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Thoughts on The Lord of the Rings

Color me unoriginal, but my favorite movies adapted from a book is The Lord of the Rings trilogy directed by Peter Jackson.

There are no other movies quite like them especially in scope and attention to detail. Great work went into set design, costume design, forging weapons for the different races of creatures, and many other aspects of the film.

On top of all this was the scaling magic tricks they performed to make the actors that played the roles of the hobbits and Gimli appear small. They did this through a combination of methods from the Ames room illusions (the famous perspective trick) to doubles to cheaper tricks like how they angle the camera to green screen effects.

Following a church mission in New Zealand, my parents and sister came to pick me up. We had the opportunity to tour some sites before I left the country. My sister was obsessed with The Lord of the Rings at the time, so we visited a few of the locations that scenes of the movie were filmed.

This included a private farm that was transformed into Hobbiton. Though the set of Hobbiton was mostly torn down, the owners of the farmer successfully convinced the film crew to leave the rest alone so there are still traces of Hobbit holes in the hills. As a result, this farm became a favorite tourist attraction for Lord of the Rings fans. As cool as it was to pay this place a visit, it's a stark contrast to what it all used to look like with the ellaborate sets with their plush color and homely details that make a hobbit hole seem a pleasant place to live. We learned that the film crew constantly had the sprinklers running to keep the grass as green as possible. This only scratches the surface of the sort of work that went into designing sets for this movie. Of course, the other sets were unfortunately torn down, but the locations were still fun to visit.

The other highlight of The Lord of Rings side of our tourism was a limited time display at a musuem showing many of the original props from the movies and teaching us about different aspects of how the movie was filmed. The timing of touring New Zealand couldn't have been more perfect.

My mom and sister had their pictures taken on a bench doing the Ames illusion I mentioned above. The had two pictures actually trading places with one being enormous in scale with the other.

The part of the exhibit that left the greatest impression on me was how they did the CGI work for the battle scenes. It was basically an army of A.I. agents. Each CGI soldier in the battle was programed with basic moves in which they used to dynamically interact with the opposing army making the battles appear more realistic than they otherwise would.

I suppose the point I've been making so far is the same point I made in a writing assignment I had at BYU. The paper was to express an opinion as to whether or not a urinal that a modern artist put on a pedistal is actually art. I argued that it wasn't, because when you contrast the piece to the work, sweat, and living hell that Michelangelo went through in creating the Sistine Chapel, the comparison is practically nonexistent. Basically, what I'm saying is The Lord of the Rings is a Sistine Chapel of a movie.

I suppose, however, that all this is somewhat off topic of the blog topic of the week, because so far I haven't said anything about how good of an adaption the movie is of Tolkien's work. I believe all I said is plenty relevant though, because all the energy from the hard work, meticulous attention to detail, and passionate ambition of Peter Jackson was focused on bringing Middle-Earth to life. Everywhere that Peter Jackson went as he visited the various locations for the film, he always had a copy of Tolkein's book with him that he used as a bible. They were constantly modifying the screenplay to make it more true to the source.

This is not to say that no artist license was taken. For instance, a male elve, as opposed to Arwen took Frodo to Rivendell in the original story, but I like the Arwen version better. Then there's the whole Tom Bombadil gig that was cut, then later given to Treebeard in the extended editions of the movies. I imagine many fans are upset with this move, but you have to admit that the flow of the first movie would inevitably be completely broken if this were true to the book.

When I look back in my lifetime of movies that were released, something seems to feel different overall about film adaptations before and after Peter Jackson's great work. They just seem more true to the original stories and just to put it bluntly a lot less stupid. I get the general impression that Peter Jackson showed the rest of the film industry the light. However, I suppose this could just be due to the fact the technology finally caught up in order to do better justice to the works that they are now protraying.

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I'm right there with you,

I'm right there with you, Andrew, except for the casting of Sean Astin as Sam. Sam wasn't whiny and pouty and petulant like Astin played him, he was pugnacious and obstreperous and a servant, but never servile. Every time I watch the three movies, that miscasting rankles. The more so because the rest of the casting was so perfect.