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Old 11-24-2004, 01:55 AM   #1
Child of the 7th Age
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The "Possible Perils" of Special Effects

We have one thread devoted to identifying the special effects that viewers found most interesting in the films. I, too, had my breath swept away with that first sight of Minas Tirith, and I found the lighting of the beacons truly breathtaking.

Yet, looking back on PJ's adaptation, I find myself increasingly ambivalent about the degree to which special effects took over the movies as a whole. Surprisingly, with all our scattered criticism of the films, I did not find a thread devoted to this particular topic, although I did come across occasional posts, including several by Bethberry where questions were raised about the role that special effects played in the movie.

I have a number of specific questions concerning the movies' special effects. Were special effects "overused" in the film to the point that they distracted our attention from the characters and/or caused PJ to invest his energies in something which, I believe, Tolkien would have considered tangential? Did the stress on special effects, where everything is made so obvious to the naked eye, detract from the sense of mystery and magic that is so much more evident in the book itself?

One or two of the special effects were not as well done: the expression on Bilbo's face when Frodo takes out the Ring or Galadriel's pyrotechnics come to mind. Potentially more serious, will the heavy use of special effects tend to "date" the movies so that we pass over them more quickly at some point down the road? What seems marvelous and innovative today can quickly become blase when the next round of technology comes in and produces something far more sophisticated.

Already, the movie Polar Express comes to mind. Whatever you may think of that film as a whole, it would seem that the animation employed goes one step beyond what was used with Gollum. Acording to an article I read, they were apparently able to reproduce the expressions on the actors' faces and not just the movements of the body. And I can't help thinking that all those charging oliphaunts will someday look to us like a herd of stampeding buffalo in an old western movie.

Overall, I enjoyed the films. But these questions linger in my mind. Am I being a curmudgeon, or do others see a similar problem?
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Old 11-24-2004, 05:14 AM   #2
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no, because if you're swept up in a story, I believe it doesn't matter what the effects look like. you're actually THERE inside the movie. I remember seing star wars as a kid back in 1977 and it was amazing. I still look at the movie now and am not bothered by some of the death star closeups as luke & co are attacking looking like something you'd build out of some washing up bottles and some sticky black plastic (us british 30 somethings will understand this reference).

I still look at the old buster crabbe Flash Gordon black and white movies and it transports me back to christmas mornings on bbc when I was a kid. I don't care the if the effects look dated. If the story is good enough, then fine.

Thinking of this as I write, like a good wine, LOTR might get even BETTER in years time when we aren;t overawed by the effects and the quality of the pictures, when these may well look normal run of the mill. we'll TOTALLY forget that it's a movie and be totally transported to Middle-earth (except when we see Jackson or his kids - these bits always drag me kicking and screaming back to the real world)
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Old 11-24-2004, 06:14 AM   #3
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Very good question, Child!

I think that the use of so many special effects was inevitable in trying to portray a fantasy novel. For me, I was quite impressed with them, although knowing a little too much about exactly how they were done takes away a certain amount of the magic. Why did I find them impressive? I found that I didn't actually notice they were special effects! It was all 'real' to me. One or two things did jar, particularly when Bilbo had his 'turn' - I did not like this, possibly as I have such a marked affection for the dear old Hobbit; I found it intrusive. Also, there were a few too many Oliphaunts in the Battle of the Pelenor Fields; though I know many will have particularly enjoyed them, I kept thinking "hang on, this is like an Errol Flynn film".

Yes, special effects do age, but then in many years time that will add charm, rather like the charm of the old Doctor Who films with the slightly wonky daleks.
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Old 11-24-2004, 06:45 AM   #4
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No critique of the effects in this filmic set is complete without a discussion about the Army of the Dead. I for one was massively disappointed, as although they had something of the deux ex machina about them in the novel, PJ took it to an extreme, and essentially had them win the entire day in a big, not particularly visually pleasing or stimulating, green splurge.

It was highly anticlimactic, andmy non-Tolkien-appreciating companion found it even more ridiculous than I. (This, however, is the lady who laughed hysterically as Denethor attempted the Minas Tirith High Diving Gold Medal, in the same film).

And sadly, Treebeard reminded me of nothing so much as those novelty dancing and singing xmas trees that crop up in supermarkets around this time of year.

Even some of the good stuff was bad - by this, I reference the sweeping panoramic shots of the great battles and set-pieces. Which was all very dramatic, but also over-wrought, and left me thinking about the effect itself, not the image. This relates to Child's deeper criticism, that the dependence on these action-flurries and Massive Picture filming detracted from the humanist elements of the film.

The Cave-Troll seemed very clumsy animation, too.

On the plus side, the Balrog was ace, and indeed the whole Bridge of KD scene was superb.

Reference Bęthberry's comments: she and I had a conversation about Galadriel's scene with her little wobble, and came to the same conclusion from different perspectives. Bb was sad that they had not chosen a more mature actress, with a greater range than Blanchett, who would not have needed the effects for the effect, if you know what I mean. I, on the other hand, respecting CB very much as an actress (Elizabeth, anyone?) was saddened that they had felt her ability needed to be so clumsily augmented. I would rather that had been a straight acting scene, not the high camp that turned out on film. In any case, that scene was one of the best examples of unnecessary dependence on the FX dept.

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Old 11-24-2004, 07:28 AM   #5
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re Galadriel's 'turn'

I don't blame Jackson too much for his view on Galadriel demeanour (for want of a better word) as she's tempted by the Ring. The reason:

Take a look at what Tolkien wrote (I admit this was straight AFTER her words, not during them)
Quote:
She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.
to show the last sentence in bold 'filmically' we must have something to contrast it to. Jackson took the words (above in italics) and put his stance on them. To me it worked well, especially when she 'diminshes' and shudders after her outburst.
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Old 11-24-2004, 07:46 AM   #6
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Just a brief reply for now; the one thing that immediately springs to my mind is the over-importance of the battle of Helm's Deep, which I suspect comes from the use of special effects for the armies (That 'Massive' software they developed had to make itself paid!). It was given so much weight in the movie that it seems to be more central than the battle of Pelennor Fields when comparing them in the context of the whole trilogy.
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Old 11-24-2004, 07:57 AM   #7
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Child, I love this thread you have started. First off, because special effects can hurt or help a movie. The Matrix Trilogy comes to mind, the first movie was great. Then the Wachowski (sp?) brothers got too carried away in their special effects, and the movies just got worse, until I just wanted to puke after seeing the 3rd one.

As for LOTR, I wasn't bothered by many of the special effects. I think as Lalwende says they seemed pretty real, especially the Mumakil.

Rimbaud has already pointed out my biggest complaint, the Dead Army green blobs. (Why didn't Sauron just call in the "Ghostbusters?") Here's one that's not a big one, but just kind of looks cheezy. Legolas' dismount from the Cave Troll. But the Cave Troll was great .
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Old 11-24-2004, 09:27 AM   #8
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Very interesting thread, Child!

I agree that some of the FX were rather overdone. What leaps instantly to my mind (as it has to yours in many cases) is the Army of the Dead. My family and I have a joke about them being Scrubbing Bubbles, sweeping into Minas Tirith and scrubbing away the orcs!

Helm's Deep was a bit much; considering it had one chapter in the books, I think it didn't have to be as long as it did. It occasionally makes me laugh, when I listened to the actors moaning about how difficult it was to do all those night shoots, when the scene (and consquentally the shooting time) could have been much shorter! And even as it was, the scene was much condensed from all the footage PJ wanted to include. Although, I will give the scene a nod, as PJ refrained from sending Arwen to fight.

On the other hand, I did like the Battle of the Pelennor. Maybe PJ learned his lesson before?

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Old 11-24-2004, 10:41 AM   #9
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technically, the battle of pellenor fields was also one chapter, comparible in size. (Of course this doesn't count the siege of gondor and the few pages of fighting regarding the ride of the rohirrim)

I think it's a case of jackson and co spent enough time on helm's deep, but not enough time in comparison on everything else, as we would have had 6 movies instead of 3.

now there's a thought. He probably had enough material to eke out 6 movies, 1 for each book. Imagine how much more money he could have made. I mean it's working for Potter isn't it?
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Old 11-24-2004, 12:35 PM   #10
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Most of my biggest FX complaints have already been addressed. Bilbo's transformation in Rivendell, and Galadriel's transformation when tempted by the Ring both come to mind. Neither actor needed their performance bolstered by such tricks, and I think in both cases, the scenes in question would actually have been better to let the actors do their job and leave it at that. Not that I thought the effects looked cheesy. It's simply that I thought them gratuitous, a general tendency with Jackson's approach to the films. In addition to the "Attack of the Blob" look of the Army of the Dead, I would add the Warg attack to what I thought was simply ineffective. Listening to the directors comments on the EE the other day, Jackson would agree with me. He wasn't completely satisfied with their look either. His problem is (to my mind) that he never questioned whether the attack should ever have happened in the first place. Again, gratuitous. I also have a bit of a problem with his decision to portray Sauron as an eyeball/searchlight. Setting aside the fact that he should not have been simply a giant eye in the sky, I question whether he should have been portrayed at all. Putting him there was another gratuitous move on Jackson's part. There is no more frightening a villain than an unseen monster, under the bed or in the closet or behind the bushes or walled in a black tower behind mountains of shadow. You'd think a horror director would have remembered that much, at least.

There is a Hollywood aphorism: Put the money on the screen. If you're spending 300 million dollars of someone else's money, you need to show where the money went, and you need to show it on screen in the final product. It might include exotic locations, or expensive actors or grandiose special effects. While this kind of story does demand a large amount of special effects, I still think Jackson went over the top in many instances, a natural temptation when there are so many toys to play with and investors to answer to, but still an error in judgement to my mind. Make no mistake, I enjoyed these films trememdously, but I think that, in this case, more discretion overall would have made for better story-telling.

Essex:
Quote:
Take a look at what Tolkien wrote (I admit this was straight AFTER her words, not during them)

Quote:
She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.
to show the last sentence in bold 'filmically' we must have something to contrast it to. Jackson took the words (above in italics) and put his stance on them. To me it worked well, especially when she 'diminshes' and shudders after her outburst.
Contrast that with this from early in the (book) story:
Quote:
Gandalf's eyes flashed. "It will be my turn to get angry soon," he said. "If you say that again, I shall. Then you will see Gandalf the Grey uncloaked." He took a step towards the hobbit, and he seemed to grow tall and menacing; his shadow filled the little room.

Bilbo backed away to the wall, breathing hard, his hand clutching at his pocket. They stood for a while facing one another, and the air of the room tingled. Gandalf's eyes remained bent on the hobbit. Slowly his hands relaxed, and he began to tremble.

"I don't know what has come over you, Gandalf," he said. "You have never been like this before. What is it all about? It is mine isn't it? I found it, and Gollum would have killed me, if I hadn't kept it. I'm not a thief, whatever he said."
"I have never called you one," Gandalf answered. "And I am not one either. I am not trying to rob you, but to help you. I wish you would trust me, as you used." He turned away, and the shadow passed. He seemed to dwindle again to an old grey man, bent and troubled.
Jackson got this effect exactly right with a simple zoom lense and a dimmer switch on the lights (and a justified reliance on two very skilled actors.) The Galadriel scene needn't have relied on the same tricks, but it also needn't have gone all green and windy. It was over the top for what it needed to be in the context of the film. Galadriel was not developed enough in the movie (especially in the theatrical release) to need such a spectacular transformation.

Estelyn:
Quote:
Just a brief reply for now; the one thing that immediately springs to my mind is the over-importance of the battle of Helm's Deep, which I suspect comes from the use of special effects for the armies (That 'Massive' software they developed had to make itself paid!). It was given so much weight in the movie that it seems to be more central than the battle of Pelennor Fields when comparing them in the context of the whole trilogy.
I think that the lengthy massiveness of Helm's Deep was more due to its placement as the action climax of and gist of "The Two Towers" movie, and the downplay of Pelennor Fields was for the same reason in it's placement in the third film. If it was too spectacular, the attack on the Black Gate and the destruction of the ring might have been less excitingby contrast, and so less of a climax for the film overall. I agree, though, that it was overdone. He could have spent more time (and more special effects) on the battle of Isengard and kept the death of Saruman and Wormtongue in the film (and skipped the extra battle at Osgiliath altogether--more gratuitous battle effects.)

Based on these and other previous films, Peter Jackson has a clear fondness for special effects films. I think that he may well have gotten himself caught up in telling that part of the story while (in some cases) sacrificing other (perhaps more legitimate) aspects. When I was watching the directors commentary on the EE the other day, I noticed a comment he made about the death of Theodred, and the politics of Rohan. I don't recall the exact comment, except that he seemed to find those aspects of the story boring and difficult to tell in a compelling manner. It's quite natural that, given that, he would rely more on the special effects in order to gloss over the more subtle aspects of the story he was telling. While I must stress again, that I enjoyed these movies a great deal, I do think a more restrained approach would have been more in keeping with Tolkien's taste and intent. It certainly would have been more in keeping with me.
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Old 11-24-2004, 01:22 PM   #11
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The 'amorphous green blob' of the Army of the Dead was disappointing, in more ways than it just looked bad. It also tended to give the impression that it was entirely due to the efforts of that army that the battle was won - an opinion canvassed from a non-reader friend again. I can only describe that effect as a green 'slime' thingummyjig; admittedly, it was a difficult concept, but I was disappointed by it.

Some of the best effects were the simplest ones, for example the camera and set tricks used to make the Hobbits seem genuinely small. And of course, the scene where Gandalf rears up in anger at Bag End - part of that, however, was due to the genius of Ian McKellen's acting!

Was it me or did others find the seemingly continual flashy mounting and dismounting of various beasts of burden by Legolas a tad irritating? I kept thinking that eventually he was going to fall and hurt himself or maybe land face down in an Oliphaunt pat.
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Old 11-24-2004, 01:37 PM   #12
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radagastly,

good point about gandalf, I was going to bring up how well that was done in my earlier post. just because we don't have large special effects shots on certain scenes doesn't mean we can't have them in other places.

It's a matter of context. Gandalf's 'confrontation' was with an old friend near the start of the book. Jackson would not want to show Gandalf in the same light as he showed Galadriel later.

With Galadriel I think Jackson was trying to show just how dangerous the Elves CAN BE. (Add to this, in my humble opinion after reading Silmarillion a while back, what a bunch of arrogant, selfish, hateful, nasty group of people the Elves can be at times) nb I'm ducking to avoid rotten tomatoes thrown at me

We had moved on a couple of hours into the movie by then, and Jackson was jacking up the tension and danger that Frodo was facing. To me this scene worked

PS Our viewpoints on various parts of dialouge within the LOTR movie is like a piece of prose by Shakespeare. One director might have read Galadriel's temptation scene with her speaking softly (as I must admit I did before the films). But I think it works far better with her voice raised and her 'power' urging to be unleashed to take the Ring.....
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Old 11-24-2004, 01:43 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
Was it me or did others find the seemingly continual flashy mounting and dismounting of various beasts of burden by Legolas a tad irritating? I kept thinking that eventually he was going to fall and hurt himself or maybe land face down in an Oliphaunt pat.
*headdesk* That annoyed me to no end. Now not only does Legolas have the shame of being Captain Obvious, he also possess "mad fighting skillz" and the ability to shoot, squash, and generally mangle Generic Large Beasts o' Evil. Please, PJ, do spare us the pain and anguish. (This thinking has spawned any number of 'Sues whose modus operondi (sp?) is "I am an elf, therefore, I have mad fighting skillz and never get dirty." Bah.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Essex
One director might have read Galadriel's temptation scene with her speaking softly (as I must admit I did before the films).
Heh. I must say here that I liked the Bakshi rendition of Galadriel's Speech of Power better than I liked PJ's.

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Old 11-24-2004, 02:19 PM   #14
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I have to say that for me the biggest mistake Jackson made was in losing control of Gollum. Gollum is a character that needs a tight leash or he'll take over. This is where the very quality of CGI let him down. If it hadn't been as good, he would have had to keep Gollum more in the background, & we'd have had him presented as he is in the books - only seen through the eyes of others. Because PJ was able to give him screen time on his own he lost control of him & because of that he comes to dominate every scene he's in.

Having said that,it kind of applies to all the CGI in the movies. Its too good - PJ is never forced to be restrained. Whatever he wants to put on screen he can, so he doesn't have to hold back. Sometimes less is more & more is less. The intimacy is lost, because everything is simple too 'intense', too overwhelming. The whole thing strays too often into melodrama for it to work successfully. I suppose what I'm saying is I wanted War & Peace & got Star Wars, & while there's nothing wrong with either, that's the source of my disappointment.
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Old 11-24-2004, 07:38 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Child
Potentially more serious, will the heavy use of special effects tend to "date" the movies so that we pass over them more quickly at some point down the road? What seems marvelous and innovative today can quickly become blase when the next round of technology comes in and produces something far more sophisticated.
This is an interesting point. As I said in the sister thread, I remember being thrilled with Ray Harryhausen's effects in the films such as the Sinbad series and The Valley of Gwangi. And I was absolutely blown away when I first saw Star Wars. And, while Harryhausen's stop-motion animation does now look very dated in comparison with modern SFX, I do think that some of Industrial Light and Magic's work on Star Wars has stood the test of time well (although it is probably difficult to get hold of the pre-digitally enhanced version these days).

But with many of the special effects today, and particularly those deployed in the LotR films, it is difficult to see how they could get much better. Gollum's features and expressions, for example, are so realistic that I find myself completely forgetting that he is a CGI character. And I find creatures such as the Oliphaunts, the Stone Troll, the Balrog and, yes, even Treebeard (for the most part) to be utterly credible. Admittedly, there are some areas where the SFX could be improved upon. Latex face-masks can sometimes result in that rather standardised "Buffy Vampire", big cheek-boned look, and this afflicts some of the Orcs, although most are the result of exceptionally good make-up jobs (particularly the 'principal' Orcish characters). And there is a moment in Gollum's transformation where he looks like the actor (presumably Andy Serkis) in "monster" make-up that he is. Also, there is a loss of 'reality' where CGI is used for characters otherwise played by actors (such as where Legolas jumps from the Stone Troll).

But, for the most part, it is difficult to see how the effects could get much better, and so difficult to tell whether the films will become dated in this respect. I suppose that I thought much the same when I first saw Star Wars, so perhaps they will. But I tend to think that the next stage of technical development in films will be enhanced 3-D, or even holographic, visuals.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Child
Were special effects "overused" in the film to the point that they distracted our attention from the characters and/or caused PJ to invest his energies in something which, I believe, Tolkien would have considered tangential? Did the stress on special effects, where everything is made so obvious to the naked eye, detract from the sense of mystery and magic that is so much more evident in the book itself?
Well, I've said it before and I'll probably keep saying it, but, rightly or wrongly, these were 'action' films. And such films tend to require spectacular special effects these days. People like spectacular special effects (or so film-makers believe, at least). As I have also said on a number of occasions, the films were made for film-goers in general, not just us Tolkien-book-fans, so it was inevitable really that much of the subtlety and narrative/themic development of the books would be squeezed out by the visual extravaganza.

But that answer does not, I think, fully do justice to the question that Child has posed. I would divide the special effects into three categories. There are those which are both technically brilliant and appropriate to the story. There are those which are techically brilliant but inappropriate. And there are those which (for whatever reason) are not so technically brilliant and therefore lack somewhat in realism. It is the latter two categories which will disturb the 'suspension of belief' and therefore, perhaps, impair one's enjoyment of the films.

I think that we could all reach broad agreement on those effects which lacked in realism. I have given examples above of some of those that I would see as falling in this category. But, where the technical quality is good, it will depend on individual taste and standpoint as to whether a particular effect is appropriate or not. For example, I found Legolas' more athletic manoevres rather silly, but there are many who would count these amongst their favourite moments. Similarly, I am somewhat dubious about the RotK EE preview which shows Saruman shooting a fireball from the top of Orthanc, but there are many who will love this sort of thing.

To comment, with this in mind, on some of the effects discussed so far on this thread:

I liked Bilbo's 'horror' face in Rivendell. There is textual justification for it and some form of make-up would have been required to portray Frodo's vision of Bilbo at this point in the book, Ian Holm's formidable acting skills notwithstanding. I can see why some think that Jackson went over the top, but it worked for me in light of the brevity of the moment.

Galadriel's 'nuclear' moment is an interesting one. Like Essex, I believe that there is justification for using special effects here, both on the basis of the text and for film-making reasons. I just happen to think that the effect was done rather badly. Switching the camera to negative image and distorting the voice simply looked faintly ridiculous to me (I almost laughed at this point when I first saw it in the cinema). Indeed, I would have favoured a more sophisticated (and perhaps more subtle) use of effects here.

The Dead Army is also interesting. The close-up shots of them in the Paths of the Dead are, I think, marvellous. The way that the Dead King's face shifts from rotting flesh to skull, for example, is very well done. Yet I agree that the 'long shots' of the Army at the Pelennor look silly. 'Amorphous Green Blob' and 'Green Virus' are alas pretty accurate descriptions of what we ended up with. It would have been far better, visually, to have had the odd close-up shot of Dead Warriors fighting on the field of battle. And this would have had the added advantage of making it seem less like the battle is only won because of them (although, since Pelargir is excluded from the cinematic release, they do have to play some major role at the Pelennor).

Radagastly mentioned the Warg attack. I actually don't think that this was gratuitous, in the context of the film, at all (although Aragorn's cliff dive undoubtedly was). We know from the book that Saruman used Warg Riders, so it is entirely credible that he would use them to attack those bound for Helm's Deep. I was thrilled when I heard that there would be Warg Riders in the film, as the Battle of Five Armies is one of my favourite Tolkien passages. So they are not, in my view, inappropriate. And technically they are pretty good too. Only problem is they are not Wargs! They belong in a category of their own.
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Old 11-24-2004, 08:15 PM   #16
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Add me to the list when it comes to the Warg attack. Not because I felt it was gratuitous - I felt it worked very well as far as story structure went - but because of execution, in particular the hyena look of the warg's themselves. Actually, what I really like about the scene is not so much that battle, but the build up to it. I find this quite a lot actually. Jackson does a great job in a number of places jazzing us up for the battles.

I agree that the Dead was overwhelming and Galadriel could have been toned down, but overall, I would say that Jackson had kept himself under control when it came to FX. What I actually find pretty amazing is how many shots contain no FX at all. How much actual scenery and landscapes were used rather than blue screening everything. The obvious counter-example to this would be the recent Star Wars instalements where the shots without effects are the exception rather than the rule, much to the films' detriment IMHO.

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Old 11-25-2004, 04:22 AM   #17
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Davem,

Quote:
what I'm saying is I wanted War & Peace & got Star Wars, & while there's nothing wrong with either, that's the source of my disappointment.
Ah, now I begin to understand your motives.

Unfortunately, you would never get a War and Peace version on the Cinema Movie screen. Pity really, but impossible. We have to either listen to the BBC audio version (which as good as it was can still be greatly improved) or have a TV mini series filmed in the future which stuck to the books narrative as close as possible, lasting over a number of seasons.

PS We're dissing the Army of the Dead, but again, its just Jackson substituting the men of South Gondor with the Army of the Dead. The battle of Pellenor fields could not have been won without Aragorn and Co, so instead of 'live' humans helping him, Jackson used 'dead' ones, which negated the need for a lengthy summary from Aragorn after the battle explaining how he'd come to Minas Tirith.

The extended edition may well show Aragorn's fight with the Corsairs, and therefore we wouldn't get the 'surprise' of Aragorn turning up at Minas Tirith to save the day: therefore in the EE it would work fine if we had the 'live' people that Aragorn freed from the Corsairs help save the day.

We need to keep in mind the movie maker's viewpoint on when we review these movies. I remember being exactly the same as a lot of people on these forums (ie somewhat negative towards the films) before I listened to the commentaries on FOTR and TT. This has given me a wider view of how films are made, and their constraints. But what it's done mostly is given me an even greater satisfaction of the films, inasmuch as by the time I saw ROTK, I had no real complaints AT ALL about the contents of the film (including the 'green blobs' saving the day). I was dissapointed in what was left out, but understood that these bits would probably be included in the EE.

Indeed my first comment to the missus when the credits started to roll on ROTK was "That was great but I can't wait for the extended version"
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Old 11-25-2004, 05:28 AM   #18
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Just a question

Irrelevant to the discussion, just should confess my ignorance - what is FX?

thank you
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Old 11-25-2004, 05:31 AM   #19
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I always have a preference for TV adaptations purely as there is more time to devote to the stories they are portraying. For me, getting over all the detail and nuance of the novel is important, and is possibly why I am always just a little unsatisfied with book adaptations. I think it was the limits of time involved with film which led to the limits in scriptwriting and hence to the limitations of the film.

However, TV adaptations are not always blessed with large budgets and it takes real skill to make a visually effective adaptation on limited money. One of the features of LOTR is that it needed decent effects - I cannot quite wipe from my mind the fear I had that they would resort to using children as Hobbits or some such cost-cutting scheme. I was pleased that someone with imagination and skill had taken the reigns. And ultimately, despite all of my grumblings, these are films I can watch many times over!

The strange thing is that one major factor in the success of the films not always considered, was the acting, which I found excellent - in the main. In particular, Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee and Sean Bean. With the quality of their acting, the films could (almost) have gotten away with being made on the most limited of budgets!
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Old 11-25-2004, 05:56 AM   #20
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Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
Irrevelant to the discussion, just should confess my ignorance - what is FX?

thank you
FX = effects

ergo

SFX = special effects.

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Old 11-25-2004, 04:52 PM   #21
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The sound of silence

I apologise if this has already been raised in the thread -- I did go through all the posts, but I admit that I perhaps may have, well, skimmed a bit (the volume is a bit daunting!).

Seems to me that by focusing exclusively on the visual effects that we are in danger of neglecting that other at-least-equally-important component, sound effects. A great looking balrog is cool, but if he sounds like an engorged hippo it's going to be silly. The fact that they got the sound of things so dead to rights in the movie was, for me, the real triumph (the balrog, for example, was composed of sounds that they sampled from rocks and stones dragging along concrete or smashing against one another). Other sounds that I think were nothing less than brilliant were the cry of the Nazgul (an important component of which was Fran Walsh screaming her head off), the whoosh of arrows and the reproduction of the Ring's "voice."

I bring this up because sound design is easily the most overlooked (pun intended) aspect of special effects in movies, but one that is absolutely critical. The film's ability to come up with roars that sound like a balrog's roar are, I think, testimony to how effective film can be. It is one thing to imagine a balrog, but it is altogether another to imagine a balrog's roar. That's because it is the image-ination -- the ability to create images in our own minds -- that books appeal to. Very few people have (to coin a word) audimation, or the ability to 'imagine' a noise that they have not heard before.

That's where I think the film is able to transcend its own limitations as a visual representation of a written book, and bring something to the story of Middle-earth that simply cannot exist any other way. Tolkien might have attempted something like "The balrog's roar was as an avalanche of stone" but that is merely simile: the balrog sounds like something else. Only in film is the balrog able to sound like a balrog. When we see a visual effect, we are thinking "that cgi sure looks like a balrog" but we do NOT think "that audio-sampling of concrete bricks, dubbed over with mica and shale striking one another and amplified in the high band sure sounds like a balrog", we think "that's a scary roar!" or even just " " .

Sound is in some way more immediate and believable than sight, and so I think it is more important even than the visual effects. Lucas knew this (just close your eyes sometimes and listen to Star Wars) and PJ figured this out too (again, close your eyes for the Bridge of Khazad-Dum sequence, or for Lothlorien; you won't believe your ears). It's because people aren't paying conscious attention to the sound that it works, I think -- we aren't analyzing it, so it sinks in. I think that's the real magic of movie effects, and like all good magic it works by misdirection. Show us a great looking computer generated monster and get our attention wholly on how it looks, then, while we're looking at that hand, bring in a completely convincing sound effect that we accept uncritically, almost unconsiously, and then *poof* the effect becomes real. Try the converse experiment and watch the effects heavy scenes with the sound entirely off -- you will not believe how much is lost.
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Old 11-29-2004, 10:44 AM   #22
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White Tree

Quote:
(an important component of which was Fran Walsh screaming her head off)
*green* I'd forgotten about that. And what about the cave troll sounding extremely like PJ's attempt on it's roar during a rehersal?

I completely agree with you there, Fordim (great word coinage, btw). The brilliance of the sound effects really up the quality of the movie. It's really sad how many people don't pay attention to them.

And I second Fordim's suggestion: just listen the Bridge of Khazad-dum sequence! It'll knock your socks off.

~ Saphy ~

EDIT: *headdesk* I can't believe I mixed up Fordim and davem! *headdesk again* Sorrysorrysorrysorrysorry!

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Old 11-29-2004, 11:07 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Sapphire_Flame
I completely agree with you there, davem. . . And I second davem's suggestion. . .
How utterly flattering!
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Old 11-29-2004, 11:27 AM   #24
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See - no-one can tell us apart

Then again, maybe everyone expects the most brilliant ideas to come from me

(There's a compliment in there, Fordim, if you look hard enough.)
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Old 12-11-2004, 01:11 AM   #25
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There are really only three effects in the films that make me cringe and look away: Legolas shield-surfing, Théoden's old-mummy to spry-warrior-king transformation, and the much-discussed Galadriel temptation scene. Interestingly, I think the latter might have been salvaged by decent audio (tip o' the hat to Fordim).

But FX schmFX. FX are simply another tool in the director's toolbox, one which can be used skillfully or clumsily. I commend Jackson on his extensive use of practical effects (i.e., non-computer generated effects): use of forced perspective and different scale sets and props to sell hobbits as hobbit-sized, for instance, or the building of the Golden Hall on an actual bluff in the middle of a rugged wilderness instead of on a bluescreen soundstage.

On the other hand, Jackson's deficiencies as a director -- which I think can all be boiled down to a lack of subtlety -- are as evident in the writing, in the staging of certain scenes, and in particular acting choices as they are in the use of visual effects. I don't think, in short, that taking CGI effects out of Jackson's toolbox would have significantly improved the cycle of films; on the contrary, I think that high-quality, mostly well-conceptualized effects (visual and aural) are one of the films' main strengths.

P.S. -- Before I'm pounced upon by Jackson devotees, let me say that I think he has many virtues as a director: an excellent design sense, good visual instincts, and an enthusiasm for his work which translates to the screen. I also admire that he has created a team and a working environment which seems to put as much emphasis on enjoying the process of filmmaking as on the finished product.

I think his talents will better serve straight up popcorn fare like the upcoming King Kong, though I'm a fan of the LotR films as well, for all their flaws.
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Old 03-20-2011, 10:18 AM   #26
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Hmm. I actually rather liked the Galadriel-temptation-scene effects.

Aside from some of the already-metioned ones, I really dislike how PJ made Minas Tirith's walls crumble when they were catapulted. Minas Tirith is unassailable!


But - generally - the sound effects were ok. Especially the music.
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