Amazon Prime Video welcomes The Lord of the Rings fans back to Middle-earth. The first two episodes of The Rings of Power have been released. Our editor, Michael Hille, took a look and answers fans’ most pressing question: Does the show live up to the movies?

Seldom have series makers voluntarily followed in such big footsteps: The “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy is one of the greatest and best works in film history, they shaped pop culture like little else. And Amazon Prime Video has taken on the Herculean task of producing a series called The Rings of Power, which serves as a prequel to the films while still featuring well-known characters. Five seasons are already planned, and according to US media, they should cost the streaming service a total of one billion US dollars.

It is – next to “House of the Dragon” – the largest series production in 2022 and one of the most anticipated series of all time. It has to live up to astronomical expectations, deliver immediately at the highest level and at the same time introduce characters that should grow on you as dearly as Frodo, Aragorn and Gandalf once did. Can such a project succeed at all? Well, let’s put it this way after the first two episodes: You really couldn’t have put more effort into it.

It begins with orchestral music, then a woman’s voice speaks from the off: she describes the complicated past of the elves. It speaks of an evil ruler – Sauron, who plunged the world into darkness, and we see the great, gigantic battle in which this mystical antagonist was defeated. But she also speaks of hope. Then a hard cut to a small, less heroic race – those of the Harfussers (the forerunners of the Hobbits). No question: The first twenty minutes of “The Rings of Power” adhere exactly to the structure of the first cinema film, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”. A good decision: In contrast to the film adaptations of “The Hobbit”, which were considered unsuccessful, the Middle-earth feeling is back immediately and the sound is clear. It’s about fantasy entertainment, about shiny heroes, brave misfits and villainous adversaries. If you have a heart for it, you won’t get bored here.

On Amazon Prime Video

The entire two episodes, each just over an hour long, are packed with stunning special effects, fantasy worlds on a scale never seen before. The dwarven world of Moria (known as the ruins from the movies) might be one of the biggest set pieces ever seen on a TV series – and it looks fantastic. It’s really clear from the first second: “The Rings of Power” is a production of superlatives. Outrageously expensive, outrageously spectacular. Whether waterfalls are climbed or mountain trolls are defeated or even flaming meteorites fall from the sky: Even “Game of Thrones” never had such pictures. “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” should be for series what “Avatar” was for the cinema in 2009.

At the center of the series is an elf known from the films, who is still a young warrior here (a thousand years before “Lord of the Rings”): Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) has made it his mission to take Sauron to the end of the world to hunt. But after many unsuccessful years, many elves have lost faith that the dark lord still exists. Even Elfking Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) orders her to stop searching. Only Elrond (Robert Aramayo) still sticks to her in parts. But her story is not the only one: It is also about the harp girl Elanor Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh), who one night in the forest observes how a mysterious stranger (Daniel Weyman) falls from the sky and approaches him.

And that’s not all: The first two episodes also introduce the forest elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), who has a relationship with the human healer Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi). And there is even a dwarf princess named Disa (Sophia Nomvete), who, just like her husband Durin IV (Owain Arthur), should play a major role when the eponymous “Rings of Power” are forged. You have to compliment the series here: all the protagonists presented are appropriately characterized right from the start and cast very diversely. But one may also ask: Are there maybe a few characters too many at once?

The first two hours of this series can seem downright overwhelming, many barrels open at the same time, the big goal still remains unclear. In addition: Due to the sheer abundance of characters, story arcs and action scenes, the authors do not go into depth anywhere. So far, all the characters have seemed quite one-dimensional, nobody particularly stands out, and some dialogues are even frighteningly wooden. One can say even more clearly: Anyone who has not yet grown up for the world of Middle-earth and the characters of the author J.R.R. Tolkien is given little reason to develop an interest here. CNN editor Brian Lowry wrote nastily but aptly in his review: “But despite these beautiful, sweeping vistas of Middle-earth […] it’s hard to resist the temptation to say, ‘Wake me when it’s on.'”

But we want to be fair: A series like “The Rings of Power”, conceived as an epic and planned at least until 2026, must be given the time to develop. After all, no one has fallen from the sky in Middle-earth – well, except perhaps for the mysterious Stranger. Fans will bring this patience with them and everyone else can at least be sure that no other series will deliver such show values ​​as “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” this year.

A new episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power appears every Friday on Amazon Prime Video.

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The original for this post “The Rings of Power”: Bombastic entertainment in epic images” comes from TV Spielfilm.