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Old 12-16-2022, 05:28 PM   #1
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A Historian's Take on a "Flat" RoP

Bret Devereux, a military historian with interests that have intersected with Middle-earth before (there's a thread on this forum SOMEWHERE about his several-post analysis of the Battles of Helm's Deep and the Pelennor, in which he basically says the movies don't make complete military sense, but that Tolkien usually does), posted a long form analysis today on his blog that I think hits on what parts of The Rings of Power really didn't work:

The Blog Post

Basically, Devereux's issues with RoP isn't that RoP deviates from Tolkien--it's that it deviates from what we know of human societies and by doing this, RoP is really not presenting the same kind of "real world" society, which Tolkien generally (not perfectly) does a deliberate job of doing--and does well, for the most part.

I think a lot of the problems I had--the sorts of things that got tossed in my Watch-and-React posts--are in this blog, and it feels nice to be validated. His overall argument, that RoP's Middle-earth feels flat (i.e. rather than fully realised) might be the best way of articulating what I think the show is, even if I think I enjoyed it a bit more than he did.
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Old 12-16-2022, 05:53 PM   #2
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William posted a quote from the article on this thread. I didn't realize that this is the same Bret Devereux - I read both his Helms Deep and Minas Tirith series, and some of the GoT articles. I have to read this essay now. And, as I start to read, I am strangely pleased that the critiques he starts raising in the early sections match the examples I came up with on the other thread. Besides this being a Very Good Point, I also really like Bret Devereux writing in general, and will definitely read the rest of the article.
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Old 12-17-2022, 04:13 PM   #3
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This is a very enjoyable and insightful blog post, and while RoP defenders will surely dismiss much of it as nitpicking, or say that, oh, to take one example, there's no time, or budget, or even much dramatic interest in explaining the finer nuances of Númenorian political organization, it does a great job of articulating a major weakness of RoP: not only is it not, from a worldbuilding standpoint, internally coherent, it is sometimes aggressively incoherent.

The author buries the lede a bit -- it's not that we necessarily want a long explanation of a political situation, or a proto-Hobbit migration pattern, or whatever. We want to feel that the writers have thought about these things, or I think more pointedly, what we really want is not to think that much about the worldbuilding. When it's working right, it's almost subliminal. It's not tugging at our conscious mind -- "Wait a minute... given this setup, how do these proto-hobbits have all this fabric?" (I actually did have this thought as well.) We want to sense that the world clanking away in the background makes sense.

The heavy implication in the blog is that if the creators of the show had thought more deeply on some of these topics, this is not the show they would have created. There are DNA level problems here.

If you were going to do a Tolkien show, I think you could get away with a lot in terms of deviation from established lore, time compression, and so forth, so long as you tick a few essential boxes, and one of those is "Middle-earth must feel real."
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