The No-Good Very Nasty Remastering from ‘The Lord of the Rings’


Look i see why Peter Jackson did it. Why he reissued, in December of last year, his the Lord of the Rings trilogy, with Evil Hobbits– as I like to call them, channeling Gollum – in what is called “4K Ultra HD” (a redundancy). It’s a thing to do for 21st century filmmakers, this remastering business. Enrich colors, refine images and your films will last through the ages. It’s practically a moral obligation, a matter of clarity, to be clear, and if you can clarify Legolas by pumping an additional 10 million pixels into his perfect elven pores, which output something like 100 billion photons, all immortally scintillating through the cosmic sweep of space-time, why then, should not you?

If there is anything humans ask for in this life, it is. Bigger clarity. Just speak clearly, you shout – to politicians, to therapists, to spouses. Also to me, for writing such a muddy opening paragraph. God, this is such a mess. Sinful, even, so wordy and unnecessary. If clarity, like its cousin cleanliness, is indeed next to godliness – and it is; the word, in the original Middle English, meant “glory, divine splendor” – so not to be clear is to be unethical. Or little optic, so to speak, since optics is the new ethic, at least in American companies, where all they do is seek clarity So, visibility in that. I mean, could I be clearer?

More than likely, so let me try again. Here’s how I should have started this essay: In 2020, everyone went a little blind.

Because it was Covid for you, in a way: a big glaring vision crisis. Stuck inside, people couldn’t see as they used to see. They couldn’t see their friends and family except on screens. They could not see films, programs or plays except on screens. And they couldn’t see when the crisis would end, not even on screens. If this simulation called reality crackled in high definition in the Before Times, it fell to something like standard definition in 2020, got all glitchy and grainy. Sorry, this connection stinks.

As the outside world blurred, the inside world rose into the air. The screens were all that was left, so they got sharper, prettier, denser, clearer. All you thought had a record year in terms of sales, made: large screen televisions, with their UHD and HDR; iPhone 12s, with their OLED screens and 5G speeds; Oculus Quest 2s, now with 50% more pixels. Salvation would be achieved through clarity, and there was no better resolution back then than something called 4K.

Not a new standard, of course; he began to appear in the mid-2010s. But “cocooning at home” during the pandemic, as an industry executive Put the, “Has accelerated interest in 4K.” Let’s recast the metaphor: HD was the caterpillar and 4K the butterfly, springing from its Covid chrysalis and crystallizing entertainment at quadruple the pixel density. The colors were dazzling, a truly enhanced display. Classics like Laurence of Arabia and the Hitchcock collection until the end Rambo and resident Evil were 4K in 2020, not to mention video games, TV shows and Top Gun to start. The binge-watchers had been blind; now they could see.

So take a look. I understand why Peter Jackson capitalized on accelerated interest. Why he remastered his trilogies in 4K, and just in time for the holiday season of a year when an acute vision crisis collided with a chronic resolution fetish to produce a new market for the illusion of reality. But let me be clear. Crystal, if I may: What a bad, anti-human, non-optical thing for this man.

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