Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Lord of the Special Effects

                  Special effects play an important role in most movies, but they play an especially large role in fantasy and science fiction films. The third installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Return of the King, displayed a variety of special effects. Many of these effects helped the film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2003 (LOTR). One of the most entertaining scenes in the entire movie, which also serves as a great representation of the films total special effects, was when Legolas brought down the oliphaunt in the Battle for Minas Tirith.
                  Personally, I became a giant fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy after the first movie came out in 2001. After I saw the Fellowship of the Ring, I immediately bought and read all of the books before the next two movies came out. When I read the Return of the King, I was really intrigued as to how the Battle for Minas Tirith would be portrayed in the movie. Although Legolas slaying the oliphaunt did not actually occur in the book, I felt that the scene itself and the special effects, were a great addition to the movie. The Return of the King had several scenes that were made possible only through the use of special effects; however, when looking specifically at this scene, one can easily gain an appreciation for the effects displayed in the other parts of the film.
                  The oliphaunts, which are a much larger version of modern day elephants, were created through the use of computer generated imagery, or CGI. Advances in CGI technology allowed the director, Peter Jackson, to display the oliphaunts in a much more believable way. Due to the complexity of the mythical creatures that the author, J.R.R. Tolkien, created, the Lord of the Rings trilogy would have not been possible without computer generated special effects. As Giannetti states in Understanding Movies, CGI has the ability to “create fantastic, brave new worlds, where the magical is commonplace” (33). Giannetti alludes to the way in which CGI has revolutionized multiple film genres by granting directors the ability to make the most eccentric characters and creatures into believable entities on the big screen.
                  A problem that is often experienced with CGI effects is that sometimes the computer-generated images do not appear real. When I was watching this scene, I bought into the oliphaunt looking realistic. The details that were included in the computer representation of the oliphaunt were astounding. The movements of the animal were parallel to that of an elephant stampeding, and the wrinkled appearance of the animal’s hide made the oliphaunt particularly realistic. As Ruszkiewicz states in Everything’s an Argument, “When writers need to persuade, they usually try their best to provide readers with good reasons to believe them” (69). While Peter Jackson is not a writer, as a director and producer he had to ensure that audiences would see his adaptation of the oliphaunt as real. To do so, Jackson had to provide details that reminded us of something that we would be familiar with, such as the common elephant in this scenario.
Upon closer analysis, there are times when Legolas’ movements during the boarding of the oliphaunt looked somewhat unnatural. However, there was nothing that screamed fake about the scene. That is an important thing for a viewer to say considering the scene was developed almost entirely on a computer. The purpose of using CGI in this particular scene, as in most of the movie, was to make the scene more believable. Unrealistic special effects create scenes that audiences cannot relate to, which can be a major turn-off for many viewers.
                  The entire film, including this scene, was enhanced through the use of CGI. Many of the scenes throughout the Return of the King would not have been the same without CGI special effects. Trying to imagine the appearance of the ghost army, the destruction of the Black Gate, or the oliphaunt battle without these special effects is simply not possible. It has become clear that advancements in computer technology are beginning to have a tremendous impact on the movie industry. Since the film won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, I think the Academy would agree with me when I state that the CGI effects displayed in the Return of the King played an instrumental role in the movie’s success (LOTR). The CGI effects enhanced the film by bringing a realistic attribute to all of the characters, which ultimately answers the reason as to why this movie experiences a tremendous amount of success. Peter Jackson’s achievements as the director of this film can be directly correlated to how he captured our attention by creating a believable representation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s greatest creations.

Works Cited
"LOTR Awards." IMDb., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2013.

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