The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 8, 2004


Museum Review One Ring to please them all

Long before you reach the Lord of the Rings Exhibition at the Museum of Science, you face the statues of the Argonath. If you saw the first movie of the trilogy, you'll recall this pair of statues, each with an arm raised in warning, sort of like The Supremes (without Diana Ross) singing "Stop in the Name of Love." Though they don't tower over exhibition-goers the way they did over the Fellowship of the Ring, their scale gives you a hint of the movie magic you are about to experience.

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and New Line Cinema collaborated to create this exhibit, which contains a spectacular array of items from the films. Great care has been taken to make this an enjoyable experience for museum-goers of all ages, whether they have seen the films or not. For the film buffs, there are the actual costumes worn by the actors, as well as their weapons and (best of all, in my opinion) their jewelry. I loved getting a closer look at the intricate artistry of the Elvish jewelry that bedecked Arwen, Galadriel and others. Thousands of craftspeople labored over every detail of these fantastical props, and there are hands-on demonstrations of medieval metalworking and how those techniques were used to fashion the ornate and very real weaponry used in the films.

There's a creepy creature section, too, where you can get an up-close and personal look at the gruesome Cave Troll and the grisly giant spider Shelob. The method of animating Treebeard, the talking and walking tree, is explained, using the actual model from the film. In almost every case in the exhibit, the actual movie models are on display. At every turn, there is something for every age. Each exhibit not only explains how and why the costumes or creatures or weapons were created, but also includes where each item fits in the context of J.R.R.Tolkien's books. I kept imagining a hypothetical grandma, totally clueless having never seen the movies nor read the books, being pulled through the exhibit hall by her grandchildren and yet able to follow the story thanks to these literary explanatory paragraphs. (They are also very helpful if, like me, you haven't read the books since you were a teenager oh-so-many-years ago.) Youngsters as well as adults were likewise riveted by the actor interviews that could be called up on screens at many displays, in which the actors discuss exhibit items as well as share movie trivia.

Perhaps the best aspect of the Lord of the Rings Exhibition is the interactive demonstrations of special effects techniques used in these movies. In 3-D Screening, a laser wand records the contours of your face and transforms you digitally into a stone colossus. This was the method used to show Legolas running up the trunk of a war-like mammoth during a battle scene, for example. Motion Capture demonstrates how Gollum was brought to life, and allows you to stand before a screen, wave wooden weapons around and be transformed into a battling Orc or Elf. Elsewhere, the Scaling Wall can size you up and tell you whether you are Hobbit, Dwarf, Orc, Elf or Wizard material. The longest line wound outside the Scaling Interactive, which teaches you how Gandalf was made to look so much taller than his Hobbit friends. If you wish, you and a friend can recreate the cart ride through Hobbiton by sitting on two separate benches and having a souvenir composite photo taken, showing you sharing a bench, with one of you Hobbit-sized and the other wizard-proportioned.

All of these components make the exhibit a delight for everyone, and the Museum of Science has also scheduled some special events to accommodate a broad range of tastes. There is a New Zealand food-and-wine-tasting on October 14; a meet-and-greet with Sean Astin, the actor who played Sam Gamgee, on October 15 and 16; and tomorrow there will be metal-forging and combat demonstrations, the latter featuring the films' combat choreographer Tony Wolf. The exhibition runs through October 24.

For reservations and information, call the museum at 1-617-723-2500 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or check out Getting tickets on the Web and picking them up at the museum is fast and easy. Tickets are timed-entry, which means that only a certain number of people are admitted at one time, so the exhibit area never becomes overcrowded.

Exhibition hours

Saturday through Thursday —

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Fridays — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito