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    ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ is beautiful, banal boredom

    THE WASHINGTON POST – Can you spend your way to the next Game of Thrones?

    Jeff Bezos – the world’s second-richest man and, incidentally, the owner of The Washington Post – certainly appears to have tried.

    According to some news reports, the Amazon founder and JRR Tolkien fan had his company plunk down an estimated USD250 million just for the rights to make a TV show based on The Lord of the Rings. The resulting series is the most expensive ever made.

    But you already know what I do: If money were all it took to make the next fantasy monoculture phenomenon, it would’ve happened by now.

    Amazon Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power arrives 21 years after the first film in Peter Jackson’s theatrical trilogy – and less than two weeks after HBO’s own attempt to milk whatever goodwill Game of Thrones has left through its prequel series, House of the Dragon.

    Whereas the Westeros drama plays up its parent show’s penchant for shock, pulp and gore, the Middle-earth saga, in line with Jackson’s adaptations, is far more family-friendly.

    Though the eight-part debut season portends an imminent war between Elves and orcs – with Dwarves, humans and a precursor to the Hobbit race called the Harfoots in the mix – the copious and choppily edited action in the first two episodes (those screened for critics) is bloodless and computer-effects-driven.

    Morfydd Clark as Galadriel, and Benjamin Walker as High King Gil-galad, in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’. PHOTO: PRIME VIDEO

    Its defining influence isn’t Game of Thrones’ epic scale but Marvel’s neuteredness. If the production design weren’t so spectacular (and the characters and settings bought up by Amazon), The Rings of Power wouldn’t be all that out of place on Disney Plus.

    To be fair, the Lord of the Rings franchise was meant for all ages. But it’s not clear who The Rings of Power is for. Based largely on the appendixes – the appendixes! – to The Lord of the Rings novel, it takes place some 3,000 years before the events of that book.

    Already given the green light for five seasons (with a possible spinoff in the works), inexperienced showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay, who have only uncredited writing work on Star Trek Beyond to their name on IMDb, have said their goal is to make “a 50-hour show” from material covered in just a few minutes in Jackson’s movies.

    In total, the series’ budget is expected to top USD1 billion. That should be fairly easy to surpass: The first season alone cost USD465 million, according to the Hollywood Reporter, and that’s without factoring in the initial money to secure the IP.

    I’ve spent this review thus far focussing more on The Rings of Power’s development than its contents because there’s so little of note in the actual show. The characters – including Elves Galadriel and Elrond, played by Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving in the films – are phyllo-dough thin, and the plots not much more substantial. Exiled from her childhood home of Valinor by a centuries-long war that claimed her older brother, this younger Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) won’t give up the fight despite the lack of orc sightings in years. (Outside of combat, Elves tend to live forever).

    There’s also a boisterous young Harfoot seeking adventure named Nori (Markella Kavenagh) – an anomaly among her insular, nomadic community – so archetypal her refrain might as well be “I want to be where the people are, there must be more than this provincial life!” She soon gets her wish when an ailing stranger (Daniel Weyman) – tall and angular of face – is found nearby spent, amnesiac and strongly implied to be the story’s antagonist.

    Many miles away, a human healer, Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi), and an Elven sentry, Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), entertain a probably doomed cross-species flirtation. Elrond (Robert Aramayo), a member of the Elf king’s court, has his own challenges maintaining a friendship with the Dwarven Prince Durin (Owain Arthur), who could prove a crucial ally in the battle against the orcs.

    Despite Jackson’s claim that The Rings of Power creative team ghosted him, they borrow from and build on the character designs, fairyland aesthetics and musical landscape he created for the films.

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