Visuals stun, yet ‘Rings of Power’ underwhelms


Amazon Prime

Despite superb visuals and a massive budget, the writing of Amazon Prime’s “Rings of Power” is subpar.

Audrey Matei, Arts Editor

The past decade has brought a fantasy-television renaissance with the smashing success of “Game of Thrones and its successors. Sprawling worlds of dragons, magic and kings have enthralled audiences in unimaginable ways. 

However, Amazon Prime Video’s “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” an extension of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, comes off as lackluster in its substance. 

The first four episodes deliver on the show’s promise of a true Tolkienian world of the highest-degree fantasy, but it falls short in creating captivating characters and plots. 

Set in the age before the events of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” the series expands upon the history of Middle-earth with the millennium-old elf, Galadriel, as the protagonist.

The production made headlines for being the most expensive TV show ever produced, coming in at a total of over $700 million for the first season. The budget is clear in the visuals. The otherworldly landscapes of Middle-earth are truly breathtaking and feel “lived-in.” It would be wrong to refer to the visuals of “Rings of Power” as anything other than cinematic art in its truest form. 

However, with a world as big as Tolkien’s and a large cast of characters, without proper attention, the plot quickly becomes convoluted. The writing doesn’t feel fully fleshed-out, leaving viewers desiring more from the characters from the get-go. So far, Galedrial comes across as one-dimensional and unlikeable, and I struggle to identify the other main characters due to their lack of character development. Scenes jump across Middle-earth to completely new places multiple times per episode, creating a confusing web of plots and characters that clutter the central plotline. 

Admittedly, this form of rapid-fire storytelling would be acceptable for most high-concept television series, but the plot becomes unnecessarily messy due to the unmemorable introduction of the characters. 

However, the concept of the show exhibits promise to a compelling story thematically. If done correctly, in true Tolkienian fashion, the series can tell a satisfactory story about “good vs. evil” in new, creative ways. If these vibrant stories of elves, humans and hobbits can come together cohesively, a fuller and more nuanced image of everything that original “The Lord of the Rings” saga stood for is possible.

Despite its flaws, “The Rings of Power” shows room to develop and overcome the challenges established in the first few episodes. I can only hope that with the continuation of the season, the plots and characters of the show define themselves further and fulfill the high standards set by the stunning visuals of the production.