10 film sets that looked better in the movies

Films sometimes have a habit of glorifying an image or setting… Here are a few that looked truly epic on the big screen but a little more low key in real time

Tom Whitehead
01 August 2012

1. Lord of the Rings

At one with earth and nature the Hobbits live in harmony with the land in Tolkien’s fictional Shire. Scenes including the Shire were filmed on the sweeping hills and mounds of the sublime New Zealand countryside. This is widely known and travellers now flock to see the lands that Peter Jackson used for his epic tale of the ring.

The reality of the mythical paradise however, is a little more uninspiring and although it’s no Mordor, visitors may be a little disappointed with the theme-park like feel of the Hobbits’ home.

2. The Beach

A place of such tear-jerking beauty can’t exist, can it? Well it does. But not as you know it. Director of The Beach, Danny Boyle decided that paradise didn’t look good enough and opted to adjust the view to better emphasise beauty to a western audience.

Maya Bay in Ko Phi Phi Lee was dug up and re-arranged like an episode of Ground Force. Except this was no miracle makeover. Once filming had stopped local environmentalists attempted to sue 20th Century Fox due to them bulldozing the landscape and altering the natural setting of the beach.

Crammed with hundreds of tourists all wanting to seek out a little bit of paradise (and doing the stupid-jumpy-thing), the setting is not as Utopian as the film would lead us all to believe.

3. Into the Wild

Into the Wild follows Georgia resident Christopher McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp. The film tells the true story of the self-made homeless man as he wanders the stark American lands and ends up camping out in a disused bus. The Alaskan wilderness proves to be a bitter sweet setting with its harsh and unpredictable ways making for an ultimately inhabitable place for the nomadic McCandless.

During the film’s production, the land proved just as impenetrable. Filming was not able to take place at the original bus site due to it being too remote for a crew. A copy of the bus was subsequently built and used in the film.

4. 127 Hours

Red dusty rocks and hidden caves were the setting of Danny Boyle’s recreation of the true, bone-breaking story of Aron Ralston, who became trapped after canyoneering solo. Using the location of the infamous incident in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, the film is an on-the-edge-of-your-seat experience and a wait for THAT scene, which many know but still grimace at the thought of.

Adventure seekers may want to follow in the light-footed steps of Ralston but caution must be made when exploring the jagged lands. The setting is hotter, harsher and more dangerous that made out on screen.

5. Indiana Jones

Minus the melting Nazis and bug-ridden tombs, Indiana has experienced some amazing places in the world. His archaeological quests in deserts, jungles and up mountains have left us feeling jealous as air miles clock up.

The latest outing (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) saw Indy in Hawaii, New Mexico and California, as well as other various locations. But those hoping to recreate the adventure and action-packed scenes beware. Due to hurricanes at the time of production, extra shots had to be made at Iguazu Falls on the borders of Brazil and Argentina. So don’t be fooled into thinking Hawaii is home to a waterfall wider than the Victoria Falls in southern Africa…

6. The Deer Hunter

Contrasting the wilderness of America with Vietnam this near four-hour epic is the grand vision of director Michael Cimino. A stellar cast including Christopher Walken, Robert De Niro, and Meryl Streep are all part of the tightknit community in Western Pennsylvania.

The fim’s iconic hunting scenes were shot amid sweeping landscapes of mountains and forests, with the town seemingly being only a short drive away. In actual fact the various buildings and shots of the home town in the film are made up of a mishmash collection of different places in America – creating another false Hollywood view.

Those stalking out the real town will have a large challenge on their hands.

7. The Fall

You could develop a wish-list for all future trips if you followed each of the different settings of this film. With cinematography Kubrick would quiver at, the locations and surreal settings for this motion picture are truly wondrous.

Twenty locations were used in the film, spanning from Jaipur to Italy and from Turkey to Fiji. All of them are treated with overwhelming care and attention by director Tasrem Singh, whose vision is luxurious and indulgent. The fantastical imagery is more captivating for the viewer than the script, paying testament to the visual importance.

Every inch of the screen has been meticulously planned, however the reality may not look quite as spectacular upon visiting. That’s not to say you won’t still be in awe.

8. The Motorcycle Diaries

The story of two youths on a road trip begins on a motorcycle but ends in creating one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century, Che Guevara.

The film recreates Guevara’s journey with his younger friend, Alberto Granado, through 14,000km of Latin America, and pays great attention to its beautiful scenery. Such was the popularity of the film, a sudden increase in holiday bookings were found by tour operators.

However, travellers looking to retrace his steps will be shocked by how the beautiful lands of South America are still plagued with impoverished people.

9. The Shining

Based on the book by Stephen King, Stanley Kubricks’ The Shining has become an iconic piece of cinema and horror history. Relying on suspense rather than shock this chilling masterpiece is also famed for its location. The location being the Overlook Hotel on Mount Hood in Oregon. The large domineering halls of the hotel are made all the more haunting because of the isolation and emptiness steeped in its structure.

The reality is a little different, as the hotel featured was only used for exterior shots. The interior shots, as with many movies, were filmed at a separate location – Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire (UK) in fact. The famous maze is one of the biggest removals from the film so people looking to find the frozen corpse of Jack Torrance will be left disappointed.

10. The Mummy Returns

During a popular time in cinema CGI some directors got slightly out of hand with the technology and flaunted it like biceps on muscle beach. Unrealistic images tarred what was otherwise competent pieces of cinema. The Mummy Returns was one film which teetered on the edge of believability, not because of its fictional plot but its recreation of real life destinations.

The view in question is of London and its landmarks. Rather than the normal view of Big Ben and the River Thames being used to make the audience aware of where the scene was, they decided to cram a multitude of landmarks into one view. Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Church, and Big Ben are all compacted into one frame. Visitors to London will be misguided in thinking such a view even exists outside of the movies.

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