open the pages, read the words, savor the magic
With a price of USD 100 and weight of around 3.3 kg, anyone would think twice to buy The Art Of Film Magic: 20 Years of Weta, a hardcover slipcase consisting of two volumes about the history of Weta Workshop and Weta Digital. The two New Zealand companies are famous for working on the production design and visual effects – and many other things in between – of filmmaker Peter Jackson’s movies and they have an interesting history to follow, but are they famous enough to entice casual readers to want to pick up this tome? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it won’t attract them.
The price and the size notwithstanding, this book is not fooling around in terms of content presentation. With pictures filling out almost every page – if not all of them – of the two volumes, as well as a deluxe packaging design, this is one hell of a treat for movie enthusiasts.
Weta’s journey began as a company born of the collaboration of Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger in 1987 that was initially named RT Effects. This early stage of Richard and Tania’s works with Peter are laid out in full. Taylor reiterated his first meeting with a young Kiwi filmmaker, Jackson, and how their creative relationship developed until now in the first volume of this two-parter (Weta Workshop: Celebrating 20 Years Of Creativity). The old Jackson films – Meet The Feebles, Braindead and others – as well as the nostalgic Herculis and Xena: The Warrior Princess TV series paved Weta’s way until they were able to work on Heavenly Creatures and opened up a new digital division, Weta Digital, in 1993.
If Weta Workshop’s projects – from the Chronicles of Narnia films to Neil Blomkamp’s Elysium – are not enough to impress you, then Weta Digital’s – in the second volume called 20 Years Of Imagination On Screen – will. Tintin, X-Men, Iron Man, Man of Steel and Prometheus are just some of the names you can find in the company’s resume of digital excellence. Not to mention, everything to do with Andy Serkis’ brilliant performance capture work…
Whenever actor Ian McKellen (who plays Gandalf in The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings trilogies) goes on an interview, he has never failed to express his admiration for the Kiwi filmmakers he worked with in the Middle-earth saga. “There’s a special spirit there of determination, that also goes with modesty, that comes in with the certainty that they’re living in the most beautiful country in the world,” he said of the Kiwis. And no more has anyone aptly described the journey of the people working at Weta. And no more has that journey been deservingly portrayed than in this book.
Looking at the great years inside this coffee table book, which has clearly been prepared with the same level of detail displayed by Weta’s employees when they work on their films, we will immediately understand the truth behind McKellen’s words. And we will also understand that The Art Of Film Magic is not just a collectible item that every LOTR fan must have, but that it is also a celebration of the collective talent from an admirable film industry.