Lavish, watchable... but is it Tolkein?
I've just watched the first two episodes of Amazon's take on Tolkein, the Rings of Power series, and I'm left with rather mixed feelings. It seems I am not the only one: Amazon was so concerned by some of the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB they turned their own ratings off, before finally caving in an re-instating them. The result? The show scores almost as many 1 star ratings as it does 5 stars, and I can see why. There are elements of this show that are hugely enjoyable, and a number of elements that are not so much.
First up, the good. There is no denying that the sets, costumes, CGI... the overall look of the show is lavish and wonderful. Deliberately it sticks very close to Peter Jackson's vision from his film versions of the Lord of the Rings - from the same music composer to the same appearances of the orcs. Definitely this is a good choice. Jackson has defined how a whole generation sees Tolkein, and though not everything he did with his films sits so well with me, I've heard very few who find much to fault with how Middle Earth is presented on the screen.
The shows flicks about rather, and taking a leaf out of Game of Thrones' book, pops up the locations we are zipping between on a map of Middle Earth. It has a nice look to it, though it does feel a bit pointless, given how briefly we flick between characters. And there are quite a few characters we are keeping track of - too many really if setting up the plot is to be done with any speed at all. And for me it's really the characters that are the show's big weakness - I'm finding it hard to care about any of them.
There are lots of female leads here, perhaps surprisingly for a take on Tolkein, and I am sure that will generate a strong debate between the "about time" and the "too PC" camps, but actually I think such a debate is a side show. I just find the characters to be so bland and clichéd, a reflection of new stereotypes. Galadriel is the worst of the lot - feisty, angry, overly-passionate, in short, about as far as possible from Tolkein's character as is elvenly possibly. Sure, this is set at a time when Galadriel is younger and maybe yet to learn her wisdom, but at the same time, this trope could have sat on another character much more comfortably (though for me, just as tiredly). It would have been far more interesting to have the 'real' Galadriel step forward and have the plot written around her as Tolkein presented her; a much more complex and mysterious personality. The male characters aren't much better with Durin being particularly cringeworthy so far, though Elrond at least shows some promise.
What's that in the background?!
Of course, it is early days, and the series needs to be able to have a bit of licence and it has to be said that as whole the show comes out much better than the some of its parts might suggest, in that it is highly watchable despite the flaws. One moment I am sighing at the sidetrack of a shipwrecked crew (the point?) and then just as swiftly enjoying the sea monster that follows. I'm still confused though.
You? What are your thoughts?