Peter Jackson and the Elder Scrolls: Bringing Reality to Fantasy

Bethesda Games Studios’ marketing executive Peter Hines, recently gave an interview regarding Elder Scrolls coming to the big screen. He basically said that the studio isn’t interested in making movies right now but if Peter Jackson showed up they might say yes.

When I read that all I could think was : Yes. This is good. This is very good! I basically sounded like some cliché science fiction scientist about to scream “It is ALIVE!” Because Peter Jackson could do Elder Scrolls justice.

Elder Scrolls is a high-fantasy action adventure, role-playing open world video game.

In Elder Scrolls online a player creates an avatar to live and battle in the world of Nirn.  They go on a hero’s journey as being from one the 3 warring factions and one of the ten playable races on the continent Tamil.

The video game has an extensive universe made of many races with their own cultures and lore.   This makes it a good match for Peter Jackson who brought Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit to the big screen.  The LOTR and The Hobbit franchises are also a high fantasy series with an extensive world connected to it.

While I hope for a Peter Jackson directed Elder Scrolls movie somewhere in the near future I hope it is the LOTR Peter Jackson and not The Hobbit Peter Jackson.

After I had that thought, I stopped myself and wondered why that was an issue for me.

I am a fan of both LOTR and The Hobbit movies. But some of Tolkien’s fans have said that the movies are not like the books.

I enjoyed the movie adaptations and I didn’t feel it was a disservice to the books. But still, why did I have such a thought when I enjoyed both trilogies? I then came to a realization: LOTR felt real to me.

LOTR felt real.

It felt more real than The Hobbit, which is strange considering all the source material comes from the same place: Tolkien. Not to mention the director and the whole creative team were basically the same in both series.

So why do I feel the difference?  I then did what came naturally to me. I watched all six movies and took mental notes.

Then, it became very clear. The Hobbit was unnaturally slick-looking.

The reason for that was the lack practical effects because practical effects add a natural weight and texture that CGI doesn’t have.

In The Hobbit, the orcs and goblins were mostly CGI instead of actors in costumes like the orcs and Uruks in LOTR. This was also true for Sauron and the Nazgul who were a mixture of actors in costume and CGI in LOTR, instead of pure CGI in The Hobbit.

Then, with the addition of the over-choreographed fight scenes in The Hobbit that made every action too smooth, causing it to be utterly unbelievable. This especially affected the elves. A character’s physical limitations also anchor reality into a fantasy and make it believable. This was definitely noticeable in the character of Legolas.

Legolas Greenleaf, elven prince of Mirkwood, is light on his feet can fight with knives, and shoot a bow. He is super human and treated very differently between the two trilogies.

In LOTR when he fights, there is a weight to his actions. He is affected by his physical world even though he is an elf. So, when he fights the elephant in The Return of the King:  we believe him. He slips, he nearly falls but he holds on and is able to get back to the fight with his never-ending supply of arrows.

And this all works even though it was nearly all CGI. In The Hobbit, it feels like they decided to just throw this concept away. There is no weight, he is slick and unaffected by his physical world. So, when you see his fight scene in The Battle of the Five Armies he literally looks like his is walking on air and it becomes comical.

It is possible that the approach was different between the two trilogies. That The Hobbit comes from a more golden time but that doesn’t mean the characters would be unaffected by their physical world or by things like gravity.

CGI either enhances a film or makes it ridiculous but in the end, an anchor, in reality, is needed in fantasy with practical effects and physical limitations of the character. It seems counter intuitive but it isn’t. If you think about some of the great sci-fi or fantasy series brought to life on the big screen you can see my point.

Peter Jackson directing Elder Scrolls would create a great fantasy world. He just needs to stick to what he does best. Learn the source material and create a thoughtful script that feels true. Create and build his practical effects so the actors can interact with them to create that natural weight. Use CGI sparingly as an enhancer and not as the whole movie.

He has built a universe before with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (even with its hiccups). So, I say Elder Scrolls would be in good hands and I’ll get my ticket money ready just in case.


2 thoughts on “Peter Jackson and the Elder Scrolls: Bringing Reality to Fantasy”

  1. Another difference too is that the source material of LOTR are 3 thick books while The Hobbit is only one stretched over 3 films. That is why they have to add that unnecessary love triangle. Btw, it’s the Nazgul and Legolas is the elven prince of Mirkwood 😊.

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