Lighting is an underappreciated and, if a lot of modern movies and TV shows are anything to go by, often ignored aspect of creating media with some shows being darker and more poorly lit than a cira 2010 MySpace profile picture. Which is presumably why when the person in charge of lighting for The Lord of The Rings movies was asked where the lighting for scenes was coming from, slapped that shit down harder than a concrete plunger.
For anyone unfamiliar with the complaint that a lot of modern shows and movies are simply too dark perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate this is with any screenshot from this battle scene in final season of Game of Thrones.
Because seemingly every decision in regards to the last season of Game of Thrones was made to annoy people as much as humanly possible, there is of course a terrible excuse for the show looking like this so flaccid it wouldn’t look out of place in one of the show’s early season sex scenes. Specifically the show’s cinematographer, Fabian Wagner, explained that the battle totally looked fine actually and that the reason nobody could see shit during the episode is because their TVs were calibrated wrong.
Wagner also blamed the quality of the TVs people watched the episode on or their internet connection, citing the fact that the show looked fine when viewed on a cinema screen because he filmed the episode like it was going to be in a movie. You know, even though literally every single person watching it did so via a streaming service on a TV.
Anyway, similar complaints have been levied against shows in regards to sounds, with dinosaurs in the industry again blaming people for not having $10,000 home cinema setups rather than mix dialogue to actually be audible or responding to statistics about young people watching near enough all of their content with subtitles by heroically ignoring the fact they’re probably doing so because you can hear fuck all when watching modern shows without them.
So what does this have to do with Lord of the Rings? Well the cinematographer for those movies, Andrew Leslie, was keenly aware that for battle scenes as epic and detailed as the ones featured in the movie, they had to be well lit. Which is why shots from say, the Battle of Helm’s Deep look as though there’s a 40 ton cool blue lava lamp just out of frame.
Now if you’re tempted to be upset by this, keep in mind that literally every film and TV ever made uses tricks like this to help tell whatever story it is they want to tell and that it’s only really a problem when done poorly. This said, there were a handful of naysayers on set who felt like being that guy, one of which was actor Sean Astin who sarcastically asked Leslie where all of the light was coming from since the scene was set at night, in the rain, in a fantasy world with no electricity. Without missing a beat Leslie looked Astin dead in the eye and wryly responded, “the same place as the music“.
Which, unsurprisingly is said to have shut him right the fuck up.