I abandoned my backpack at the Institute so I wouldn't be lugging it around the exhibit, which is only across the street from my department. Although I was meeting up with a large horde, I admit I had very little advantage of their company. I'm often fairly slow going through museums and exhibits. It's easier to look at things by myself, or at least only with people who are going just as slowly as I am. That, and I wanted to do a little bit of drawing, which also delayed me. Only quick sketches, but even still.
I started by watching the full two previews they had playing on flat screens throughout (which doubled as a large advertisement for High Definition TV, with a helpful explanatory flier included in the program) - but usually not with sound. They were beautiful with such detail, but perversely, the Two Towers script I mentioned the other day kept going through my mind at inopportune moments, but at least in amusing ways.
Display cases in the opening rooms, pre-handing-over-ticket included, among other things, Frodo's mithril vest, Boromir's horn (whole), 2 of Elrond's books (and crown), and lots of Arwen jewelery (Evenstar, another Arwen necklace, her crown) - very pretty things. Galadriel's mirror-bowl and pitcher were also there, etched silver. (Ilana and I later discussed how it must've been specially designed to reduce splatter when being poured from a height...) The walls througout were lined with stills from the forthcoming movie, hundreds of them.
The first "real" room of the exhbit. It was really lovely. A light mist drifted throught the gnarled trees and a small waterfall poured down into what was obviously Treebeard's freshwater pool, but without Ents. Ents are clearly intended to be one of the big surprises of this movie. Near the waterfall/pool were oversized ceramic cups and plates - Entware! Right by the entrance were Merry's and Pippin's costumes.
Thanks to this report on the exhibit, I knew that the reason Merry's bottom button was undone was because the actor himself, on touring the exhibit, undid it to better suit the character. Yes, it's been left that way, and thanks to having read this in advance, I noticed.
Just past the room full of Fangorn, was a smoky (smell, not actual) hall, the walls all decorated with carving and painting within the carvings. It was very Viking (with horses instead of boats), but then that was the period of Tolkein's inspiration. There was an elaborate hearth in the middle of the space, pillars, and on a raised platform, Theoden's throne (very pretty, carved wood, horses-figures supporting the armrests - I drew it so I noticed more details than usual), braziers to either side, with outfits for Theoden, Eowyn, Gandalf-the-White beside it. Off to the side was Eowyn's chair. The room was crowded with cases of armor and swords, Theoden's maps, the scroll banning Eomer, Theoden's velvet-lined wax-and-seal box, and the like.
The room wasn't as decorated as the previous two - the lighting and some of the wall decorations and columns were in the spirit of the previous room as you would expect, but there was much more in the way of photos lining the wall, display cases of weaponry, and just stuff in general. Eomer's, Legolas', and Aragorn's armor, Orc armor, Uruk-hai armor, Riders of the Mark armor - and weapons for all of these too. There were bows - including an orc crossbow, quivers - included Legolas' peacock-decorated leather confection, and swords - including Aragorn's. There was also a warg saddle.
This was done minimally, but effectively. A large barrel of spears was the only specific prop, although thanks to the previous room, many peoples' suits of armor were nearby. It's set up so it looks as though you are standing on the parapets of Helm's Deep, overlooking and endless gloom and endless army below, with the flicking of strobe flitting across the length of the display like lightning.
They were very golden yellow and somewhat glittery. There was a pool like watery magma bubbling behind the outfits and equiptment belonging to the Rohan refugees. The room was full of the tools of everyday life - well, inasmuch as the refugees fled with their buckets and bundles and food.
They presented two rooms and lots of things from Orthanc. This movie/book after all is Orthanc's starring moment.
This room contained the same scenario of an orc working at its forge as had been in the tunnel to the stables at last year's exhibit. This time, however, it was much better lit and arranged, and just generally looked better. I like having a full smithy in it, even if it's the bad guys who get it. Saruman's throneroom (or whatever you want to call - reception room?) was very black, shiny, and tall. (I drew this one too, so currently feel I have a good sense for how they were presenting all the angles.) Saruman's staff was inconspicuously leaning against the throne. In the tower of the rest of the blackness, it looked fairly insignificant. I have no idea if the palantir rock came to Toronto, but I'm guessing now, since the palantir pedestal was - appropriately - covered with a black cloth. There were Saruman's and Grima Wormtongue's outfits there, and the walls were covered with photos mostly of orcs and Grima.
Upstairs, there was a full room set up, viewable only from the entryway, Saruman's study. I admired the large lizard-handles on the doors into the room. The room was full of scholarly "clutter" - books, scrolls, and undecipherable creatures in bottles and vials, and Orthanc-themed candelabras. Most of this had been on display last year in an underlit and hard-to-see room in the stables. This time it was artistically set up and beautifully lit from a light streaming in from the window.
Outside the room, there were more display cases: Grima's necklace stood out for me (another drawing), as did the fact that Saruman was being set up as evil scientist - he had phases of the moon charts among his highlighted objects. This was also where the Ork, Uruk-hai, and Ringwraith swords and such were on display. And the Witchking's gloves, which were pretty nifty.
A leafless tree was the centerpiece of a large expanse of reedy, grey water, with a few slightly-shriveled corpse-types facing upwards a few inches underneath the surface. It was nicely done. No corpse-lights thought.
Near the entrance was where they briefly highlighted Faramir and the Easterlings. I really liked the angular design of Faramir's sword belt buckle and quiver buckle. There was one Easterling outfit, one Faramir costume. The oliphaunt is obviously another thing only being hinted at - it shows up for less than a second in a preview, but nowhere in the exhibit.
Pretty! But only 2 people could look at it at once. There was a short tunnel from the Dead Marshes room back into this little niche which opened up into a view of the cave behind the waterfall with water cascading down at the opposite end of the room. The room was full of candles, cups, bowls of grain, and the like - choc-full of supplies. It was a pleasantly cozy space the way they had recreated it.
These felt like the largest set in the exhibit. There were series of arches, piles of rocks and rubble, the makings of a fire between pillars, and arches which faded back into the background where a shadowed black figure lurked in the deep shadows, unlabelled (it's interesting where they're trying to be subtle.) In the foreground were more Rohan warrior costumes. A case nearby had the one true ring, and lots of Sam's possessions, including his backpack, his salt box (another drawing!), mallorn leaves full of lembas
aka Arwen's bedroom. She has a nice sofa-bed type thing carved out of wood softened by velvet-covered pillows. On the walls were tapestry/banners (pretty!). One of her outfits (red velvet) and one of Elrond (silvery white). There was a silver platter on a table off to one side. Everyday bedroom things.
The last case, by the exhbit, had Narsil's shards, lying on velvet, surrounded by stills of Aragorn.
I'm pondering going back to buy the Elven keychain they had for sale - I know you can get much of this stuff at random stores. The most disturbing things were the Ringwraith coin bank (since you know you can't get too much of that Ringwraith scream) and the Uruk-hai head drinking mug. The most amusing were the chocolate bars and candy - it makes you wonder what to think about the characters. Gandalf is nuts (almond chocolate), while Arwen is pure (milk chocolate. Pure milk? But she's not a mother until past the end of Return of the King). Bilbo is crispy, while Aragorn is peanut butter. Frodo is sour gummies.
You too can buy the one true ring: available now at a store near you.
Afterwards I picked my backpack up and met up with the others at the pub where we spent several hours - and dinner - before the 5 of us remaining at the end went back to our place for games. It was a very good day, and the weather was much warmer than it has been lately, so it was positively pleasant out, with blue skies.