The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power First Reviews: 'Bold,' 'Ambitious,' 'Gorgeous,' 'Full of Grandeur,' Critics Say

Epic story scope and an enthralling visual pallet elevate this Tolkien prequel.

by | August 31, 2022 | Comments

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With The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Prime Video takes its biggest swing in the big budget fantasy TV genre. Premiering its first two episodes on Friday, September 2, 2022, the prequel series does what J.R.R. Tolkien fans never thought would happen: It brings to life the author’s fabled telling of the Second Age of Middle-earth, which takes place thousands of years before the events of Peter Jackson’s trilogy.

Benjamin Walker, Morfydd Clark, and Robert Aramayo in a portrait for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

(Photo by Prime Video)

Morfydd Clark (His Dark Materials) stars alongside a noteworthy ensemble cast, including Nazanin Boniadi (Counterpart, Homeland), Peter Mullan (The Underground Railroad, Westworld), Benjamin Walker (Jessica Jones), Lenny Henry (The Sandman), Robert Aramayo (Game of Thrones, The King’s Man), Markella Kavenagh (Picnic at Hanging Rock), Ema Horvath (Like.Share.Follow., Don’t Look Deeper), Charles Edwards (The Crown), Ismael Cruz Cordova (Berlin Station, Ray Donovan), and the list goes on.

Expectations are running high for this one. But does it deliver the goods? After viewing the first two episodes, here’s what the critics are saying about season 1 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power:

How does it compare to Peter Jackson’s movies?

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The Rings of Power presents something familiar, but freshened up enough to make the visit worthwhile for established fans and Tolkien newbies. —Erin Carson, CNET

It’s a series that wants dearly to set itself apart as a fresh take on the material, right down to setting itself an entire age before the adventures of Frodo Baggins and his Fellowship. But it also does everything it can to stir our nostalgia for the Jackson films, from costume to music to overall design, which can occasionally make it like a store-brand version of the same. —Clint Worthington,

The opening episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power invoke the feel of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in all the right ways as a terrific character-driven introduction to the series.
Kyle Wilson, The Lamplight Review

The similarities between The Rings of Power and Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films create an interesting visual bond between the projects. After watching The Rings of Power, it’s easy to imagine how the Middle-earth depicted in the Amazon series could eventually transform into the decaying, almost post-apocalyptic world featured in the Jackson films. —Alex Welch, Inverse

How is the cast?

(Photo by Prime Video)

We see younger versions of Elrond (Robert Aramayo, “Game of Thrones”), now an intellectually curious politician serving under King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker). And of course, there’s Galadriel (“Saint Maud”’s Morfydd Clark), an elven warrior consumed by vengeance against Sauron for killing her brother. Both turn in fine performances—Aramayo’s gentle, lantern-jawed face is an exciting starting point to lead us to Hugo Weaving’s calcified administrator in the Jackson films, and Clark’s wily warrior still feels like Cate Blanchett even as her silver-plated armor evokes “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” as much as Galadriel. —Clint Worthington,

With the possible exceptions of Kavenagh and Arthur, no one gives a performance that truly stands out in this early stretch of the story. That said, spending more time with any of them should be far from a chore, and we look forward to following the characters’ various journeys. —Mark Meszoros, The News-Herald (Willoughby, OH)

Elanor Brandyfoot will steal your heart with her curiosity. —Julian Roman, MovieWeb

Dwarven Durin and his wife Disa provide some warmth and comic relief, not unlike Gimli in the trilogy, which is a welcome breath, tonally. —Erin Carson, CNET

What about the writing and story pacing?

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First-time showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay follow Tolkien’s example by creating a vast and immersive world with rich storytelling and strong characters who face incredible odds at every turn. —Joey Morona, Cleveland Plain Dealer

That’s “The Ring of Power”’s major failing in its early go, as its first episode functions as a somewhat dry, derivative prelude, filled with endless scenes of politicking and elves droning on against green screens or elegantly-furnished conference rooms. —Clint Worthington,

It takes a while for The Rings of Power to get going, but when it does, the pieces of the puzzle quickly begin to fall into place. To be sure, season 1’s second episode is stronger than the first, which is primarily focused on establishing the various characters, tensions, and the darkness that has befallen Middle-earth. —Mae Abdulbaki, Screen Rant

How is the production value?

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

(Photo by Prime Video)

Adjectives like “bold” and “ambitious” are par for the course when it comes to this franchise, and they absolutely apply to what we’ve seen so far of the show. It’s the kind of show that deserves to be seen on the big screen instead of on your phone. —David Opie, Digital Spy

I can say that it looks gorgeous, especially within the confines of streaming television. While it suffers from some instances of flat TV lighting, and some of the green-screen effects don’t instill the same sense of awe as the Jackson films, there are some jaw-dropping vistas and elegantly designed creature effects to behold. —Clint Worthington,

A map of Middle-earth helps convey a sense of geography, but what helps the most is that filming occurred in New Zealand, not on a green screen stage. The fantasy world looks real because they are in a physical place that happens to be the same one in which the movies filmed, too. —Fred Topel, United Press International

​​Directed by A Monster Calls filmmaker J.A. Bayona, the first two episodes are as visually stunning as any Hollywood blockbuster in recent memory. The series is so refreshingly bright, colorful, and intricately designed that it’s difficult not to be simply blown away at times by what Bayona and co. have accomplished. —Alex Welch, Inverse

What about the score?

Morfydd Clark in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

(Photo by Prime Video)

I have to single out for special praise the musical score by Bear McCreary. He doesn’t use any direct melodies from Howard Shore, but manages to evoke the mood and timbre of the earlier movies while creating something entirely new, thrumming and thrilling. —Christopher Lloyd, The Film Yap

Musically, Howard Shore returns to compose the title theme while Bear McCreary provides the score. It’s just as ambitious as it should be for this franchise. Moreover, McCreary’s score fits right in with what Shore did for the films. Granted, the films focus on the Third Age so the Second Age melodies play more for what’s happening on the screen. —Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

the series has gone so far as to bring in “Lord of the Rings” composer Howard Shore to compose the show’s theme (Bear McCreary handles the rest of the music, and his compositions sound more than a little like Shore’s work). And to be fair, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. —Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

Any final thoughts?

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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a series with good bones. It has a strong cast, the action is stellar, and the plots are interesting. Yet, I was left wanting something more. I don’t want to be interested, I want to be excited. —Jamie Lovett,

While there’s still a whole season to watch, The Rings of Power is off to a successful start in delivering on its promise of quality and firing on all cylinders. —Therese Lacson, Collider

The Rings 0f Power definitely feels like The Lord of the Rings and the atmosphere of Middle-earth is there; however, the first episode leaves more questions than answers. —Matthew Haynes, Matthewvhaynes (YouTube)

The series’ introduction feels like a fresh return to the visuals and characters Peter Jackson brought to life in live-action, while digging deep into the Tolkien’s endless expansive history of Middle-earth. Everything is both familiar and new, and I think I’m quite ready for another adventure. —Kyle Wilson, The Lamplight Review

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has some big shoes to fill but if the first two episodes are any indication, audiences are in for a treat. —Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

83% The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Season 1 (2022) premieres Sep 2, 2022 on Prime Video.

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