Amazon’s Rings of Power Tolkien in name only. Part 2

Sep 08, 2022 at 08:30 am by nemirc

Amazon’s Rings of Power Tolkien in name only. Part 2
Amazon’s Rings of Power Tolkien in name only. Part 2

I’m going to start by stating something that you may or may not know. Amazon didn’t set to create a “Lord of The Rings” series. Amazon wanted to create a “Game of Thrones” competitor. Reportedly, Jeff Bezos said he wanted Amazon to have “its own Game of Thrones” and thus they licensed the rights to The Wheel of Time book series. I haven’t watched the series and I have never read the books, but fans of the books say the series is a revisionist disaster. And after watching the first two episodes of Rings of Power, I can imagine why they say that.

I can’t speak on behalf of Jeff Bezos and I can’t really say if his true intentions were to actually have The Wheel of Time and Lord of The Rings as “Amazon Prime shows” because he loves those books, or if he just wanted any random high-fantasy series to compete with Game of Thrones.

At the end of my first article, I said I was inclined to think Amazon spent very little time working on the creative side of the series, and a lot of time on other aspects. If you see the LOTR trilogy discs, you can watch hours and hours of content, and you can see how much time and devotion they spent in creating the different aspects of the movies, including the writing, the costume design, set design, etc. It was obvious the movie was a labor of love and that they were very deep into creating Tolkien’s world. Similar things can be said about other blockbuster movies from some years ago, and even some more recent high-budget movies. For example, the production crew of Alita Battle Angel held a lot of interviews where they explained how they created the world, the visual effects, and how they brought Alita to life.

Meanwhile, Rings of Power marketing was a parade of ideological mumbo jumbo. We were never told anything about how much time and care was being devoted to create the world of Middle Earth, how much work the VFX were, or the creative process behind creating the costumes. We weren’t even told what the series was about (because these “creatives” thought everyone tuning in knew perfectly well who Melkor and Fëanor are, among others). Instead, we were told about how Tolkien was “problematic” (or even flat out racist) for not including all different ethnicities in the works and how certain character was “the face of a necessary redress of rebalance”, at the same time we were told how we were “finally able to enjoy Middle Earth” because there’s a Boricua playing an elf.

Among a lot of other things.

Being born and raised in El Salvador, I can say that the Jackson LOTR movies were a subject of conversation for more than 3 years, and at no point anyone said “I can’t be a fan of LOTR because there’s not a single Salvadoran elf in the movie.”

This whole fiasco reminds me of The Matrix Resurrections, which was a revisionist piece of crap that exists just to tell everyone how ashamed it is of existing, because half of the movie is spent telling everyone the “true meaning” of the movie, even if the directors themselves said the “true meaning of the movie” back in 1999. And this is the problem. Just like Matrix Resurrections was too concerned about excusing itself to its “new target audience” and telling the old target audience that “it was never for them”, Rings of Power showrunners were more concerned about letting “their” target audience know how they are “fixing” Tolkien because “reasons”.

And this “paint-by-the-numbers” non-creative process really shows on the screen. For example, not-Galadriel (the worse character in the series) who Tolkien described as a powerful and wise elf, has now been turned into an angry insufferable and unstoppable super-warrior killing machine that makes you wonder why didn’t she just go kill Morgoth so the war didn’t last “for centuries” (as said in the intro). She’s so fixated in her search for revenge she doesn’t care how many elves die under her command (Amazon made her general of the Army, because Tolkien’s Galadriel was not good enough for them), and there’s an instance where they are walking in a snow-storm and one of the elves (a female elf, btw) fell because she couldn’t walk any further and not-Galadriel was just like “leave her, we continue” and the only reason she stops is because someone else calls her out. There’s another scene where Elrond asks her how many more lives she’s willing to sacrifice to get her revenge and she’s basically like “as many as are needed, bro” like the true general that she is. There’s a scene at the beginning of episode 1 where not-Galadriel and company face a troll. The troll is kicking everyone’s butts (and kills a few elves in the process) but then not-Galadriel pulls-out her inner Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and kills the troll in less than ten seconds with her oversized Claymore sword because “2022 strong female character TM”.

She’s the archetype of the male character from the 90’s movies that you really, really hate because he’s just insufferable. The funny part is that ROP-defenders deflect any criticism towards this not-Galadriel as “you just don’t like strong females” when the truth is: first, Amazon actually downgraded Tolkien’s Galadriel because she’s actually weaker and dumber than Tolkien’s Galadriel (who is, among other things, a powerful and wise mage); and second, when male characters act like that they are usually the character you’re supposed to hate. I really don’t understand why American entertainment’s idea of “strong female character” is basically “turn her into the male villain.”

Galadriel was already not only powerful but also very wise, but the showrunners thought she needed armor and a sword to be taken seriously.

Another example is Arondir. The actor spent months talking about “how Amazon was breaking ground when it comes to diversity and inclusion” but he’s the only dark-skinned elf among all white-skinned elves. It’s like putting Keanu Reeves (and I love Keanu Reeves btw) in the middle of a bunch of Japanese dudes (47 Ronin). You are inevitably going to say “uhm, how did you even end up here?” In their quest for “by-the-numbers-inclusivity”, they made Arondir look even more like the “the character that doesn’t belong in this world” because he’s the only dark-skinned elf. Good job!!!

Tar-Míriel is another example. While she doesn’t show up in any of the episodes, we have already seen her and we already know she doesn’t look like Tolkien’s description. Not only that, they completely changed her story and her place in the timeline, making her “queen regent of Númenor” at a time when she wasn’t even around, not to mention she was never queen because her rightful place at the throne was taken away from her by Ar-Pharazôn, the man who then became the one responsible for the fall of Númenor. On a funny side-note, Ar-Pharazôn is also present in the series, and he looks like Karl Marx (which is a suitable look for the man responsible for the fall of Númenor).

Ironically, if they cared about “diversity and inclusion” as much as they claimed,  they could have played with Middle Earth races and skin colors. For example, according to Tolkien’s descriptions, Harfoots have “browner skin” so they could have had all Harfoots played as people from a specific ethnicity. They could have hired a bunch of Maori actors, you know, like Peter Jackson did for the LOTR movies, and make them play Harfoots and that would have been amazing. But no. They somehow thought having a single dark-skinned elf, a single dark-skinned dwarf and a single dark-skinned hobbit was enough because these people don’t really care about what they preach and they are uncapable of making actual creative choices.

This is actually a point of discussion among Tolkien fans. All the time they will discuss about the more unknown races of Middle Earth that could have been an excellent opportunity for actors with darker skin tones, and could have also been an excellent opportunity to explore the more unknown sides of Middle Earth. But no, that was too much work.

However, if they really wanted to change Tolkien's world so much, change the characters, events, and all, and include other real-world ethnicities (and really include them, not just cast the token black actor) the obvious choice was to make their own original series instead of licensing Tolkien’s work. But that requires real creativity and talent, something these people obviously don't have, and that’s why they took the safest route and simply ride on “The Lord of The Rings” name to attract viewers.

 

I am certain Jeff Bezos didn’t expect Rings of Power to end up being this mess of a series. As I said above, I can’t really speak of his intentions, but, as a business owner myself, I am sure of one thing: he wanted Amazon Prime Video to have a high-quality product that people would enjoy, and thus would bring a lot of money (in the form of new subscriptions) to the Amazon Prime service. He is a business man and he obviously didn’t want Amazon to spend hundreds of millions to create the ideologically-driven convoluted mess of a series that we got. To be honest, I have to say I find this sad because Rings of Power could have been not just good, but great. Tolkien is one of the best writers of the last century, and one of the best writers of all time, and the final adaptation could have been a great product if it had been created by people that are actually talented and competent.

But instead, we got “generic fantasy series", undeservedly wearing the Tolkien name.

 So, should you watch Rings of Power? Well, I have seen people that truly love the series because of the environments, the vistas, and all that (but I don’t think I have seen many favorable comments mentioning top-notch storytelling and dialogues). If you’re not familiar with Tolkien at all, and all you know is Jackson’s movies and their “sense of grandeur” then you are going to like this. But if you are a Tolkien fan, chances are you are either not going to watch it or just watched these two and not watch the rest. Personally, I am not wasting time watching the rest. I can’t watch a series while constantly thinking “This is not Tolkien’s Galadriel, this is not Tolkien’s Elrond, this is not Tolkien’s Tar-Míriel, and this dude isn’t even supposed to be here”. The series still has 6 episodes to go. That’s 6 hours I won’t recover if I watch the rest of the series. That’s 6 hours I can use to watch the first two extended editions of the Jackson movies, or enough time to watch any other movie I will actually like.

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