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First Gorgeous Images From Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power Are Extremely Revealing

The billion-dollar-plus budget for Amazon's gargantuan Middle-earth series, "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power," has been blowing people's minds for half a decade. The studio's extremely costly investment in the streaming wars, coupled with an abnormally tight-lipped approach to sharing plot details, has left fans nervous for a long time.

Now, those who are eagerly anticipating the show's arrival on September 2 have something else to blow their minds: a series of eye-popping images released via Vanity Fair. The pictures come with a massive amount of information about what the story will cover, and they happen to precede the show's first trailer — which is set to drop during the Super Bowl — by just a few days.

The information is a bit of an overload — especially after so many years of near silence. The one thing that immediately jumps out, though, is that the production crew is taking this project seriously ... like, really seriously. Here are a few of the biggest takeaways from Vanity Fair's massive image and info dump.

A global phenomenon or cautionary tale?

Right in the intro, it's pointed out that the TV series will be either "a global phenomenon" or "a cautionary tale for anyone who, to quote J.R.R. Tolkien, delves too greedily and too deep."

The sentiment is reflected in the pictures that follow, as they indicate that there are a lot of changes coming down the pipeline. Some of these will be changes to the original text, but many of them will simply be elaborate additions to the story. For instance, multiple images appear to show the southern lands of Middle-earth. In fact, one caption even says the image is of the mortal Bronwyn "in her apothecary in Middle-earth's Southlands." Other pictures seem to also be from the same underexplored area of the map.

While Tolkien does provide some information about the Southlands in his text, it is a very mysterious area of Middle-earth. Soldiers from the south fight in Sauron's armies, and the nations of Harad and Khand lurk on the lower peripheries of "The Lord of the Rings" story. Many Númenóreans (Aragorn's ancestors) also settle in the region. Nevertheless, the area is generally left underdeveloped and very mysterious — though clearly powerful.

The thought that Amazon Studios seems set on exploring these less well-trodden areas of Middle-earth backs up the idea that the company is all in on this gamble to please fans of Middle-earth. Amazon wants to go big or go home. Based on these initial pictures, at least the quality of the production will be in their favor.

We learn a lot more about Galadriel

A younger version of Galadriel, played by Morfydd Clark, has been rumored to be a major character on the show for years now. Over time, she's emerged as one of the clear characters that will drive the plot forward. Not surprisingly, Clark's Galadriel also pops up in multiple pictures — and it sets the tone for a much grittier version of the Elven heroine than we're used to.

Remember, this show is set thousands of years earlier in Galadriel's past. While she's still very old at this point, Amazon is giving her a character arc that will develop her into the Lady of the Wood that we all know and love. Clark's version of the character is described as "as angry and brash as she is clever." We also know that she'll be a general and will also be on a vengeance kick as she hunts down the enemies "who claimed the life of her brother."

Galadriel's character is an interesting conundrum in Tolkien's writings. On the one hand, he gave us a lot of information about the Lady. At the same time, much of that info comes in the book "Unfinished Tales," which is confusing and even conflicts with itself at times. In addition, her very long story arc — she's 8,000 years old by the end of "The Lord of the Rings" — means huge chunks of her story were never fleshed out. This leaves a lot of room for the show to fill in the details and resolve some of the continuity errors in Tolkien's original work. It appears the creative team has seized the chance with both hands. The fact that they're making the generally calm and peaceful Galadriel a temperamental warrior, though, is a big leap that long-time fans will be sure to scrutinize.

Old and new characters abound

When Amazon dropped 23 character posters a week before Vanity Fair's exclusive, it deliberately left names of characters and actors out. It also didn't show anyone's heads. This left everyone guessing who was who — a guessing game that the new information has gone a long way toward solving. Many of Vanity Fair's photo descriptions and accompanying text clarifies who will be who, and we can tell you, there are going to be a lot of characters in this thing. Some of these will be familiar, others will be new adaptations, and still others will be completely new inventions fabricated for the show.

Galadriel and Elrond have both been confirmed for a while, but now we officially know that they'll be played by Morfydd Clark and Robert Aramayo, respectively. In another image we meet the Dwarf Prince Durin IV. He is one of a prestigious line of several different Dwarven kings who bear that name. Each is considered a reincarnation of the original Durin, though whether that is literally true or not is a bit hazy. Either way, we have never seen a live Durin on the silver screen yet.

And then there are the newcomers. Throughout the images, we see characters like the mortals Halbrand and Bronwyn as well as the Silvan Elf Arondir, all of whom have been created for the series. This isn't particularly surprising, since it takes a lot of characters to build a world this big. Once again, their presence in such prestigious places, though, leads to the question of how important these new characters will be, and how much of the limited screen time their stories will soak up.

Powerful female leads

In an interview back in 2021, British actor Sir Henry Lenny, who will play a Harfoot (a sort of proto-Hobbit) in the show, explained, "There is a very strong female presence in this, there are going to be female heroes in this."

It hasn't taken long for Amazon to back Lenny's statements up with some images. Vanity Fair's spread of set photos highlights multiple women who seem set to play important roles. Galadriel is the obvious front-runner. We all know that she ends up becoming the Lady of Lórien, but the show will depict her flexing her younger, more erratic power, this time as the "commander of the Northern Armies."

We also see Bronwyn, a single mother, a human, and a village healer, who will be played by Nazanin Boniadi. While an original character, there's little doubt that Bronwyn will be important, as her name shows up multiple times throughout the piece.

The same goes for the Dwarven princess Disa, played by Sophia Nomvete. The text describes Nomvete's depiction of the first on-screen version of the highly mysterious female portion of the Dwarven population as "a scene-stealing role." While there will be plenty of characters vying for screen time in this thing, it seems that women — immortal, mortal, or otherwise — will have their fair share of the action.

Developing the world

The last bit we have to say here is that is that the new images clearly show a serious attempt to represent Middle-earth on the silver screen. The pressure to reach the bar that Peter Jackson set is no-doubt felt by the production team, and you can see that respect reflected in the images.

We see epic storm sequences, glorious Elven havens, and much more. Perhaps the most curious image of the lot, though, comes from a shot with the text "Director J.A. Bayona points the way for two nomadic hunters wandering the fields of Middle-earth." While it's fun to see Bayona at work (he was brought in to direct the first two episodes of the series), the part that really grabs the eye is the two "nomadic hunters" and their garb.

Along with their rough clothing — one of which is clearly depicted holding an apple in the revealing character posters — they are also wearing enormous antler-like items on their back. Whether these are decorative, valuable, or meant to strike fear in any enemies they might meet on the road, the oversized outfits are just about the strangest items in the lot.

While it may not be obvious what is going on in the image, it shows us a couple of different things. First, we see that the show is taking the development of many of the other cultural groups in Middle-earth seriously. In this case, there are many groups of men that live throughout Middle-earth that don't get much attention in "The Lord of the Rings." On top of that, though, these images just look really cool. They're intimidating and intriguing, all at the same time. There's no doubt that, after years of keeping a tight lid on the project, Amazon Studios is finally throwing the doors open for all to see what it's been up to, and the first results are very encouraging.