Thanks to its massive budget, Rings of Power features stunning cinematography, ultra-realistic CGI, creative action sequences, and refreshing use of prosthetics and make-up.
But Rings of Power also presents a fresh (and refreshing!) version of the classic story of "Good vs. Evil," "Light vs. Dark," and heroism in the face of overwhelming odds.
The Background Story of The Rings of Power
J.R.R. Tolkien created a vast mythology of Middle-Earth.
In addition to his published novels, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and The Silmarion, Tolkien left behind notes and drafts and appendices that further imagined Middle-Earth.
The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings recount the end of the "Third Age" of Tolkien's Middle-Earth. The Silmarion tells of the world's creation and the "First Age."
The Rings of Power focuses on the end of the "Second Age," during which Sauron forces the One Ring that controls and corrupts the "Rings of Power" created by the Elves. Men and Elves ally to push back Sauron's Orc forces and defeat Sauron himself.
The Freshness and Complexity of The Rings of Power
The main character, a younger Galadriel, struggles with what might be described as post-traumatic stress disorder and a compulsion toward violence.
In early episodes, she states her desire to oppose the evil she knows lurks in Middle-Earth and revenge the countless fallen Elves from earlier centuries of war. She's a determined, willful hero.
As her character unfolds, she admits that she simply can't stop fighting. She can't retire as Commander of the Northern Armies and live in the paradise of Valinor. She suffers a compulsion to redeploy year after year and enact violence against her enemies.
Her self-awareness makes her semi-tragic. She admits to another character not only that she can't stop but that her closest friends can no longer distinguish her from the evil she fights.
We have yet to meet Sauron, but we have gotten to know the "Uruk" character named Oren, who leads a band of Orcs to take over the region that will eventually become the Mordor of The Lord of the Rings.
The best villains have sympathetic motivations. Oren challenges Galadriel's opposition to the Orcs, telling her that they, too, have the breath of life. They, too, deserve a place to live.
If Oren were a human, Elf, or Dwarf, then he might be viewed as a freedom fighter seeking to carve out a homeland for his people.
The Mysteries of The Rings of Power
I haven't even discussed the mysteries yet to unravel.
A mysterious figure falls to Middle-Earth from the sky. He hasn't been named yet, but he's almost certainly Gandalf.
Except he has to learn how to speak, how to understand the most basic things about the world, and how to use (and not use) his immense powers.
Guiding him is a young Harfoot girl, an ancestor of Hobbits. She, too, begins like a typical adventurous Hobbit pushing the boundaries of her community, but then she matures into someone determined to help the mysterious stranger. Even though he terrifies her.
Of course, who is Sauron? Viewers seem especially invested in figuring out which character is Sauron on disguise. I suspect Sauron is actually hiding out in the wilderness and yet to reveal himself.
We'll have to watch to find out.
Ignore the Trolls
Some fans have criticized The Rings of Power for its story-telling, acting, dialogue, and depictions of characters.
Some fans really want the same recycled characters, plots, and tropes without deviation.
Most fans aren't those types of fans.
Please don't let the loudest voices upset that a much younger Galadriel isn't exactly like the more serene Galadriel of the Peter Jackson films dissuade you from watching.
Please don't let the internet trolls upset that some Elves have short hair instead of the universal flowing manes of the Jackson films keep you from watching.
And please don't let the people upset about Elves and Dwarves with dark skin convince you that The Rings of Power somehow isn't "pure" or "faithful" to Tolkien's mythology stop you from watching.
The Rings of Power is not only faithful to Tolkien. It's a masterpiece of visual story-telling.