The reviews are in

amazon, the lord of the rings: the rings of power review roundup: what critics are saying about the 'gutsy' new show

(Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is almost here – and the critics have already weighed in on the epic fantasy series’ first two episodes. We gave it 4/5 stars, saying that, “Amazon’s bet big on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power – and if the opening episodes are anything to go by, Jeff Bezos put his money in the right showrunners. This could be the one fantasy show to rule them all.”

The show currently has a 96% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, which is actually higher than all three Peter Jackson movies. Reviews have been mostly positive save for one or two negative reviews that call the show’s boldness a misstep. Some mixed reviews praise the show’s high-budget visuals but feel that they overpower the plot.

We’ve rounded up what the critics are saying about Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power to give you an idea of what to expect – and don’t worry, everything we’ve included below is spoiler-free.

IGN (opens in new tab) – 8/10

“Prime Video’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a unique take, telling something of its own story using a distant time period of the lore that Tolkien mostly laid out in broad strokes. It’s a bold approach, and here fortune has favored it. The two-episode premiere marks a strong start, with breathtaking cinematography, excellent acting, and a story that – after a somewhat labored set-up – shows some serious promise and intrigue.”

TVLine (opens in new tab)

“But it’s not meaningless eye candy, either. The characters’ motivations might seem basic at first, but they develop and deepen over time; the second episode is even better than the first, artfully expanding on relationships introduced in the pilot. Showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay (Star Trek: Beyond) do have a lot of story threads to juggle, but they all work so far, with the early episodes planting seeds that will pay off later, like a powerful sword fragment and a mystical stranger born from a fiery comet. (Breaking Bad vet Gennifer Hutchison is also a writer and executive producer here, which is an encouraging sign.) But beyond all that, Rings of Power just feels epic. It manages to tap into an elemental power that transcends plot and character and whisks us away to a world filled with wonder.”

Entertainment Weekly (opens in new tab)

“Viewers hungry for Middle-Earth Anything could be satisfied, and I guess you could argue Rings of Power is no worse than all the other expensively empty genre adventures (Altered Carbon, anyone?) that have proliferated through the streaming era. But this series is a special catastrophe of ruined potential, sacrificing a glorious universe’s limitless possibilities at the altar of tried-and-true blockbuster desperation.”

Rolling Stone (opens in new tab)

“The scale of Rings of Power – developed by untested writers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay – would feel empty without compelling characters at the middle of those lush pictures. Fortunately, the show has a promising collection of those, first and foremost its more aggro Galadriel. No matter what kind of grand landscapes or horrible creatures she is placed in front of, Clark’s fiercely still performance ensures she is always what you are looking at first. And she sparks well opposite Charlie Vickers as Halbrand, a roguish mystery man she encounters on the high seas. Arondir is on the bland side despite Córdova’s strong physical presence, but the tension Nori feels between modest Harfoot tradition and her desire for something grander is an endearing hero’s journey.”

The Atlantic (opens in new tab)

“I finished my two episodes with the feeling that I’d barely begun an appetizer course; the entire experience was more like having a pleasant conversation with my waiter about the kind of food that will eventually be brought out. My bouche has barely been amused, but my deep affection for Tolkien’s world will likely keep me tuning in for a while. Even the most languorous of streaming shows eventually pick up speed, and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power seems to be brewing epic tales of war, heroism, and dark magic. I just hope viewers will get more than a whiff of them over the course of the first eight episodes.”

The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab)

“Through two episodes made available for critics, The Rings of Power works far better than the three-year publicity build-up led me to fear. The first episode is dedicated primarily to world-building, exposition and proving that storytelling on this scale can be executed for television and generally succeeds, even if some of that exposition lags. Then in the second episode, the story starts to actually move along and there are characters and scenes that I found utterly charming in the way a show like this requires for long-term survival, even if some of the effects and epic scale diminish a tiny bit. It’s technically impressive, reasonably ambitious, packed with Easter eggs that I’m certain I’m not versed enough to get and, with my interest in different plotlines already varying wildly, it could fall off a precarious cliff at any moment.”

The Guardian (opens in new tab) – 4/5

“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is likely to prove divisive, not least depending on whether you watch it on a big TV or squint at its splendour on a phone or laptop. It is so rich and gorgeous that it is easy to spend the first episode simply gawping at the landscapes, as it swoops and swooshes between the lands of elves and dwarves, humans and harfoots.  This is TV that is made for big screens, although surely destined to be watched on smaller ones. It is so cinematic and grand that it makes House of the Dragon look as if it has been cobbled together on Minecraft.”

Paste (opens in new tab)

“It’s true, the pace of The Rings of Power’s first two episodes is slow and deliberate, and the show has to work to balance its screentime amongst many seemingly disconnected plotlines. But it’s clear that the show feels confident enough in the story it’s telling to allow its audience the necessary time to get to know its characters and their various goals and passions, before launching into the potentially world-ending stakes in their future. I’m looking forward to finding out if that confidence is truly warranted, but this is the sort of beginning that certainly makes me want to believe in magic.”

Indiewire (opens in new tab)

“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power flutters to life in bursts, 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 J.R.R. Tolkien’s still-expanding universe. Genuine chemistry draws sparks of humor and heartache. Sizable set pieces house indisputably epic battles. And yes, the grandeur on display is almost too much — all those soaring shots of fantastical cities and glistening scenery routine enough to feel, well, routine. Still, the stately show’s main hurdle is the same faced by many of the streaming era’s ambitious sequels, prequels, and spin-offs: over-familiarity absent any real risk. Investing a boatload of cash isn’t the same as investing beliefs, predilections, and sense of humanity. It’s rather simple to satisfy the masses with a nostalgic game of connect the dots; it’s much harder to forge a ring of one’s own worth admiring.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is set to hit Amazon Prime Video on September 2. For more, check out our guide to the Lord of the Rings timeline and our interviews with the Rings of Power cast and showrunners.


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