Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Ring Goes South

I visited Middle Earth and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.

The drive to Houston was prettier than I thought it would be, I've never been to Houston by car and was surprised to see lots of pine trees and not much advertising pollution. I have never really heard anything good about Houston, even from native and converted Texans. Our new name for the city is "The Big Ugly". Miles and miles of out-of-control road widening construction snarls, abandoned chain stores and burger joints, malls, and big boxes.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science is where they now have the
Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy Exhibition, which has just come from Boston, will go to Seattle after this stint, then out of the USA perhaps forever so I am thankful that we were able to drive somewhere to see it. Our Yahoo map didn't account for an exit ramp closed for construction, so before we knew it we were lost in Houston without a map and the neighborhood didn't look friendly. Eventually we bought a map and found the Museum.

The Exhibition was even beyond my expectations! Now I am going to gush because I am so in awe of Peter Jackson (and have been since Fellowship). To keep this post a bit shorter I will only go into the sets, props, and general film-making aspects of the films. If you have seen the "making-of" extras on the DVDs then you know about the insane level of detail and realism that went into the creation of Middle Earth. Things like intricate embroidery on undergarments, tooling and engraving on very small items that are not seen at all. Absolutely amazing!

A quick listing of what is in the Exhibition
Full costumes
- Arwen, riding
- Arwen requiem
- Aragorn as ranger
- Gandalf the grey
- Prologue Sauron
- Ringwraith
- Eowyn, gown
- Theoden
- Galadriel
- Legolas
- Gimli
- generic hobbit, probably Frodo
- Treebeard
- Uruk-Hai (Lurtz), various orcs, goblins, etc.

Full armor sets and weaponry, prologue and third age, elves, humans.
Legolas' Mirkwood quiver and Galadriel's gifts, Anduril and the shards of Narsil, Haldir's weaponry, Gil-Galad's shield and spear, crowns of all kinds, all the rings and important jewelry including Barahir, phial of Galadriel, palantir, more, more, and more. Sculptures included a full-sized cave troll and a smaller version in "Leonardo" pose including twig and berries! Ooooooh!!! TMI!!! Shelob stuff, ugh!! (and this evening I'm watching Arachnophobia on TV) Also lots of original art by John Howe and Alan Lee.

There were some cool demos that you could participate in, like 3-D laser scanning to turn your face to stone, green screen CG, and digital person resizing tricks (we didn't spend the extra $10 for that one, it was funny enough seeing other people do it.)

I think that the most striking display was an extremely realistic Boromir, made of silicone, lying in the elven boat with his shield at the head and sword on his chest. It was absolutely lifelike, or rather, deathlike. Breathtaking. There was even dirt on his shoes.

After the Museum we went to the Hobbit Cafe, which I found out about on the Rings on the Range board. It was hobbity good! Lots of vegetarian choices and the sandwiches came with diced carrots on the side. I have to think the veggie choices might be a rare thing in H-town. Just a hunch.

It was definitely worth the trip, and if you are a lover of these movies it's probably worth an airline trip. We went there and and back again the same day.

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