Many consider J R R Tolkien the father of the fantasy genre. His aversion to allegory and penchant for turning all the pain in the real world into a fairy tale succeeded in capturing the imagination of generations.
Then came the turn of Peter Jackson to bring to life Middle Earth and all its troubles and trepidations. His trilogy became the standard for every visual work of fantasy. While Tolkien fans were left awestruck by their favourite characters coming to life, others like J D Payne, one of the showrunners of The Rings of Power, bought the book after being bowled over by the trilogy's marvel.
Fascinated by the Peter Jackson version, Payne read up on Tolkien and became such a fan that he began incorporating his favourite lines of the legendary author even into eulogies!
Created by Patrick McKay, who grew up reading Tolkien, and Payne, The Rings of Power is set thousands of years before the events of the Third Age of Middle Earth.
Centuries of war have just ended, and the dark lord Morgoth has been defeated. As Middle Earth is in the twilight of its Second Age, the landscape is relatively calm and serene. However, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), the commander of the northern armies and the Warrior of the Wastelands, believes Morgoth's most-trusted lieutenant, Sauron, is alive and waiting in the shadows to take over Middle Earth.
The show, much like Peter Jackson's version, does not waste much time getting into the scheme of things. The makers have minded building the landscape parallelly with the story.
The series opens with a young Galadriel making a paper boat in "the undying lands" of Valinor. As she says in the beginning, there was a time when her land did not have a word for death. Around 10 minutes into the show, the audience is put through hundreds of years of war and left with the ruins of a bloody battle. As Galadriel takes it upon herself to finish Sauron, her army is convinced that their world has been rid of all evil. Even her dearest friend Elrond (Robert Aramayo) is not sold on her hunch that Sauron is alive. But that does not stop the valiant queen from embarking on a quest to hunt him down.
While Galadriel and the elves bring intensity to the story, the Harfoots, Tolkien's predecessors to Hobbits, bring the much-needed light-heartedness to the show. A bunch of berry-picking, 'doesn't mind getting dirty' nomadic community, the Harfoots have Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) and Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards), two young girls who have a liking for exploring the unknown. If Nori is the adventurous one, Poppy is her conscience when things go wrong. Their bond instantly reminds you of Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, the heroes of the Third Age.
The audience is also introduced to the Southlands in the first episode. Southlanders are humans living under the protection of elves after the war. Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) is a single mother who is a healer living in the Southlands. Her ancestors chose to side with evil in the past and the show drops enough hints that her future too will have the presence of all that is bad in ample supply.
Khazad-Dum, the land of the dwarves looks astonishing in the show (we only get to see the ruins of Moria in the Third Age) and a lot of the show's humour is focused on the bond between Elrond and Durin IV.
By the end of the second episode, you will most assuredly be at the edge of your seat and cursing Amazon's decision to release one episode a week.
In terms of the show's pace, it's all or nothing. If the action sequences are thrilling and fast, the makers sit on certain glances and conversations between characters for too long. While some scenes execute the length beautifully, others feel a tad stretched out.
However, the show successfully creates the feeling of impending doom very early into the first episode and there's nothing sweeter than cutting right to the chase in war.
While we know how the legend of Sauron ends (refer to Peter Jackson's trilogy if you do not), The Rings of Power will reveal how one of the greatest villains of our times came to be. Over the course, we should get to see how the rings of power were forged, the last alliance between men and elves, the glory and fall of Numenor and much more.
In a way, this show is a build-up to the first 20 minutes of Peter Jackson's trilogy, which depicts the first war against Sauron. So, if you are one for linear story-telling, the Rings of Power is the perfect starting point for a Tolkien novice.
Amazon's biggest series yet (reportedly the most expensive series ever made), the first season alone was made with a staggering budget of $485 million. And there are five more seasons in the offing!
Right from the first shot, you become aware of where has the money gone. The landscape and the world-building have been done so magnificently that the very thought of watching this show on a small screen feels like a kick in the gut. If nothing, this show deserves to be watched for its breathtaking landscape alone.
However, Amazon seems to have been under the impression that every viewer of the show has a smart TV at home. In a country like India, where streaming platforms introduce customised mobile plans to reel in subscribers, the chances of Middle Earth not being enjoyed as it should be is significant. The show demands the ratio of your biggest screen and the best of your audio device. Anything less will take the sheen off of the show.
As The Rings of Power goes head to head with the House of Dragons, which is also set thousands of years before the events of the Game of Thrones, it will be an interesting clash to see which series survives the test of quality on several parameters, including story, intrigue, world-building etc.
So far, in terms of world-building, the Rings of Power has a massive edge, which should be the case with its mammoth budget.
Knowing a bit about Tolkien or Peter Jackson's trilogy will surely help viewers immerse into the story more. Certain shots and frames have been included to give superfans of Middle Earth an adrenaline rush. For those who like doing a bit of homework before diving into a show that has a cult following, there is immense scope for it here.
To conclude, Amazon Prime Video's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will be a visual spectacle that will not disappoint you in the slightest if watched on a big screen (at least a 45-inch TV) with a great surround system.
The Rings of Power releases on September 2 on Amazon Prime Video.