Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook / Alan Lee -- Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2005

Peter Jackson's series of movies based on The Lord of the Rings was nominated for thirty Academy Awards, winning seventeen. All three movies were nominated for Best Art Direction and the third movie, "The Return of the King" won in this category. Much of the art in the movies was based on the drawings and and paintings of Alan Lee. Work on the movies was, however, not Lee's first effort to depict Middle-earth. By the time of the release of "The Fellowship of the Ring," Lee's vision of Middle-earth had become widely known among Tolkien fans. So by hiring him to work on the films, Peter Jackson ensured that a large portion of his audience would leave the theater thinking, "That's exactly how I pictured it." It was as if a film of Alice in Wonderland would have John Tenniel involved in its art direction.

The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook is a fine collection of work by Alan Lee which takes the reader through the story of The Lord of the Rings by presenting sketches of critical images, including characters, buildings, landscapes, locations, armour, props, and more. Accompanying the sketches are brief paragraphs in which Lee explains his art or elaborates on the subject that image depicts. Lee also provides a peak behind the scenes of the making of the movies.

The book does not have any great pretensions. It neither provides any deep insight into Tolkieana nor does it treat Lee's art as more than story board illustrations. It is nevertheless an enjoyable romp through Middle-earth and Peter Jackson's movies.

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