“The Lord Of The Rings”, J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic high fantasy novel, divided into 6 parts and three books, was written during WW2 and was published in 1954 and 1955. It has survived several adaptations, ranging from half of an animated film to the highly successful film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson. Being an avid Lord Of The Rings fan, I’ve watched the trilogy several times, as well as reading the official film guide and watching the special features and extended editions of the films. I was introduced to “The Lord Of The Rings” by my parents at the age of 5, as while we were travelling in Thailand for 3 months, we also watched “Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers” at the cinema. As such, I did not see the films in order at first, but as I can’t really remember anything from that time, it doesn’t matter. I have since then watched the films again (many times), and what has always stood out to me is the effort and dedication that was put into the films. “The Lord Of The Rings” centres on the archetypal orphaned hero – Frodo Baggins – who embarks on a quest to rid the world of Middle-Earth of the evil One Ring, a magical object belonging to the Dark Lord Sauron, which binds his life force to the living world (if this sounds familiar, just what until the giant spider Shelob).
There are a lot of admirable features in the films, from the well-adapted script to the beautifully aesthetic props, costumes and scenery to the incredible actors to the revolutionary prosthetics and digital design of Weta, but the background and foundation to all of this is the gargantuan amount of effort that everybody involved with the films made, and their awe-inspiring dedication to their work. This is something that, while not necessarily pointed out all the time, remains at the back of my mind every time I watch the films. Because I have behind-the-scenes knowledge, every time I see a hobbit foot on screen, I think about the hour and a half it took for that foot to be put on, and the magnificently realistic quality of the prosthetics, and about the enormous number of feet Weta made for the films (1,800 feet just for the four lead hobbits). This, just one snippet of “The Fellowship Of The Ring”, showcases the immense amount of work that was put into the films, and highlights all the different elements involved – the prosthetics-maker’s attention to detail and reality in making the feet, the resilient quality of the feet, the actors’ patience as the prosthetics is put on, the feet-putter-oners’ patience as they put on the feet, the camera-men/women who use angles which allow the feet to be seen, and the director’s decision on which shots stay in the final cut. The quality of the films really emphasise these processes, and reveal the importance of background work such as prop and costume-making, showing that even the smallest details are vital to create ‘real’ sets and achieve the best results, both cinematographically and for audiences.
Another example of this can be seen in the opening sequence of the first film, “The Fellowship Of The Ring”, when a scene of the battle of the Last Alliance of Elves and Men is shown, depicting the fall of Sauron. In it, there is a wide shot/extreme long shot of the humans, elves, and dark forces doing battle, showing thousands of troops. This was created by using a new digital programme called MASSIVE, which made armies of CG orcs, elves, and humans. These digital creations could ‘think’ and battle independently – identifying friend or foe – thanks to individual fields of vision. However, to get the character designs, blacksmiths made hundreds of shields and suits of armour, including simulated chain mail made from plastic rings, all of them individually hand-wielded and embossed with designs, and then painted. Can you imagine the time it must have taken to do that?
These are only a few cases out of a huge variety – you only need see the special features of the film or read some of the trivia on the IMBd website to be able to tell that everyone involved with the process, whether it be pre-production, production or post-production, was absolutely invested in doing the best they possibly could to create J.R.R. Tolkien’s world.
I’d love to hear what you think about the films, especially if you were one of the lucky people able to be involved (even as an extra),
Let’s call me Lily