We've mentioned before how film directors occasionally go a little bit crazy when it comes to certain minor details, including ones that 99 percent of the audience are never even going to see. A horrifying amount of time and work go into things that will be forever unnoticed by everyone except a few members of the crew. So let's again take a moment to appreciate the awesomely obsessive ...
7The Lord of the Rings: Each Piece of Armor Has a Backstory
For any sci-fi or fantasy film, it's one thing to make the clothing and equipment look authentic onscreen, and another to add layers of detail that are physically impossible to notice, even if each frame of the movie is examined with a magnifying glass. For instance, in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, when you watched the massive Battle of Helm's Deep and the tens of thousands of bad guys storming the fortress, did you notice the handcrafted chain mail they were wearing?
If Michael Bay had directed this film, all those Uruk-hai would be explosions, and Helm's Deep would be a pair of tits.
What's that? You didn't, because it was a massive crowd and the entire scene was filmed at night, in the rain? And because the mail is what they were wearing under their armor, so that only a few inches of it shows even if you freeze-frame on an individual soldier?
Even that codpiece is Orc-accurate. Trust us.
Well, that chain mail that you didn't notice, that you couldn't have noticed, was created by the costume department by hand, link by link ...
... pinched finger by pinched finger ...
... working for two straight years, without stopping. They made 6 miles of the stuff (32,000 feet of it) this way, to lay unseen under the armor of the warriors of Middle-earth.
However, to truly appreciate the completely unreasonable level of detail director Peter Jackson insisted upon, you need to look at all of the armor and weapons featured in the films. Each race has specific traits and customs, and then within those races, each family has their own designs that are reflected in the equipment they wear. To quote the article sourced above:
Freeze on a scene in the Elf land of Rivendell and appreciate the bronze detailing of Legolas' quiver, crafted with the lost-wax process. Pause in an Orc battle scene and notice the varieties of helmets, some representing a family's standing within the Orcan culture, others illustrating that Orcs were scavengers who gathered armor and weapons that were dropped on battlefields. Stop on a closeup of a Dwarf and observe the belt buckles with squarish, angular designs that reflect Dwarven architecture.
His loincloth celebrates the proud Orcan tradition of covering your junk with filthy rags.
All right, let's just take a look and judge for ourselves. For starters, here's Legolas' quiver, which you might briefly have noticed during some blurry split-second shot of his back:
We don't own furniture that well-crafted.
OK, that is admittedly a ton of detail, but that's for a main character. Legolas probably has six hours of screen time in the entire trilogy, of course you would want his gear to look great. But the idea that the Orc armies all had different armor that represented "a family's standing within the Orcan culture"? Why? Because Peter Jackson is insane, that's why. Behold what the masses of anonymous arrow fodder were wearing:
Are those jaw guards Chanel?
Most of these ended up issued to New Zealand's military.
More than 48,000 pieces just as detailed as these were made for the first film alone, to please the four people in the audience who would notice/care. And even crazier, each one of these helmets has a backstory like a G.I. Joe filecard -- rough leather and cracked metal for Orcs of low standing, long and misshapen for Orcs with (more) physical deformities; light helmets for scouts, and heavy bladed ones for berserkers. All this effort just to be strapped onto an anonymous stuntman as he sprints toward a bludgeoning with prop swords.
They also crafted 10,000 hand-forged Orcish belt buckles that are virtually impossible to see in the middle of a sprawling CGI-enhanced melee. People don't even notice belt buckles in real life unless they're hanging out at the Double Deuce, so they can't be serious about that "squarish, angular design" nonsense about Dwarf belts.
Sean Bean can't even see Gimli's belt, and he's in the damn movie.
And here is where you find out that Hollywood costume people are out of their goddamned minds. Another example ...
6Coraline: The Clothes Were Hand-Knitted With Tiny Needles
We know what you're thinking: Of course stop-motion movies put insane effort into detail. Filming those things takes like 20 months, because you have to move each miniature by hand to shoot a single frame at a time, typically finishing an entire day with only a few seconds of the movie actually filmed.
"Well, it took nine days, but we've successfully animated four blinks."
And yes, you're right, 2009's Coraline was no less of a pain in the ass to make, but for many more reasons than just the simple tediousness of frame-by-frame animation. For instance, there's the clothing. Sure, if you wanted a little sweater for the Coraline miniature to wear, you could, oh, go buy some doll clothes ...
"Just glue some stars on a Barbie sweater, there's a cocaine buffet at the craft service table!"
... or you could have the production staff hand-knit each individual stitch in each piece of clothing. And by "production staff" we mean a single person. Althea Crome made every article of clothing you see in the movie, using knitting needles as thin as human hair. You can watch the process if you want, because holy shit.
Someone get this woman the world's smallest violin!
"When we're done filming, this will help some poor gecko survive the winter."
Althea Crome hand-made (fingertip-made?) every last costume change for every last character:
Indiana Public Media
Yes, those are made to fit a doll's goddamned fingers.
She even made undergarments, which generally speaking nobody can see:
Blue, Green, Orange
But it's nice to know those dolls never suffered from the cold.
If for some reason that doesn't blow your mind, consider some of the more extravagantly dressed characters in the film, and realize that one solitary lady sat for hours in a room sewing fucking pockets onto a 10-inch doll's jacket.
But what a jacket.