Frodo lives -- on the big screen

By Andrew O'Hehir

By Salon Staff
Published August 21, 2000 7:54PM (EDT)

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Finally! An article about "The Lord of the Rings" movies written by someone who's actually read the book! I thought O'Hehir did a good job of describing the anxieties and expectations for this movie. His point about director Peter Jackson's vision of the movies clashing with the private, inner visions of Middle Earth that Tolkien fans have cherished is quite valid.

However, I was really irritated by his invocation of the usual stereotypes of Tolkien fans as computer nerds, granny dress-wearing dreamers, bearded grad students and immature fan boys. (Are Salon writers required to have a dismissive attitude towards fans of genre fiction?) Although all of these groups are part of the Tolkien fan community, they're far from the whole story -- as O'Hehir should have realized when he talked to the staff of Web site.

-- Nancy Ott

I enjoyed the article about "The Lord of the Rings." I was first exposed to the trilogy in the '70s when going to college and recently re-read all the books. It is such a complete mythology that I don't think any movie will do it justice. But it will be fun to see the book come to life. I think most J.R.R. Tolkien fans will be champing at the bit to view it, but whether the younger generation takes to it is, honestly, doubtful.

-- Marc Metteauer

Well-written and fair. I suggest the answer to the question, "Who will buy tickets?" can be found by sifting the following numbers from the article: 1.7 million first-day trailer downloads (representing a young, Net-head generation), a 25-year-old fan, a 45-year-old fan, 50 million books sold. My prediction? Ten million people go three times each to the first film, providing a $250 million gross. Add in the single repeaters and the one-time viewers and you're getting near $1 billion in ticket sales, just for the first film.

-- Dave Lehmicke

The reason that fantasy and sci-fi flicks flop so much is because Hollywood either tries to dumb them down and turn them into "action films" or it dumbs them down and turns them into "children's movies." If someone would make a decent, intelligent, thoughtful, well-written and well-acted sci-fi or fantasy film, it would be rewarded.

I hope Jackson gets this right.

-- Peter Horton

I just had to point out that forced perspective is not a "computer effect." It's an ordinary photographic effect that's been used in cinema (and still photography, for that matter) ever since the earliest days.

An example of Jackson's use of forced perspective is nicely described by Ian McKellen in his online diary: In the shot, Gandalf (a full-sized person) and Frodo (played by a full-sized person who is meant to look child-sized) are to be seated together in a cart. The cart is constructed so that Frodo's seat is a few feet behind Gandalf's. When viewed head-on, the two characters appear to be seated in the same plane, but Frodo looks smaller (because he's further from the camera). No computers necessary at all.

According to published reports, Jackson is using practically every trick in the book to pull off the necessary size illusions. In addition to forced perspective, he's employing differently sized body doubles (both larger-than-usual and smaller-than-usual) of both humans and horses, as well as true computer effects (such as digital compositing and other image manipulation).

-- Jaime Ondrusek

Salon Staff

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