson saga, Rings of Power finds its paw within a lore yet very marked out. We find the very wide shots inspired by those of Jackson, where the subject has just positioned exactly in the perfect place to make this scene a real painting, a pleasure for the retinas.
However, the late arrival of the orcs did not allow us to realize how The Rings of Power should sometimes flirt with gore and horror. What we have already seen is rather encouraging. They offer themselves a little makeover, progress obliges them to become more realistic. We’ve only seen them so far, but the result seems to be well beyond our expectations.
It should be noted that if the “goofy” aspect of those of Peter Jackson added a little dirtiness to the aesthetics of the saga, they are invested here with a new aura, more frightening and we must admit it a little less likely to make us nauseous. Even if it is obviously not necessary to play the game of the seven differences, it will be noted that the atmosphere is completely different from that of the trilogy of the early 2000s.
If The Rings of Power summons the entire epic dimension of the story, in slow motion, the series tends to create its own identity and to detach itself from the works of Peter Jackson. The stamp The Lord of the Ringsalmost as large as that Rings of Power, forced him to a certain rigor in the treatment of the universe. Some changes are nevertheless in the program of this adaptation, which reminds us can never be a literal translation of the story on paper.
Creators have to make choices, whether on the side of representation or even on the storytelling itself. Assumed and enlightened choices for the two showrunners, who seem to have all the same at heart not to betray the universe of the British writer, as dense as it is.
On the action side, because there are obviously some, here too the copy is quite satisfactory. The first episode hits hard with a millimeter and very effective fight. The blood spurts, the camera twirls, and the spectators take full eyes. The opening sequence particularly marked us, because it brings together all the qualities necessary for the realization of such a story. We will wait for more dantesque confrontations to decide completely, after all it is the very essence of Lord of the Rings.
To the sound of bugles
Who says The Lord of the Rings, obviously says Howard Shore. The composer gave birth to legendary musical themes in the early 2000s, which greatly contributed to the influence of the saga. Of “Concerning Hobbits” at “The Breaking of the Fellowship”these are all instrumental titles propelled to the rank of iconic scores.
When a series inspired by Lord of the Rings was announced, many fans have been hoping for a return to music from the king. The project was not entrusted to him, the composer preferred to give up his place to another. Rest assured, he hasn’t quite deserted Middle-earth. It is all the same him who composed the credits. True key moment of a series, the opening of the series is admirably underlined by the new music of Howard Shore.
Then Bear McCreary took over. The composer has some experience on the small screen since he signed the various original music for the series Foundation on Apple TV+. Here, he demonstrates the same talent for constructing a sound and coherent identity for The Rings of Power. Among the most striking music, it should be noted that these are “Galadriel” and “Khazad-Dum” that have resonated the most in our hearts of fantasy enthusiasts.
After two episodes, it’s obvious that the Amazon Prime Video series has managed to win our hearts of fantasy lovers. While eight episodes are on the program for this first season, we are impatiently waiting to discover what The Lord of the Rings: The Power Rings reserve for us. The series has won the battle, but has yet to win the war. Verdict in a few weeks.
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