Amazon’s ‘Rings Of Power’ Is A Poignant Reminder Of The Perfection Of ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ Trilogy

A few episodes in, Amazon’s The Rings of Power has now surpassed the length of Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – but any comparison between the two isn’t particularly flattering.

While Jackson isn’t involved in the series, the creators of Rings of Power very much want to remind viewers of those iconic films, directly lifting imagery from Jackson’s trilogy, even hiring the same composer to score the series.

While this makes sense from a marketing standpoint, it might have been a mistake when it comes to how viewers perceive this series, because it simply doesn’t hold a candle to Jackson’s films.

With Rings of Power, Amazon had an opportunity to forge a fresh vision of Tolkien’s world, as the series is set thousands of years before the events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Amazon doesn’t actually hold the rights to any of Tolkien’s stories – Rings of Power is adapted from Tolkien’s footnotes, describing the events of the Second Age. While Amazon must adhere to the big, cataclysmic events that Tolkien described, there’s a lot of creative freedom when it comes to the small stuff.

When critics of the series derisively label it as “expensive fan fiction,” they’re not wrong, technically. But judging the series by how faithful it is to the source material is something fans have been doing since The Fellowship of the Ring – any screen adaptation is going to make significant changes.

Rings of Power is enjoyable enough, although unnecessarily drawn out, so far. But I never really think of it as taking place in the same universe as Jackson’s trilogy – it feels closer to something like The Elder Scrolls, or any other Tolkien-inspired fantasy, than Jackson’s glorious vision of Middle-earth; it matches the tone of The Hobbit trilogy, at least.

Rings of Power explores the events described in the first 5 minutes of Fellowship of the Ring; I recently put the movie on, with the intention of watching only those few minutes of backstory, curious to see how the Second Age was summarized. I ended up watching the entire movie, and enjoying every single second of it – in comparison, Rings of Power falls flat.

When it comes to Tolkien adaptations, I don’t think we’re going to see anything like Jackson’s trilogy again; those films are perfectly crafted labors of love that Amazon just can’t replicate, despite throwing a dragon-hoard’s worth of gold into production.

There’s a real weight to Jackson’s films, a sense that we are merely peering through a window, catching a small glimpse of a vast, ancient world, creaking under the weight of its own history. The trilogy paints a melancholic portrait, imbued with decline, desperation and faded grandeur, in contrast to the unrelenting earnestness and optimism of the film’s heroes.

The films treat Bilbo’s adventuring days as a faded memory, almost like a fanciful fairytale, framing the problem of the One Ring as almost insurmountable. There’s a real desperation to Frodo’s quest – the old alliances are dead, and these crumbling remnants of once-powerful civilizations seem doomed to fall to Sauron’s organized chaos. We see so little of Sauron himself – his presence is felt through his ghastly minions, or via the occasional glimpse of his spectral eye, his true form left to our darkest corners of our imagination.

Rings of Power manages to paint a pretty picture of Middle-earth in its prime, but there’s no weight to it; that heavy atmosphere just isn’t there, and it’s hard to articulate why. Many critics have pointed to the elves of the series as being too ordinary, too human, too clean cut. Interestingly, this is more faithful to the books; while Tolkien very much viewed the elves as a superior species, the books depict them as quite boisterous, almost as flawed as humanity.

But Jackson’s ethereal, otherworldly depiction of the elves has lodged in our collective memory for good reason; the film frames them as world-weary remnants from a better age, ready to transcend beyond Middle-earth, having experienced the glories and horrors of war too many times to count.

Perhaps this is the real challenge facing Rings of Power – depicting an era which has faded into memory by the time the trilogy occurs, the mystery of which made it feel all the more magical.

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