By Liv Barry
After much anticipation, the first two episodes of “The Rings of Power” were released on Friday, Sept. 1.
“The Rings of Power” is a prequel to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, set three thousand of years before the story’s events.
Buzz around the show first began after Amazon bought the television rights to J R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” for $250 million in 2017. With the acquisition of the rights, Amazon made a one billion dollar commitment to the production of five seasons, making the series the most expensive television series ever produced.
However, the hype was not without controversy.
Many die-hard Tolkien fans were upset to hear that the showrunners, J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay, did not base the show on any of Tolkien’s writing.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, fans were distressed after an unnamed critic at the Television Critic’s Association said the “The Rings of Power” was only “vaguely connected” to Tolkien’s work.
Amidst the controversy, Payne came to the show’s defense.
“It’s a story we’re stewarding that was here before us and was waiting in those books to be on Earth. We don’t feel ‘vaguely connected.’ We feel deeply, deeply connected to those folks and work every day to even be closer connected,” said Payne.
While watching the first two episodes of “The Rings of Power,” it is apparent how much money went into the Amazon-backed production to prove that the show is rooted in Tolkien’s work.
To achieve a Tolkienian fantasy look, the show combines seamless visual and practical effects to build worlds and fantastical creatures never before seen in Tolkien’s source material.
The show’s costuming, makeup, and hair design are all reminiscent of the show’s source material, with complicated braid patterns, ornate, jewel-toned costumes, and massive beards all harkening back to “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies.
While critics have since praised the show for these reasons, the series still suffered from “review bombing.”
Review bombing refers to the phenomenon of people leaving negative reviews on fan review sites, like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, before a show is released to tank its critical and box office prospects.
Many review bombers complained about Black actors cast as elves and dwarves under the guise of the colorblind casting not adhering to Tolkien canon.
Within a day, Amazon temporarily disabled the show’s comments section.
To condemn the backlash, the cast released an official statement on Twitter on Sept. 7. “We, the cast of ‘Rings of Power,’ stand together in absolute solidarity and against the relentless racism, threats, harassment and abuse some of our castmates of colour are being subjected to on a daily basis. We refuse to ignore it or tolerate it,” said Twitter account @LOTRonPrime.
For a show that cares so deeply about catering to devoted fans, the review bombing came as a blow.
While “The Rings of Power” set out to please existing Tolkien fans, the targeted harassment begs the question of how far creators should stretch to appease fans.
One of the show’s greatest issues is the inaccessibility of its plot. Without any pre-existing knowledge of the show, it is difficult to understand the emotional impact of many scenes.
While it cannot for sure be said that this inaccessibility is due to the showrunner’s desire to please fans, it is discouraging to casual fans and new viewers looking to explore the world that Tolkien created.
“The Rings of Power” values its fans, but amidst the review bombing and isolating plot, one has to wonder what it will take for the show to welcome new fans into the fold.