Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lord of the Rings: Behind the Make-up (The Chemistry that made Monsters believable)

“Frodo Baggins, a true and noble hobbit, is the bearer of the One Ring. It falls to him to do what no one else can: destroy the evil artifact by casting it into the fires of Mount Doom. This burden lies heavy on the little hobbit, as he struggles against the might of the Ring, the single greatest peril in a world full of dangers. As he treads the perilous path to Mordor from whence the Ring first came, he is accompanied by eight companions who form the fellowship of the Ring: the hobbits Merry, Pippin and Sam, the wizard Gandalf, the elf Legolas, the dwarf Gimli and the humans Aaragorn and Boromir. The quest to Mount Doom is fraught with danger as the forces of darkness close in on the little hobbit and his friends. Evil Orcs, Uruk-hai, Trolls and Ringwraiths stalk Frodo and the fellowship as they edge ever close to the fires of Mount Doom.

Recreating the journey to Mount Doom in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy “The Lord of the Rings” (based on the book written by English author J.R.R Tolkein) required nothing less than a bit of modern magic. The iconic looks, weaponry and armoury of the vast array of races and cultures were convincingly created using portions of latex rubber, silicone, gelatin and polyurethanes.”  ~ Excerpt from the Chemistry and Industry Journal, Issue 24, 15 December 2003

I recently moved house and while going through old stuffs, I came across this Chemistry journal (where the above excerpt was taken from) which I had kept. I was fascinated again with the story of the wonders of Chemistry utilized in the film ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and wanted to share some of the information to my friends.  The diversity and outlook of the various beings depicted in the film is quite wonderful. And to think that all those devilish and out-of-this-world looks were achieved using rubber latex (from the rubber tree which was one of Nigeria’s major economic commodities some years back) is even more magical (yes, magical!). Familiar products of rubber are gloves, sandals and rubber bands. Foam latex (used in mattresses) was used to create special effects and illusions which captivated the viewers and kept them in awe (I was awed when I watched the film. Did you watch it too? It's such a long time now). Large round ears and big hairy feet of the hobbits were made from this product with some yak hair. Human actors wore prosthetic faces to depict the other creatures. Also used was a compound called alginate which is derived from seaweed and used as a thickener in food. And silicone helped to create the translucent skin look which is almost passable for the movement of the real skin.

It is interesting to note that for all the foam suits and props made for this film, three foam ovens were on 24 hours a day, seven days a week for three and a half years. (hmmm)

The more I reread stuffs like these, the more the words in the scripture that says ‘ye are gods’ resonate through my soul and affirm my belief in the power of the human mind. These scientific technologies did not fall down from the sky; they were rather painstakingly researched and developed upon (and will continue to be). A scientist is a curious being who doesn’t allow difficulties and rejections stop their quest but find ways to solve the problems thereby giving something to the world which wasn’t there before. And just check out children around you, they are natural scientists but the environment of their growth limits some of them and stunts the inquisitiveness of the nature which is all around them (Africa in mind). Coupled with the early indoctrination of some religious beliefs, the child then caps some thoughts as she has been taught they are ungodly and devilish. But one wonders how the child is able to express her creativities in a world so vast and endless? The thought is the world. Change the thought and see the world change (positively or negatively).

“YOU ARE AN ARTIST OF THE SPIRIT - Find yourself and express yourself in your own particular way. Express your love openly. Life is nothing but a dream, and if you create your life with love, your dream becomes a masterpiece of art.” ― Miguel Ruiz

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