by Stephen Ross
First Published: New Zealand Herald, Dec 13, 2004 READ
I like The Lord of the Rings. I truly do. I never read the books – I don’t fancy fantasy – but I liked the films and bought the DVDs when they came out, first the cinema versions and then the extended versions.
I devoured these DVDs. I watched the films over and over. And then I watched the films again and listened to the many commentary tracks.
Then, with gleeful enthusiasm, I waded through the bonus discs – the appendices. I immersed myself in the myriad featurettes and makings-of.
I watched the hour upon hour of how the films were made. I also videotaped and watched the numerous television documentaries, and then re-watched them. I couldn’t get enough.
I learned skills that I never knew possible. Without too much trouble, I think I could easily put together a low-budget $100 million movie with a small cast of around 5000, or at least whip up a decent suit of armour out of lengths of hosepipe.
I’ve seen and learned so much about film-making that I feel like I should add it to my CV. I feel like I’ve been to film school.
I should drive down to Wellington and apply for a job at Weta. How could they refuse? I know everything they do.
I have watched so many interviews and documentaries on the making of the The Lord of the Rings films that I am now on a first-name basis with everyone who made them. Everyone: the designers, the carpenters, the editors, the actors, and the candlestick-makers.
This week saw the release of the extended DVD version of the final film in the trilogy: The Return of the King. I don’t know whether I will buy it.
Frankly, I am suffering from The Lord of the Rings overload. Too much of a good thing is, well, too much, and I don’t think I can handle it.
The third film is now 250 minutes long. I got a migraine the first time I saw The Return of the King – an even longer version sounds like one headache to rule them all.
There should be a new condition written up in the medical journals: lordius overkillious. I have the symptoms. I have been flattened under the sheer weight of material.
This should have been a hard thing to do. I like The Lord of the Rings and I love learning how films are made. I eat this kind of stuff up. But memo to Peter Jackson: “I am full. I am sated. I am fit to burst. For me to buy the new extended DVD would be akin to playing Russian roulette with a single-barrelled shotgun.”
It doesn’t get any better. There are rumours of a special box set – a version editing all three films together. One film to rule them all. It will probably have even more footage and is guaranteed to feature yet more makings of – probably even makings-of for the makings-of.
And what is to come after that? I can see it, 10 years from now, a commemorative 655-disc box set containing every single frame of exposed film stock, lovingly restored and put together with 300 hours of newly composed soundtrack music, and then presented with 1257 commentary tracks featuring everyone from Peter Jackson down to the horse Viggo Mortensen rode in the final battle scenes.
The magic has gone. When you know how a trick is done, it’s no longer a trick.
When Dorothy peeked behind the wizard’s curtain … you know what I mean? I can’t wait for King Kong, but I’ll take mine with the appendices removed, thank you.