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Rings of Power: A New Thread to Rule them All


Ser Drewy
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It was okay. Khazad-dum I think was the standout, Owain Arthur was outstanding as Prince Durin, moving from proud dwarven bluster to a family man to a friend angry at having been left hanging for too long. Dwarves have been very undersold in any fantasy TV show or movie that uses them, even LotR to some extent (as Gimli devolved into comic relief in the movie trilogy and in the book was just kind of hanging out there), and one of the sole saving graces of the Hobbit trilogy was how it tried to give the dwarves more depth and more of a sense of civilisation (although they then got sidetracked by the romance and battle scenes and kind of forgot about the dwarves in the company in the end). This tried the same thing and was much more successful.

The Southlands I think was the weakest story of the bunch. None of the actors were very good (Arondir is the weakest link in the main cast), the plot dynamics were weak and the Arondir/Bronwyn romance didn't really gel as we are introduced it mid-flow. It would have made more sense to have had it established from the start here. The idea of having elves keeping an eye on former allies of Morgoth/Sauron is also fine, but keeping that going 1700 (or 3400, depending on how they're treating the timeline) years later with zero sign of Sauron being around feels extreme, even for the elves. 

The elves were mostly okay, at least to start with. Elrond is fine, but the actor was a much better Young Ned Stark. Gil-galad was okay, probably the most Jacksonian of the elven performances, the depictions of Lindon and Ost-in-Edhil did feel inverted (Lindon should be the glittering city by the sea, Ost-in-Edhil should be smaller, although being over-engineered did feel on-point for Celebrimbor). Morfydd Clark was occasionally outstanding as Galadriel (the light Welsh accent and rolling Rs felt appropriate for the language) but hamstrung by an odd script that tried very hard to spell out her motivations but seemed to leave them confused. There's a very interesting idea here about elves' immortal memories making it difficult to move on from trauma and pain, but I feel that's probably better-handled in a Scott Bakker adaptation (ha!) and not a Tolkien one.

Galadriel saying, "fuck this noise, peace out," and jumping into the ocean a thousand miles or more from land with no way of surviving was...a choice. Maybe the idea was she was being encouraged to stay by the Valar or something, so was confident something would show up to save her, but that wasn't really hinted at. I'm also not sure we needed the "jump in the ocean, find a raft, get thrown in the ocean again, return to the raft, get knocked in the ocean again, return to the raft," cycle. That was repetitive.

The Harfoots were probably the most improved idea from expectations. The actors were solid (Markella Kavenagh has some real potential, I think), everyone seemed to get the memo and they didn't go overboard on the humour, which was a concern. The whole Meteor Man idea remains dumb as hell, but they at least made the mystery vaguely interesting, and the fact everyone saw the meteor apart from Team Galadriel when they were travelling across the ocean to Aman suggests he didn't come from Valinor, which lessens the strength of the Maiar/Gandalf/Blue Wizards idea and enhances the Sauron/random bad guy one.

The timeline being fucked up wasn't really an issue in these first two episodes. That will become more apparent when Galadriel reaches Numenor. I still think this is the weakest idea in the entire project and I'm pretty certain now that they're going to have Durin's Bane showing up an entire Age early (they even vaguely allude to it in the second episode). Like, I understand why that's an attractive idea, but just because having the Romans fighting Napoleon's army is a cool idea for five seconds, that's no reason to do it. Maybe having the Bane show up, the dwarves defeat it and it returns to slumbering under the mountain, but even that feels unnecessary.

So far, stronger than The Wheel of Time. I don't think it's as strong an opening as House of the Dragon but it's not as far off as I anticipated. Intrigued to see how it does, but I think it will sink or swim based on Numenor and how it handles Sauron and the cult storyline. It also has very slow and deliberate pacing, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean by the end of these first two episodes we're a quarter of the way through the season and the full shape of the story and the stakes still feels very vague.

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9 minutes ago, Tywin et al. said:

Wait what? So they're sinking a few billion more into this guaranteed? 

No, they've only greenlit a second season. If the show falls massively below expectations then they won't make the five seasons regardless. It would be quite humiliating I think for them to cancel it, after Bezos staked so much on it, but they also won't keep throwing away vast sums of money.

The cost remains unconfirmed, the original figure of half a billion for Season 1 alone came from a New Zealand politician who seems to have garbled an earlier Reuters report of half a billion for the first two seasons. But a quarter-billion for Season 1 would put it at less than Stranger Things and around the same as the Marvel TV shows ($25-30 million per episode), and it does look like it's a lot more expensive than those. Particularly notable are throwaway sets. The biggest difference between film and TV is how TV handles its sets and has a lot more action on standing sets, and you can see how everything from HotD to Stranger Things to your ordinary network shows tries to push the action onto as few sets and setups as possible. That's the most glaring difference in RoP, they're just building elaborate sets for one scene and then moving on somewhere else, which is more of the approach in film.

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I made it through the first episode but it was a struggle.

It was humming along OK, neither good nor bad, up until Galadriel sword-skated and single-handedly killed the troll. Why do they have to do this stuff? Do people really like it? Every bit as bad as Legolas snout-skating. I have no problem at all with Galadriel as a commander - she is an intelligent, powerful and capable woman - but do they have to make a warrior superhero of her?

Anyhow, then came the Harfoots. So 'cute', so 'adorable'... Made me genocidal. Sweet Mary but what calculated drivel.

The romance in the south I assume has only been inserted because it said so in an executive briefing somewhere.

Dialog and plot abysmal. Pacing poor. Scenery very pretty.

It felt very dumb and very blockbustery.

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Episode 2:

I think it was more solid than episode 1. 

The reference to Feanor and the Sils was... weird. What was the point of the FA prologue if not to give context to these things? 

Galadriel swimming remains an incredibly silly choice. I honestly think they should have just had her ship attacked and have her stranded on some raft, come across Halbrand at sea who has also been shipwrecked by said beastie. Or y'know, not do the whole 'returning to Valinor' bit to begin with.

The Harfoots are okay. Things are doured by the likelihood of Meteor Man being Gandalf - it feels so... wrong - but on its own, and if this were its own fantasy show unrelated to Rings, I think it'd play fine. 

Khazad-Dum is probably the highlight. Good dynamic between Durin and Disa. Khazad-Dum looks pretty cool as well. 

The Southlands remains odd to me. Arondir/Brownyn so far aren't very interesting. The orc fight was... kinda goofy to me. Kids gon' be the Witch-King probably.

The Indiana Jones map bit with Elrond/Celebrimbor made me lol. 

Edited by Ser Drewy
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Watched the 1st episode. Not much here. Great imagery and beautiful music. Generally solid acting, especially Galadriel.

I'm not bothered by the superhuman action scenes of the elves. The Noldor especially are supposed to be mighty and capable of great feats. Imagine it as you will.

So is Arondir the only black elf? Because then it would feel tokenish. And why is a silvan elf serving as a ahem, soldier in the armies of Gil-Galad? Also the whole premise there with Elves being in Mordor/ Harad just dumb.

Harfoots were fine. I think they did a great job showing their hiding abilities.

I also disliked the passage to Valinor scene. This is what you get from having so limited adaptation rights.

Edited by Corvinus85
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Onto episode 2

Hobbits: They continue to be the best part of the show. If this was not a adaptation of Tolkien, one could actually make a decent, quaint, standalone, non-Tolkien-related  fantasy work out of it.

Eregion: Elrond and Celepringles waxing about Morgoth, SIlmarils, creation and dwarven craftsmanship is the first good elf-related content in this show (though the whole bit about Morgoth almost having a change of heart is odd). Sad that Celepringles actor is far too old and that he is probably not a focus for this. He should be familiar with the Dwarves not Elrond, and he should go to Moria. Celebrimbor's super forge project seems awfully mundane and fillery (they can not have him start with the Rings just yet, so he sents Elrond on a quest).

Moria: If Elrond is supposed to enter from the Westgate, then the landscape does not accurately reflect this. While the whole thing is visually stunning (if a little cramped at times), the dwarves feel more like generic fantasy than Tolkien. The thick scottish accents do not help and neither does the fact that instead a create-cool-shit-contest as would be appropriate for Tolkien's dwarves, we get a rock breaking contest. Unimaginative, though I should give them credit for not going the easy route and have Elrond pull a suprise win out of his ass. Also Durin's outburst, while still undermined by the accent, is good and makes the squandered opportunities due the time compression all the more sad.

It is also sad that instead of reflecting on this, they go back to comedy.

Galadriel: Easily the worst of the series so far. Just utterly joyless and unnecessary. Gil-galad could have just sent her on a diplomatic mission to Numenor and she could have picked up the suspiciously insightful and totally not Sauron ("It was Elves who chased me from my homeland") Halbrand on the way. No need for her jumping ship and the stuff on the raft and with the sea monster.

Southlands: There might be a decent mystery and thriller here, but I can not bring myself to for the characters. Unlike the Harfoot plot there is very little "magic" in all of this and so I am stuck with a drab story with drab characters where the "good" guys are the only one who seem to wash themselves and are pretty.

Episode 2 is better than 1 because there is less Galadriel in it. It even has some genuinely good stuff in it.

 

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1 hour ago, Mithras said:

This was excellent. Much better than HotD could ever be. Looking forward to the next episode. Can't say the same thing for HotD.

“You loved it!  It was much better than “Cats”!  You’re going to watch it again and again!”?

;)

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I reckon I'm going to absolutely love this show. Laughing my bollocks off at some of the 'criticism.'

No such thing as black hobbits. They never existed. Waaaaaaaaaah! :lol:

 

 

Edited by Spockydog
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It does feel like Elrond's entire story arc so far should have been given to Celebrimbor. That would have made far more sense, and have Elrond either not show up at this point or maybe have him as Gil-galad's advisor.

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52 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Does anyone know if the first two episodes are free for non-Prime subscribers?

I imagine the whole point of spending billions of dollars is to entice new Prime subscribers. So it would certainly make a lot of sense to make the first two episodes available for free.

Don't think they have, though.

Edited by Spockydog
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30 minutes ago, Spockydog said:

It would make a lot of sense to make the first two episodes available for free. I mean, the whole idea of spending billions is to gain new Prime subscribers.

Ha. HBO just dropped the first episode of HotD for free on YouTube.

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34 minutes ago, Werthead said:

It does feel like Elrond's entire story arc so far should have been given to Celebrimbor. That would have made far more sense, and have Elrond either not show up at this point or maybe have him as Gil-galad's advisor.

I laughed at Elrond essentially being Gil-Galad's speech writer.

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2 hours ago, Werthead said:

I don't think it's as strong an opening as House of the Dragon but it's not as far off as I anticipated.

Agreed.  To put a number on it I'd rate these first two episodes about 6.5-7 (out of 10) and HotD's about 7.5-8.

One thing I thought was lacking was the score.  I can't think of anything memorable and the show needs that to accommodate the epic visuals.  Frankly I'm surprised they didn't lean into the movies' themes more.

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What was this? Seriously, I was more or less completely spoilerfree, and this is just nonsense from any Tolkienian point of view. And I'm not meaning the nonsensical general plot and setting, but basic characters - Galadriel as Gil-galad's little errand girl, subject to his high and mighty authority when she is, well, not that in Tolkien's books, implied Elven racism against Elrond Half-elven, the fucking son of Eärendil, the savior of Men and Elves, a casting that includes folks that are visibly old (Celebrimbor) as Elves when Galadriel is either older or of the same age as Celebrimbor (if they were to go with him as Curufin's son he would be still be born in Valinor as per Tolkien's latest notes about him).

And even if you ignore that, it is just, for the most, part generic fantasy shit. The whole Hobbits plot felt like more than loosely inspired by 'Willow'. The names are, for the most part, horrible. The diverse casting is weird in the sense that there seems to be no racial homogenity among various peoples - even if you want to fly with black Dwarves, Elves, Hobbits, and the like ... then perhaps go with all members of a group who have been living together as mixed or darker-skinned because they won't just team up with random folks they never intermarried with before. Ditto with the dark-skinned Elf - his colleagues should have been darker-skinned as well.

Spoiler

If Star Guy turns out to be Annatar without gifts I'm going bonkers. I mean, what's this supposed to be? Those guys can clad themselves in shapes that appear like flesh. Why go with an incarnation that involves falling star nonsense? And if it is Sauron why wouldn't he know who the hell he is and be dependent on fucking Hobbits whose existence he later conveniently forgets? In context I think it might be better if the dude is actually their version of a wizard, perhaps some Ainu from beyond Arda who felt like he had to involve himself in matters for ... reasons. Annatar presumably wouldn't look that ragged and old.

Mildly intrigued by what the Dwarves are hiding ... but only mildly. The whole Elrond-Durin nonsense was just cheap attempt at humor and killing time. They should have gone straight to the family scene.

And that weirdo take on Elves policing ragged men who seem to enjoy to live in filth and sprout silly Emo-like hairstyles also doesn't really go well with things. If doing such things it should have been Númenóreans fucking them up ... but why do such a story at all? Why not go with people from far away who actually kind of remember the Dark Lord fondly and give one of the better folks there a kind of romance with an Avar Elf - who himself doesn't understand things much better than the woman? Would still be fan fiction stuff, of course, but something that could kind of fly in the Tolkien canon as an 'untold' or 'unknown' story.

Dialogue is really awful, as are Elven bullies destroying Galadriel's boat. I mean, yes, Elves are kind of build on humans - but they are ideal humans, better humans, and would thus not behave in this silly manner in the Blessed Realm of all places.

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13 minutes ago, DMC said:

Agreed.  To put a number on it I'd rate these first two episodes about 6.5-7 (out of 10) and HotD's about 7.5-8.

One thing I thought was lacking was the score.  I can't think of anything memorable and the show needs that to accommodate the epic visuals.  Frankly I'm surprised they didn't lean into the movies' themes more.

The soundtrack is absolutely outstanding, but it was turned way down in the mix. Again! With Wheel of Time watching it in an IMAX with the music mixed in properly, it worked really well. But watching the same episodes at home on TV, even with an excellent soundbar, the music was almost completely lost. RoP has the same issue.

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12 minutes ago, Werthead said:

The soundtrack is absolutely outstanding, but it was turned way down in the mix.

Heh, so they have the opposite of Nolan's problem.  You're probably right that my impression is mostly due to a volume issue - I'd have to rewatch to pay more attention to it I guess.

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10 hours ago, DMC said:

The Hobbits is when I get up and make another drink. 

:cheers:  And there sure was a lot of harfooting in the second ep, which is the only one I saw.  By the time the first ep was available -- right after finishing off ep 2; though I tuned in right at 9 the server already overloaded for ep 1, I guess? -- it was note making time of the evening (classes started up again. 

Ep 2 had way too much swimming (unless one viewed Galadriel's nearly transparent dress even when dry as a positive point), i.e. endless action scenes and scare jumps that were not interesting (like Jackson's)  I don't think I'd have seen any of this differently if I'd started with ep 1.  The only part I liked

10 hours ago, DMC said:

Gotta say I liked the dwarves much more than I thought I would.

:cheers:  Particularly Disa -- she just lightens and brightens and vitalizes all of the ponderousity.  Such a screen presence has Sophia Nomvete! Must admit that Khazad-dûm was more than impressive, and it is interesting.  And it is the most brilliantly colored, filled with light.

Maybe the first ep is different, but this second one was mostly grey and dark, though there was indeed a variety of shades of dark and grey.  Who would have thought that outside   Khazad-dûm would suggest claustrophobia?

Plus, PLEASE! don't turn this topic into a discussion of the what the book(s) said or didn't say.  Keep it to what we get on the screen PLEASE!  It is boring and pointless to make any screen presentation be about books instead of the subject at hand.  If you hate this isn't the printed word, go read the printed word again, but don't fill endless screens ranting this isn't the printed word PLEASE!

Edited by Zorral
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