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Old 09-19-2022, 03:49 AM   #1
Thinlómien
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Boots Costumes, sets and other visuals of TROP

Something most fans seem to agree on is that the visuals of The Rings of Power are impressive, even if our opinions on the rest of the show varies. TROP boasts some unprecedented CGI on the small screen, but I thought I'd like to make a thread on the visuals as a whole, perhaps centering especially on the practical effects such as costumes, make-up and hair, props and sets and how we as the audience like them. In the big scale of the other threads, I think details like these often go overlooked, which I personally consider a shame because they are one of the things I pay the most attention to while watching.

So, without further ado, which visual depictions of characters / places / etc do you like or dislike and why? Where do you think TROP has succeeded and where not?

Here's some of my thoughts based on the four first episodes (spoilers about what is depicted possible, but no actual plot spoilers):

THE GOOD

- I like pretty much everything about the Harfoots? Their camouflages are a clever and impressive visual nod to what Tolkien wrote about hobbits being able to disappear from the sight of the big folk. Also their costumes and hair, for the most part, look nicely like a more archaic but recognisable precursor of the hobbit costumes in the PJ movies.

- Númenor is stunning. The architecture, public art, city design? Great, and close to how I imagined. The ships? You can see some thought went into them. And I also like the costumes from Míriel's art deco headdresses to Pharazon's vaguely charlemagnesque robes to the sailors' simple but nice-looking seagreen tunics. I like the overall Byzantine vibe. (And also, looks like the Fall of Númenor will be visually pretty much how I always imagined it!)

- Lindon with the mellyrn (?) and Khâzad-dûm were impressive set designs, even if both had a bit of generic high fantasy vibe and could be something you could see in a recent(ish) video game (like Dragon Age or Divinity: Original Sin).

- The Orcs have so much more character with their skull headdresses and sun-covers than PJ's orcs ever did. Also the sickly pale look goes well with them avoiding the sun. Lots of excellent visual choices there (maybe apart from the fact that if shielding from the sun is so vital for them, you'd expect their structures to be a little sturdier. But now I'm nit-picking....)

- The sequence of the Elves sailing to the undying lands was - while content wise a little bizarre - very beautiful with the swan ships, the golden sunlight and the sea birds.

THE BAD

- Why do a majority of the male Elves have short(ish) hair? Where are the flowing locks Tolkien described and PJ embraced? Gil-Galad and Adar look so much better than Elrond, Arondir, "Finrod" and the rest of them.

- I am not a huge fan of Bronwyn's dress which looks like it's missing an undershirt. She's showing much more skin than anyone else in her culture or climate. Because she's not say a smith toiling in a hot forge or a prostitute advertising her body, I'm led to assume it's just because she's the conventionally attractive female protagonist of that plotline, and that's just sexist. (Likewise I'm a little confused about Disa's leg-revealing dress, but hard to believe it's supposed to be there as eye candy. Is it just to make her look "more feminine"?)

- Halbrand's t-shirt style seen in the previews is also not a huge hit with me, it looks way too modern. Combined with his ambiguous hairstyle that could as well be modern too, he looks he could be just some dude you could see on the street.

- Do the Elves really need to have pointy ears as the one distinguishing characteristic? That's not very inspired. Also it seems to vary from scene to scene whether the local humans can tell someone is an Elf without seeing their ears or not (see: Galadriel in Númenor, for one). Anyway, I certainly can't tell who's supposed to be an Elf and who a human without seeing the ears, and I think that's a shame.

- The warg. How could it look worse than PJ's wargs.

- The awkward slow motion scenes that keep coming.

I'M NOT SURE...

- Why does Arondir have a classic green man motive straight from a medieval cathedral depicted on his breastplate? Looks nice but ???

- The glimpse of the Two Trees was lovely, but the part of undying lands where child Galadriel was making her boat looked way too mundane.

What do you guys think?
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Old 09-19-2022, 09:01 AM   #2
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Sting Lugrom Blade vs. Pavel Nedvěd

Nice idea for a thread!

I will however start by first being the voice that gainsayeth a little - I agree that the show's visuals are "impressive" exactly in the same sense PJ's were: in the way the word "impressive" is often used, to signify something grand, pompous. I recall that being one of the things that did not entirely sit well with me in PJ's version and RoP seem to be continuing along the same lines. Especially cities and buildings, but also mountains or vistas being massive or having massive objects; feeling sort of heavy.

My vision of Middle-Earth has always been more - how to say it - "airy" than big and bulky and massive. Less of the "this is Reichstag with rich golden roof" and more of the "this is a city woven of thin gossamer strands" (metaphorically speaking, of course). I am not sure how much is it possible to actually capture this in live-action, everything that is "real" (or CGI, as it were) will always be more "crude" than what one's imagination conjures.

Mostly this concerned the cities of Men, or at least the "High Men" (Gondor, in RoP Númenor). I would have preferred them to be somewhat... subtler. And it does not mean that would automatically make them give any less of the vibe "wow, this is the work of a powerful civilisation".

In RoP, it can be also applied in miniature to Gil-Galad with his massive, heavy-looking golden cloak that reminds me of the massive "golden trampoline" of Thorin in his delirious vision in The Hobbit films.

But that is more like a general disclaimer about what I like and dislike about the adaptations so far in general, and it has to do with my personal preferrence and the fact that none of the filmmakers have so far managed (in majority of the cases; of course I like some of the stuff, and other to a degree) to do it the way I'd have imagined.

***

I do love many of the details in the RoP. Míriel's headdresses have to be one of the top, as they are the first thing that comes to mind. As I have said elsewhere, I'd wear them all if I had them at home. If they ever make some prop replicas of this, and if there's a 'Downer millionnaire who would want to celebrate a Bilbo-style birthday and give presents to all the other 'Downers, I'd like to ask for one of these, please.

As I mentioned also elsewhere (and hinted at in the above), I am not that much of a fan of Númenor, but I like it overall. What I definitely dig are its ships and sails, and the sunburst emblem on them. Very epic, very cool.

Speaking of what I dig, I must also second the super-positive impression from the Orcs. They look about 500% more real and more individualistic than PJ's Orcs, and it is all definitely way more creative take on the Orcs than anything else. In my opinion this is how all these designs should have been treated (for example the abovementioned Númenor). Something we haven't seen before.

Whereas I love the Harfoot culture more like a worldbuilding concept than as a visual concept (looks too much like straight outta PJ's Hobbiton!), I acknowledge that it is pretty. I think that this is the example of something that looks vastly different from what I think it should look like (I'd design "Stone Age Hobbits" more "stone" and less "grass", less "leafy fairy dress from St. Patrick's Day" and more "drab brown"), it may be visually prettier than what I'd imagine, and I it has its own spirit. The various twig hair accessories seem to me more like from some Fairy-tale, with stress on the word Fairy, but hey, it suits them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thinlómien View Post
- Lindon with the mellyrn (?) and Khâzad-dûm were impressive set designs, even if both had a bit of generic high fantasy vibe and could be something you could see in a recent(ish) video game (like Dragon Age or Divinity: Original Sin).
Basically that. I mean it is just laziness, in my opinion, "doing the way things are done". And it has been that way basically since PJ. All these "high fantasy" settings have picked on PJ's design, every fortress city looks like PJ's Minas Tirith, every evil fortress looks like PJ's Morannon or Barad-Dur. I'm basically waiting for someone to break the trend; RoP is not, seemingly, going to be it.

I liked however the underground plantations with the mirrors to reflect the sunlight for growing crops. It is also an idea that would imo suit better some other fantasy setting, but it gives the scenery of a Dwarven city at the peak of its glory more variety than just "Mithril bridges! And look, Mr. Frodo! More mithril bridges!"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lommy
- Why do a majority of the male Elves have short(ish) hair? Where are the flowing locks Tolkien described and PJ embraced? Gil-Galad and Adar look so much better than Elrond, Arondir, "Finrod" and the rest of them.
Don't get me started. And at least Gil-Galad is a good guy and has long hair, otherwise I started to fear that this was one of the "long-haired, ergo effeminate men are eevil" tropes with Adar.

I would not mind the Elves having short hair if it had some sort of artistic vision behind it (see below), but now, many of them have the kind of haircut that makes them look like football players from the 90's. Maybe some ladies who were at that time 13 and fancied Pavel Nedvěd appreciate, but I am just not the target audience. (Heck, scratch that, Pavel Nedvěd had longer hair than that. But he had the horrible waves there like Elrond and co. seem to have.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lommy
- I am not a huge fan of Bronwyn's dress which looks like it's missing an undershirt. She's showing much more skin than anyone else in her culture or climate. Because she's not say a smith toiling in a hot forge or a prostitute advertising her body, I'm led to assume it's just because she's the conventionally attractive female protagonist of that plotline, and that's just sexist.
No, and on the contrary, every time I see Bronwyn, I get the reflex that I'd throw a scarf over her shoulders or something, because it seems to me that she must be freezing.

Like sure, this is the Southlands, but it does not look like we are exactly sunbathing among pomegranate trees, and mainly, none of the other characters act like we are. Most of all, those super-thin straps over her shoulders look horribly impractical and uncomfortable for casual wear.

So yes, I am leaning towards the "female protagonists must be pretty and show some skin" explanation. I mean even Arwen in PJ's LotR (d'uh!) was handled in a better way (and she WAS clearly intended to look pretty and all, but her dresses made sense in the scenes she was in - like wearing a pretty dress when going on a date with Aragorn but something else when riding to rescue Frodo; I'd also be okay with Bronwyn wearing something like this if she were going on a date, but not otherwise).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lommy
- Why does Arondir have a classic green man motive straight from a medieval cathedral depicted on his breastplate? Looks nice but ???
It also struck me as strange but I liked it as a nice design for a Wood-Elf. Whereas I imagine Wood-Elves completely differently, I must say that after taking a step back, I overall appreciated the generic soft-shadow-greenish-brownish-wood-colour-palette of Arondir's outfit. If you wanted to say "okay, THIS is a wood-elf", you picked well.

Speaking of the Green Man and all that. When I saw the first scene of short-haired Finrod talking to Galadriel, and before that those (short-)red-headed rascals with very pointy ears, I thought: well these look nothing like the long-haired Elves we mostly imagine when we say Elf, these look like some Puck or leprechauns. That was dispelled later when the Elves no longer continued to look like that (even though Elrond sort of looks like that, with his round rather than long face and imo massive ears and grin that would fit very well with "tehee, I just spoiled all your milk and cursed your goat"), but in that first scene, after my initial "oh no they made them short-haired, more 'earthy' and un-ethereal" I suddenly got this surge of "oh but they made them Puck-like, leprechaun-like, gnome-like, well why not? That would be also artistic license and stepping out of PJ's shadow and out of the shadow of how any generic fantasy portrays Elves these days anyway!" So I actually would have been happy, or even very happy, if they went that way. Sadly not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lommy
- The glimpse of the Two Trees was lovely, but the part of undying lands where child Galadriel was making her boat looked way too mundane.
Yes, it did (see above). I think THAT scene, of all, could have been slow-motion, and either wrapped in some misty haze or with some glittery Instagram filter on - I am being (fairly) serious here - it was, after all, supposed to be Somewhere Else. It was not supposed to be your average meadow two miles beyond Lower Barroton, which is exactly what it looked like.

My absolute favourite thing out of the show that has not been mentioned yet however is the weapon design. I am thinking specifically of the "Lugrom blade" (as Oddwen called it), but actually all the weapons so far to me look much more interesting than those in PJ's LotR (however much they may have been based on some probably very faithful-to-description John Howe sketches or whatnot). I cannot quite put my finger on it, and it is peculiar as I am usually not much of a weapons enthusiast, but somehow, these designs really look compelling and cool to me. Especially the Lugrom blade.

And the last thing I have to mention? Well, the attention to detail is showed in many ways, and for those who have read my other recent posts - you guessed it - yes, the warg had nipples! Six of them! If that is not attention to detail, I don't know what is...
But no, seriously, I liked it. (The warg otherwise was horrible, of course.)
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Old 09-26-2022, 10:33 AM   #3
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I have wanted to reply to this but RL is not giving me much time for thoughtful posts.

First of all--and this is not related to visuals--what I especially like about RoP is the depiction of friendships and in particular women's agency. This is so unlike GoT, where sexual violence has been normalised and the main themes of human behaviour seem to be betrayal, nastiness, cruelty, vicious competition rather than cooperation. I"m thinking in particular of Nori and Poppy, but also of Nori's relationship with Meteor Man/The Stranger. I could go on, but this isn't visual.

Numenor is breath-takingingly sumptuous. The blues and teals with gold and yellows are stunning. The ships are magnificent. The architecture and detail is varied.

Lindon also is gorgeous. The lands of the Harfoot tribe are well depicted and I like the detail in these hobbits' use of camoflauge.

Khâzad-dûm is also magnificent, reminding me a bit of Metropolis but creating a meaningful display of dwarven culture; I would use the word "beautiful" in of course a different manner than Numenor.

Light is well done, particularly its significance; it isn't a cliche. and I find it interesting that the darkness of under-earth dwelling of the dwarves is a different kind of darkness than that which depicts the orcs.

The orcs don't look like five hour makeup cosmetics; in that sense, they are more credible as threatening beings rather than animalistic villains.

Overall, colour is handled creatively, imaginatively, and gorgeously. A wonderful palette and very watchable.

Like you, I'm not impressed with Bronwyn's dress. She should be wearing some kind of under shirt or under dress beneath that blue sheath. That could have been done in a style or manner that didn't immediately say, "Viking woman's dress", but would have been more suitable for the time.

I'm running out of time. Back later. Nice thread!
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Old 09-30-2022, 02:15 PM   #4
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Well, at least Bronwyn got to cover her naked shoulders in episode 6! Still uncomfortable to have those straps cutting into her skin though...
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Old 10-15-2022, 12:07 PM   #5
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I'm going to post this comment on Lommy's thread even though the topic does not include music. But I think this comment nonetheless fits with the qualities that Lommy was finding valuable.

It comes from a friend who is deeply read in Tolkien and who has spent time studying with loremasters to learn more about his writing. In other words, she is not a casual fan or fangirl and Tolkien's writing is very important to her. She knows chapter and verse and the biographies and Letters quite well.

I think it speaks to what can be valuable in the Rings of Power series. Warts and all, the series can produce new appreciations of Tolkien's orginal texts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by knowledgeable Tolkien reader
I can't believe that, after 57 years of reading it, only when I heard the Ring Poem sung at the end of Ep. 8 did it strike me there are two meanings to "In the land of Mordor, where the shadows LIE."
Full disclosure: That song, and its singing, brought tingles to my spine. The music of course is not part of the original work.
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Old 10-17-2022, 07:15 PM   #6
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I am really very unimpresed- dare I say disappointed? - with the costuming, given the budget this thing had. Not just Jackson's trilogy but also the much less costly House of the Dragon knocks it into a cocked hat- and that's even if we forgive RoP the ghastly armor, since almost no Hollywood production does that decently.

Nor can I join the chorus of approval for the Harfoots' (Harfeet's?) "camouflage"- anyone who hunts or grows up in deer-hunting country realizes that using antlers to hide with is a really, really, really bad idea.
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Old 10-23-2022, 06:28 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
I am really very unimpresed- dare I say disappointed? - with the costuming, given the budget this thing had. Not just Jackson's trilogy but also the much less costly House of the Dragon knocks it into a cocked hat- and that's even if we forgive RoP the ghastly armor, since almost no Hollywood production does that decently.
That seems to be the trend in the business these days. A friend shared something written in a Facebook post by Nolan Yost. He's a hairstylist (I don't think he's ever been involved in film production) but I think makes insightful comments on what he called the "Shein era of mass media." He makes accurate comparison to Jackson's costume department in Lord of the Rings, Amazon's Rings of Power, and HBO's House of the Dragon. Yes, we're seeing ludicrous budgets, but these streaming services are cutting costs in their costume departments and cutting the pre-production time to get out these shows and movies as quickly as possible.

(Editing the language that goes against forum policies):

Quote:
In case anyone else is super annoyed by every single new show ending up being “mid” and wondering why it’s basically because of the New Studio System™ of streaming services and the constant push for content at all cost as fast as possible, and here’s what you’re not noticing (that you actually do notice every time) that’s making it worse.

Basically because of the extreme push to make the ✨New Best Thing✨ that executives believe can grab a huge dedicated fan base, the pre-production time for creating MASSIVE new visual feasts is fractured into mere months alongside a severely lessened budget because of the huge extra costs of rushing each department to meet the proposed deadline. I can’t speak professionally for set design or VFX and cinemomatography, but I can say that the toll it takes on costuming and hair/makeup has made almost every new release from Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu have a B movie visual quality that’s becoming harder and harder to ignore the more we’re flooded with it.

For instance, with the upcoming Rings of Power by Amazon, the reason Peter Jackson’s original trilogy stands so strongly 20+ years later is partly because the production spent years hand making every single piece of armor with real metal, hand dyeing all natural fiber fabrics and designing distinct embroidery and hairstyles specific to each race in middle earth that had continuity through the story. The natural dyes and dedicated layers of fabrics for elves/weaves for hobbit wool/dyes for Men had a much more muted medieval look, yet ethereal because of the slight detail you don’t REALLY notice but the depth draws your eye to every inch of the costume regardless. In figure 1 you can see they barely scrapped together an unnaturally gilded scale mail breastplate and just screenprinted a stretch long sleeve shirt to match underneath, all over a skirt in a single layer of a warped poly skirt. In figure 4 they just saved money on an elven wig altogether for a 2022 pompadour, with a velvet pleated priest smock (with crushed parts not even steamed out) and a neckline that isn’t tailored to fit like weve seen previously with Elrond or Celeborn.

Bridgerton (figure 2)I’ve ******* about enough already and it’s obviously not meant to be historically accurate which is totally fine, but the extreme RIT dye colorways on the multitudes on synthetic fabrics, the lack of topstitching on any of the mens tailoring and complete lack of any embellishment like beadwork or embroidery or proper undergarments to make the costuming fit correctly just make them look like a “regency gentleman” pattern from a McCall’s catalogue someone made really well for a Halloween party.

With the new house of the dragon show there’s already articles written about the wigs, and one of the main reasons they look so terrible is because they had to use synthetic hair for the Targaryen wigs. I’m 100% sure it’s due to budget, Daenerys’ wigs for season 8 were in the tens of thousands in cost. Because long white blonde human hair that has to be custom made into multiple wigs for a single character is a HUGE ask for a studio to approve budget-wise, there’s was most likely someone that decided to go with synthetic because of how many white bLondres they have in the show. The problem is that synthetic hair reflects light throughout the whole hair shaft, and it tangles extremely easily. With any shot where a character isn’t actively moving or is performing dialogue and the hair isnt being actively smoothed down every couple of second between shots, each flyaway is going to show up on camera if there’s any indirect lighting and look messy. Not only that, synthetic hair is also twice as thick per strand than human hair, so regardless of that the wigs are going to look bulky in an uncanny valley sort of way.

It’s been noticeable af with marvel the last few years, and it’s been super noticeable recently with every new show that gets rushed through to filming in order to get a release date within 1-2 years of a green light, but it’s going to be so ******* awful in 15-20 years looking back at all the potentially great but cheaply made media from this time period, the Shein era of Mass Media.
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