CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power


The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power

Rating:

Turkey is not the word. No turkey, however bloated and stupid, could ever be big enough to convey the mesmerising awfulness of Amazon’s billion dollar Tolkien epic.

This is a disaster dragon – plucked, spatchcocked, with a tankerload of Paxo stuffed up its fundament, roasted and served with soggy sprouts.

The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power (Amazon Prime) is so staggeringly bad, it’s hilarious. Everything about it is ill-judged to a spectacular extreme.

The cliche-laden script, the dire acting, the leaden pace, the sheer inconsistency and confusion as it lurches between styles – where do we start?

Review: The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power is so staggeringly bad, it's hilarious. Everything about it is ill-judged to a spectacular extreme (Galadriel played by Morfydd Clark)

Review: The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power is so staggeringly bad, it’s hilarious. Everything about it is ill-judged to a spectacular extreme (Galadriel played by Morfydd Clark)

Let’s start with the budget: a billion dollars. Let that sink in. One thousand million bucks, about £860,000,000, such a colossal investment even for Amazon that industry rumour says the brand is gambling its entire future as a film production company.

If this show fails, say insiders, executives could be forced to shut down Amazon Studios.

The book rights alone cost $250 million. And what did Amazon get for that? This is not a remake of Lord Of The Rings or The Hobbit. This is a prequel, based on the appendixes – the reams of footnotes dumped by J.R.R. Tolkien at the end of his Rings trilogy, chronicling millennia of turgid historical fantasy. That’s right… the unreadable bits.

Panned: The cliche-laden script, the dire acting, the leaden pace, the sheer inconsistency and confusion as it lurches between styles – where do we start? (pictured an Orc)

Panned: The cliche-laden script, the dire acting, the leaden pace, the sheer inconsistency and confusion as it lurches between styles – where do we start? (pictured an Orc)

Whoever thought that was a wise buy must have been smashed out of their minds on miruvor, the elvish liquor.

There’s no doubt we can see the budget. It casts a throbbing glow over the screen like a chestful of gold. Ultra-high definition computer graphics paint ivory cities in mountain passes and conjure gigantic monsters in palaces of dark magic.

But magnificent visuals are meaningless if nobody knows who the audience is meant to be. And it’s impossible to guess whether The Rings Of Power is meant for children, for hardcore fans or for general viewers – because it fails them all.

Big money, big problems! One thousand million bucks, about £860,000,000, such a colossal investment even for Amazon that industry rumour says the brand is gambling its entire future as a film production company.

Big money, big problems! One thousand million bucks, about £860,000,000, such a colossal investment even for Amazon that industry rumour says the brand is gambling its entire future as a film production company.

Risky business: If this show fails, say insiders, executives could be forced to shut down Amazon Studios (pictured Durin IV played by Owain Arthur)

Risky business: If this show fails, say insiders, executives could be forced to shut down Amazon Studios (pictured Durin IV played by Owain Arthur)

One fight sequence features elf princess Galadriel in acrobatic action against an angry troll, who pops up from off-stage like an adversary in a Dungeons & Dragons boardgame.

Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) cartwheels and whirls her enchanted sword before despatching the giant fiend with a bloodless blow. It’s highly stylised, like a Japanese manga cartoon.

An episode later, the healer Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and her son fight an orc, and this time the violence is as brutal as anything in Game Of Thrones.

How much! The book rights alone cost $250 million. This is a prequel, based on the appendixes – the reams of footnotes dumped by J.R.R. Tolkien (pictured Poppy Proudfellow played by Megan Richards and Elanor 'Nori' Brandyfoot by Markella Kavenagh)

How much! The book rights alone cost $250 million. This is a prequel, based on the appendixes – the reams of footnotes dumped by J.R.R. Tolkien (pictured Poppy Proudfellow played by Megan Richards and Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot by Markella Kavenagh)

They stab it, spear it, run it through, hang it and finally saw through its neck with a knife – before Bronwyn, soaked in blood, displays the head as a trophy. Small children and persons of a nervous disposition should not watch.

Then the tale flies back to the Harfoots, prehistoric hobbits that wear garlands of acorns and dress in rags, as though they’ve escaped from the set of Worzel Gummidge.

Led by Lenny Henry as Sadoc, the Harfoots talk in a garble of Jamaican, Irish and Zummerset accents. They’re loveable and funny, in a slapstick way. Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards) trips on an expedition to scrump blackberries, and falls flat in a puddle.

When she lifts her muddy face to the camera, like Oliver Hardy, she sighs, ‘Enchanting.’

Harfoot-land is cute… until old Mr Brandyfoot slips and snaps his leg, with a crack that would make the cast of Casualty wince.

Opinion: Whoever thought that was a wise buy must have been smashed out of their minds on miruvor, the elvish liquor

Opinion: Whoever thought that was a wise buy must have been smashed out of their minds on miruvor, the elvish liquor

One disconnected style follows wildly after another. A static scene in which elves journey by ship is conceived as a PreRaphaelite painting – each actor stock still in silver armour, swords clasped to their chests, long hair rippling, eyes fixed on the horizon in pious awe. Inspired by a flock of birds, they lift their voices in a heavenly choir.

There’s a lot of this quasi-religious imagery. The first episode begins with a cod Bible reading: ‘There was a time when the world was so young, there had not been a sunrise, but even then there was light.’

Popular culture invents blether like this to replace real religion. It’s scientology for the superhero movie era.

‘Year gave way to year, century gave way to century,’ the narrator continues, and already this reviewer was giving way to laughter. Soon, every fresh clunker provoked such hoots that I had to keep pausing to gather my composure.

‘It is said that the wine of victory is sweetest for those in whose bitter trials it is fermented,’ says the elf Elrond (Robert Aramayo) to Galadriel. And I’m off again.

Graphics: There's no doubt we can see the budget. It casts a throbbing glow over the screen like a chestful of gold. Ultra-high definition computer graphics paint ivory cities in mountain passes and conjure gigantic monsters in palaces of dark magic [pictured L-R) Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker), Galadriel and Elrond (Robert Aramayo)]

Graphics: There’s no doubt we can see the budget. It casts a throbbing glow over the screen like a chestful of gold. Ultra-high definition computer graphics paint ivory cities in mountain passes and conjure gigantic monsters in palaces of dark magic [pictured L-R) Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker), Galadriel and Elrond (Robert Aramayo)]

‘If but a whisper of a rumour of the threat you perceive proves true…’ he goes on, until I’m weeping with laughter.

Bronwyn and her boyfriend Arondir the elf share some marvellous exchanges: ‘I must follow the passage,’ he tells her, pointing to an underground cavern.

‘You don’t know what’s down there!’ she cries.

‘That,’ he replies portentously, ‘is the reason I must go.’

Without a shred of irony, Galadriel declares to her elf platoon, ‘The order is given! We march at first light!’

She can’t have seen the wonderful skit by Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in The Trip, where they spend a car journey wondering why warriors in terrible historical dramas always ‘leave at first light’ (‘They never leave at 9.30-ish.’)

Bronwyn hasn’t watched it either. She urges villagers to flee: ‘If there are any of you here who want to live, we make for the elven tower at first light.’

Even when there’s no dialogue, some of the acting is abysmal. Galadriel’s elf patrol, caught in a snowstorm, battle their way across the screen with their arms outstretched like a troupe of mimes.

At least they’re not talking. Most of the elf scenes are rigid, as two characters in robes take it in turns to dump mounds of exposition over each other’s heads.

‘An alliance with the dwarves would be the diplomatic achievement of the age,’ Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards from Downton Abbey) tells Elrond.

Cue a visit to dwarf-world, where Elrond challenges the prince (Owain Arthur) to a rock-breaking competition. One of them hits a rock with a hammer! Then the other one hits a rock with a hammer! This goes on for some time.

If the cast list seems a little obscure, that’s intentional. Aside from Sir Lenny, the only well-known star is Peter Mullan, who plays the king of a dwarfs.

Hiring an experienced and subtle actor, even if he is in a massive prosthetic nose and filmed to appear four feet tall, might seem canny decision.

It isn’t. Mullan’s talent simply highlights how woeful everything and everyone else is. The effect is like sticking Richard Burton in an am-dram pantomime.

Burton was famously expensive, of course. Cleopatra, in which he starred with future wife Elizabeth Taylor, cost $31m… the most expensive film ever, in 1963.

Think of it – a mere $31m! That would barely buy you a pair of Lenny Henry’s hairy fake feet.

Failed: But magnificent visuals are meaningless if nobody knows who the audience is meant to be. And it's impossible to guess whether The Rings Of Power is meant for children, for hardcore fans or for general viewers – because it fails them all

Failed: But magnificent visuals are meaningless if nobody knows who the audience is meant to be. And it’s impossible to guess whether The Rings Of Power is meant for children, for hardcore fans or for general viewers – because it fails them all

The Lord of The Rings: The King of Power: What did the critics say?

The Guardian

Rating:

The visual splendour of this rich, gorgeous Tolkien drama will make you gawp throughout it makes House of Dragon look amateur.

I love Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) the fighter. She is valiant, flawed and haughty, as bloody-minded as she is brilliant, scarred by the horrors of war. 

This is enormously enjoyable TV, a cinematic feast. 

Entertainment Weekly

Amazon’s prequel is kind of a catastrophe.

It takes six or seven things everyone remembers from the famous movie trilogy, adds a water tank, makes nobody fun, teases mysteries that aren’t mysteries, and sends the best character on a pointless detour. 

The Independant

Rating:

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power sets out its sprawling epic fantasy credentials right from the off: even its title seems like it could be split into multiple instalments.

While The King Of Power might be a brand new story, it still has plenty of authentic Tolkienesque charm to go along with the best production value money can buy.

Variety

From this prelude onward, The Rings of Power narrative adopts a solemn and awestruck approach. 

The first two episodes are admirably concise and compelling in their introductions.

Empire

Rating:

Lavish and sweeping, The Rings Of Power puts its money where its mouth is. 

The immensely fun Dwarves are Scottish-tinged and larger than life, canny and caring all at once.

It might take a second to get accustomed to these new characters, but the signs are that it will be worthwhile.

NME

Rating:

‘Don’t the great tales never end?’ asks hobbit Samwise Gamgee during a slower moment in The Lord Of The Rings. He’s talking about his own journey through J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy world – but he might as well be referring to the franchise itself.

As a start, this is an excellent one.

The Times 

Rating:

Despite the inventiveness that the creators have had to deploy to populate Tolkien’s world with fresh, non-canonical characters, the whole thing has the vibe of terrified executives carrying an exceedingly expensive vase across a slippery floor.

Perhaps two episodes aren’t enough to judge, and we are indeed gearing up for the greatest and most gripping fantasy TV series ever made. But I’m certainly not there yet. 

 



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