Tag Archives: RoP

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E7 Review “The Eye” #AmazonReview #LOTR #RingsofPower

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS

Bad lines badly delivered

Episode seven of The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, “The Ring”, opens with Hellish scenes, and beautiful, evocative and compelling visuals reminiscent of the Fassbender version of Macbeth. Absolute carnage, apart from Galdriel who is somehow still standing. Effective, shocking and wonderful imagery. But seriously, how is she still alive?

The problem as ever is that all the flabby dialogue and acting ruins anything remotely good. “He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone” and “Soldiers, soldiers, the roof’s about to fall down” and “what cannot be known hollows the mind, fill it not with guesswork” inspiring stuff that was surely homaged (a.k.a. nicked) straight from the pages of Macbeth or Henry V. Indeed, I sensed the tongue of Lawrence Olivier on the brain of some of these players and screenwrights, or so the showrunners and the showrunners alone clearly think. Bad lines badly delivered: this is a case where two negatives don’t make a positive. The way they almost got crushed by a tree was so bad, the acting so comical, that it completely ruined the beautiful visuals. So terribly discordant, once again.

An emotional moment between Gimli 2 and Legolas 2 was probably the best moment of the season so far. This is probably the most interesting relationship along with that between Gimli 2 and his Dad. Indeed, the best acting comes from Gimli 2’s Dad played by Peter Mullin. But they still managed to ruin this mini-success in the show by Gimli 2’s wife being more of a man than him in almost every single way. Gimli 2’s wife indeed has suddenly become Lady Macbeth in this episode, although I’m not sure where the character arc was that led to this. Although that surely would have been a good character arc had they actually bothered to do it.

Fundamentally, the problem remains that we’re just not that invested in the characters, and the odd good moments only serve to highlight how truly awful everything else is. Probably-Gandalf is handed an apple by Female Frodo, swell of music, but we just don’t care no matter how loud they lay that score on.

WHICH YARDSTICK?

When this series began, I was determined to not compare it to Tolkien’s original work, but to evaluate it on its own terms. Tolkien is a high bar to meet, and I feel that would be a handicap for any show. Indeed, that’s why I esteem the Jackson-Boyens-Walsh trilogy so much, as their work was not only excellent on its own terms but also on the terms laid down by Tolkien. Yet even by my looser desire to merely see a great show, rather than a great show which does true justice to the beloved late Professor Tolkien’s works, and despite being someone who desperately wants this show to succeed, I just cannot give any episode more than a three out of five, and even then the threes are being scraped; indeed, I wonder how much my misplaced loyalty to the world of Middle-Earth is colouring my views and pushing me towards lenience to this show.

This series has some good moments and some bad moments. But the overall vibe is an amateurish fanfic, but a fanfic not even set in Tolkien’s universe but set in a universe designed to nod to Tolkien’s. I’m not sure why or how a great company like Amazon with a great IP like this has managed to produce this substandard piece of work.

SILLY STUFF

And why does Galadriel love doing stuff “at first light”? It’s really getting silly now. Oh wait, hang on, it’s gets sillier still: the way the name reveal of Mordor was handled has to be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. It was absolutely stupid.

Oh, and actually, how did everyone survive a volcano going off in their face? The writers didn’t even go with the cop outs of a deus ex machina or the “it was all a dream” tosh. The characters just… survived. That’s all.

IN SHORT

The episode makes no sense. The characters are not characters and they have no arc. The series doesn’t hang together.

2/5

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E6 Review “Udûn” #AmazonReview #LOTR #RingsofPower

a memberberry wrapped in a mystery box just for the sake of it

In Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power Episode 6, “Udûn”, we find out who Adar really is, the orcs try to take the Southlanders’ village, the evil broken sword’s true purpose is revealed, and there is an explosive finale.

A lot of action, for a change, but it’s a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. I had to work quite hard to pay attention as I was fairly bored again. And I want this series to be good, I’m really trying here. These dramatic moments, and to be fair there were several in this week’s outing, aren’t that interesting as we just don’t care about the characters and we just don’t care about the world. And then there’s the shoddy dialogue. No amount of dramatic music and explosive action can remedy these fatal flaws.

“One cannot satisfy thirst by drinking seawater”. We’re back to the Shakespeare-level lines here. The dialogue isn’t getting any better as this series goes on.

Big emotional moment between Galdriel and Halbrand. She stops Halbrand killing someone. Then they sit down like proper hombres together. “Thank you.” “No, thank you” “Thank you” “Thank you” “You saved me” “You saved me” Etc. I expected them to get down to it right then and there. It’s all just a little bit sh*te.

This show has since the beginning heavily featured plagiarised versions of characters we love in order to kind of soft reboot the Lord of the Rings: there’s probably-Gandalf, Legolas 2, Gimli 2, basically-Hobbits, Female Sam and Frodo, and so on. We’ve also got pseudo-ring (the broken sword) and pseudo-Gollum (what’s-her-face’s son), but we don’t care. And when we find out what the pseudo-ring / broken sword is for, it doesn’t really make any sense. Kind of like it was merely a memberberry wrapped in a mystery box just for the sake of it.

The episode was marginally stronger than average. Mainly because stuff was actually happening, at last, and there was none of the stupid Gimli 2 – Legolas 2 bromance, no Zummerzet-Irish hobbits, and none of that Númenorean stuff which has always felt like a different show. Nonetheless, it just doesn’t make sense. Especially the ending. I don’t see where we go from here… There is literally no way the series can even continue after this week’s finale, short of a cop-out “it was all a dream” or a deus ex machine ending.

Most episodes are barely scraping a three-star review, but whereas most episodes are just about passable in isolation, the series itself as a whole simply isn’t hanging together in any way that makes sense. The mystery box broken sword exemplifies that. So far, Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power is far less than the sum of its very imperfect parts.

3/5

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E5 Review “Partings” #AmazonReview #LOTR #RingsofPower

I only spent half the time distracted [this episode] … hardly a ringing endorsement

Episode 5 of Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, “Partings”, sees the Southlanders split between two factions — those who are going over to the dark side and those who will stand and fight. We also witness the Queen of Númenor having to make a fateful decision.

“Partings” started slow but got better as it went on. It’s definitely stronger than the previous episode, and I know this because I found myself merely checking my phone whilst watching rather than checking the show whilst watching my phone. And I didn’t fall asleep again. However, saying that “I only spent half the time distracted instead of almost all of it and that I remained conscious” is hardly a ringing endorsement.

The big problem continues to be the characters — and that is really a fatal flaw for any piece of work. What actually motivates them? The Queen of Númenor’s fateful decision doesn’t seem to be based on much nor make sense at all. And Galadriel, ostensibly the star of the show, continues to resemble a teenage fan fiction version; petulant, stupid, arrogant, essentially angsty and definitely not a good guy. She would have been mediocre in a budget network 1990s show. I just don’t buy into any of the characters. It’s hard to care when relationships aren’t properly established or developed and when we don’t really feel like we know our characters.

However, on a plus point, black-guy-who-is-the-friend-of-the-guy-who-is-supposed-to-be-Isildur (he’s Isildur inasmuch as the Galadriel in this show is Galadriel and I am Father Christmas), that is, the guy who fell out with “Isildur” previously, shows signs of potentially maybe having the possibility of becoming an okay character, eventually.

“Partings” was somewhat better than the previous ep, but to say I was “gripped” would be an overstatement. Whereas the previous episode was a two-out-of-five, this outing was a solid 3 minus.

Let’s see if this season has the exit velocity to launch us into a hopefully much improved season two. That’s the best we can hope for at this stage.

3/5

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E4 Review “The Great Wave” #AmazonReview #LOTR #RingsofPower

The Rings of Power: a cure for insomnia

Rings of Power Episode 4, “The Great Wave”, involves more Númenor-based Elven hijinks, the big reveal of the mysterious Orc man-God “Arda”, and a Dwarven secret.

The episode also involved a lot of sleeping. My sleeping. I fell asleep twice while trying to watch this. A cure for insomnia is probably not what Amazon was hoping for when they ploughed a billion dollars into this series.

This blog is all about short form reviews. But for this episode, there was no way to fulfil that in this case. There is simply too much to say.

So what was wrong with the weakest episode of Rings of Power to date? Far quicker to say what was right.

THE GOOD

Gimli 2 shows signs of being a genuinely interesting character

The visuals continue to be pretty. The non-CGI goblins/orcs are a welcome return to aesthetic of The Lord of the Rings film series, undoing the awful CGI overdrive of The Hobbit. And Gimli 2, as I am calling him, shows signs of being a genuinely interesting character. There was no sign of Probably-Gandalf, or there was but I was asleep, which is a good thing, and the role of the Zummerzet-by-way-of-Kingston-Jamaica-cum-Dublin sort-of hobbits was mercifully minimised.

THE BAD

Everything else about this episode really is off.

Lack of immersion / Comedy resemblances

Constantly being reminded of British comedians probably isn’t what Amazon was hoping for with its casting decisions.

First of all, I can’t stop thinking about how Galadriel sounds exactly like Kate/Bob from classic British sitcom Blackadder II. And speaking of comedians, I talked in my Episode 1/2 review about how Fat Hobbit looks exactly like Dawn French, thereby reminding me of the wonderful French and Saunders Lord of the Rings spoof, and how Celebrimbor, the greatest Elven smith of all, bears an uncanny resemblance to Monty Python‘s Michael Palin. Constantly being reminded of British comedians probably isn’t what Amazon was hoping for with its casting decisions. To make it worse, Isildur — who is going to be a big donny in this show if they follow Tolkien’s mythos — looks just like James Callis who played Gaius Baltar in Battle Star: Galactica (2004). This might be ironic as the mythos suggests Isildur may follow Baltar’s plot path, in a manner.

Anyway, that I’m constantly finding myself dropping out of the hoped-for immersion and thinking about such things really shows that this show is not holding my attention. But if I doubted as much myself, falling asleep definitely proved the point.

Characters without any character

the writers … fulfil the age-old writing adage of “tell not show”…

Speaking of Gaius Baltar, I mean Isildur. He has a weird kind of bromance with his two BFFs. But in this episode they fall out, bigly. It’s supposed to be a huge dramatic moment in the episode. But I didn’t care. Why? Because I forgot the other two guys existed. I can’t even remember what their names are, who they are, what they even do, and the who I do remember, Isildur himself, just seems like a moody little twonk. Good job the writers were there to fulfil the age-old writing adage of “Tell not show” with some phenomenal exposition: “You got me kicked out of the navy. All I ever wanted was to be in the navy”*. Rule of writing for the “writers” of this show: big dramatic moment for Character A isn’t big dramatic moment if Character A isn’t a character. Even with a swell of music.

*(This is a paraphrasing. This episode was truly too awful to go back and catch the actual line. Suffice it to say, it was even more moronic than what I have written)

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E4 Review “The Great Wave”‘. Wow, that’s a blog post title almost as long as the cast list of the aforesaid show. “Let’s have a whole bunch of characters / NPCs and make this show EPIC!” was surely what went on in the writers’ room. Apparently, according to showrunners J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay you can never have too much of a good thing. Nor of a bad thing. Speaking of which…

There’s a weird Monty Pythonesque vibe to Bloke-whose-name-we-don’t-know-nor-care-to-know who fancies Girl-who-I-think-is-the-daughter-of-the-guy, the one with the brother who’s on the boat. That one. Her. Weird, almost sitcom-ish stuff.

When Legolas 2 (as I’m calling him) copies Gimli 2’s (as I’m calling him) kids’ knocking game and opens up a secret chamber containing a priceless ore, my jaw-dropped — at the absurdity of it all. This segues nicely into…

Tonal shifts

…two thousand year old teenager Galadriel

Reviews slating Episodes 1 and 2 bemoaned strange and inappropriate tonal shifts between high drama and low comedy, a shifting of genres. I didn’t see that myself. But with this episode, I finally agree. Strange comedy moments that don’t gel with the overall vibe abound. Another major culprit is defiant two thousand year old teenager Galadriel. Nothing about her makes sense, and she seems to be in an alternate teen version of this show from a different universe.

Galadriel’s behaviour with the Queen Regent of Númenor, in particular, was totally unbelievable, and this show has got Goblins in it. More sitcommery interspliced into what is presumably intended to be a weighty epic. The parallels to Game of Thrones, given the GoT spin-off is going head-to-head with RoP, cannot be avoided. So imagine, if you may, the Red Wedding, followed by Galdariel’s hilaaaaaaaaaarious petulant attitude that winds her up in prison, comedy directoral cut included. Inappropriate tonal shifts.

Gimmicks

… Legolas 2 … Gimli 2 … Aragorn 2 … Probably-Gandalf …

Asides from being a kind-of woke rip-off of The Lord of the Rings — complete with Legolas 2, Gimli 2, troll fight, the Dark Lord’s comin’ ta getcha, Big Statue, Aragorn 2, Frodo-Sam-Merri-Pippin Hobbit mash-up characters, Probably-Gandalf — the show is also guilty of other gimmicks. My favourite is directorial.

The directorial trick of stuff spraying against the camera lens is being overdone. Remember that shot from Children of Men, that crazy long shot, where half way through the lens got sprayed? They had no choice but to carry on, as the shot was so long and complicated that they would have lost everything if they’d tried to go back. But that bit of splatter made the scene all the more graphic and disturbing. In LOTR:ROP their overuse of this trick — once per episode — is drawing attention to itself in a rather uncouth way.

No tension. Simple as.

showing us Sauron so soon…. giving us the money shot from a flaccid chub.

They show Adar’s face, the man who we presume is Sauron. Isn’t that a no-no? The fact that he was unseen in The Lord of the Rings made him scary all the way through. In the original Alien, you hardly see the alien, just snatches, and it makes it all the more horrific. And we all remember seeing Mr Blonde cutting off Marvin’s ear in Reservoir Dogs. Oh wait, no we don’t, it happened off-screen, yet that made it all the more graphic — indeed, many people, in a straight Mandela Effect twist, “remember” seeing it happen, such was the effectiveness of that non-show. So why have they blown it by showing us (probably) Sauron so soon? Giving us the money shot from a flaccid chub. Even if Adar isn’t Sauron, just as Probably-Gandalf may not actually be Gandalf, why is a main baddy being robbed of his shadowy nature this early?

The biggest problem with the show so far, and it was particularly highlighted in this episode, is we just don’t care. Sure, we know we have to stop Sauron because he’s evil, he won’t stop so we’ve got to stop him, or whatever. But there’s just not enough to care about. Galadriel, who could have gone to the western lands where she’ll never die, who is an elf and lives thousands of years, is talking to the leader of an a realm of humans that is an island kingdom way over the seas and totally isolated and safe, that these men and the elves need to join forces again to fight Sauron to stop the people of the Southlands, which is a human realm very, very far away, who I think joined with Morgoth — Sauron’s own lord — to fight against good, from being conquered… I mean, read that sentence back. Who cares? Where is the drama? What is the point? I’m enjoying the beautiful visuals, but whatever. In LOTR, Sauron was coming, he was coming for you, and it felt immediate, it affected everyone. But here, his coming is so distant, so far-off, so irrelevant to everyone else, that it’s hard to be bothered.

IN SUMMARY…

Bored of the Rings? Yes.

2/5

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E1&2 Review “A Shadow of the Past” and “Adrift” #AmazonReview #LOTR #RingsofPower

Carefully constructed from the appendices, footnotes and old bits of crumpled-up post-it notes

What is LOTR:ROP?

It’s finally here, the series that nobody apart from Jeff Bezos asked for: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. LOTR:ROP tells the tale of the second age of Middle Earth, some thousands of years before the events portrayed in the Lord of the Rings. Carefully constructed from the appendices, footnotes and old bits of crumpled-up post-it notes from Tolkien’s rubbish bin, LOTR:ROP will take us back to experience the world of J. R. R. Tolkien once more, a world of good versus evil, dragons and treasure, duty and honour, and prosthetic ears.

Having spent one billion dollars on this show — a sum large enough to make one thousand people millionaires, or one person, me, a billionaire — Amazon really is going all in on this intellectual property. This innovative company with a proven track record, and a story based on a world created by one of the greatest figures of British literature, means hopes are high for this series.

Episodes one and two came out at the same time, so let’s delve into both together. The raison d’être of this blog is short form reviews. But hey, LOTR is epic, right? And judging from recent productions, “epic” means “long”, so here are my words splurged manically over your screen.

So Far, So Familiar

They seem to be trying to do a Star Wars Episode VII job on this. Kind of following the basic outline of the original, LOTR, with enough nostalgia thrown in to keep people hooked. We have Galdriel, we have Legolas 2, we have the Hobbits (kind of), we have a dark lord, we have a looming danger, and we have juicy maps. My concern with this show is they might follow the path of Star Wars episodes 7-9 which, although not awful, perhaps do not spiritually live up to their predecessors. But we have to see if this is a case of respectful homage or memberberries as the series develops.

Hobbits

Remember the Lord of the Rings? Remember how we had the Hobbits who epitomised a nostalgic olde timey rural England where things were simpler but life was better? Remember how duty and burden fell on one of these wee folk, and how in the hobbits we had the everyman characters through which to experience and connect with this fantastic world of wizards, dragons, elves and orcs? Yeah, well that’s all been replaced with a kind of gypsy tramp version of the Hobbits, now restyled the Harfoots, who caravan their way through the woods, just because. Instead of being our window to the world, these Harfoots seem to function as a kind of bumbling comedy relief. So I’m not sure what the point of them is other than to say, “Hey, remember the hobbits? Nostalgicus Rememborius! Poof!

The Harfoots feature a Ghostbusters style all-female reboot. Whereas before we had Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin, now we have a kind of comedy mash-up of the original fab four boiled down to a twosome: Fat Hobbit, who looks just like Dawn French in the wonderful French and Saunders LOTR spoof, and Female Frodo (minus the burden of the ring), who herself looks eerily like Jennifer Saunders. Perhaps the presence of French’s ex-hubbie Sir Lenny Henry as Chief Harfoot (can’t remember his, or any character’s, name) is tripping my mind out. As an aside, and speaking of resemblances, the elven master smith, Celebrimbor, bears more than a passing resemblance to Monty Python member Sir Michael Palin, and I just can’t get this out of my head. I feel at times like I’m stuck in some kind of new version of Erik the Viking.

In short (no pun), I worry that the showrunners are going to push the Harfoots in an Ewoks / JarJar Binks direction.

OTT

One of the great things about Tolkien was his excellent command of the English language and the poetic beauty of his prose. So LOTR:ROP has taken the novel approach of, err, ignoring Tolkien’s own words. Some of the lines are way of the top and completely trite. They “march at first light”, of course. And then there’s, “You don’t know what’s down there!” –“That” (pregnant pause) “is why I must go”. So far, so fanfic.

It’s not just the dialogue which is over-the-top. Some of the action and special effects are ridiculous. Remember when people complained that in LOTR Legolas was almost like a computer game character, spinning and twirling about? Yeah, okay, well bring Legolas’ willing-suspension-of-disbelief testing agility back, because the way Galadriel dispatches a troll like a video game character, and the way the useless white men by contrast flail around, is just too much. Absolutely ridiculous.

Lord of the Woke

I don’t want to touch this toxic subject, not least because I risk sounding a bit Klan-ish. But it’s been a big talking point, so I have to.

Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power is going out of its way to be woke. And that isn’t a compliment. All the main characters are female and/or ethnic minority. All the white males seem to be dysfunctional idiots. Every marriage is mixed race. In fairness, Tolkien himself said the Harfoots were darker than the Hobbits, although I’m not sure he had Sir Lenny Henry in mind. But anyway, there’s nothing per se wrong with any of this. However, the producers have been inclusive in a way that draws attention to itself, and therefore at the expense of the immersion of the world they’re creating. And that is unforgivable.

This series will be compared to Game of Thrones, so let’s just get down to it. GoT was multiracial and featured many important female characters. But it never felt shoehorned in or for the sake of ticking boxes. It was completely natural. The people in the North were broadly ethnically similar, those from Dorn had a kind of Latin and/or Mediterranean vibe about them. The various races all mixed together in a natural way and in appropriate locations. It all just made sense.

By way of contrast, LOTR:ROP has the strange primitive isolated Harfoots who, for some reason, live in a multiracial society, where some folks speak Zummerzet, others Irish, and others still Jamaican — often the same character will sport all three accents within a sentence. This just makes no sense whatsoever and draws attention to itself. And it’s weird that in this multiracial society, there seems to be no interracial marriage; all the whiteys stick together, and all the non-whites stick together. None of it makes any sense.

But at least LOTR:ROP deals with racism through its world-building genius, where white men refer to non-white and or non-male elves, as “dagger ears”. Ooch.

The Good

There are some plus sides. They’ve done reasonably well introducing us to a wide range of characters fairly quickly. Although maybe they should have followed Tolkien a bit better by introducing them over time. They do set up a lot of stuff very quickly, albeit with a lot of exposition. But this is handled mostly effectively.

The visuals are excellent, and there seems to be a kind-of return to the aesthetic of the LOTR films and away from the overly CGI design of the Hobbit. And that’s very much welcome. The show does look gorgeous, for the most part.

The acting isn’t blowing me away, but it’s not bad. I’ll be interested to see if these relatively unknown thesps are able to deliver a heavy emotional payload later in the show as legends such as Sir Ian McKellan could in the LOTR movies.

Final Thoughts

On the whole, LOTR:ROP isn’t overly exciting me. It’s not what everyone hoped it would be, but it’s not what everyone feared it would be, either. I think some of the harsh reviews so far have been a little bit unjustified. Sometimes I don’t know if reviewers believe what they say or they are simply in love with the sound of their own witty barbs (case in point, Christopher Stevens from the Mail). We need to give this series space to see what it can grow into.

As for the storyline, before firing up Prime, I was concerned. It’s because LOTR:ROP isn’t based on a story, so much as it is based on a series of appendices and footnotes and backstories that Tolkien deliberately left out of his novels as he knew it would all get in the way. It’s like when an artist comes out with an album comprised of the offcuts of a previous album, but tries to sell it as an original work. We were on dangerous ground.

So given this isn’t an adaption of a Tolkien story like LOTR or the Hobbit were, I had fears about what the story was to be. Nonetheless, so far everything seems pretty clear: there’s some kind of dark lord, he’s comin’ ta getcha, and the powers that be are blithely and blindly ignoring the imminent threat — the elves being particularly culpable, having declared “mission accomplished” and buggering back off to their vineyards. Kind of riffing/ripping off LOTR, but you could say that is a tried and tested formula.

In Summary

Enjoyable, but nothing amazing. And we can’t use the yardstick of Tolkien’s magnificent work or the wonderful Jackson-Boyens-Walsh films to judge this by; we must judge it by its own standard. Nonetheless, more evidence must come in before the jury can render a verdict.

3/5

© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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