Better than House of the Dragon? What the critics are saying about Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

·4-min read

We are just days away from the release of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, which officially launches on Friday 2 September.

It’s been a long wait since Jeff Bezos’s omnipotent Amazon empire in 2017 paid JRR Tolkien’s estate $250m (£211m) for the rights to set a fantasy series in the world of Middle-earth.

The forthcoming drama is set thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. According to the show’s official logline, it promises to “take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness”.

A reported $462m (£398m) has been spent on the first season, making it easily the most expensive TV series in history. So, was it money well spent?

As of Wednesday (31 August), critics have had the opportunity to see the first couple of episodes in the eight-episode series – and the response is generally positive.

As fate would have it, the new drama lands in unison with the highly anticipated Game of Thrones spin-off, House of the Dragon, the first episodes of which have already been released.

The simultaneous arrival of the two epic fantasy sagas naturally means comparisons have and will be drawn. So, how do the two shape up?

Read a round-up of the reviews for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power below.

The Independent – four stars

Asking whether The Rings of Power can live up to its Caligulan price tag, The Independent’s Kevin E G Perry writes that it “comes close”.

Morfydd Clark in The Rings of Power (Amazon Studios)
Morfydd Clark in The Rings of Power (Amazon Studios)

“If you’re into breathtaking panoramas of fantasy cities soaring across your screen then, oh boy, have I got a show for you,” he adds.

Perry later concludes: “Earlier this year, Game of Thrones creator George RR Martin told The Independent that he hopes both The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon can find an audience and prove that there’s room on television for more than one epic fantasy series.”

“This family-friendly show seems set to do just that, and will presumably pull in a broader and younger audience than their apparent rival on HBO. This isn’t Westeros. Nobody’s going to get their head lobbed off here. Instead, it’s a spectacle-filled return to a lovingly rendered Middle-earth that promises to deliver an awfully big adventure.”

The Guardian – four stars

Rebecca Nicholson writes that The Rings of Power is “so cinematic and grand that it makes House of the Dragon look as if it has been cobbled together on Minecraft”.

“When it gets frightening, it is genuinely scary,” Nicholson writes of the series. “Towards the end of episode two, it is breathlessly tense and far more gruesome than I anticipated.”

Despite her reservations, Nicholson says that in the end, “the spectacle wins. This is enormously enjoyable TV, a cinematic feast.”

BBC – four stars

“This is the closest a TV show has come to blurring the lines between television and cinema,” Stephen Kelly writes, “even if, narratively, it is a rather ponderous version of the former so far.”

Collider – Grade A-

’The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ (Amazon Studios)
’The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ (Amazon Studios)

Therese Lacson writes that The Rings of Power offers the best of Tolkien but also Martin. “The series marries what we've learned to love about contemporary fantasy, like Game of Thrones with its multiple main characters, with the depth and detail of Tolkien's universe.”

IndieWire – Grade B

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power flutters to life in bursts,” Ben Travers writes, “offering reason enough to believe, with time to play out its own story and optimize its own strengths, the Prime Video creation could leave its own gleaming mark on JRR Tolkien’s still-expanding universe.”

Entertainment Weekly - Grade C-

In a more negative take, Darren Franich writes that The Rings of Power is “kind of a catastrophe”.

“It takes six or seven things everyone remembers from the famous movie trilogy, adds a water tank, makes nobody fun, teases mysteries that aren't mysteries, and sends the best character on a pointless detour,” he argues.

‘The Rings of Power’ will be released on Amazon Prime Video at 2am on 2 September