In honor of The Hobbit‘s wrap, we found five prominent modern movie trends that can be traced to Lord of the Rings. Not all of these started with the Trilogy of our generation. However, their sudden popularity surged after Peter Jackson’s team retreated to New Zealand. Here’s a loving look at some of the things that are wrong (and some that are just alright) with the modern blockbuster as we’ve come to know it beyond the aughts.
1. (Almost) All Movies are too Long
Lord of the Rings proved a lot of things to movie producers. But beyond a shadow of a Ring-made doubt, it proved that audiences were willing to plant their butts in multiplex seats for three hours at a time.
Well, sort of.
Actually, this conclusion is a violent misconception about our patience. We were willing to sit for three hours and watch the LOTR trilogy. But Pirates of the Carribean 4, for example, may not merit that kind of attention. Rising (and rising and rising) ticket prices might make you say that you’re getting more bang for your buck, but when the average mind-numbing rom-com or action flick is as long as it takes to hike to Isengard, there’s something wrong with the editing process.
These monoliths roll into the theaters, obliterating the usual available time slots. They also take up multiple screens so theaters can offer as many showings as possible, a practice that can knock smaller films off the distribution roster.
For example, The Avengers is not such a tremendously complicated story that it should require two-and-a-half hours to watch. Similarly, upcoming box office juggernaut The Dark Knight Rises clocks in at 2:45, according to industry sources.
2. We Have Incredibly High Expectations for DVD Features
It’s hard to believe from the perspective of more than a decade later, but when the first Lord of the Rings was released for home viewing, we were still getting a handle on the whole idea of DVDs. The year 2001 was basically still the late 1990s by pop culture’s clock. Forget about Netflix Instant — plenty of homes didn’t even have a DVD player yet.
So when Peter Jackson put extra special loving care into something called the Extended Edition, we didn’t realize what was going to happen.
There was nothing to compare it to, and, to a large extent, there still isn’t. The Extended Editions, those lovely book-looking boxes that probably still have a proud place near your home viewing system of choice, set the bar very high. They contain cuts of the films that run nearer to four hours apiece. It also includes what seems like 100 hours of bonus production footage.
There are four discs for each film with packaging covered in beautiful drawings by Alan Lee and John Howe. This lavish, extensive evidence of the whole event made viewers feel even more attached, besotted and generally obsessed with what by all accounts seemed like the best filmmaking experience in the history of movie-making.
3. It Triggered the Rise of the Ensemble Cast
Before Harry Potter made good on its bid to hire every stately English actor, LOTR was stuffed to the brim with everyone else, and a few more. LOTR re-defined massive. It’s not just a matter of numbers, though the series has got that more than covered. It’s a matter of names, and largely one of chemistry.
Having a large cast of notable and semi-notable actors isn’t entirely new. It’s an old-fashioned Hollywood trick, and one our generation wasn’t particularly familiar with when LOTR played its hand. But with a Shakespearean cast to match its epic scale, and a deft directing eye to pull it all together, the old idea had new legs. Suddenly, it seemed like a much better bet to have as many main actors as possible to pull in viewers. The tired-and-true method of having a single star carry a major motion picture has lost a lot of traction in the last 10 years, but the solution, at least from Hollywood’s perspective, started right at the millennium’s turn.
While we haven’t seen the death of the single-star vehicle, if Brad Bird’s well-received fourth Mission: Impossible is anything to go by, the single-star vehicle might be getting an assist (or three), for now.
4. Motion Capture Is King
For years, the dubious technology known as mo-cap (or motion capture) had lived on the fringes of movie production. Consisting of sensors adhered on a bodysuit, referred to sometimes as “ping-pong balls,” the points covering an actor or a stuntperson would pick up their performance and send the data back to a computer. A team of engineers and animators then relate the data to CG models, translating a real performance, in real space, with real actors, into a form that could not be realized through complex prosthetics or camera trickery.
But for the longest time in the F/X world, what we now take for granted was costly, clunky and just didn’t come off well. Attempts to replicate human performance in a humanoid fabrication tumbled fast into the uncanny valley.
But the team at WETA made a better example than we’d ever seen before. Gollum, as an equal creation of CG and Andy Serkis’ memorable performance, was a big gamble. No one had attempted an extended, interactive motion-capture character at that level. WETA and Serkis did more than create an iconic character. They proved that mo-cap could be effectively used for large portions of major motion pictures.
Today actors and extras suit up in mo-co rigs at the drop of a hat. Now that we know motion capture can be done to great effect, it should become another tool in the arsenal, not a de-facto solution. CG alone is not a magic wand that can be waved to solve all your production problems. Prosthetics, animatronic builds and other physical effects still have, and deserve their place. Or, are we excited to watch the newer Star Wars movies all over again?
5. Everything Is a Trilogy
Lord of the Rings cost a lot of money. But, given what was turned out, it was comparatively cheap when you think about single movies since that have spent two-thirds as much for their one outing. Jackson managed this by shooting all three back to back. In due time, LOTR’s cumulative box office communicated something that isn’t true without the Jackson & Co. context: You can make more for less, and that audiences will always, always want that “more.”
“Trilogy” is one of those fantasy-genre casualties that brings to mind a certain importance or grandeur. What it means, theoretically, is there are three of these because there’s really that much to say. Thanks to LOTR, we shall forever have three of everything. No matter how small the chance of a sequel being made, it is now standard practice to sign actors to trilogy contracts at minimum. Combine ever-growing overseas receipts and record-busting midnight openings with the industry’s worsening scaredy-cat syndrome regarding new properties, and we’re looking down the barrel of a boring moviegoing future.
Image courtesy of The Hobbit Movie on Facebook
This article originally published at The Mary Sue
Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/18/peter-jackson-movie-trends/