When Amazon paid $250 million for the TV rights to J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and then committed $1 billion to producing five seasons — thus making it the most expensive TV series of all time — it was pretty obvious that they were sparing no expense. But if you still had any concerns about that, then this first proper trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power should put them to rest. Put simply, everything seen here looks gorgeous, from the New Zealand landscapes to Kate Hawley’s costume designs and Weta’s effects work. (TheOneRing.net has a more thorough breakdown.)
Of course, none of that matters if the storyline falters. While Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films took some liberties with the source material (for better or worse), they largely succeeded in capturing the spirit — the awe, wonder, and magic — of Tolkien’s novels. No doubt some are preparing to pitch fits (if they haven’t started already) over The Rings of Power’s warrior version of Galadriel or even the “woke” casting of non-white actors, seeing such things as a “betrayal” of Tolkien’s story.
To which I say “Meh.” If the young Galadriel (as portrayed by Morfydd Clark) can both kick ass and evoke a stately, elven grace, or if Sophia Nomvete, Ismael Cruz Córdova, and Lenny Henry can help us believe more deeply in Middle-earth through their performances as (respectively) the dwarven Princess Disa, elven warrior Arondir, and Harfoot elder Sadoc Burrows, then so much the better.
Also, Amazon have played things rather smartly by setting The Rings of Power during the Second Age of Middle-earth, thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Not only is that era less explored in Tolkien’s own writings, it’s less familiar to the average (i.e., non-nerd) viewer. That being said, there are concerns that the producers’ decision to condense thousands of years’ worth of events into a single series — even one spanning multiple seasons — could end up feeling, to quote a famous hobbit, “thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
So what am I hoping to see in The Rings of Power? I’m most excited to see its depiction of Númenor, the island kingdom what was Mankind’s greatest civilization before it succumbed to Sauron’s influence and was destroyed by Eru Ilúvatar (the God of Tolkien’s mythos). And if we see Númenor, then one can assume that we’ll see the Undying Lands, the Valar (Middle-earth’s angels), and the cataclysmic Changing of the World, which is when Ilúvatar changed Middle-earth from a flat Earth to a globe, sank Númenor into the sea, and removed the Undying Lands from Middle-earth altogether. Basically, all of the truly fantastical stuff in Tolkien’s writings.
Amazon will being streaming The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power on September 2. For more info about the series, including its deviations from Tolkien’s story, the hiring of an intimacy coordinator, and how the series handles the (non)existence of hobbits, I highly recommend reading this in-depth Vanity Fair feature published back in February.