Discover more from Taking Up More Room
"Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" Is Utter Garbage.
The Rings of Power isn’t Tolkien-esque in the slightest. It hides inside the Tolkien branding as if Middle-Earth is a Trojan horse and then springs its own agenda on the audience, all set against a boring, aimless, cliched background.
Ugh. I’m really having trouble summoning any kind of positive energy for this series. I didn’t want to hate watch it. Problem is, I’ve seen the trailers, plus there’s been so much press around it, mainly consisting of Amazon and other woke gatekeepers calling fans racist misogynists and touting how this LOTR adaptation has strong female characters and racial inclusion.
Yeah, this is what they deem important. Not story. Not character development. Not celebrating Tolkien and the amazing world he created. Oh, no.
It’s the first time Tolkien characters have been played by people of color! Women finally get a seat at the table! REEEEEEE!
Well, I’ve got news for those folks: Casey Kasem and Sonny Melendrez have entered the chat. So have Eowyn, Galadriel, and Arwen, and they aren’t just around to look pretty, thank you. For one thing, Eowyn slew Sauron. Oops.
But Tolkien lore and adaptations have never featured strong women and POC. Or something.
That aside, at least for now, I saw the first two episodes of the Rings of Power series. Design-wise, they look vaguely similar to Peter Jackson’s films in a cheap, CGI kind of way, which is a little inexcusable, seeing as Amazon spent millions upon millions. They could have gone for something slightly less fake-looking.
Galadriel is the star of the show, and she’s not the Galadriel we know and love in the novels or the Peter Jackson films. This Galadriel is on a revenge mission to find and kill Sauron after he murders her brother. She’s meant to stand out so much that when she and her entourage encounter an ice troll she’s the one to take it out with a few well-placed swipes while her group of seasoned male fighters stare tremolously. She’s brittle and angry to the point of unreasonableness. She is, as some have pointed out, both a Mary Sue and a Karen.
This is downright insulting. Per Tolkien lore, Galadriel was proud and rebellious in her youth, not angry. She never sought revenge. She never staged a hunt for Sauron. She had friends. She married Celeborn and had a daughter, Celebrian, who married Elrond and had Arwen.
As far as we can tell Galadriel isn’t on track to get married in The Rings of Power, even though she should be, given her age. One of her only friends is Elrond and Celeborn is nowhere to be found.
And what if Galadriel succeeds in her aim and finds Sauron? Is the series going to retcon the actual LOTR trilogy and have Galadriel kill him? Amazon has set up a really lousy trajectory here and it’s still somehow the racist fans’ fault. Or “trolls,” as Amazon and Vanity Fair in their infinite collective wisdom have decided to call us, an action that’s not unique to our present situation.
Galadriel isn’t the only Tolkien character to be butchered. Elrond doesn’t fare so well either, but Isildur really gets the shaft. In The Rings of Power he’s is a sailor who works his way up the ranks. The filmmakers flatter themselves that they’ve built this character from the ground up because “we really don’t know much about him.”
I’m sorry, what?
We know plenty about Isildur. He was a KING and a SOLDIER. Not a sailor. He was never a sailor. He’s only the reason the One Ring continued to exist. Everything that happens in Lord of the Rings is his fault. Shame on you, Amazon.
The Sergeant Schultz “We know nothink!” defense is Amazon and the media’s go-to excuse for why this show is the way it is, and it’s completely bogus. We know exactly how Tolkien’s world is supposed to look. We know how the world changed and developed over the ages. We know what the characters are supposed to look like (Elves, for instance, were either blonde and fair or dark-haired with olive skin). Tolkien spelled it all out.
And it’s not gatekeeping, racist, sexist, or mysoginist to say so. It’s just a fact. Sure, Middle-Earth is a wide, diverse world, but Tolkien drew from English, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, and Sicilian cultures. We know because he said so. His stories were meant to be English folklore.
These same people who claim ignorance as to Tolkien’s intent, and, for that matter would likely get bent out of shape at the idea of white girls enjoying Moana or Pocahontas, would be spitting acid if, say, an Irishman was cast as Kunte Kinte. Or if a Jamaican played Mulan. Or if a Chilean played Othello. Some stories are culturally bound and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean people across different nationalities, races or ethnicities shouldn’t enjoy them, but they are meant to be inhabited by people from their culture of origin as much as possible. Inclusion only works if it’s organic and not forced.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m honestly sick and tired of Hollywood taking every beloved property, every beloved character, and every beloved universe and inserting woke politics into them as if nothing else existed before they deigned to be the smartest, kindest, most enlightened people on the planet. Heaven forbid films tell good stories while respecting their characters and respecting their audiences.
It may not have been my intention to hate-watch Rings of Power (well, maybe it was a little), but its story is so absurdly bad it begs to be raked over the proverbial coals. If the viewer can stand it at all.
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Rated TV-14.
My grade: D-
Principal cast: Morfyyd Clark, Markella Kavenagh, Lenny Henry, Megan Richards, Robert Aramayo, Nazanin Boniadi, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Charles Edwards
Created by Patrick McKay and John D. Payne
Taking Up More Room is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.