An astonishing 257,000,000 people!! watched Amazon’s The Rings of Power Trailer in its first 24 hours and got a glimpse into the look and feel of the new series. Obviously, the release of the trailer on Super Bowl Sunday reached far beyond the football audience! The 100’s of millions that watched the trailer show how excited people are at the prospect of this new series set in the world (but not the time) of the Lord of the Rings. While many LOTR fans were excited with the trailer, some had a negative reaction, as we’ll discuss at then end of this post.
At approximately the same time as the Rings of Power trailer was released, Vanity Fair published an exclusive interview with the writers and showrunners. The photos you see here are from the Vanity Fair article – gorgeous Amazon film studio photos of the actors in costume and a few outtakes from the first episodes.
1. When will Amazon’s Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power series be released? And where can I watch it?
Rings of Power is set to debut on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022. Amazon Prime members will be able to stream the series. You can look forward to eight episodes total rolling out a week apart. Also, Sept. 2 happens to be the birthdays of Hobbits Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, also known by LOTR fans as Hobbit Day.
2. What is the plot of The Rings of Power? Where does the story take place?
In brief, the Rings of Power focuses on the forging of the rings of power during the Second Age that allowed the Dark Lord Sauron to spread evil across Middle-earth. The story is set thousands of years before the events in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies directed by Peter Jackson. At this point, Peter Jackson has no involvement with this Amazon production.
There is a lot going on in this period of Middle-earth history. Sauron is both charismatic and evil with plans on domination — and should make a great villain. This is a period of cooperation between the different races of Middle-earth, but also friction and conflict. There are secret plans put into operation on both sides as well as huge battles and open conflict. We will likely see Moria in all its glory as well as Númenor and apparently Valinor (the undying land of Elves that we get a split-second glimpse of in the trailer). This should be a very rich source of stories and incredible settings for the new series.
3. What are The Rings of Power?
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.”
—J.R.R. Tolkien’s epigraph to The Lord of the Rings
“The forging of the rings,” says showrunner Patrick McKay in the exclusive Vanity Fair interview, “Rings for the elves, rings for dwarves, rings for men, and then the one ring Sauron used to deceive them all. It’s the story of the creation of all those powers, where they came from, and what they did to each of those races.”
During the Second Age, twenty magical rings were forged. To accomplish this, Sauron disguises himself as a benevolent entity Annatar. In disguise, Sauron teaches Elf-smiths of Middle-earth how to craft the rings of power. Nineteen rings were made as the poem above explains. Three rings for the Elves, seven rings for the Dwarves, and nine rings for Men. Finally, one ring was forged by Sauron himself to control the other rings AKA the One Ring. Sauron’s plan was to draw the rulers of Middle-earth to domination and evil.
4. What book or resource is The Rings of Power based on?
The new Amazon Rings of Power series is based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings appendices.
After the publication of Lord of the Rings, fans continued to write J.R.R. Tolkien and request more details about the fictional Middle Earth. These requests led J.R.R. Tolkien to write some of the most extensive appendices ever written — 150 pages of postscript that are now commonly published at the end of The Return of the King. In the appendices Tolkien provides details on the history, cultures, genealogies, and languages for the peoples of Middle-earth and the other lands of Arda (the entire world that includes Middle-earth). While it took years for Tolkien to write and for a publisher to print them, the fans got what they wished for.
Tolkien had created a fully formed vision of Middle-earth in order to write The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books. As a linguist, he began with the languages and then began building a more complete mythology (languages figure prominently in the appendices). However, it was a huge task to craft his writer’s notes it into a publishable format. Here’s J.R.R. Tolkien explaining how fans persuaded him to write the appendices:
After the publication of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers—in July and November of 1954, respectively—readers became obsessive. “Most people want more (and better) maps,” Tolkien wrote to a friend in 1956. “Musicians want tunes and musical notations. Archeologists enquire about ceramics, metallurgy, tools and architecture…. Historians require more details about the social and political structure.” To give them everything, Tolkien informed his publisher, “would require a book at least the size of Vol. 1.”
Curiously, the license used for the Rings of Power series is the license sold to Saul Zaentz in the ’70s that led to the Ralph Bakshi animated Lord of the Rings as well as an animated television version of The Return of the King – and Peter Jackson’s Hobbit and LOTR trilogies.
While The Silmarillion is the work that goes into by far the most detail about this period, that work is not included in this license. This means that not only does The Silmarillion not serve as the basis of The Rings of Power, but the new series is not allowed to depict anything (or anyone) from The Silmarillion that is not at least mentioned in the Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings and its appendices. Thus power episodes are newly written stories drawn from the history in the appendices.
5. Who is in The Rings of Power cast? And can we expect Hobbits?
If you saw the power trailer, you know that younger versions of two beloved elven characters from the LOTR trilogy movies — Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and Elrond (Robert Aramayo) are in the new Rings of Power series. There are also some brand new characters created by the series writers. These new characters include a Dwarf princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete), wife of Durin in Khazad-dûm (AKA “Moria”), and an elf named Arrondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova).
Here’s the cast list as we know it.
Morfydd Clark is Galadriel
Robert Aramayo is Elrond
Owain Arthur is Prince Durin IV
Sophia Nomvete is Princess Disa
Ismael Cruz Córdova is Arondir
Nazanin Boniadi is Bronwyn
Charlie Vickers is Halbrand
Benjamin Walker is High King Gil-galad
Daniel Wayman is The Stranger
Maxim Baldry is Isildur
Charles Edwards is Celebrimbor
Markella Kavenagh is Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot
Additionally, many people want to know if this power series will have Hobbits. Fans know that hobbits do not appear in the histories of the Second Age – and are not mentioned as existing (or not existing) in that period in either the appendices or the Silmarillion.
However, we can look forward to seeing hobbit ancestors known as harfoots. We know from Vanity Fair that the series will have two charismatic harfoots who play a key role in one of the main enigmas in the new series. The harfoot society was created by showrunners McKay and Payn and are played by actors Megan Richards and Markella Kavenagh.
6. Who wrote The Rings of Power?
Remarkably, The Rings of Power is the first credited IMDB listing for writers McKay and Payne. The two are high school friends from northern Virginia. While they’ve been writing in Hollywood for 13 years, somehow luck wasn’t with them. They worked on many film projects that either didn’t get made or they didn’t get credited for.
It would seem their luck changed – not only did they stand out as a good match for the Amazon project but J.J. Abrams knew them from a Star Trek movie they’d worked on and championed their work.
“We’ve worked on so many projects with so many awesome and exciting people that never got made or worked on things that did get made and we didn’t get credit,” says McKay to Vanity Fair. “We were a little bit of a dark horse. And Amazon talked to absolutely everybody—whoever had any idea for Lord of the Rings.” Adds Payne: “We were passionate about the material and had a take that matched Amazon’s appetites and ambition.”
I love this quote in which McKay and Payne compare themselves to hobbits doing challenging things:
“We felt like hobbits,” Payne says, again in Vanity Fair. “We felt like two very small people in a very big world who had just been entrusted with something that meant so much to so many different people.” The showrunners found themselves quoting Frodo’s famous line from the end of The Fellowship of the Ring. “Patrick and I will often look at each other in challenging moments of the show and say, ‘I’m glad you’re with me, Sam.’ ”
7. Who is the director of The Rings of Power?
Here are some of the experienced professionals called in to help with this The Rings of Power. Expectations were running high, and of course, Peter Jackson’s Hobbit and Lord of the Ring movies set a high bar. Producer Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) was hired as an advisor to McKay and Payne. Spanish Filmmaker J.A. Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) directed the first two episodes to help establish the tone for the series overall. Additionally, Wayne Che Yip directed four episodes of the series and co-executive producer. Finally, Charlotte Brändström directed the remaining two episodes.
8. Where was the series shot? And when was it shot?
Filming for the first season started in New Zealand back in February 2020 and soon there after the COVID pandemic came to light. The first two episodes were filmed followed by a break of several months. Cast and crew returned to film the next 6 episodes, ending in August 2021.
9. What do fans think of The Rings of Power trailer? What are the fan controversies surrounding the power trailer?
In one controversy following the release of the power trailer, some Tolkien fans are objecting to incorporating black actors into the cast. To hear them tell it, there were no black people in Medieval England or in the Tolkien stories. While that might be true, The Rings of Power aren’t being made for J.R.R. Tolkien. These are new fantasy stories based on Tolkien’s world, so there is room to be different.
The fans point to a quote from Peter Jackson in which he says he stayed above politics, and stayed true to J.R.R. Tolkien to justify their stance against black dwarfs and elves. I, for one, don’t know what politics Peter Jackson was referring to. And saying you are true to the book is a good way of putting other’s demands in place. J.J.R. Tolkien didn’t mention race or skin color in the books, though I suppose that Middle England goes with the assumption people are caucasian. But again, this is a fantasy series, not a historical documentary, so one has a lot more leeway.
Furthermore, we live in a diverse society that is striving to create more diverse casts in entertainment and movies. We are moving towards greater inclusiveness. We saw more diverse casts this year in Bridgerton and Hamilton and a number of other shows.
The other objection is over the aesthetics overall. The look and feel of this new Rings of Power series might be very different than The Lord of the Rings made by Peter Jackson. The new power trailer relies heavily on CGI to create fantasy landscapes, monsters, and feats of human strength, etc. and thus is more akin to a video game in texture.
In contrast, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series is more old school. The team shot on location and used far less CGI than you might think. Peter Jackson used more practical effects and optical tricks to create the illusions. Thus Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies look less artificial and more real than what we saw in the power trailer.
10. How to keep the negative fan reaction to the power trailer in perspective? Were there similar controversies about Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie series?
There were definitely plenty of controversy about the Peter Jackson trilogy before it was released. Once the movies were released, the controversy tapered off and audiences were largely pleased by the quality, casting, plot of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Fans talk about Peter Jackson and what he accomplished with the Lord of the Rings trilogy in worshipful notes.