To bring Middle-earth to life for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the filmmakers turned to New Zealand visual effects company Weta Digital, which at the time was only getting started. The Weta effects team delivered in a big way, as the extensive VFX shots in the films were well received by critics and fans alike. Each of the three movies won the Best Visual Effects Oscar, and they continue to look great by today’s standards.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Weta has now released the VFX reels for each of the movies to the company’s YouTube page in all of their 480p glory (via Gizmodo). Watching the videos is a delightful stroll down memory lane. The videos are set to Howard Shore’s epic music, and it’s impressive to see all the shots lined up in a montage in this manner. Not that anyone ever doubted it, but it’s clearer than ever from these videos that Weta undertook a mammoth task in creating visual effects for the films.
You can check out each of the videos below, which show off epic creatures like the Balrog, Ents, and cave trolls. The effects work also of course included bringing Andy Serkis to life as Gollum in one of the more memorable CG character roles we can remember.
While modern movies might have better-looking visual effects shots, the work Weta did for The Lord of the Rings still holds up well in 2020. And if these videos renew your interest in The Lord of the Rings, there has never been a better time to stay home and marathon the trilogy.
As for Weta, it was founded in 1993 by Jackson, Richard Taylor, and Jamie Selkirk and initially worked on Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures. The company also did effects work for the sci-fi movie Contact in 1997, before working on The Lord of the Rings. In addition to its Oscar wins for The Lord of the Rings, Weta has won Academy Awards for its work on Avatar, King Kong, and The Jungle Book. The company also also worked on The Avengers, Game of Thrones, and countless other massive projects.
The Weta Digital YouTube page is also currently hosting VFX reels for Deadpool 2, Avengers: Endgame, and more.
Not everyone was so pleased with the Lord of the Rings movie’s reliance on CG. Viggo Mortensen, who played Aragorn, said he enjoyed the “organic” nature of Fellowship with its limited CG sequences, but he lamented the extended use of visual effects in the sequels.
“The second movie already started ballooning, for my taste, and then by the third one, there were a lot of special effects,” he told The Telegraph in 2014. “It was grandiose, and all that, but whatever was subtle, in the first movie, gradually got lost in the second and third.”
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