Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power Trailer Breakdown: Hobbits And Meteor Men And Trolls, Oh My!

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the Road and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

Early in Peter Jackson's "The Fellowship of the Ring," Frodo (Elijah Wood) recalls this familiar old saying that his uncle Bilbo (Ian Holm) used to tell him during peaceful days at home in the Shire. We get to see those words of cautionary wisdom emphatically proven right as Frodo and his hobbit friends enter a far wider world than they ever knew in "The Lord of the Rings," but they remain just as true even thousands of years set in the past. Amazon's "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" finally debuted the first trailer for the series on Super Bowl Sunday, putting to bed any concerns about production values or the sense that the footage wouldn't vaguely "feel" like author J.R.R. Tolkien's material. The footage is packed full with stunning landscapes, an ensemble cast of epic fantasy heroes, and more than a few creatures of Middle-earth that'll likely raise more questions than answers.

Nobody has all the answers this early on, but we have plenty of educated guesses and informed speculation to help piece together all the disparate elements featured in the trailer. Let's dig into it!

Paradise on (Middle) Earth?

Sweeping vistas, a sprawling and idyllic city, and architecture that harkens back to the glory years of kingdoms in their prime. In retrospect, how else would a "The Lord of the Rings" trailer open? Right away, "The Rings of Power" both evokes and stays away from the entrenched version of Middle-earth that the Peter Jackson movies have embedded into pop culture. This location appears to be the bustling kingdom of Númenor, a legendary island nation off the western coast of Middle-earth that is populated by the race of Men and has turned into nothing but myth and memory by the time Frodo and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) come onto the scene. This realm will feature prominently throughout "The Rings of Power," essentially serving as Tolkien's take on the Atlantis story and providing the stakes of what these characters stand to lose should evil return. The giant statue feels reminiscent of the two massive carvings glimpsed briefly in "The Fellowship of the Ring" called the Argonath, which depict the likenesses of Aragorn's ancestors Isildur (played by Maxim Baldry in this series) and Anárion (who may have been hinted at in one of the character posters). At the same time, this city is clearly at the height of its powers — a far cry from the crumbled ruins that dominate the countryside throughout "The Lord of the Rings."

Though not directly connected to the Peter Jackson films, it's reassuring that the Amazon series seems to be aware of the looming presence of the Middle-earth movies that came before.

'Even the Smallest Person Can Change the Course of the Future'

"Haven't you ever wondered what else is out there? There's wonders in this world beyond our wandering. I can feel it."

The opening narration in the trailer hovers over the landscape shots of Númenor and through unknown locales featuring the distinctive antler-bearing adventurers seen elsewhere in our recent first-look images of the series. (They have been described as "nomadic hunters wandering the fields of Middle-earth.") More importantly, we seem to be introduced to the woman behind the stirring speech — actor Megan Richards' harfoot character, a precursor and ancestor to the hobbits we see in "The Lord of the Rings." Yes, Tolkien may have been a prolific talent and an accomplished linguist who invented entire cultures and worlds and languages from scratch ... but even he decided to name an entire species of hobbit based on their penchant for, well, "hairy feet."

Tolkien fans know that hobbits never played a major role in world events until a certain quartet were forced to do their part to destroy the One Ring, but "The Rings of Power" may have found a way to have its cake and eat it, too. As co-showrunner Patrick McKay put it, "One of the very specific things the texts say is that hobbits never did anything historic or noteworthy before the Third Age. But really, does it feel like Middle-earth if you don't have hobbits or something like hobbits in it?" The harfoots have been described as particularly adept at "secrecy and evading detection," allowing perhaps a few notable individuals to play significant roles in this series. As we'll later see, Richards' character here may find herself thrust into action in an even more dramatic way than Frodo ever was.

Meet the New Boss

The Galadriel we knew from "The Lord of the Rings," played with an otherworldly calm and serene aura by Cate Blanchett (well, for the most part), is not exactly the same Galadriel we'll get to know in "The Rings of Power." That's just what happens when you find out what someone was like when they were thousands of years younger, you know?

Played by Morfydd Clark, this version of the elf queen will take a far more active role in the story as leader of the Northern Armies. We've received hints that she's driven by a tragic backstory, involving both her brother Finrod and an ancient evil even more powerful than Sauron himself. Intent on never letting her people fall into complacency again, this more warrior-like Galadriel will likely be one of the few characters in the early going to realize that evil is on the rise again ... though in a different form than they might've expected. And yes, despite what some vocal complainers might say, it makes perfect sense and remains completely faithful to Tolkien lore that a "Lord of the Rings" series set during this period of history would predominantly feature a major female character like Galadriel.

Legolas Found Dead in Mirkwood

You thought Legolas (Orlando Bloom) surfing down a flight of stairs in "The Two Towers" or taking down multiple giant elephants (known as Mûmakil or Oliphaunts) in "The Return of the King" was impressive? You've likely seen nothing yet.

Meet the Silvan elf named Arondir, portrayed by Ismael Cruz Córdova and introduced with the hero shot to beat all hero shots. The arrow-wielding warrior is confirmed to play a large role in the events of the series, though with a romantic entanglement familiar to any fan of the original trilogy. Like the doomed romance between the mortal Aragorn and the undying elven princess Arwen (Liv Tyler), Arondir and a human woman named Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) seem fated for a tragic love of their own.

Those familiar with only "The Lord of the Rings" or "The Hobbit" may be surprised by the lack of happy endings or typical "Good triumphs over bad" storytelling at work in this particular story, based on the appendices of Middle-earth history included at the end of Tolkien's "The Return of the King." Something tells me that Arondir's storyline — an original character not found in the text, to be clear — may play a part in setting that new tone.

Eye on the Sky

Like with any trailer these days, we must always keep in mind that the editing is likely set up in a way to purposefully mislead us. In the trailer, this shot of a gold-clad elf watching the skies comes immediately after a bright meteor streaks across the sky — though we have no real way of knowing whether the two are actually linked or not. In any case, this character appears to be Benjamin Walker's Gil-galad, a legendary leader in the annals of Middle-earth history. He would eventually help form the Last Alliance of Men and Elves that attempts to overthrow Sauron in the opening prologue of "The Fellowship of the Ring," though here he will undoubtedly be portrayed as much younger, less wiser, and perhaps a little more brash than students of the novels may remember.

They Have A Cave Troll ... Thing

Once upon a time, Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" trilogy was actually going to take the form of a two-part duology. And instead of Jackson returning to the helm (which he did somewhat against his will), none other than monster aficionado Guillermo del Toro himself was attached to direct. I've spent approximately every second since then daydreaming about what could have been with del Toro putting his own distinctive stamp on Tolkien's fairy tale-turned-prequel, and here we seem to get at least some feel for the creature design that the talented filmmaker may have opted for.

In a stark departure from the (relatively) grounded and naturalistic monsters that populated Jackson's movies, this one immediately strikes a far different tone and aesthetic. The unfortunate soul facing off against this foe appears to be Robert Aramayo's Elrond, another younger version of a character we've seen in "The Lord of the Rings" (played then by Hugo Weaving). This hints at his storyline in "The Rings of Power," where he's dispatched to the dwarves to help reforge an alliance between the two quarreling races. Clearly, he runs into some difficulty along the way.

Meteor Man!

So remember the meteor falling from the skies earlier? We seem to know what lies on the other end of that trajectory, and it's not a treasure chest full of gold. Instead, a mysterious man emerges from the fiery crater, met by a much smaller character in the foreground. This could either be Richards' harfoot character from earlier, or perhaps Markella Kavenagh's, bolstered by the fact that they've both been described to "encounter a mysterious lost man whose origin promises to be one of the show's most enticing enigmas." So who's the meteor man himself? Theories range from Tom Bombadil (the mysterious man who appears in Tolkien's "The Fellowship of the Ring" and was wisely cut from Jackson's movie) to perhaps one of the early warning signs that a certain Dark Lord is, indeed, on the rise again ... but could this actually be the origin of one of the wizards sent to Middle-earth to assist the people?

We only ever see Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and Saruman (Christopher Lee) during "The Lord of the Rings" (along with Sylvester McCoy's Radagast in "The Hobbit"), but readers know that their order also contained two additional "blue wizards" who disappeared during their travels abroad long before the events of the movies. Tolkien himself leaves much of their backstory and history a secret (even including their exact identities), but this could be a perfect opportunity to delve into one or both of these characters without departing too much from Tolkien's text. This is pure speculation on my part, though. This is clearly meant to be one of the early mysteries established in the series and we can't wait to see where this one goes.

Some Things Never Change...

What would "The Lord of the Rings" be without an epic battle or two? Though the series appears to have taken pains to define itself apart from the world-building and production design featured throughout Jackson's movies, this scene hews pretty close to what we've seen before.

Here, we get a classic sequence of elves and orcs in a fight for their lives, with the elves' bright and ornate armor juxtaposing against the sinister darkness surrounding their foes. This could very well be flashback scene depicting Galadriel's brother, Finrod, against the forces of Morgoth — of whom Sauron, the big bad of "The Lord of the Rings," was only a servant. This First Age war may essentially serve the same purpose as the opening sequence in "The Fellowship of the Ring," which similarly depicted elven armies (led by a young Elrond) against Sauron's orcs, establishing the more ancient backdrop that informs the events of the present. Needless to say, this war probably doesn't end well or — at the very least — results in success at the highest possible cost.

A Hobbit's Touch

After a flurry of images that include glimpses of the dwarven Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur), his princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete), a chained Arondir leaping into battle, and someone dramatically pushing Galadriel's hair away to reveal her elvish ears, the thrilling footage ends with the biggest money shot of them all ... two characters holding hands. Okay, as anticlimactic as that may feel, I actually loved this choice to end on a more emotional note rather than actually showing Sauron or blatantly teasing the forging of the Rings. The obvious size difference between the two once again points to a harfoot and, perhaps, that figure who emerged from the meteor. If he really is a wizard, even my cynical self would have his heart melt at the prospect of once again following the dynamic between a young lovable hobbit and their wise wizard mentor. If not, then consider me even more intrigued by whatever role this character will play throughout the course of the season.

The footage only contains the barest hints of the actual story of "The Rings of Power," but there's at least enough to begin getting a solid feel for what to expect in this coming adventure. Sauron and his Rings have been cleverly held back (for now), leaving us no choice but to focus our attentions on all the new and familiar characters who'll make up the sprawling cast of this new series.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" will debut on Amazon Prime Video on September 2, 2022.