7 Movies That Put Insane Detail into Stuff You Never Noticed
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 ...
The 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 ...
Coraline: 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:
Yes, those are made to fit a doll's goddamned fingers.
She even made undergarments, which generally speaking nobody can see:
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.
V for Vendetta: The Letter "V" Is Hidden Everywhere
Last time, we mentioned Edgar Wright's obsession with cramming numbers into the background of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. But he certainly didn't invent the idea; the letter "V" and the number "5" ("V" being the Roman numeral for "5") are hidden in almost every frame of V for Vendetta.
You probably noticed the more blatant ones:
It's in the part that's exploding.
But some of them are subtle. For example, when we first see them, the characters Creedy and Finch are separated by a "V," foreshadowing what happens later in the film (Creedy wants to stop V, while Finch eventually decides to help V):
Also foreshadowing: One of these men is going bald.
When Natalie Portman wakes up in V's bachelor dungeon, she has a tiny cut on her head in the shape of a "V":
The character Gordon has a contraband Quran lying open on a pedestal. When books are open on a dais, they're typically flat, but not in this movie, sir:
You just got V'd in the F.
There's also a "V" prominently displayed in the hands of the clock behind the evil talk show host in every single frame of his program:
Also, he has the world's most punchable tie. Just thought we'd bring that up.
During the final fight, V throws two daggers at a time, which cross over each other in a "V" shape:
And then the daggers form five distinct "V" shapes while spinning through the air:
Because the symbolism here wasn't clear enough.
Then, Creedy fires exactly five shots at V, leaving a "V"-shaped bloodstain on the wall.
But, hey, you're perceptive. You probably caught all of that the first time you saw it. OK, so let's take it down to another level:
There's Evey's (Natalie Portman's) name: "E" is the fifth letter of the alphabet, "V" is the fifth letter if you're counting backward and "Y" is the 25th letter (five squared). Finch, who later helps V, has exactly five letters in his name. When V attacks the villain Creedy (whose name is also replete with "E"s and "Y"s), Beethoven's 5th just happens to be playing in the background.
Also? His hat brim makes a "V." And there are five "V"s on the wall behind them.
But wait, it gets even more obscure. V's favorite phrase is "By the power of truth, I, while living, have conquered the universe," which translates into Latin as "Vi veri veniversum vivus vici," or "five goddamned words that all begin with 'V'."
Finally, in what is perhaps the most mind-blowing detail of all, one of the film's major characters is actually named V.
Shaun of the Dead: Full of Zombie Easter Eggs
Shaun of the Dead is an unapologetic homage to every zombie/horror movie and video game ever made. If you've seen it, you probably already know that there are hidden jokes throughout (for example, if you listen carefully to the news reports that play in the background, they mention things like the Rage virus from 28 Days Later and a crashed probe from Night of the Living Dead). But that's barely scratching the surface, so let's move past the obvious references and go straight for the "so impossibly obscure they shouldn't have bothered" stuff.
There are 170 Easter eggs in this frame alone.
For instance, when Shaun walks into a local shop to buy an ice cream, you can faintly hear the DJ on an Indian music station announce that the dead are coming back to life ... in Hindi.
And hey, remember the restaurant Shaun tries to book a table at, the one that you can't read the name of unless you pause it like we did? It's called Fulci's, a reference to famed Italian horror director Lucio Fulci.
It's a little known fact that Fulci was a giant sentient fish.
And Mary, the zombie in the garden that gets impaled on a pipe? If you freeze-frame at exactly the right moment, you can see from her name tag that she works at a place called Landis, which is a reference to An American Werewolf in London director John Landis.
Don't feel bad, it took us like five or six times, and you can still barely read it.
Did you ever wonder why Shaun owned so many vinyl records and had such a predilection for techno music? Well wonder no more, because if you look over Shaun's shoulder during this scene, you'll see a poster that says "Shaun Smiley Riley" on it, alluding to the fact that Shaun used to be a DJ, as well as telling you his full name, something that is never mentioned in the film itself (although it is referenced in a deleted scene).
Never referenced was Nick Frost's character's former career as Nick Frost.
Throughout the scenes where the cast is holed up in the Winchester, you can hear zombies clawing steadily at the windows. Although this easily could have been done in the sound mix in postproduction, Edgar Wright had extras stand outside and actually paw at the windows for several days, because realism.
But the ultimate act of attention to detail comes in the very first scene: When Ed and Shaun are having a drunken conversation after Shaun gets dumped by his girlfriend, Ed actually reveals the entire plot of the film:
A bloody Mary [Mary the garden zombie] first thing, a bite at the King's Head [Shaun's stepfather is bitten], couple at the Little Princess [meeting David and Diana at Liz's flat], stagger back here [pretend to be zombies] and bang ... back to the bar for shots [the final scene at the Winchester, where they shoot their way out].
Ironically, Ed was unable to see this coming.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Quidditch World Cup Paraphernalia
No one would argue that the Harry Potter universe is as detailed as The Lord of the Rings (it helps that no author beats Tolkien for sheer obsessive attention to inconsequential details). But the makers of the Potter films didn't exactly knock the series out in an afternoon, either.
Take the massive Quidditch World Cup sequence in the fourth movie.
They actually got all those people to pretend Quidditch was interesting.
A ludicrous amount of detail went into the stadium merchandise that you almost certainly didn't know was even there. For instance, the crew created hundreds of Quidditch World Cup programs to be carried by the people in the crowd. And we're talking about full guides to the sport -- including specific stats and profiles of the competing teams:
They even wrote up fake tabloid articles about Viktor Krum's dogfighting ring.
Various sponsors of the World Cup:
And even advertisements for products from within the Harry Potter universe:
Shame on them for promoting the specter of pumpkin juice abuse in youngsters.
If you're wondering why you never noticed the programs, it's because only a single one ever appears onscreen, in the background of exactly one shot:
Totally worth it!
The Shining: Jack's Entire Crazy Manuscript
As we've discussed before, Stanley Kubrick wasn't exactly known for his restraint when it came to nailing down the fine details -- even those that wouldn't show up on film. Well, here's a gloriously ironic example of Kubrick's madness.
Because there aren't very many of those.
You know the scene where Shelley Duvall goes through the novel Jack Nicholson is writing, only to discover that it's just the phrase "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" repeated over and over again, thousands of times? You know how that was supposed to foreshadow his axe-crazy rampage, since no sane person would ever do something like that?
"Boy, that really doesn't look like a photocopy ..."
The Shining's editor (in the link above) and Kubrick's daughter Vivian claim that the director made his own secretary spend "literally months typing up individually unique pages," basically forcing her to go down the same path of madness as Nicholson's character. We can only assume that the only reason he didn't make Jack Nicholson do it is because he's Jack fucking Nicholson, the only person in Hollywood who could outclass Kubrick in troll-bludgeoning lunacy.
For example, Nicholson did not know the camera was rolling during this scene.
Then there are the foreign versions of The Shining -- remember that most movies make a big chunk of their profit overseas. They probably just used subtitles, right? That is, Kubrick didn't have special pages typed up for each foreign-language version, right?
Of course he did.
Finding Nemo: The Entire Pixar Staff Was Required to Learn Fish Biology
Pixar is not exactly known for their laziness. Given the immense amount of time it takes to animate an entirely CGI film (typically several years), they have plenty of opportunities to perfect their scripts and pour endless amounts of detail into every frame. What you might not realize is that when they set out to make a movie about talking fish, they dedicated themselves to making the movement of the fish as realistic as possible -- going so far as to hire a functional morphologist to teach the entire staff a graduate-level class in ichthyology.
Also, everything the stingray sings is factually accurate.
Unlike other movies, where "underwater" is treated like "space" and characters just go wherever they want to, every movement of every fish in Finding Nemo makes physical sense and is accompanied by the correct fin propulsion, even down to whether those fins are "flappers" or "rowers" (referring to how they tread water). It is as if Pixar were daring people to count all the ass they had busted in animating the movie.
You also might remember the jellyfish scene:
You know, the one with all the jellyfish.
You may have said, "Damn, those are some realistic jellyfish," if you are the kind of person who was theretofore frustrated by the depiction of jellyfish in film. That's because Pixar actually wrote an entirely new system, called transblurrency, to depict the way light refracts through a jellyfish's membrane, as well as figuring out exactly how to show things fading into view underwater -- because no one had ever done that with computers before:
Let's see you advance the frontier of human knowledge, DreamWorks.
Of course, this is all wasted effort, since clownfish are sequential hermaphrodites. So in the real world, after his wife was eaten by a barracuda, Nemo's dad would've just turned into a female and had sex with another clownfish, abandoning Nemo's half-crushed gimp egg to be eaten by a crab. Do your homework next time, Pixar.
For more things you may have not have noticed, check out 7 Insane Easter Eggs Hidden in Movies and TV Shows. Or learn about 7 Classic Movies You Didn't Know Were Rip-Offs.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out A Word About the Parasite Controlling Your Brain.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see how much detail went into Robert Brockway's cod piece.
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