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Old 11-18-2004, 10:32 AM   #1
Aldarion Elf-Friend
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Best Movie Setting

There are many and varying opinions about the many story changes made for the screenplay by PJ and his fellow writers. There have been great threads about the most egregious of these.

However, one thing that many people agree PJ did very well was capture the flavor of the book's locations very well. I'm curious, how do people here respond to the sets and set pieces that PJ used in the movie. I'll kick it off with a few of my favorites.

First, I thought that the Shire and Bag-End were right on. PJ really captured the idyllic country life of the Shire. Maybe Hobbiton was a little more sparse than a community should be, but maybe we only saw the "suburbs". Anyway, what I saw on the screen is just what I imagined in my head.

Moria, and especially the bridge of Khazad-Dum were also very well done. He really captured the feel of an underground kingdom hewn out of the very stone.

Lastly, Minas Tirith took my breath away the first time Gandalf comes over the hill on Shadowfax.

A little trivia - that's not the first time that Minas Tirith appears in the movies. In the Two Towers EE (maybe the theatrical release, but I'm not sure) there is a scene in Osgiliath where, if you look closely, you can see Minas Tirith wayyyyyy off in the distance.

So, thoughts, anyone?

p.s. - I didn't care for Lorien...
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Old 11-18-2004, 10:44 AM   #2
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Hello there:

You are absolutely right; the best thing about the movie was the astonishing sets. Truly inspired design work, and the effort and detail! The Shire was certainly spot-on, and Khazad Dum could not have been bettered. But although Rivendell was stunning, it was overwrought, and I share your misgivings with Lorien.

Much is made of the undeniably dramatic scenery of Edoras, but something about it that really didn't connect with me. Horselords they are, sure, but it was overly provincial compared with Minas Tirith (or Merthyr Tydfil as an acquaintance charmingly names it). Also, and I am willing to be picked up on this by someone geographically better informed, but would a country founded on horses build their capital and main city on a huge hill? Very unpleasant for their equine pals.

MT was ok, just spoilt by being made apparently of polysterene. I like the inside of Sauron's personal furnace, that was good, but I didn't enjoy the sweeping shots of Mordor, which just reminded me of one too many computer games.

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Old 11-18-2004, 12:03 PM   #3
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I thought the insides of the large halls were excellent, Edoras, Helm's Deep, et cetera. Maybe we suppose they are easier to convey but it still takes talent to make them appear so authentic. Especially that room in Helm's Deep where Aragorn returns to meet Theoden. Made me feel like I was there.

I know the thread is titled 'Best Setting' but I think that it could turn into a good discussion of settings in general, including the ones we didn't think were so right. We have mentioned our dislikes already anyway. What say you Aldarion? (Welcome to the site, by the way. )

My personal dislikes are The Prancing Pony Inn and Fangorn Forest. I'll explain if I may.
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Old 11-18-2004, 12:35 PM   #4
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I agree with Aldarion on all counts. Especially about being breathtaken at the first sight of Minas Tirith in RotK!

I also love the look of the Sammath Naur. Very creepy and... dark-lord-ish. Heh.

Fangorn was good. It bothered me a little in that it had underbrush, whereas Tolkien described it as just being trees.

Shelob's Lair, although very creepy, wasn't how I pictured it. Weren't the walls and floor supposed to be smooth? Ah, well.

Abedithon le,

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Old 11-18-2004, 12:46 PM   #5
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"Moria...

...You fear to go into those mines. The dwarves delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dűm. The shadow and flame."

The Mines of Moria were far and away my favorite sets in the movies: a perfect mix of horror, darkness and faded grandeur - a glimpse into the 'vanished past' that I found disappointingly rare in the rest of the movies. The Dwarrowdelf evoked in my a sense of pure wonder, and the music (complete with haunting doom-doom incantations) and lighting at the Bridge of Khazad-dűm were magnificent. The vision of a 'higher' past that I (inadequately) described above lingered with me into the scenes in Lothlˇrien, but I lost it after the Fellowship sailed down the Great River past the Argonath, and never regained it in the second and third films. (This is, I suppose, due at least in part to the fact that The Two Towers and The Return of the King focused almost exclusively on the realms of Men.)
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Old 11-18-2004, 01:23 PM   #6
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Son,
agree with you totally. Most of FOTR was wonderfull. I would have loved to seen the firehall though. I agree w/Rim's accessement of Edoras - too small, but the set of the insides of the hall was richly done. The location itself is wonderfull, but too bad PJ couldnt have found a bigger hill for Edoras. What we saw could have house mabye a few hundred..?..?

I didnt like (its been observed before in another thread - sorry) the compressed location / view of Osgiliath and Mordor as seen from MT. I dont have a map with me, but surely the curve of the earth would have prevented this..?..? I imagined that if you could have seen anything, you would have seen possibly the foothills of the mountains way, way off in the distance. But surely not the river and Osgiliath... a small distant glow from Mt Doom, not the firery eruptions. I think I know what PJ was doing there, but to me the scale he presented diminished the effect of hiding the fact it was cgi, instead of enhancing it.
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Old 11-18-2004, 02:07 PM   #7
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The most awesome spectacle in the films for me was the lighting of the beacons - this to me conveyed a sense of the size of Middle Earth, and was, well, simply visually stunning. The sets for Hobbiton were good - I liked the use of vegetation and the bridge (even though it's an odd thing to spot) was pleasing to me, very village-like. The only reservation about Hobbiton for me was that as they are gardeners and farmers, the Hobbit gardens and fields should surely have been neater? I also liked the interiors of Meduseld (it was a shame that the tapestries were quite difficult to see) Fangorn and Isengard.

I did not like the Grey Havens, mainly as I always envisioned the place to be more practical as a harbour. And I had in mind a much greener place for Rohan; it appeared quite rocky and bleak, while I had a place like the Lambourn Downs in mind, rolling green hills, lush, and maybe with a White Horse or two, and the odd barrow.

But, in my mind, Middle Earth was a more intimate place, and to some extent, my personal small-scale vision was wiped out by all the grand vistas! But I do realise that this is a personal viewpoint and for many (most?) the scenery was all awesome.
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Old 11-18-2004, 04:37 PM   #8
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Quote:
A little trivia - that's not the first time that Minas Tirith appears in the movies. In the Two Towers EE (maybe the theatrical release, but I'm not sure) there is a scene in Osgiliath where, if you look closely, you can see Minas Tirith wayyyyyy off in the distance
You also see it in FotR. Gandalf goes there in search of information on Isildur & The Ring.
A post about the 'settings' will follow later, I'm off to Oklahoma City now.
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Old 11-18-2004, 07:45 PM   #9
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1420!

I must say this a wonderful thread and everyone has brought up great things. There's not much for me to add, I'm afraid I might repeat what others have said. Anyway, my thoughts...

Saphire you are so right, the first view of Minas Tirith, oh my, just amazing, words can't describe it.

Edoras was also superbly done, I love the village on top of the little hill, and the Golden Hall sitting on top it's peak. I actually felt as if PJ stuck fairly close to the book.
Quote:
The King of the Golden Hall
The Dark gates swung open. The travellers entered, walking in file behind their guide. They found a broad path, paved with hewn stones, now winding upward, now climing in short flights of well-laid steps. Many houses built of wood and many dark doors they passed. Beside the way in a stone channel a stream of clear water flowed, sparkling and chattering. At length they came to the top of the hill. There stood a high platform above a green terrace, at the foot of which a bright spring gushed from a stone carved in the likeness of a horse's head; beneath was a wide basin from which the water spilled and fed the falling stream. Up the green terrace went a stair of stone, high and broad, and on either side of the topmost step were stone-hewn seats.
I think one scenery place that was off, but doesn't bother me much was pelennor fields. Since it does mean "fenced land." But, that I have no complaint about, just pointing out that it wasn't like that in the movie .

I don't know if I am considered one of PJ's tougher critics on this forum, and I very well maybe. I give PJ credit for doing an excellent job with the scenery, it was splendid, and I thought he captured it well. In fact in some of his commentaries he speaks about studying the chapter of Helm's Deep for years, just to get down the layout of the fortress. (Silly PJ just look in the Atlas, oh well, you did GREAT!!!!!)
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Old 11-19-2004, 07:46 AM   #10
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lots of okie contributers to this website
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Old 11-19-2004, 12:53 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eomer of the Rohirrim
I know the thread is titled 'Best Setting' but I think that it could turn into a good discussion of settings in general, including the ones we didn't think were so right. We have mentioned our dislikes already anyway. What say you Aldarion?
By all means. Have at it!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eomer
(Welcome to the site, by the way. )
Thanks. I was initiated in the Chapter-by-Chapter discussion, but everyting here is serving to magnify my enjoyment of the books.

One aspect of Moria that I didn't appreciate as much until my most recent re-read was the great hall with the windows way, way, wayyyyy high up to let in a little light. Captured very well.

There has been some agreement with me concerning my briefly stated and unsupported opinion about Lorien. I'd like to know what some other people's reactions. If you didn't like it, can you say why? I'll have to think about it more, but I imagine it has something to do with it being too ethereal - similar to Cate Blanchett's overdone interpretation of Galadriel.
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Old 11-22-2004, 12:17 PM   #12
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I was just so impressed by all of the sets that I couldn't absolutely pick a favorite, but if I had to say there was one that really, really stuck to the description in the books, I would say Mordor. It just floored me when Sam and Frodo are looking out into Mordor and all the campfires are there.

David Wenham did such a great Faramir, though. Such wonderful acting.
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Old 11-23-2004, 05:57 PM   #13
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Boots

Well, here are my faves:
Minas Tirith
Rivendell
Weathertop
Edoras

I was also very impressed with Hobbiton. It was so realistic! (ofcourse it was. They used real plants!)
I love the sets in LotR. I would rate them 11 out of 10 in all sets in the history of film-making. Fantastic.
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Old 11-30-2004, 06:08 PM   #14
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I'm rather surprised one well-done scene hasn't been mentioned (I think),
the setting and action around the Doors of Moria, including an acceptable Watcher. Of course, they had the book illustration to go by.

And I was disappointed at the small size of Edoras. On the other hand,
the muster of Rohan was conveyed well (and briefly) by the scene from the
mountain looking down on the muster.

Poor scene: PJ getting wrong Theoden's charge at Helm's Deep. There were
many more then the three or four horsemen shown (and if you watch, you can
see some orcs just jumping off the causeway- not attacked or pushed).
From: The Atlas of Middle-earth , p. 148:
Quote:
Instead of Orcs pouring into the Hornburg, however, Theoden led forth his Riders, perhaps nine hundred or so if about half the surviving defenders had escaped to the caves. So powerful and sudden was their onset that Saruman's forces (though far greater in number despite casualties) were driven in rout back to Helm's Deep.
Sorry, but this error irritates me, especially since Bakshi made the same mistake
in his animated version. The point is, even without the ents, the surviving defenders, plus Gandalf and Erkenbrand's boys, were not a totally spent force.
Estimates are about, by the time of the charge, about 3,800 Rohirrim (and
Gandalf!) vs. c. 7-9,000 bad guys (depending on their casualties. In other
words, some 1,500-2,000 of them with Theoden as contrasted to the 5 or 6 people the movie seems to suggest!

But there were worthy scenes in TTT movie, especially the opening chase scenes
with the Three Hunters (ignoring the comic relief use of Gimli ).
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Old 11-30-2004, 08:10 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tuor of Gondolin
And I was disappointed at the small size of Edoras.
Like many (most in fact) of the settings, Edoras was just as I had imagined it. I have seen many comments to the effect that it should have been larger as it was the "capital" of Rohan. But Rohan was sparsely populated and many of its inhabitants remained semi-nomadic, tending to their herds on the plains and "living in camp and tent" (The Riders of Rohan). So I would not expect their settlements to be particulary large, and have never imagined Edoras to be a great city (in terms of its size).

As I have indicated, I was amazed at how accurately the films captured my own vision of most of the locations. Although I do wonder how much this is because my picture of Middle-earth has been influenced by the considerable amount of "Tolkien art" that I have seen over the years. After all, the two foremost Tolkien artists were central to the design team (and their work has itself influenced many others).

The only real disappointment for me was Fangorn. Its verges, where the Three Hunters come across the charred remains of the Orcs, lacked realism, particularly as the forest just "started" rather than gradually building up as (non-commercial) forests tend to. It looked more like a wall of trees. And Fangorn itself seemed much more like a set (which of course it was) than many of the other locations.
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Old 11-30-2004, 09:20 PM   #16
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Moria Moria Moria. A thousand times: MORIA. Gave me goosebumps the first time I saw it, and still does. The music was especially helpful in that sense. Both gorgeous and with a hint of tragedy.

Tuor mentioned the Doors of Moria, and I have to agree. There was something about that entire scene, the energy, the dialogue, the colours, I was overwhelmed. It had this peculiar feeling of descending into a crypt and a grand adventure all at the same time.

*major goosebumps*
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Old 12-01-2004, 03:50 AM   #17
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Tuor,
It's very easy to get swept up in other people's INTERPRETATIONS of what tolkien was writing. You mention the Atlas of Middle-earth. A lot of this is, let's be frank, Guesswork. Just as the films can sometimes cloud our minds if we see too much of them and forget what actually happened.

I will of course take this point back if I can find anything that mentions the number of Theoden's Company as he charged the orcs in other Tolkien works, ie Unfinished Tales. This may be where the author of the Atlas got the info from.....

To quote the book:
Quote:
And with that shout the king came. His horse was white as snow, golden was his shield, and his spear was long. At his right hand was Aragorn, Elendil's heir, behind him rode the lords of the House of Eorl the Young.
Yes, no dobut more than 3 or 4, but I don't believe it would be anywhere near 900 or so.........
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Old 12-01-2004, 06:51 AM   #18
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Silmaril Well, it's not really about settings, but ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tuor of Gondolin
Poor scene: PJ getting wrong Theoden's charge at Helm's Deep. There were many more then the three or four horsemen shown (and if you watch, you can see some orcs just jumping off the causeway- not attacked or pushed).
In both book and film, the battle of the Hornburg goes badly for the defenders and Theoden's charge is a last, desperate and defiant, measure. I would agree that there were many less involved in the charge in the film than in the book, but then there were a lot less defenders (at least proportionate to the attackers) generally in the film than in the book. In my view, there were good cinematic reasons for this, primarily to heighten the tension and desperation so as to provide a thrilling climax to the second film. Of course, this version of the battle will not appeal to everyone, and that's fine. My point simply is that it was not done gratuitously, but for good reasons.

On this board, many of Jackson et al's changes are consistently described as "screw-ups" or "mistakes". I have to say that these words in this context rather irk me, since I would not categorise them as such, but rather as judgments based on the constraints (and opportunities) of the medium and/or particular themes and aspects that they wanted to bring out. Whether the judgment made is right or wrong is generally down to the individual viewer's reaction.

As for the realism of the Orcs falling off the causeway, I appreciate your point but it doesn't, for me, detract from the power of the moment. I suppose they were trying to convey the sheer force of the charge. I actually found the charge of Gandalf and Eomer less realistic because the horses leap into a wall of spears and pikes. All the Orcs had to do was stand firm and hold their pikes in front of them (sunlight notwithstanding). Nevertheless, I still had a lump in my throat as I watched this scene.
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Old 12-01-2004, 07:52 AM   #19
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Shield

Both above are good points on Theoden's charge. As to Eomer's
movie charge I agree. I assume the rather absurd steep angle was
PJ's penchant for dramatic exaggeration, but you could also argue that
the orcs cracked psychologically, as could well happen at the end of
protracted combat when unexpected new enemies appear.

About the extent and effect of Theoden's charge, this occured to me
before the movies or the publishing of the Atlas of Middle-earth. Of
course Tolkien meant for it to be a desperate charge, but one reason it
was desperate was the defenders nonknowledge of imminent relief.
In this sense you can postulate a psychological effect on Saruman's army akin to the movie Eomer's charge, that is, when the book King sweeps the orcs and crams them past the Great Dike. Certainly Saruman's army still had numbers, but you can at least suggest the possibility of their panicking and, without the ents and huorns blocking them, retreating back across the Isen. History is replete with examples of superior numbers pschologically cracking:
Quote:
The hosts of Isengard roared, swaying this way and that, turning from fear to fear. Again the horn sounded from the tower. Down through the breach of the Dike charged the king's company. Down from the hills leaped Erkenbrand, lord of Westfold. Down leaped Shadowfax, like a deer that leaps surefooted in the mountains. The White Rider was upon them, and the terror of his coming filled the enemy with madness. The wild men fell on their faces before him. The Orcs reeled and screamed and cast aside both sword and spear. Like a black smoke driven by a mounting wind they fled.
So without the huorns present it seems at least tenable that the orcs/wildmen might have retreated. The real problem, I'd suggest, is,
even if Theoden's forces managed a costly and hard-fought tactical victory, then
without the ents destroying Isengard Rohan would have found it necessary to
detach forces to guard it, hence leading to a later and weaker relief force to
MT, with obviously icky consequences for the good guys.

Hey, just a little "counterfactual" history surmising.

Oh, and as for the numbers postulated in "The Atlas of Middle-earth", the
raw numbers of c. 1,800 survivors at Helm's Deep seem tenable, although you could argue for perhaps 1,400-1,600 effective fighters by sunrise, and you can
assume most of the horses were fairly protected before the charge, but getting
at least 500 + organized to charge quickly during a siege does seem a major
challenge, but then it is the Realm of the Horselords.
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Old 12-13-2004, 06:52 PM   #20
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All of the Ithilian sceans where amazing. osgiliath was awsome too. But The Shire will always be my favorite.
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