It’s safe to say that online fan reactions to The Rings of Power, Amazon’s upcoming prequel series to The Lord of the Rings, have been mixed. While some are excited to see more of Tolkien’s world brought to life, other fans are less enthusiastic about the changes to Tolkien’s stories (a compressed timeline, a bigger role for Hobbit ancestors the Harfoots) and the amount of original material that’s been written to expand Tolkien’s brief notes about Middle-earth’s Second Age.
After a couple of teaser trailers, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’s first full trailer (see below) dropped today and it shows that this prequel series has the potential to be an awesome addition to what we might call the Tolkien Cinematic Universe. Here are just some of the reasons the new trailer has us excited.
“Light and High Beauty”
This is the most expensive TV series ever made, and it shows. The set and costume design, the CGI, the cinematography – it’s all jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The overall design has echoes of the designs of the Peter Jackson films without being quite the same, and Middle-earth is being brought to life in lush colours and stunning visual sequences. One of the story themes that comes through clearly in this trailer are the multiple references to ‘light’ and ‘darkness’, and we see those themes reflected in the luminescent sequences of Elven locations, and the rich darkness of the Dwarven mines.
“Elrond and Galadriel Rode On…”
By the time of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Elrond and Galadriel are elder statesmen of the Elven world, overseeing two of the last three Elven strongholds in Middle-earth (Círdan the Shipwright rules over the third, the Grey Havens seen at the end of The Return of the King). Elrond is Galadriel’s son-in-law and her granddaughter Arwen’s father, and they clearly get on well and are mostly in agreement with each other about the threat of Sauron and the right course of action against him. Neither take much part in the action themselves, instead sending out other people while they maintain their realms of Rivendell and Lothlórien.
In this trailer, we see a very different relationship between these two, who are not yet related and obviously don’t yet see eye to eye on the subject of “the enemy”. Elrond seems somewhat complacent, believing the threat is gone, while Galadriel has obviously undergone some kind of traumatic experience as she tells him that he hasn’t seen what she has. We can’t wait to see these two debating with each other over the existence of the enemy threat and how to defend themselves against it, as they slowly work their way towards their much more friendly later relationship – and we’re excited to see them both in action, too.
“Linked to a Majestic Whole”
This series is a prequel, and the opening dialogue in the trailer, as we hear a Harfoot telling a legend about a time before the first sunrise, leans on that. But this story is about the Second Age of Middle-earth, not the First, and one thing that comes through clearly in this trailer is a sense of the epic scope of Tolkien’s invented history. We hear characters debating the importance of the past, as one tells us “the past is with us all,”, but another insists that “the past is dead – we either move forward or we die with it.” Although the series doesn’t have the rights to adapt the stories of Tolkien’s First Age, it’s clear that the impact of those events – including the overthrow of the Dark Lord Morgoth, the Quest of the Silmaril, and the Elves’ darkest hour, the civil wars known as the Kinslaying – will loom over the new series and affect these Second Age characters deeply.
There’s such a huge, rich backstory to all of this, and seeing characters debate the importance of the past versus the future really brings home the sheer vastness of the history of this world. We’re excited to see this series fill in and expand some of this little part of that bigger history.
“Smaller, and Shorter and They Were Beardless and Bootless”
Fulfilling the role of the (literally) little people in this story are the Harfoots, the ancestors of Hobbits. But we’re really excited to see the differences between these Harfoots and the later Hobbits that we know and love. The opening scenes (following the pre-credit sequence) of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring showed us Hobbiton, and a community of settled, comfortable Hobbits, lovers of good food, good drink, and a good pipe.
What we see of the Harfoots in this trailer is very different. We’re told in voiceover that, while Elves have their forests, Dwarves their mines, and Men their fields, the Harfoots have no home to protect – their home is each other. We see them walking apparently great distances with lots of baggage (we love the close-up of their bare feet, one thing they do have in common with Hobbits!). We hear a new song focused on a theme of “wandering”. So it seems that the Harfoots are not settled, like Hobbits, but are wandering Middle-earth, presumably weaving their way in and out of the epic battles and conflicts among Elves, Men, and Dwarves.
“Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost”
Wandering was such a key theme for Tolkien’s hero Hobbits, especially for Bilbo, who loves walking and who leaves Hobbiton forever so that he can wander the world and see the Mountains again. We’re excited to see where this impulse to wander might have come from, and to see a community of Hobbit-like creatures who embrace their wandering impulses, rather than living the more settled lives of their descendants.
The story may be adding a lot of its own elements, and taking some aspects of Middle-earth in new directions, but there’s a love of both Tolkien’s world, and the Peter Jackson movies that so successfully brought it to life, throughout all of this trailer. Both the beauty and the (metaphorical) darkness of the Elves comes through here – Tolkien’s Elves may be good guys, but they are not all squeaky clean shining lights. There is darkness in their past that we hear hints of here, especially in Galadriel’s weary reference to having seen grim things. We loved seeing a Dwarf impressively wielding their axe, and seeing Men living alongside Tolkien’s various fantastical peoples. The little snatch of Howard Shore’s score for the movies made us squee a little bit inside, and reminded us of how excited we are just to see Middle-earth on screen again.