Before we plunge into news junkets and global premiers, here’s one more look-back at SDCC 2022.
This was my 5th adventure with TORn for an experience that continues to be as overwhelming as it is incredible. Bookending Covid closures, the cons of 2019 and 2022 were completely different for TORn. Three years back we were in 20th Anniversary mode, and our panel of familiar faces brought both reminiscent nostalgia as well as the “rare good ballast” of Dispatches from Middle-earth that our faithfully devoted Comic Con fans love (hello the Button Lady!), as well as a discussion of the then far-off Rings of Power series.
Roughly two decades earlier, the convention was a much smaller enterprise, and so were we. Hall H was just a room with a lot of seating capacity and a big screen. A handful of us presented on our panel and we didn’t have so much as a folding table on the exhibit hall floor. The Lord of the Rings films were a great big unknown for most not too far beyond the bounds of Tolkien fandom. Weta’s 1st line of FotR movie collectibles were on display at the Sideshow Toy booth while the Weta team wandered the floor like we did; I was shooting pictures with my mother’s digital camera and couldn’t get the date set right…
We could see the wave coming on some distant horizon. We knew we were building something, part of something. Something that crossed boundaries and minimized identities of nation, ethnicity, faith, gender, economic status, ability. The last thing we were thinking about was 2022.
A merry gathering
For me, this year’s Comic Con was absolutely an unexpected party. Two panels, a booth, and hosting the Prime Video Rings of Power fan event was not in the early forecast! Understanding the moment, TORn leadership reached out to fandom colleagues we met for the first time in person in London, inviting them to join our panels and staff our booth.
And they came! From London proper and destinations sprinkled throughout the US, they came by planes, trains, and yeah – automobiles. Planes dead on the tarmac, nasty weather, overnight flights, crazy transfers and rerouting, driving through 115 degree heat… nothing stopped these new friends from coming together to do what we love the most: celebrate the writings of JRR Tolkien.
Celebrate we did! And represent. And engage. Crowds at the booth were often five people deep, in an area dedicated to books that is usually pretty quiet by con standards. Willie (Knewbettadobetta) holding court alongside Matt (Nerd of the Rings) and Jed Brophy (Nori, orcs #5, 6 & 7, elf #5, Ringwraith, writer…). Kaitlin’s (Tea with Tolkien) calming presence. Kellie (author and Happy Hobbit) sharing her books and signing for her fans. Kris (Elf_boi) scripting the names of fans in elvish on an iPad. Lauren in her now-famous Galadriel cosplay. Chris (TORn Tuesday camera man and all-around ninja) tirelessly handling exchanges to move the small mountain of merch we had to sell. Cliff (our own Quickbeam) booming trivia with the voice of an ent. Tireless Justin (TORn Tuesday) seeming to be everywhere and nowhere, the nuclear power making it all happen.
Panels, halls and a party
This year we hosted not one, but TWO panels. Thursday’s set featured a more typical TORn offering, with Justin at the helm, engaging staffers Cliff, Kellie, Cathy (Garfeimao), and Josh (Collecting the Precious), and special guest Kris. Richard Taylor and Philippa Boyens kicked of the conversation with a War of the Rohirrim-themed welcome video! (Demosthenese interviewed Boyens recently re: WotR here.)
Straight from the panel this Took struck out to find the Day Before line for Hall H. Highlights: Hanging with LadyNico and her intrepid British Posse; scoring a ticket to see Shatner on Shatner from Cathy; late night blues with Varking and Knewbettadobetta, literally sleeping on the concrete wrapped in a thin blanket; meeting Dianne from our Discord; jamming to the disco cabs riding by (also a low-light); finally getting banded and marching to the next line.
As you may have heard, the Prime Video Rings of Power Hall H panel was astounding. Check out this piece by staffer Garfeimao for details.
Two hours after Hall H ended, it was time for our staff to report for duty at what promised to be the fan event of the weekend: the Prime Video party! Showrunners Patrick McKay and Lindsey Weber mingled with us after a special cast signing for holders of a Golden Mallorn (leaf) ticket. Actual costumes graced the hall, as you can see in this post by staffer Mithril. The event was spectacular, and being able to select cosplayers to meet the cast was truly memorable.
Sunday, TORn’s second panel was serious, funny, and exemplary. Moderated by Justin, the focus was on Middle-earth’s 2nd Age, and it was a whopper. Tolkien Professor Corey Olsen, Cliff, Willie, Anna Marie, and Matt held some serious court in a room fixated on every word. Time compression seemed to actually happen as a rich discussion of the 2nd Age’s known elements, and the wide open spaces between them inviting new storytelling, unfolded. Here it is!
This isn’t just a new era for Middle-earth storytelling – it’s a new era for Tolkien fandom too. After a long slog by many faithful and hard working staff, TORn 3.0 has bloomed! It’s incredible to be here. Hosting and sharing Comic Con with our friends in fandom enriched everyone’s experience and illustrative of how times have changed. We look forward to continued collaborations as the community swells and the influence of JRR Tolkien broadens through time and place. Forth Ringers!
Note: The following is an opinion piece written by volunteer staff member Kellie, also known as “Kili” from the YouTube series Happy Hobbit.
In an effort to clear up some misconceptions, I want to tell you my story.
On February 13th, I was invited to participate in a livestream hosted by both TheOneRing.net and Amazon Prime Video to watch and analyze the very first teaser trailer for Amazon’s new series, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. It was my sister’s birthday, so while I was excited for the end of the “Middle-earth dearth,” I only committed to participating for an hour, and I was relieved I had an excuse to slip away after said time, for the initial teaser trailer failed to impress. In fact, it was even worse; it left me confused, worried, and underwhelmed. The visuals were dazzling, but I felt no connection to the imagery on the screen. I was far from alone.
Like many, I feared Amazon was producing the most expensive TV show in history (allegedly around 1 billion) because they saw Tolkien’s work as a cash cow and were going to milk it for all they could.
I am a fiction author (under my pen name K.M. Rice) and a screenwriter with a Master of Fine Arts, so workshopping creative material is second nature, as is finding ways to express what is not working in an articulate manner. “I am not getting the mythic tone I look for in Tolkien,” I remember saying (which is a paraphrase).
A few months later in May, I was invited by Prime Video to a special press event in London, England, as the representative for my sister and my webshow, Happy Hobbit (which strives to bring a dose of Middle-earth to our viewers’ daily lives), and as the co-author ofMiddle-earth from Script to Screen: Building the World of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, which I helped write with Daniel Falconer at Weta Workshop in New Zealand. My fellow Tolkien content creators and I, along with traditional press, were taken on a field trip to Oxford University where we had the pleasure of wandering Tolkien’s old stomping grounds both as a student and as a professor. You can check out what we did and saw by watching the video here.
The following day, we were treated to footage and costumes from Rings of Power (ROP) and a Q&A with the showrunners, John Howe (concept artist), Leith McPherson (dialect coach), and Ramsey Avery (production designer), along with the showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, and producer Lindsey Weber.
I once more was not impressed with the footage I saw, for while there was nothing wrong with it, there was no context. I had no idea what had just happened before the scene we were shown, where in the story it fell, and in fact, what the story was at all. It looked and sounded lovely, but there was no beating heart. My own heart sank as I realized I was going to have to just accept that this show wasn’t going to fulfill my expectations.
Once the showrunners spoke, however, I was left with the juxtaposition of hearing from two people intensely passionate about Tolkien (to the point that they opened every day of shooting with a Tolkien quote and discussion) and the marketing that didn’t convey that love and respect.
What I saw in London didn’t raise my excitement level, but hearing from the showrunners and knowing that such a capable team was producing the series did leave me with a sense of cautious optimism.
To reiterate, none of us Tolkien content creators have seen the show. We were not paid or bribed in any way, but rather have been treated as “Tolkien press.” We have no idea if ROP will be good, bad, or somewhere in between. Our opinions are our own, as they should be, and this is just my story.
While attending San Diego Comic-Con International at the end of July to speak on one of TheOneRing.net’s two panels, Prime Video invited me to a luncheon with many of the cast members from ROP. Before sitting down to eat, we were treated to viewing the first official trailer, which finally had some heart and showed a hint of the plot. I am no Tolkien lore expert, but many in the room with me were. They could name things on screen that I couldn’t, nevertheless, I felt excited. In fact, I shed a few tears and I don’t cry easily, especially in public. But being in that room and feeling so much unbridled excitement and joy was deeply moving, especially after having missed that human connection and communitas for so long during the pandemic. When we came out to meet the cast after, I felt a level of energy and anticipation that many of us had not yet felt over the show.
Everyone we met at the lunch was incredibly kind, down-to-earth, and passionate about Tolkien and storytelling. No one had an ego that prevented them from addressing gritty topics with strangers they had just met, and several of our conversations grew deep quickly. I later had an opportunity to converse with Patrick McKay, one of the two showrunners, who shared that they were given complete creative freedom. As such, whether the show does well or poorly, he feels he and his fellow showrunner are to blame. Talk about accountability!
I have a healthy skepticism about Amazon and most major corporations. I am not here to defend a company or TV show that I have yet to see, but I am here to share what I have learned:
Amazon never approached the Tolkien Estate to ask for the rights to make the show. Rather, the Tolkien Estate approached both Amazon and Netflix (and possibly other streaming platforms, as well), asking them if they would be interested. Amazon was.
Christopher Tolkien (the Professor’s son) was in charge of the Estate at the time the deal was made in 2017. He passed away three years later in 2020 after production on the show had already begun, and the directorship was passed on to his son, Simon Tolkien.
What’s more, the production invited Simon Tolkien, the grandson of the late Professor who has a love of cinematic storytelling and is the current director of the Estate, to be involved. For context, no other production has ever given the Tolkien Estate a seat at the table.
Amazon, as a corporation, is also not strapped for cash, which means they could invest whatever was needed to bring the vision of the Second Age to life.
Jeff Bezos is a big Tolkien fan.
One thing that limited them was the rights. They could not touch The Silmarillion or The Unfinished Tales. The rights are only for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. As such, the inclination is naturally to turn to the appendices of Return of the King, but even that is a gray area.
If a plotline smelled too much like it was getting into Silmarillion territory, the Estate didn’t permit it in a script. The production was then pushed into the difficult situation of having to originate their own material.
Knowing this, engage with me in a thought experiment for a moment:
Imagine you, as a Tolkien fan, just heard that this up-and-coming film studio out of New Zealand, the UK, or Colorado received a billion dollars to produce a Tolkien TV show set in the second age using partially original material and that to do so, they not only brought the Tolkien Estate on board, but hired showrunners, writers, and a cast that cared deeply for the source material to ensure fidelity. That sounds pretty exciting, doesn’t it?
In many ways, Amazon is fighting against the public image of its own brand. Remove the name “Amazon” from the equation and suddenly many are more forgiving. I know I am. That so many of us have knee-jerk reactions to corporations’ names is worth noting, but the subject of a different conversation.
It all comes down to trust, and anyone who wants to involve our fandom needs to earn it. Some of us are more open than others. Some of us love the Peter Jackson films, while others didn’t enjoy them at all. But remember this: no one is touching the books. They will always be there. Tolkien’s texts are sacred for many, and no one is here to dispute that. But a book is a book. A film is a film. A TV show is TV show. None of these forms of storytelling are the same. And the existence of one does not threaten the other. If anything, they can be a boon. I would never have read Tolkien if not for Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films.
No artist considers their art “finished.” There is always room to expand and change as the artist grows and ages as a person. Tolkien himself was a revisionist to the point that his heirs have gone to a great deal of trouble trying to decide which version of a story or piece of Arda’s history should be seen as “canon.” His Middle-earth writing often also contradicted itself. Importantly, he intentionally left bits open to interpretation.
When writing to publisher Wilton Waldman in 1951 about the scope of his literary aspirations to create a body of “more or less connected legend,” Tolkien shared:
I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.
J.R.R. Tolkien, 1951
The Professor’s dream has been fulfilled. His work has inspired artists of all genres and arguably established the Fantasy genre of literature.
Not only are other minds and hands interpreting his work, but adapting it and expanding upon it, thus fleshing out the ideas he left merely “sketched.” Tolkien did not want his life’s work to fade. He wanted it to live and breathe with the generations, even if that meant it arrived with a new twinkle or twist every now and again to suit the era, just as myths have done since the dawn of the human experience.
We have been through some trying times of late. A global pandemic, economic hardship, war, and loss, to say nothing of our more personal struggles. We look to tales like those told by Tolkien to make some sense of it all. I long to return to Middle-earth: a place where, even in the darkest of times, there is still a star shining. Love, hope, courage, and a love of the simple pleasures in life prevail in some form, as does the deep goodness that ties us all together. We don’t all have to agree and entertainment is highly subjective at the best of times, but even the most butchered adaptations cannot shake how at home I feel in the aged pages of my books, nor should they.
We all walk different roads on this Middle-earth, and in times of stress, it is easy to begrudge others their happiness. But life is short, opportunities are rare, and I for one am excited to revisit Tolkien’s world on screen.
Optimism is a choice, a more difficult one than pessimism, and I am choosing to go forth on this journey with an open heart and welcome any and all joy along the way. The same choice is also yours.
Our friends at Weta Workshop were not at Comic-Con in San Diego last week, but that didn’t stop them from showing off some really cool stuff down in New Zealand, coinciding with the timing of SDCC. The items from the Collectibles Unleashed event ranged from their amazing Masters Collection series to those very fun Mini Epics. This year’s Masters Collection piece captures Frodo’s journey to destroy the Ring as he, Sam, and Gollum make it through the Dead Marshes. This stunning piece is a 25-inch tall multi-layer collectible that gives you a full view of what each character was going through during this moment. It is currently in low stock and I’m sure with only 550 pieces available it will be gone quite soon. Not due to ship until the first quarter of next year, fans have plenty of time to save up the $2599USD required; or you can use Weta’s awesome payment plans to help break it down.
The Rings of Power at San Diego Comic-Con created a tsunami of cast interviews, video snippets and press write-ups. Unfortunately, they’re scatered all across the internet.
So some of the fine folks on our Discord server have been working assiduously to collate everything for easy reference. Courtesy of their hard work, everything we can find in one place for your reading and viewing pleasure. Big thank-you to Tim B. Ranatuor, WheatBix and Amaurëanna for getting all these links together!
Group interview with Charles Edwards (Celebrimbor), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Tar-Míriel), Ema Horvath (Eärien), Ismael Cruz Córdova (Arondir), Daniel Weyman (The Stranger), Maxim Baldry (Isildur), Robert Aramayo (Elrond), Trystan Gravelle (Pharazon), Megan Richards (Poppy Proudfellow), Sara Zwangobani (Marigold Brandyfoot), and Owain Arthur (Durin IV)
Group interview with Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad), Lloyd Owen (Elendil), Leon Wadham (Kemen), Morfydd Clark (Galadriel), Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn), Charlie Vickers (Halbrand), Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), Sophia Nomvete (Princess Disa), and Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo).
Group interview with Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn), Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Ismael Cruz Cordova (Arondir), and Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad).
Individual interviews with Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Leon Wadham (Kemen), and Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn).
The LA Times
Behind-the-scenes at SDCC stuff (might be paywalled!)
‘I can’t believe we’re doing this!’ ‘Lord of the Rings’ stars drink in first Comic-Con
The Times tagged along with ‘Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ stars Sara Zwangobani, Tyroe Muhafidin and Owain Arthur at San Diego Comic-Con.
“I have never experienced a Hall H and I’ve been wanting to come to Comic-Con my whole life,” said Sara Zwangobani while riding in a van to the San Diego Convention Center to take part in the Comic-Con 2022 panel for her upcoming show, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” “These are my people! I can’t believe we’re doing this right now.”
Photos: behind the scenes at Comic-Con with the cast of ‘Lord of the Rings’
LA Times photographer Jay Clendenin embedded in the Rings of Power group for Comic-Con. He captured a full range of images from life inside the Comic-Con bubble, from cast members’ morning glam routine to the mayhem of Hall H to the afterglow of a successful bow at the year’s biggest fan gathering.
Group interviews with Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo), Charlie Vickers (Halbrand), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), Sophia Nomvete (Princess Disa), Daniel Weyman (The Stranger), Ismael Cruz Cordova (Arondir), Ema Horvath (Eärien), Maxim Baldry (Isildur), Charles Edwards (Celebrimbor), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Tar-Miriel), Trystan Gravelle (Pharazôn), Sara Zwangboni (Marigold Brandyfoot), Owain Arthur (Durin IV), and Megan Richards (Poppy Proudfellow).
Ema Horvath (Eärien) interview
Charles Vickers (Halbrand) interview
Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo) interview
Megan Richards (Poppy Proudfellow)
Owain Arthur (Durin IV)
Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn)
Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad)
Markella Kavanagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot)
Sara Zwangobani (Marigold Brandyfoot)
Group interview with Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo), Charlie Vickers (Halbrand), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), and Sophia Nomvete (Princess Disa).
Group interview with Morfydd Clark (Galadriel), Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad), Lloyd Owen (Elendil), Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn), and Leon Wadham (Kemen).
“The set of Númenór, which they’d built on the back lot, is absolutely extraordinary,” Owen said. Wadham, who has worked in the same New Zealand studio on other projects, added, “I thought I knew what I was walking into. I turn up, and there was a city with a wharf with boats in water on the backlot. It was transcendent.”
KEVIN POLOWY: So, huge cast, but you guys spent a year and a half together–
MARKELLA KAVENAGH: Yes.
KEVIN POLOWY: –shooting this in New Zealand. What kind of bonding experience was that? I mean, you hear stories from the original trilogy, the hobbits all got matching tattoos. Did you guys get matching tattoos, by the way?
MARKELLA KAVENAGH: I was really close to getting one. Not that I know of, I don’t think there are any, but I wouldn’t rule it out. I mean, we’ll see. We’ll see.
KEVIN POLOWY: But what was the bonding experience like among you guys?
MARKELLA KAVENAGH: Well, we lived– we lived so close together. We were there for nearly two years. And we’d have dinners together. We’d go around to people’s places. We had karaoke nights. It was really– we had to be each other’s friends, family, and colleagues in a time where we couldn’t get to each our actual real life friends and family and colleagues. So it was quite an experience. Really, really grateful for the camaraderie, for sure.
BENJAMIN WALKER: Because we were kind of stuck together in New Zealand, and I was there with my family, we became the home where everyone came and had Sunday lunch every Sunday. And when other people were away from their families, it was a way to kind of bond with your castmates, but also have that familial attention, and just feel like a person. So that’s an honor to do. I mean, they’re all nice people, and I enjoyed hosting.
NAZANIN BONLADI: To be in New Zealand– if you’re going to be stuck anywhere, let it be New Zealand. And we understand how blessed we are, because we, at one point were the only show in the world that was filming, because we were in the safe haven that was New Zealand at the time there was no COVID there. So we are very, very fortunate.
And because of the pandemic, the island was shut off from visitors. So we didn’t get to leave the Island or come back, you know, or have visitors. So basically we were stuck there for a good part of two years. And we had to lean on each other and depend on each other. So by default we became family. And, you know, and that’s what a fellowship is, is people who have to sort of support each other through an adventure.
TYROE MUHAFIDIN: Every Sunday we’d go for dinners and things like that, and we’d always socialize, because we were sort of the only people we had. And we were all really, really there for each other in times that we needed each other. And it was really great. I was actually quite lucky because under 18 I’m allowed a chaperone, so I brought my mother along with me. And she kind of ended up being everyone else’s mom.
MEGAN RICHARDS: We had to become, not just each other’s colleagues, but friends and family and support systems. And it really did ring true. I have such a love for this cast, and I really hold them deeply within my heart. And we would have, like, dinners together, where like, 20 of us would try and like, get a table, which is impossible in a restaurant. You know, just so many things like that. And, you know, we’d like, go on holidays together or we’d have, like, Sunday lunches. And, yeah, no, we were really, really close.
LEON WADHAM: Yeah, there’s a true fellowship, no question. So many people came from all over the world and spent a lot of time far from their homes to make this. And I think that encouraged a strong bond. They had to create a family. Whereas I am an Aucklander? I was shooting in my home. And I didn’t start until the midpoint because it took the first half of the shoot to build Numenor. So by the time I met everyone, they were already a family, and they invited me in.
BENJAMIN WALKER: This is going to be the most eclectic fellowship we’ve ever seen, right. It feels like the series is progressing, when it comes to ethnicity, when it comes to gender. I mean, how much of a sort of like point of pride was that for you guys, as creators of this series to sort of– to bring new faces and a new world into this world that’s created, that’s existed for so long, but we’ve never seen look quite like this?
CYNTHIA ADDAI-ROBINSON: It’s a huge point of pride. I mean, I think we’re talking about a global show and a global audience. This is now the reality. This is not about taking the narrow view. And, to me, this is about inviting people in and being expansive. And if you’re going to tell this story in 2022, this, to me, feels like the only way to tell it, the only way to represent it. And I think people are going to be really happy.
They’ve been hungry to sort of see full representation in this world. Because at the end of the day, this story is very much about people of all different backgrounds coming together for a common cause, to fight the common enemy, and that very much relates to where we’re at today. So that, to me, is just, like, the natural progression of things. It’s just what I would expect it to be.
MARKELLA KAVENAGH: It’s just, you know, really exciting to have– for it to be more representative of the world that we live in. And I just hope that the industry, not just our show, but the industry just continues to become more inclusive and representative of the world we live in. So I’m really grateful to be a part of that.
NAZANIN BONLADI: Every woman has agency on this show. Every female character has– is not there to serve the male characters around her. But every one of us has autonomy in our storylines. I am not only the mother of a rebellious teenage son or in a forbidden romance with an elf, the very handsome Ismael Cruz Cordova, but I also am a healer and a leader of sorts in my own right.
MEGAN RICHARDS: It’s just nice. It’s just such an inclusive atmosphere. And, I mean, I can’t even– I can’t wait for the time when that’s not even a question anymore, you know. Like, it’s just so nice that the modern world that we’re living in today, it really is reflected within in the world that Jodie and Patrick have created.
NAZANIN BONLADI: I never, in a million years, thought that I would be in something like this. And now we’re hoping that when people watch Arondir and Bronwyn fall in love on screen that they can see a Afro-Latino man and a Middle Eastern woman fall in love and have a love story, and be romantic leads, and in this genre. And that means the world to both of us, and all the people of– marginalized people in our cast.
KEVIN POLOWY: Despite, you know, “Rings of Power” taking place in the Tolkien universe, fantasy world long ago with creatures of all types, there’s a lot of themes that are going to be relevant to what is actually happening in the real world. Like, what can you say about that aspect? Like, what is it about the show that reminds you of the reality that we all live in?
CHARLIE VICKERS: We all live with. Well, I think that’s the beautiful thing about Tolkien is that the essence of his work, sort of will forever be related to what we go through, and what endures in human life. There are stories within the show that are stories of hope and stories of love and stories of loss, and the fight between good and bad. And I think that within this vast world of high fantasy, it’s these human stories that sort bring you in and really make you feel things when you watch the show.
BENJAMIN WALKER: There are a lot of connections you can draw between refugees or the climate crisis. But I don’t– that’s not the intention of the show. It’s just Tolkien. He understood the human experience in a deep way, and that translates into his work.
TYROE MUHAFIDIN: Just sort of those ideas of, like, family, friendship, you know, sticking with the people you know and you love, and no matter what goes on, they’re always going to be there for you.
LEON WADHAM: Certainly in Numenor there is a hunger for legacy at all costs. And I don’t know how much more I can reveal about that, but certainly ambitious to a fault is something that is said about the people of Numenor. They’re really proud. They have big dreams. They want to leave an imprint on this land before their time on Earth is over. And not everyone on that island knows where to draw the line.
– There can be no trust between hammer and rock. Eventually one or the other, or she’ll be back.
Nanzanin Boniadi (Bronwyn) interview
“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” star Nazanin Boniadi teases what fans can expect in her character Bronwyn. May be geo-blocked depending on your location, but you can try watching it here!
In order to get into Hall H for the Rings of Power panel, which was scheduled to be the first panel on Friday, July 22 at 10:30am, a group of fans needed a plan to camp out in line. Staffers from TORn, members of the Discord community and a bunch of fans from the UK banded together to have group members take turns standing, or sitting, in line, starting at Midnight Wednesday night, all day on Thursday, and overnight into Friday morning.
It was a blast to see the trailer, but the special footage that accompanied some of the cast discussions really showed us what type of show this is going to be, and those subwoofers that blow through the room during the first video emphasized the Power of the Rings.
Here is an accounting for the exclusive scenes shown to the 6500 fans in attendance.
Ring Verse video and sound:
The panel began with Bear McCreary conducting a small orchestra with choral and violin solos of several minutes of his newly created music for the series, which was released a couple of days ago. Once the music ended, Stephen Colbert was introduced as the moderator, and very soon we’ll be giving a rundown of those cast and showrunner Q&A sessions in a separate article. But the first group of guests comprised the show runners and producers of the show. One said that the thing he had most wanted to see on screen was the moment when Sauron puts on the One Ring and invokes the Ring verse for the first time, sending a ripple across all of Middle-earth, a moment when the Elves especially, realized they’d been had.
Shortly after this, we got our first Exclusive video footage, and it is this moment recreated for us in Hall H.
The sequence opens with the image we’ve all seen, of Finrod walking up the grassy hill to see the Two Trees, and at this point the black curtains on the side walls pull back to reveal the screens that stretch more than half the length of the hall (approximately the distance of two semi-trucks back to back). This allows us to see the mountains and valleys to either side of the main image of the city and the Two Trees.
But then we push in closer to see the trees better, and they are fading. As the light begins to dim, and the leaves fall, there is a giant shadowy figure of Morgoth in the sky. We are then transported to a realm of burning ground that seems to be disintegrating, and the Ring Verse appears in a golden circle on a black background.
We hear the first line, read by Morfydd Clark, ‘Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky’, a quick glimpse of an elven realm, and the Ring Verse enlarges and rushes towards us as a giant burst of sound emanates from some very large subwoofers at the front of the stage, the whole room shakes and you can literally feel the blast on your face.
She reads the second line, ‘Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone’ and a quick glimpse of Moria in it’s glory, then the same rush of the Ring verse rushing towards the screen and the burst of sound from the speakers, just a wave of sound rushing the screen.
Next comes the third line, ‘Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die’, and a look at Numenor from above, and again with the Ring Verse and Sound bursting through the room.
And finally, we get the final lines, ‘One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne, In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie’ and a glimpse of destruction before the final burst of sound with the Ring Verse.
And thus, everyone in the audience, and everyone who came back onstage were just dumbstruck by that experience. It was one of the most visceral experiences to ever happen in Hall H.
Elrond and Durin IV’s relationship:
Elrond and Durin IV, set up like a prize fight as Elrond walks past male and female dwarves singing and chanting, but not necessarily in a good way, then big cheers when Durin IV enters. Again, very much like the bravado of two competitors before a big fight.
Durin IV announces the challenge, to break rocks until one or the other cannot. If the Elf loses, he is banned from ALL Dwarven realms, if he wins. . .Durin IV sniggers, as if to say that is very unlikely, and then the big rocks are carted in.
Durin IV gives a big swing and easily splits his rock, Elrond hesitates just a moment and then gives a big swing as well. . .fade to black
Elrond and Galadriel’s relationship:
Elrond greets Galadriel, and then each looks at the tapestry of a ship sailing into the sunset, and mentions in somber tones what it is supposed to be like, of a song welcoming one to this realm. The moment is very contemplative, and almost fearful on the part of Elrond.
Then in a lighter tone, Elrond says he expected Galadriel to be covered in mud and dirt, she replies “more like frost bite and troll blood”
Galadriel and Halbrand saved from the sea:
We got context of that regal ship sailing into the Numenorean port. It is Elendil’s ship, the circular sails have the sunburst sigil on them, and two guests were aboard, the rescued Galadriel and Halbrand. Elendil recognizes Galadriel as one of the Eldar, and she asks what ship this is, he tells her and it does not ease her mind. Halbrand then asks where it is they are going, he doesn’t recognize anything about the port.
But Galadriel does, she recognizes the carved stone faces they sail by, the glorious waterfall next to what may be a statue of Ulmo, and announces to Halbrand that it is the island nation of Numenor. This sequence also gives us a heavy dose of the grandeur of the music Bear McCreary is creating for Numenor.
Arondir in chains:
The Arondir scene where his ankle is chained is an Orc prison gang thing, several elves, and maybe some men are all chained and working at what looks like a quarry. The Orcs have those white membranous cloaks (could it be flesh?) on to protect them from the sun, but they don’t work well
We see one Orc wince from sun exposure and retreat to a covered area made of wooden beams and canvas. Arondir looks at another elf, giving a signal, and they and other prisoners attempt a jailbreak using the long chains to whip the Orcs off their feet.
The prisoners cross their chains and then take turns smashing with their hammers where the chains intersect. One chain breaks and that prisoner takes off running and scales the walls of the pit, until he is shot down.
Thus comes the scene where Arondir pics up an axe and leaps high overhead, but not to attack an Orc. No, he goes for the wooden crossbeam and collapses the structure protecting the Orcs. . . fade to black
Nori and the Stranger
Nori appears at the top of the burning crater and looks down to see the ‘Stranger’ curled up in a fetal position unconscious. Her friend Poppy comes up from behind and tells her to get away from the edge, it’s dangerous. Nori says that they should help the man below, and Poppy says that they can’t, he’s a giant and it isn’t safe.
At that moment, the edge of the crater collapses and Nori falls into the crater, landing amongst the flames. As she scrambles to regain her feet, she realizes the flames don’t burn, they aren’t hot. This gives her enough courage to approach the figure at the center of the flaming crater.
She slowly reaches out to touch him, while Poppy pleads for her to stop. Nori pokes his face and nothing happens, and again Poppy pleads for her to come back. Nori says that we can’t leave him here, not for the wolves to get, and then suddenly he wakes enough to reach out and grab her arm.
Nori turns back to him, stunned and surprised, he looks just as perplexed and starts to cry out, the camera cuts back and forth between them, while the cries of surprise or pain or confusion escalate, the fire goes out. And then, Nori is able to pull away, and the Stranger falls unconscious again, and the flames return.
Poppy urges Nori to get out as fast as she can, and Nori says we have to help him, and Poppy retorts ‘how are we to carry a giant’, but Nori says that they can, that this is who they are, and Poppy reminds her ‘no, this is who you are’.
This last interchange between Nori and Poppy is very much like the Shire we know, where most of the Hobbits never go anywhere and never have any adventures, and then there are the Bagginses and Tooks, who do go places and have adventures.
Thus ends the Dispatches from Hall H at San Diego Comic Con, at least as far as the exclusive video content goes. There will be a synopsis of all the cast and showrunner Q&As forthcoming.
If you’re not at San Diego Comic-con – or even if you are – you’ll be excited to know that the cast of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power are going to be doing a livestreamed Q&A. It’s coming up as we post this – 12.30pm PT today! You can tune in here:
It’s Comic-con without the crowds, from the comfort of your own home!