My disdain for fantasy is no secret. The quickest way to make my eyes glaze over is to use the word “realm.” Two exceptions have been HBO’s Game of Thrones, which I loved (including the final *ducks* season), and Peter Jackson’s Rings trilogy, which I enjoyed, especially the middle chapter, The Two Towers. As far as Jackson’s follow-up with that Hobbit trilogy, I gave up after a half hour.
Granted, my bias against fantasy works against Amazon’s billion-dollar Rings prequel series, The Rings of Power. In its favor, though, is that I have no loyalty towards Tolkien lore and mythology. In fact, I could not care less about stuff like that. Novels and movies are two very different art forms. Fidelity to the original material should be a secondary consideration. The first should be to create an engaging movie or TV show.
Unfortunately, nothing is compelling about the first two Rings of Power episodes released by Amazon this week. New episodes will be released each week. The show is guaranteed to run for five seasons. I wish Amazon luck, but I’ve seen enough. The characters are dull. The plot is episodic.
Rings of Power is set thousands of years before Lord of the Rings and revolves around characters I care nothing about.
The first is a female elf-warrior named “Galadriel,” which, when translated into English, is “Mary Sue.” In the Jackson trilogy, Galadriel was played by Cate Blanchett. Here she’s played by Morfydd Clark. Clark is fine. The script, not so much. Galadriel always knows best, can easily defeat a giant monster the boys can’t, walks away without a scratch, and is utterly humorless. She is certain the evil Sauron is still out there with his orc army. The patriarchy says different. We all know how this ends.
Elrond (Robert Aramayo) is Galadriel’s pal, a politician, and architect played by Hugo Weaving in the Jackson films. He’s a bit vanilla. Weaving brought a delicious prickliness to this character. Maybe it takes Elves thousands of years to develop an interesting personality.
Then there’s the elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) and Bronwyn, the female human he is in love with. They have no chemistry, no heat.
The two most obnoxious characters are pre-hobbits, known as Harfoots. Nori (Markella Kavenagh) is a provincial Harfoot full of mirth and energy, a sprite desperate for adventure and eager to get into hi-jinks. You just want to slap her and her friend. All they do is bicker in a way we’re supposed to find adorbs.
Star power, that’s what’s missing here. Compelling, charismatic characters are nowhere to be found. No one here even touches Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, and Ian Holm.
For that matter, no one here touches the Game of Thrones cast.
The Rings of Power producers are handed a billion dollars and still couldn’t be bothered to hire on a Sean Bean or Peter Dinklage or Lena Headey, the kind of stars who elevate these characters into something interesting.
Over the past few days, I’ve taken to the Twitters to mock Yellowstone. After catching up with the first season last week, I found the plotting preposterous. The stuff that happens to Yellowstone’s characters — bear attacks, gas station robberies, dinosaur bones, killer rattlesnakes, a near drowning, house explosions, marauders, Asian tourists who manage to climb the first 500 feet of a cliff but can’t make the last 15 feet, forest rangers impaled on fence posts — is flat-out ridiculous. But I’m going to keep watching. You want to know why? The star power. Top to bottom, Yellowstone is cast with great actors who — despite all the soap opera ridiculousness — create characters who feel real, which means you care about them. Thanks to a straightforward plot, Yellowstone is also far from boring. But here we are, two hours into Rings of Power, and we still need a map to follow what’s happening. I mean a literal map, which the show offers, and it’s still a chore to keep up with.
Beneath all that silly plot-plot-plot-plot, Yellowstone is also dabbling in some fascinating and complicated themes, which it expertly and concisely sets up in the first 20 minutes of the first episode. Rings themes, at least so far, seem childish by comparison.
As far as Rings of Power casting non-white actors, which some feel violates the world Tolkien created … Without the controversy, I would not have given it a thought.
Maybe Rings of Power will bring in a Viggo Mortensen and get its act together. If it does, lemme know … Until then, I don’t care what happens to these characters.