Lord of the Rings – How it’s Aged Over Time
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first Lord of Rings movie, I thought it was the perfect time to revisit this classic and watch the trilogy again. I can still remember sitting down in the old Tuggeranong cinema with a bucket of popcorn and an oversized soft drink. I had much anticipation and it delivered. I was 9, so it probably wasn’t hard to dazzle me.
The first movie came out in late 2001, directed by Peter Jackson and at the time it was considered cutting edge for its use of Computer-Generate Images (CGI) and graphics. Based loosely off the books of J.R.R Tolkien, the movies told the story of a group of ‘Hobbits’ that are entrusted with a job of destroying an ‘evil ring’ that somewhat symbolises the greed of man.
Three movies later and die-hard viewers were asking for more. I wanted to know if the trilogy would still dazzle me as a 28 year old after a couple decades have passed.
Firstly it’s interesting to note that director Peter Jackson actually didn’t want to have too much CGI in the film in order to keep it more natural and realistic. To put this era in perspective, the movie Titanic had only released 3 years prior to the first Lord of the Rings film. I can vividly recall the ship sinking in that movie and how ‘unrealistic’ it appeared to me, so I can understand Jackson’s hesitation.
Gollum was a game changer in regards to computer generated (CG) actors. Before Gollum, CGI allowed for creating large monster characters but not real actors. Subsurface was technology created by the effects team involved in developing Gollum, this allowed for Gollum to have light reflect off his skin and have visible pulsating veins.
As the movies progressed, so did Gollum and by the last movie Return of the King, Gollum had become freakishly real. This technology won The Lord of the Rings an Oscar thanks to the work of the visual effects team. Gollum and the technology used to create him is still relevant and realistic. Even as an adult, Gollum left me a little freaked out. The effects are just as realistic as I would expect any modern movie to have today.
Another scene that comes to mind when exploring just how realistic some scenes were comes from the third movie, The Return of the King. As Frodo and Sam endeavour to destroy the ring they run in to one of the more memorable bad guys of the series, Shelob.
Now most people aren’t huge fans of spiders, but I can imagine even more are not fans of spiders when they are 10-15 times the size of a hobbit. Turns out the team in charge of special effects for the Lord of the Rings movies had been developing Shelob since 1998 as they had with a number of the other CGI creations.
The Funnel Web spider, which is a native of New Zealand, formed the inspiration for director Peter Jackson. Weta Workshop based in New Zealand were the creators of Shelob and used an actual Funnel Web in a jar to form models for its movements.
On the other hand, scenes of large groups of people left me aware of the era in which these movies were made. The Lord of the Rings has a number of scenes that have huge armies facing off against each other. These shots look more similar to that of a video game than real life.
The only way that the scene was able to depict enormous amounts of people was through the use of CGI and this certainly looks dated.
Two scenes that especially come to mind are the Riders of Rohan at Helm’s Deep (The Two Towers) and the Rohirrim during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields Return of the King. As an 8 year old in the Tuggeranong cinema these scenes were some of may favourites, however as an adult I was left a little underwhelmed.
Overall, some of the scenes from the movies could still stack up against many modern films. However, some odd effects make it look like the movie was definitely of its era. There will always be a cult following for the series because of its story of adventure and the nostalgia that it brings to people who grew up in the late 90s and early 2000s.