Thursday, February 24, 2011

Looking Back at The Fellowship of the Ring

Can you even believe it? This year The Fellowship of the Ring will be ten years old! Ten years always seem to be a milestone for a movie. And me, being now somewhere between young and old, I don't have a whole lot of movies that I have consumed in a really aware way that are now ten years old. I remember that it blew my mind a little when I realised a while ago that The Matrix is now twelve years old. Little by little our beloved movies become movie-legends. And looking back at The Fellowship of the Ring one can definitely say that this movie has become a legend among movies!

It was only last week that I finally got the Special Extended Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring on DVD. I had never seen it before but since I have become a real fan of audio commentaries and Behind the Scenes features, I thought a big 4 DVD bundle was just the thing I needed. Watching the bonus stuff really is amazing. The Behind the Scenes features of The Fellowship of the Ring give you EVERYTHING! For example I really enjoyed the feature about the costumes since they actually showed you everything, every layer, every detail of the outfits! That's the kind of stuff that a costumer wants to see and they are just handing it to you on a silver platter. The bonus features of the DVD are really made for fans. They know what fans want and they are giving us exactly that.

But another thing was conveyed in a great way in the bonus features of the DVD and that is the large scale of the project of Lord of the Rings. Nowadays, having been in the position of organising something, and the large amount of planning and paperwork behind virtually anything, I can really appreciate the effort that everyone involved put into this. It almost seems to me like a miracle that a huge project like that ever came into being. How many Hobbit ears and Hobbit feet were made, how many weapons and pieces of armour had to be crafted, how many miniatures were made, how many locations had to be prepared and then all the paperwork behind everything involved. When people think about Behind the Scenes features, they mainly think about the actors but I really appreciate that those bonus features show you a lot of the people who really work behind the scenes to bring a great project to life. And another thing that remains unbelievable to me to this day is the fact that a studio had enough faith in Peter Jackson to direct these three movies and make everything work out. This is why we don't get a masterpiece like the The Lord of the Rings trilogy every year or so, because studios tend to be highly distrustful. Many extraordinary projects might be too much of a gamble and thus we have to wade through the same dumb and annoying action/comedy/thriller movies every year, which will never become anything great but are at least trusted to gain back the production and advertising costs again. And then you have people like Shyamalan who gain the trust of a studio and a big budget and turn it into pure shit. You're making everyone look really bad here, Shyamalan!

Watching The Fellowship of the Ring now, ten years later does reveal some of the CGI effects that were used. CGI people in certain longshot scenes are easy to identify or for example the cave troll has lost some of its greatness. But considering the fact that this has been ten years, they still hold up amazingly. If you compare it to the CGI of for example Narnia today, it's masterfully done. Furthermore, The Fellowship of the Ring did really great in trying their best to only rely on CGI when it was necessary. The miniatures that they built and filmed still show up beautifully in the movie and shine as a light of quality. The false perspective shots were a great and timeless idea and naturally they still work perfectly in the movie today. And of course one has to respect all the marvellous work that was done with prosthetics and costumes. Those won't age over time, unlike maybe a Davey Jones that was completely created in CGI.

This is also something that still makes me wonder about my own perception as a viewer. When we first see these movies, we think their CGI effects are great! Same goes for games. I remember how Morrowind was a really beautiful looking game, or hell, Final Fantasy VII had the best graphics of its time. How does our perception change little by little so that we can make out the fakeness of the effects when we haven't been able to make it out before? It's still a bit of a mystery to me but due to that fact I think most movies do best not using excessive amounts of CGI.

The Fellowship of the Ring probably still remains my favourite from the trilogy until this day. It might be silly, but I prefer its largely warm beautiful colours to the bleak greys of the next two movies. I also prefer its little journey of adventure to the big battles that were fought in the last two movies. Of course those movies are good too, but for some reason I just like to rewatch the first movie the most. It seems that this is a sentiment shared by a lot of people. And having now finally watched the extended edition of it as well I can say that it really is better than the cinema version. It's sad that four hour movies are pretty much unmarketable but it's great that all the missing material is made available to us through DVD.

Even ten years down the road, The Fellowship of the Ring remains a really good movie. Rewatching it gives one a feeling of anticipation for The Hobbit movie(s) which will start filming next month!

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