The original Lord of the Rings film trilogy, with its memorable cinematography, artistic sets combined with CGI, breathtaking filming locations and costumes helped bring the legendary book series to life. This year’s series, Rings of Power with its huge budget and more advanced technology on its side goes above and beyond in visual detail as well as in plot.
Like its predecessor, the show was filmed in New Zealand. The massive snow-capped mountains were a stark contrast to the low dry plains allowing for not only breathtaking views showcasing the small shrubs and jagged rocks, but also a familiar, welcoming air to those who enjoyed the original trilogy.
Many fans have been critical of the perceived lack of loyalty to the Tolkien books. Galadriel, always described as wise, attentive and fair, is now a brash warrior with a thirst for revenge. Costume choices have also been criticized. In the original books, Gimli, describing female dwarves, says “so alike in voice and appearance that they’re often mistaken for dwarf men” referring to the fact that all dwarves have long bushy beards. These luscious beards were missing from all female dwarves in the show leaving me only a little bit disappointed. Along with this, many male elves in primary roles have short haircuts reminiscent of ‘Stranger Things’ comb-overs instead of the expected long, regal hair that the elves came to be known for.
Claims that the show is reinforcing expectations and gender norms from our own world on that of Lord of the Ring have taken websites like Reddit by storm. People claim that the creators of the show should have known that fans would not like this change. One Reddit user shared their distaste for the change saying, “Why give the elves short hair? Seems like an own goal to move there just to piss the die hard fans no? Maybe I’m missing something.” Some suggested that it was simply too hard to get good wigs that were not finicky and hard to work with.
The 80s haircuts were not the way to go, taking away from the immortal look that the elves should have, but they were good for a quick laugh.
Other changes they made were much more graceful and caused small changes to the ambience without making the characters look like Steve Harrigton from Stranger Things. A different colour palette from the original films exchanged the brown and beiges often associated with hobbits to more greens and moss for this species of hobbit that in the second age was migratory. The hobbits, who in the early time period depicted in this series were three subtly different species, have yet to settle down in the shire. The change in the hobbits colour helps to establish this early setting and gives the beloved hobbits a more innocent and juvenile look.
Across Middle Earth the elves are often associated with muted golds, silvers, light blues and the occasional dark blue or maroon that are now wearing emerald robes, bright, shining whites and more intense, regal colours. These colours give the elves a more youthful and bold look which corresponds to their relatively new arrival to Middle Earth from Valinor as opposed to the more calm and situated look they had in the Lord of the Rings.
The show lives up to the hundred of millions of dollars that was spent on it, at least in regards to the visuals. The flawless CGI helped bring the second age to life in a way I would have never expected. My favourite example of this was in the dwarf kingdom of Moria. While eerie skeletons of dead dwarves covered with thick, dusty spider webs lined the halls in the halls of Moria we saw previously, this time we get a peek into what the great city once was before it was overrun with evil. In the new series we get to see its former glory. The light streaming through small holes in the earth onto the fresh green crops gives the dwarves the lively yet majestic air we know they deserve. The pitch-black chambers are exchanged for lit and populated rooms with dwarves working and collaborating to build up their kingdom. While this was by far my favourite scene, the CGI was used for so many more amazing things.
The ships that elves and the humans in Numenor sailed on had a light quality to them but at the same time a grandeur that commanded the respect their kingdoms wanted. The White tree that we saw in “Return of the King” as a small, tired tree with its last leaves falling was replaced by the luscious, cloudlike flowers that show how prosperous Gondor was in the second age. From the Undying Lands to the humble prairies, they executed the natural environment perfectly.
The refreshing, youthful and prosperous feel that the adjustments and executive decisions gave, as well as the advancements in CGI have brought the fantastical world to life with depth and luminosity.
Image credit: Amazon