Give a kid the choice between a museum and a multiplex and they'll usually go for the latter. But this summer's main exhibition at the Royal Armouries in Leeds might make them think again. 'Arms and Armour from the Movies: The Wonderful World of Weta' features weapons from some of the biggest Hollywood films of the last decade – including The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. With exhibits including Frodo's sword, the White Witch's wand and Hellboy's giant revolver, the curators are hoping it will become a summer blockbuster in itself.
With exhibits including Frodo's sword, the White Witch's wand and Hellboy's giant revolver, the curators are hoping it will become a summer blockbuster in itself.
If you're not a fully-fledged Fantasy fan, you might be wondering which particular film features the 'Wonderful World of Weta'. It sounds like an imaginary land along the lines of Narnia or Middle Earth, but it's actually the name of the workshop in New Zealand where the props for these films were made. And if this exhibition is anything to go by, it is quite a wonderful place. The team there fashioned the weapons used in King Kong, The Last Samurai and many other productions. Their attention to detail and craftsmanship have earned them several Oscars and now an exhibition in a museum which normally reserves its space for real-life artefacts. Bob Woosnam-Savage, the curator of 'Arms and Armour from the Movies', explains why:
“It’s one of the ironies that some of the finest looking medieval swords in the movies are in The Lord of the Rings motion picture trilogy, which is, of course, fantasy. If you look at say Strider’s sword, one of the earlier Aragorn swords, it’s a really nice, almost classical medieval sword with a little bi-knife in the scabbard like a real one would have. They’re made from an historical perspective by a proper swordsmith and in the medieval manner, using the same forms of construction.”
Woosnam-Savage, who studied art history at Manchester University before becoming a curator, is responsible for bringing Weta's stash of arms to the Royal Armouries. While on holiday in New Zealand, he met up with the workshops' founders – Richard Taylor and Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson. “Richard and everyone, including Peter, thought the exhibition was a great idea and so that was it,” he says.
Over 200 hundred items from Weta have since been shipped over to Leeds. You can see them for free at the Royal Armouries from 12 July to 16 November.