What does several hundred million dollars buy?
In “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” premiering Thursday night on Amazon Prime Video, it buys a lot of grandeur: lavish landscapes, lofty and subterranean palaces, orcs by the bushel, chaotic battles and even, as if to send a message to the series’s current fantasy competition, a sky filled with wheeling and menacing dragons. The most expensive series in TV history wears its price tag on its face. (The exact amount of Jeff Bezos’ hoard being spent on “Rings of Power” has varied in reports, but the consensus is it would make Smaug a comfortable bed.)
What money cannot buy is inspiration. In the growing field of franchise-based TV, it is generally meant to do the opposite: You’re buying the rights to give millions of fans another helping of whatever they’ve already eaten up.
“Rings of Power” is no different. It turns the clock back thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the Peter Jackson movie adaptations, to the era when the fateful magic knickknacks of the title were forged. And its first season offers fans well-executed versions of familiar things: balletic archery, squabbling frenemyship among elves and dwarves, a rising evil, even a tempting, cursed artifact.