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The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power - What We Know So Far

Amazon Studios made headlines way back in 2017 when it won out the bid for the TV rights to certain portions of Tolkien's sprawling literary Middle-earth world. The fact that the rights alone cost a whopping $250 million (via Deadline) seemed like a big deal back then, but that number has become par for the course in recent years. The additional fact that the studio spent $465 million (via Hollywood Reporter) on the first season of the show, titled "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power," led to further jaw-dropping shock.

The sheer size of the investment was enough to turn heads. The fact that it would be used to bring a new adaptation of Tolkien's beloved world to the screen made the fascination even greater. Fairweather fans settled in for the ride. Die-hard Tolkienites gritted their teeth and waited in anxious anticipation to see how the massive Middle-earth bid would play out (remember, many were still scarred by the dramatic changes made in the "Hobbit" trilogy).

After the initial news of the acquisition of the rights broke, though, the news cycle just kind of ... dried up. Nothing happened for a year. Then another year. Then another, and another. Sure, the show did make a few splashy announcements on its fledgling social media pages and there were little rumors here and there of production taking place in New Zealand. But even that seemed to mostly be negative news purporting disruptions and delays due to things like on-set accidents (TheOneRing.net) and, you know, a global pandemic.

Fortunately for fans, a release date was eventually released, and the series premiered on September 1, 2022. Here's everything we know about "The Rings of Power" so far.

Who is in the Rings of Power cast?

The "Rings of Power" series features a loaded cast. This makes sense, since the sprawling story will feature tons of different Tolkienian characters. Some of these have been made up for the show, like the cryptic Man Halbrand (played by Charlie Vickers) and the Dwarven Princess Disa (played by Sophia Nomvete). The Silvan Elf Arondir (played by Cruz Córdova), the proto-Hobbit "Harfoot" Nori Brandyfoot (played by Markella Kavenagh), and the woman healer Bronwyn (played by Nazanin Boniadi) are also new to the Middle-earth fold.

Alongside these creative additions, we also get a slew of characters that are well-established in Tolkien's works, played by a lineup of first-rate talent. Here are just a few of the biggest names, along with the character that they'll portray on the screen: Morfydd Clark (Galadriel), Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad), Robert Aramayo (Elrond), Charles Edwards (Celebrimbor), Maxim Baldry (Isildur), and Owain Arthur (Prince Durin IV).

Others in the show's considerable lineup of talent include Lenny Henry (Sadoc Burrows), Trystan Gravelle (Pharazôn), Peter Mullan (Durin III), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Queen Regent Míriel), Lloyd Owen (Elendil) — and that's just a small sampling of the massive cast list. On top of that, the studio has brought in some top-shelf directorial talent. Thus far, the first season has been helmed by J.A. Bayona, Wayne Yip, and Charlotte Brändström, who directed two-to-four episodes apiece.

The best part about this massive collection of talent is that very few of these names are so big that they'll hog the spotlight. If done well, this leaves the door open for the actors to meld into their characters without too many overly-recognizable faces hogging the screen or the headlines.

Is there a Rings of Power trailer?

"The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" had little-to-no visual promotional elements for the first four years of its existence. Apart from very uninspiring leaked set photos and a single first series image, there was nothing to go on ... until 2022. Once this year kicked off, we got not one, but two promotional videos. The first of these is an epic title reveal declaring that the show would be called "Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power." This was a long-awaited — and frankly, well overdue — announcement. The fact that the video was made with practical effects, though, is pretty darn cool.

Of course, a title reveal does not a trailer make. So, Amazon went and upped the ante by releasing a full 60-second trailer, as seen above, during the Super Bowl. That's right, they bought a double slot — slots that, per The Sporting News, were selling for a record-breaking $6.5 million per 30-second ad, no less — right smack dab in the middle of the Big Game.

The trailer didn't reveal too much detailed information. But it did finally give us a solid glimpse of the world that Amazon is building to house its Middle-earth stories. From sweeping panoramas to CGI monsters to a slew of characters (some recognizable and others not so much), the trailer created an instant buzz and a variety of different levels of feedback. It was so heavily viewed that it broke the first-day trailer record, getting 257 million views worldwide in just 24 hours. Suffice it to say, by the end of February, the promotional campaign for the show was off to the races.

A second Rings of Power trailer sparked intense excitement

After the initial title reveal and Super Bowl trailer, there was another period of relative quiet from the Prime Video marketing team. Exclusive articles were released in a steady stream, but actual footage from the show remained at a premium. Little teasers were posted from time to time on social media, but most of them merely recycled already-seen footage. At one point, a clip in Portuguese was accidentally leaked, but it was quickly wiped from internet existence.

However, on July 8, a 60-second teaser officially dropped, ending with an announcement that another teaser would be arriving on the 14th of that same month. When that day arrived, fans refreshed their browsers with bated breath and were rewarded at last with a full two-and-a-half-minute trailer that went deep into the details.

The second trailer focuses on the passage of time. Elves discuss past glory and failures. Men speak of moving forward and leaving the past behind. Dwarves, who are in their prime during "Rings of Power," talk of a new era to come.

The trailer also puts the show's incredible production quality on full display. Scene after scene was shown, shifting from jaw-dropping panoramas to lively civilizations. Orcs flash on the screen for a moment. Elrond and Galadriel verbally spar over their tragic past experiences. The High-Elven King Gil-galad utters foreboding words about an impending evil. After months of virtually nothing to gauge how the show was going to feel, the second trailer effectively functioned as a full-blown reveal of how epic the "Rings of Power" experience could be.

What is the plot of Rings of Power?

With so much money and manpower going into the series, what story are they going to tell? While fans are used to the stories of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings," this time Amazon's narrative will be going much further afield ... and further back in time, too.

The show will cover events that take place in the Second Age of Tolkien's world. This is a roughly 3,500-year-long era that comes before the 3,000-year-long Third Age, which ends with the events of "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings." If 3,500 years feels like a very long span of time, that's because, well, it is. In fact, showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay have already clarified that the biggest deviation from the text is the simple fact that they've condensed all of the events of the Second Age into a single point in time. According to Payne (via Vanity Fair) "We talked with the Tolkien estate ... If you are true to the exact letter of the law, you are going to be telling a story in which your human characters are dying off every season because you're jumping 200 years in time, and then you're not meeting really big, important canon characters until season four."

Along with this major adjustment to the pace of the narrative, the showrunners have explained (also via Vanity Fair) that they only have the rights to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "The Hobbit" books. However, this gives them critical access to the appendices of "The Return of the King," which includes a brief outline of events in the Second Age. Working from this, they will try to bring together a coherent, condensed, and (hopefully) compelling Second Age narrative.

Practical effects are a big deal in Rings of Power

One of the biggest concerns of any onscreen fantasy or sci-fi adaptation is how the show will utilize CGI. Even within the hallowed world of Middle-earth, overuse of computer graphics has already wreaked havoc on "The Hobbit" trilogy. Fortunately, "Rings of Power" addressed this very real concern starting from right from the get-go.

When the show's title reveal video was released, we saw that it features molten metal pouring through the chasms of a mold. Fog is everywhere. Water flows across, cooling the material. After the fact, a behind-the-scenes video was released showing everything from the mold to fog machines and even the pouring of real, bona fide molten metal. It was a great way to showcase the series' commitment to practical effects.

Since that time, the cast and showrunners have relentlessly reinforced the idea that "Rings of Power" isn't doing the bulk of its filming in front of a green screen. Everything from costumes to sets are very real, in the same spirit as Peter Jackson's venerated two-decade-old "LOTR" trilogy. Celebrimbor actor Charles Edwards explained (via Fandom) that he was astonished, bowled over, and couldn't contain his excitement when he first walked on set. The show built an enormous water tank (via Collider) to use as it filmed its sea-borne adventures. At every turn, it's been abundantly clear that the production crew is putting the show's ridiculously massive budget to use in the best ways they can think of.

Prime Video is filming the show across the globe

Early on in the production process, it was announced that the first season of the show would be filmed in New Zealand (via New Zealand Herald). This was more than three years before the show's premiere date and just a handful of months before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The entire first season was subsequently shot with the crew mostly in pandemic lockdown. All the same, it appeared that crisis or not, the geographic home of "Rings of Power" would be within the same islands that have housed all of the major Middle-earth adaptations to date.

But then in August of 2021, just a year before the expected launch of the first season, the dramatic announcement was made that the show was shifting gears and leaving the gorgeous New Zealand landscape (via Hollywood Reporter) for other pastures. The gargantuan operation picked up and moved its production efforts clear across the globe to the U.K. where it began filming Season 2.

Regardless of whether the show stays in the British Isles or moves elsewhere to shoot future seasons, the production team has already broken the mold by leaving the hallowed shores of the Land of the Long White Cloud.

The show's story is entirely mapped out

Most shows need to approach production one season at a time. If they do a good job, the ratings are sufficient, and any number of other necessary factors pan out favorably, another season is greenlit, and they can commence work on a new portion of the story. Not so with "Rings of Power." This is a series that has a five-season story arc already fully planned from beginning to end.

According to showrunner J.D. Payne, "We even know what our final shot of the last episode is going to be. This was a big story with a clear beginning, middle and end. There are things in the first season that don't pay off until Season 5." This show's ability to plan out its entire saga without any season-to-season concerns about being renewed is refreshing. It means everyone from the actors to the writers to the directors can fully invest themselves in the long haul. It also means we can expect to see lots of seeds planted that won't bear fruit until years from now. In fact, the initial season has consistently been described as an introductory template that will lay the groundwork and introduce a largely new audience — with the obvious exception of the diehard vanguard of Tolkien fandom that already knows the story by heart — to the hitherto untouched Second Age of Tolkien's legendarium.

Rings of Power is ... a bargain?

The eyebrow-raising budget of the "Rings of Power" production has steadily drawn comments and criticism from the beginning. How could a studio pour that much moolah into what amounts to an 8-to-10-hour serialized movie in the first season?

In an interview with Empire, J.D. Payne had the perfect rebuttal to concerns about the "Rings of Power" budget — and it has to do with treating the "Rings of Power" experience not as a show, but as a movie. The showrunner explained, "We think it's important to keep the budget in context. Really, this [season] is an eight-hour movie. This is the length of three Marvel films, done on the schedule of two, for the budget of one. Look at it in the context of what's actually being produced and you could say that it's a bargain."

At first glance, this comes across as an excuse to treat a television show as equal to a three-hour blockbuster. But as more information, stills, and teasers have come out about the production quality, the quote makes more sense. "Rings of Power" really is a 50-hour, five-season movie. It's a complete story that is going to be told with a beginning, middle, and end. As such, if you break down the cost per hour, the math doesn't lie. Dare we say it? This thing is a gosh darn bargain.

We're going to get more Ents

Everyone loves the Ents. The tree-folk are a fan-favorite element of "The Lord of the Rings" story. They also play a critical role in the War of the Ring by thrashing Isengard, freeing up our other heroes to go fight Sauron and even fighting some of the Dark Lord's Orcs while Aragorn and company are away fighting on the field of the Pelennor and at the Black Gate.

While they're certainly important in the Third Age, the events we see in "The Lord of the Rings" really amount to little more than a last hurrah for the group of arboreal people. In fact, the most important part of Treebeard and his species' story happens during the Second Age, which is when "The Rings of Power" is set.

From the get-go, this prompted a crucial question — will the Ents be in the show? It's an inquiry that was officially answered in early July when a "Rings of Power" teaser showed the tree-folk for the first time. Partway through the clip, a mysterious fireball is shown streaking through the sky overhead. As the camera pans down, it shows a distinctly humanoid tree-like figure in the shot. Two taller trees on either side of it also start moving. 

This quick and subtle reveal all but confirms that Ents will be in the show. Not only that, if the two taller trees are parents, we could be looking at an Ent child, known as an Enting, and its parents — a traditional Ent and an Entwife.

The Season 1 villain remains mysterious

The villain of "The Rings of Power" has been set in stone from the get-go. Let's not beat around the bush here — it's Sauron, folks. It's Sauron. Tolkien made that clear in the source material. The Second Age is the time when Sauron rises and takes the place of his fallen master, the original Dark Lord Morgoth.

As far as has been revealed, the show hasn't deviated from this line of reasoning. In fact, the initial synopsis of "The Rings of Power," which was leaked well before its premiere, states that "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." While it isn't explicitly stated, it takes all of two seconds to connect the dots. It's safe to assume that "the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien's pen" is the Dark Lord Sauron.

And yet, for all the clarity, the villain for the first season of the show remains cloaked in mystery. Early on, a leak from the fansite OneRing.net clarified that "Sauron/Annatar will not be revealed in Season 1." That means our heroes are going to be facing some other villains for a while. We've already seen Trolls and Orcs in the promotional material. Chances are their leader will end up being the mysterious Adar (Joseph Mawle) who appears to be a warped and twisted Elf antagonist and possibly a gap-filler until the real bad guy arrives on the scene.

The show will need to create a lot of new characters

"The Rings of Power" has its work cut out for itself when it comes to filling its iteration of Middle-earth with compelling, relatable characters. Why? Because Tolkien never wrote much about this period of his world's history. Instead, he focused on outline-level material, much of which the showrunners and writers have had to connect and fill in to create enough substance for a 50-hour story.

Part of that process has been inventing new characters. This is an absolute necessity since there are very few names in the source material, but it's also a task that is fraught with peril. Inventing characters out of whole cloth and expecting them to stand toe-to-toe with the deep, thoughtful characters created by the original author is a tall order. It's a requirement that automatically comes with taking on a task like this one, but it remains to be seen if Prime Video's new personalities will be able to hold their own in Middle-earth.

We're going to see new corners of the Middle-earth map

One exciting prospect of "The Rings of Power" is the opportunity to see new areas of Middle-earth that have hitherto not been seen on the silver screen. The bitter cold northern terrain called the Forodwaith was already showcased in the Super Bowl trailer. The Silvan Elf Arondir and his forbidden love Bronwyn will both hail from the Southlands, oft-mentioned but rarely visited areas south of the Middle-earth equator.

We're also going to head to the left of the map, across the gigantic Sundering Seas that separate Middle-earth from the Blessed Realm away in the West where Frodo and Bilbo sail to at the end of "The Return of the King." In the middle of this ocean lies the island nation of Númenor. This is where Aragorn's ancestors live, and it's a really important area that is often mentioned in "The Lord of the Rings." However, by that time, the island is long gone thanks to events that transpire — you guessed it — during the "Rings of Power" story. The chance to see Númenor in its heyday and meet many of the famous characters that dwell on its shores is an exciting prospect.

Harfoots will hog the spotlight

Hobbits have no place in the larger stories of Middle-earth before the Third Age. At least, that's what Tolkien wrote. One area where the "Rings of Power" narrative seems set to deviate from the source material, though, is with this subject of Halfling history. The show has been careful to honor the fact that Third Age Hobbits really do live entirely outside of the story. However, they've taken a leap by choosing to incorporate Harfoots into their own Second Age narrative.

Who are Harfoots? Why, they're proto-Hobbits, of course! Seriously. The prologue to "The Fellowship of the Ring" states that "Before the crossing of the [Misty Mountains] the Hobbits had already become divided into three somewhat different breeds: Harfoots, Stoors, and Fallohides." Now, this is still referencing very late Hobbit history, much later than the time of "Rings of Power." Nevertheless, the show has gone ahead and incorporated a group of Halflings, which they're calling the Harfoots, into the story.

If you're picturing overweight, comfortable Hobbits living in well-tended holes in the Shire, you're wrong. The Harfoots are nomadic. They're survivors. And they aren't anywhere near their descendants' comfortable chunk of idyllic rural countryside. While a lot of details remain to be seen, it will be fascinating to see how the show tries to work a group of Halflings into a story where Tolkien himself clearly never intended to have them involved.