Back in the ’60s, what would become the Internet was invented to help researchers at major universities communicate during the Space Race. Today its secondary function, behind the efficient distribution of porn and pirated music, is for people who don’t have sex to endlessly debate the very things that prevent them from having sex: including the Lord of the Rings movies and home theater technology.
You may have missed it (in fact, you almost certainly missed it), but there has been a wee bit of a tempest in a teapot over the new Blu-ray editions of the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy. Apparently, before this set reached the stores, some screen shots from the first film surfaced that showed a sickly green cast over entire scenes. They did look horrible. Allegedly, director Peter Jackson had redone the color grading for the first film and, if the Internet screen shots were to be believed, the cumulative effect was horrific, like The Matrix had invaded Middle Earth.
Put simply for those of you not hip to film lingo, “color grading” is the process of changing the color balance of a scene after it was shot. It may simply be a matter of unifying the color of different shots in the same scene, but it can be used creatively to impose a particular “color scheme” over an entire movie. This is especially common these days in fantasy and science fiction. The greenish hue of the Matrix films is an easy example to spot, but it’s being done to almost every non-animated movie you see, whether you notice it or not.
And it isn’t as if color grading were new to the Lord of the Rings films. All three films had been extensively color graded before they ever hit theaters early in the previous decade (ye gods, was it really that long ago?). The second two films were able to benefit from Wingnut’s experience while creating the first, and Fellowship of the Ring was not originally graded with the same consistency as the others. Supposedly, Peter Jackson went back and reworked Fellowship to give it an end-to-end color grading similar to The Two Towers and Return of the King.
I have the new Blu-ray set in my hands. Well, not at this second or else it would be rather difficult to type. I have, however, had the chance to watch the first film and I’m happy to report the Chicken Littles should be looking a little red in the face, because while the color grading of Fellowship of the Ring has been reworked, the horrific Matrix-like green cast is nowhere to be seen. The picture quality is gorgeous, especially in comparison to the Blu-ray release of the theatrical version, the best this movie has looked since I saw it on the big screen in 2001. Fine detail is nicely reproduced and the overall picture has that lovely film-like quality that I demand from my Blu-ray experience.
Is the movie “greener” than it was before? Yes, but this shift is barely perceptible when it is detectable. What is more noticeable is how much darker the film seems to be, especially once the titular fellowship reaches the dwarves’ mine and the film actually gets darker, both physically and thematically. There are times when detail I thought I remembered seemed to disappear into deep shadows. It’s clear that contrast has been boosted and the overall brightness has been decreased.
But is this a problem? Depends. If you’re one of those folks who believes that the DVD/Blu-ray should 100% replicate the theatrical experience, then it is a big problem. I, however, am not so sure. There is a tendency in special effects films for scenes like these to be artificially bright, as if they were afraid to hide even a single pixel of the CGI shots they labored for man-years to produce. While the Moria scenes in Fellowship of the Ring look different than I remember them, they do not look wrong. If you were seeing this film for the first, you would not notice a problem, but would compliment director Peter Jackson for the stylish moodiness of the shots.
Maybe I’m being too forgiving, but after watching a lot of people make utter fools of themselves in an apoplectic panic over the “green cast” issue, I’m not inclined to be sympathetic toward any other complaints. If this is the way Jackson says he wants Fellowship to look, I think it’s a valid choice that works for the movie.Powered by Sidelines