For one thing, after being dragged to the Vatican exhibition by austin360 last year, which was overblown and ginormous and at the end deposited you into a huge gift shop containing shelf upon shelf of Pope merchandise (seriously, ya'll, I'm not even lying--they had Pope tea cozies!), I was expecting something similar in honor of LOTR, which is obviously far superior and way more interesting than the Pope (at least to my, admittedly heathen, mind). If I had noticed, however, that the ticket price for the LOTR exhibit was only about half of the price of the bigger exhibits (like the Vatican one), it might have been my first clue that it was not to be, perhaps, the grand-scale production I was expecting. There was, for example, no special gift shop, which I guess is okay because if I want merchandise I'll just order it online, but I was really looking forward to browsing a giant LOTR gift shop, darn it!
I suspect that, had this been my first ever encounter with actual LOTR costumes and props close-up, I would have been utterly blown away. But since I was lucky enough to see the lovely window display that Dan and Chris Hennah designed for the Neiman Marcus on Rodeo Drive a couple years back, I am, sad to say, slightly spoiled for the whole experience. It's also possible that my LOTR mania has receded slightly, and I am thus less susceptible to bouts of fangirly squeeing at the mere sight of Sam's frying pan. (Okay, maybe Sam's frying pan got to me a little bit.)
Also, there's my whole issue with people, and how I hate them, especially the stupid, slow moving ones who ask dumb questions about the movies and/or books and get in the way of my studying Strider's coat for a glimpse of a bit that Viggo might have patched with his own rough and manly hands.
Being a sold out members-only opening weekend party, it was hella CROWDED. And my one big gripe about the exhibition is that they have TV monitors placed throughout, showing various making-of docs, most of which appeared to be the ones on the DVDS. And these monitors were invariably right next to the exhibits they were related to, which meant that in order to get to Legolas' bow, I had to elbow past a cluster of mouth-breathers staring at a making-of docu that I've probably watched at least two or three times already in the comfort of my living room and FOR THE LOVE OF ERU, WILL YOU PEOPLE MOVE IT ALONG SO I CAN SEE THE ELVEN KNIVES?!?
All bitching aside, if you could vaporize everyone else stumbling through the exhibit so that you had the space and leisure to look at everything closely, I'm sure it would be quite lovely. I'm planning on going back on a weekday morning after the initial rush has died down in the hopes that my fellow museum patrons do not inspire as much orcish rage in me.
Surprisingly, there was very little overlap between this exhibition and the items in the Neiman's window. The only hobbit costume was Frodo's. They had Strider's outfit, but not Elessar's, which is okay, because we all know that Strider's is the one that really makes us drool. They also had Gandalf the Grey's costume, and Theoden's. The exhibition seemed to emphasize arms and armor, so there was an entire hall lined with weapons and costumes from a wide variety of races and minor characters from both the Third Age and the Prologue flashbacks. So they didn't have Faramir's costume, but they had a generic Gondorian Ranger, and they didn't have Eomer's armor (other than his helm), but they had several examples of Rohirrim warriors. The Haradrim costume alone is probably worth the price of admission. Galadriel's dress is beyond amazing close up--the movie absolutely fails to do it justice. And Arwen's beautiful blue gown left me absolutely speechless.
They had the miniature of the ruined Old Mill that was used for that one tiny vision we got of the Scouring of the Shire. A small Treebeard and a big one. A small cave troll and a big one. Which brings me to the most disturbing thing I saw the whole night--the small cave troll model was endowed with a complete set of lifelike genitalia. Seriously, people, I could have lived the whole rest of my life without seeing Bert's twig and berries.
There was not much in the way of furniture or set dressings, but they tended to have a window for many of the major characters with a collection of the smaller props/jewelry/accessories associated with that character. Gandalf's, for example, included stuff like his toffee bag (!!!) and the pages he was reading in the library at Minas Tirith, with Isildur's account of the Ring laid open for all to read. Frodo's had Sting, the Mithril vest, the Red Book (!!!) and various other items. All the Elven Rings of Power were accounted for (Nenya looks only slightly better than the Noble Collection version), but none of the other race's rings. Oh, and they had both Anduril and the shards of Narsil, which do indeed look really damn sharp.
The interactive stuff was mostly pretty lame, and really designed for kids, so they wouldn't be bored by the rest of it. The munchkin enjoyed those parts, even if her parents didn't. They did have a cool scaling display that had both a large and small version of Sam's backpack (and frying pan!) side by side, as well as several other examples of things that had to be scaled. They even had fabric swatches showing you how that they didn't just make the clothes smaller, they actually made them from a smaller weave of fabric.
I think that's most of the highlights (and lowlights), or at least the ones I can remember right now. And no, I did not wear my cape. There were a number of cosplayers there, but if you ask me, unless it's an actual Middle-earth costume, it looks out of place. I'm sure you worked very hard on your SCA/Renfaire duds, but that doesn't mean you should wear them when you're going to be standing next to Galadriel's shimmery white beaded gown.
However, the little kid in the full Elessar outfit was really damn cute.