While the SVOD platforms wage a merciless war, Amazon thinks it has found its most formidable weapon. But according to Lord of the Rings Review: Are the Rings of Power a sword in the water? See the Great App.

Five years ago, Amazon announced that it had acquired the rights to The Lord of the Rings. Determined to stand out in the SVOD sector, the e-commerce giant was starting work on a series inspired by the world of JRR Tolkien.

Lord of the Rings Review
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Review The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

The aura of the literary saga is indisputable, as is that of Peter Jackson's films, and Amazon Prime Video wants to make it its spearhead. However, it is playing it cautiously, moving away from almost everything the filmmaker touched on in his two trilogies. Aware that it would put itself in a vulnerable position in the event of a comparison, the platform prefers to explore new horizons. It has therefore targeted the second era, 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 it down relentlessly. From the depths of the Shadow Mountains to the majestic forests of the Elven capital of Lindo to the Isle of Númenor, the characters will build legends that will live on long after her death.

A scattering

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is based on a fairly simple narrative structure. Frodo's adventures begin with a quest across Middle-earth, as he must destroy The One Ring at Mount Doom. Along the way, he meets various heroic characters who will help him in his quest. It's medieval history revisited, a biblical and Arthurian quest of formidable efficiency.

To avoid repetition, The Rings of Power begins in a completely different way. The narration will be fragmented, dispersed in space but not in time, don't worry. However, it is Galadriel, confined to the role of advisor in novels and films, who steps forward 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 simply created for the needs of the series. The result is a choral series 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 all parts of the overall plot to be explored in detail, without showing the slightest loss of pace. In the two episodes 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 subjects may confuse some, Amazon's strategy of broadcasting the first two parts from day one will undoubtedly reassure them. Expect all these fortresses, scattered across Middle-earth, to come together for the final battle.

The ingredients for a good epic saga are there, even if the setting is sometimes a little dizzying. Things quickly move in the right direction and we find the tenderness of the universe imagined by Tolkien, but also the darker corners of a world tormented by evil and the quest for power. A very solemn tone, which sometimes opposes bursts of lightness and humor. Different inspirations that coexist instead of fighting to gain the upper hand.

An image between shadow and light that fits perfectly with the idea we have of the Lord of the Rings license. 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 quite captivating, and we can't wait to find out what the narrative has in store for them.

It also broadly 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 source material like the back of their hand, and the designers are determined to pay homage to it. Note that we haven't yet discovered all the places that will be explored during this season. The whole of Numenor is missing from the first two episodes that we were able to discover.

The next six episodes should really stir up hostilities. Make no mistake, our characters' adventures won't be wrapped up in eight short episodes, a second season has already been ordered. Amazon also plans to dedicate no less than five seasons to this Middle-earth epic.

The (optic) nerve of war

We've known for some time that The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power costs its weight in gold. For the production of the first season alone, the SVOD platform paid no less than US$ 465 million. This makes it the most expensive series ever produced. However, on seeing the first trailers, there was a lot of fear among fans. Very bright colors, lack of texture, the public didn't like this ambitious production.

From the very first moments, the series directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, Wayne Yip and Charlotte Branström strives to prove us wrong. After impressive flashbacks, the series explores every corner of Middle-earth. It strives to immerse us in the heart of this journey through the fascinating landscapes of the English writer's imagination. From valleys bathed in light to icy immensities, each place imposes itself before our astonished eyes.

A work of craftsmanship which, if not the only argument of the series, does much to make The Rings of Power a totally breathtaking experience. Aesthetics are the nerve of war for the Amazon, everything here exudes scale. The directors don't limit themselves to short shots to save visual effects, they place their characters in grandiose frames that come to life. The framing is studied to bring a careful aesthetic, full of nuances.

The filmmakers play with virtual and real settings, and the immersion is total. After all, the universe created by Tolkien deserved nothing less. If the aesthetics are brighter than Peter Jackson's saga, The Rings of Power finds its footing in a tradition that is still very much in place. We find the very wide shots inspired by Jackson's, where the subject has just positioned himself in exactly the perfect place to make this scene a real painting, a pleasure for the retinas.

However, the late arrival of the orcs didn't allow us to see how the Rings of Power should sometimes flirt with blood and horror. What we have seen is quite encouraging. They offer a small transformation, progress forces them to become more realistic. We've only seen them so far, but the result seems to be well beyond our expectations.

The epic dimension of history

It should be noted that if the "goofy" look of Peter Jackson's films added a bit of dirtiness to the aesthetics of the saga, here they are invested with a new, scarier aura and we have to admit that it's a little less likely to make us queasy. Even though it's obviously not necessary to play the game of seven differences, you can see that the atmosphere is completely different from the trilogy of the early 2000s.

If The Rings of Power summons up the whole epic dimension of the story, in slow motion, the series also tends to create its own identity and detach itself from the works of Peter Jackson. The Lord of the Rings label, which is almost as big as that of The Rings of Power, forces it into a certain rigor in its treatment of the universe. Some changes are, however, on the agenda for this adaptation, which we must remember can never be a literal translation of the story on paper.

Creators have to make choices, whether on the side of representation or even the narrative itself. Assumed and clarified choices for both showrunnersThey seem to have it in their hearts not to betray the British writer's universe, however dense it may be.

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November 28, 2022