Criticism of episodes 1 and 2 of ‘The Rings of Power’: All against Sauron

Protagonists of ‘The Rings of Power’. / BEN ROTHSTEIN

The start of the most anticipated series of the year, which Amazon has released, lays the foundations for an epic that shows a high level of production and puts the ink on the characters and their emotions

Borja Crespo

“Nothing is evil at first” is the forceful phrase with which the first chapter of ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ begins, the greatest audiovisual event, which is not cinematographic, of our days. The eloquent words, which summarize what is to come, are pronounced by a voice-over that belongs to Galadriel, one of the central characters of an epic adventure that starts off on the right foot, cooking in a delicious slow fire that appeals to the emotions. and predicts a story where the weight of the battles is undeniable, but the protagonists and their feelings also matter a lot. This initial installment lays the foundations for a choral story that once again transports us as a dedicated audience to Middle-earth. The calm precedes the storm on a journey that handles the mechanisms of nostalgia well and carefully respects Tolkien’s legacy. The confrontation between light and darkness is obvious, with which the real interest comes from other directions, the sensitive ones, showing an unprecedented visual power for a production that premieres directly on television.

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The opening sequence ‘The Rings of Power’ presents Galadriel in her childhood, where she loses her candor while playing with a group of children. The little immortal elf builds a beautiful paper boat that is sunk with stones by her companions on their journey through the river. It is a shock of attention, an attack on innocence. Why doesn’t the ship sink and the stone does? Answering this question becomes the obsession of the protagonist, whose goal for decades is to avenge the death of her brother at the hands of Sauron. A dark entity that already sounds like something to those of us who enjoy Tolkien’s prose or devour Peter Jackson’s films in their day, that sacred trilogy that was tarnished by the tedious translation to real image of ‘The Hobbit’, shot with a certain laziness by the head of ‘Bad Taste’. The series promoted by Amazon Studios, which has thrown the house out the window, allows the completist viewer to forget about the fiasco of Bilbo and his company. We go back to Middle-earth and we do it centuries before Frodo managed to destroy the famous ring. Now it’s time to find out how the famous golden object was forged and why. The war against Morgoth is over and peace reigns, it seems, where the eyes can see.

Galadriel, in an image of the series. /

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warrior galadriel

Galadriel is the spearhead of ‘The Rings of Power’, whose first episode spends its time describing the different kingdoms and their inhabitants. The role of the warrior elf responds to a current moment where female empowerment is as evident as it is necessary. There are no artifices in the creation of the character, captivating from the first minute thanks to the interpretation of Morfydd Clark, whom we could see in the curious horror film ‘Saint Maud’. The character is presented with several iconic moments, in a string of aesthetically well-cared scenes. She, dressed in pristine white, poses sadly in front of a mountain of dead soldiers’ helmets. They put an end to the orc threat, but maybe it’s all a mirage. As an army commander, she sets out to explore inhospitable terrain in search of the trace of a dark sorcerer, a certain Sauron, whose death is not entirely clear. She is courageous, stubborn and leader material. A rebel with a cause, she doesn’t trust her appearances, which leads her to disobey some rules and she is branded as arrogant by her own pointy-eared comrades-in-arms. Her skills for combat are clear when she ends up with a sword blow with a huge snow troll that she can’t even mess her hair up. Her handling of steel is exceptional. The sequence is well resolved, with visual effects that cut short the first sensations about the CGI when seeing the advances of the series on the Internet.

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The majestic landscapes follow one another, the level of production is high, repeating the richness of New Zealand as a setting, where Jackson and his team set the standard. At the controls of this double premiere episode is the Catalan filmmaker JA Bayona, whose handling of emotions fits perfectly with the needs of the beginning of the saga. He sets the tone for the adventure, surrendering to movie magic in the introduction of the hairy ones, the tribe that takes over from the hobbits in the battle between good and evil. Endearing ragged, disheveled, dirty and edgy, their remarkable hubbub can be cut short by the advent of darkness. Without a doubt, they are going to give a lot of play, like the elf played by Ismael Cruz Córdova (‘The Undoing’), the answer to the mythical Legolas, with his bow in tow. His love for a human opens the doors to thick romanticism, read soap opera, inevitable if you want to hook the general public.

Image from the second episode of the Amazon series. /

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light versus dark

The elves have not seen a miserable orc in years, but Galadriel cannot lay down her arms and forget about the dark side. He does well, because the ship floats, yes, as long as they don’t throw stones at it to sink it irremediably. When the intrepid elf is on screen, special care is noted in the framing. Parallel to her journey, a living being falls from the sky in the territory of the hairy ones, who always burst onto the scene in a comedy (and fantasy) key. Apparently, he is a naked, mysterious man, looking like a castaway (who is he?). The small inhabitants of the place help the stranger, without knowing that he is opening Pandora’s box. His happy world seems to have its days numbered.

The second chapter of ‘The Rings of Power’ finally shows the headline, with emblematic music by the great Howard Shore. The design is reminiscent of ‘Game of Thrones’. I am pleased to see JA Bayona and Belén Atienza in the executive production credits. Since the time of the short films by the director of ‘The Impossible’, they have gone hand in hand, growing as professionals to infinity and beyond. The score by Bear McCreary, a usual name in genre cinema, accompanies well what happens. It is worth underlining the good choice of a luminous casting that conscientiously marks the character of the characters. The narrative moves calmly, slowly but surely, speeding up as the shadows lurk. The darkness is taking over the story. We enter, at times, in a horror movie (note the appearance of the first orc). We are already inside, watching with intrigue as Middle-earth rots to its foundations.

The beautiful city of Erigion, kingdom of the elven smiths, intoxicates the senses. As the dwarfs work nearby in the mines, an alliance is formed to forge something never seen before. Place your bets. “Where there is love, there is no darkness,” comments another of the main characters of the action, whose name is better not to mention so as not to end up with any surprise (we stop spoilers). The phrase contains the essence of the series, its narrative engine. The pieces are moving on the board. The game has only just begun and curiosity takes over whoever approaches one of the series of the year and perhaps of the decade without prejudice.

Criticism of episodes 1 and 2 of ‘The Rings of Power’: All against Sauron