Top 10: Scenery Porn
By N Blades, C Cathcart, C Douglass, S Puddicombe, K Wootton and C Munn.
It sets the scene. Any story with a heavy emphasis on its location is going to have at least one aside devoted to a scene's beauty or complexity. It gives the designers, artists, and cinematographers the chance to stretch their legs and go all-out on creating something calming, breathtaking, and even shocking. Such detail and focus can be put into scenes like this, it's almost... pornographic. Y'know, if you're into that sort of thing.
The Lord of the Rings Series
It has often been said that Tolkien didn't so much write stories as he did create worlds for stories to happen in. And what a world did he create - one of the main reasons given by many for dropping the books is the extensive world-building. When it came to the films though, this, and the stunning scenery of New Zealand, leant itself to a huge, fantastic and magical world.
Father Ted/Vicar of Dibley
"And God saw everything that he had made and he saw that it was good. For he knew, that in thousands of years to come, the glorious rolling green fields of Buckinghamshire and the beautiful, desolate expanses of the Aran Islands would be pivotal in setting the scene for two classic religious sitcoms." Or you know, maybe this divine scenery was naturally selected. By a location scout. Either way, someone done good.
The problem with describing scenery in Minecraft is that you'll never see the same thing twice. Given that the worlds you play in are randomly generated, feature a wide variety of environments (from sprawling deserts to massive hills and oceans), and almost two times the size of Earth, it really is a beautiful, if random, world. There's nothing quite like watching the sun rise over the ocean from an expansive castle you built with your own two hands.
The Chronicles of Narnia (Novels and Films)
Some of the most fantastic and diverse landscaping was the set of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. From the niveous woodlands of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and the eternally changeable Voyage of the Dawn Treader , to war-torn Britain in the 1940s. The contrast, both within and without the land of Narnia, of the real and fantastic, depicts the imagination of a repressed generation. Variety within the multiple film adaptations still fail to capture Lewis’s ingenuity behind the scenery and world he created.
The Sound of Music
If ever there was a perfect location in which to don a wimple and stretch those vocal chords, the producers of The Sound of Music found it in the wondrous vistas of Austria. Whilst the film’s indoor scenes were actually shot in the lederhosen-free studios of Los Angeles, it is the rolling hills of Edelweiss and meadows of lonely goatherds which wowed the film’s audience and certainly gave Julie Andrews something to sing and dance about!
Ridley Scott has meddled incessantly with this film, I doubt he’ll ever stop despite his claims, however one consistent in every edition released are the climactic images of the dystopian city. In this imaging of the future, the streets look like the gutters and sewers of the skyscraping-factorial-towers, spewing molten-god-knows-what into the already crippled atmosphere. The metropolitan images of the city, however, are shockingly akin to 21st Century Tokyo – without the flying cars. Dark, bleak, hopeless and lonely describe the character of the future, portrayed through the repressive city-scape.
The Wild West
Perhaps the most persistent landscape in the history of Hollywood is the American West, one that will continue to reappear so long as the hundred year old cinematic genre of the Western continues. Shots of the huge dusty wilderness are a trademark of the genre, which with location shooting becoming fashionable in the 1930s became more authentic, and with the popularisation of widescreen in the 1950s became even more momentous. Without the scenery John Ford’s westerns could never be so picturesque, Sergio Leone’s westerns never as grandiose, or revisionist westerns such as The Wild Bunch and There Will Be Blood never as captivating.
Often, the quality of the scenery in video games is heavily limited by the power of the engine of the games console used. What looked good 10 years ago feels dated today. However, PS2 gem Okami stood out for working around technical limitations for an abundance of style, looking like a living Sumi-e painting. And with the plot's focus on restoring vibrant natural beauty to a cursed and withered Nippon, you know there's going to be some sweeping vistas involved.
Game of Thrones
There are so many beautiful landscapes in Game of Thrones that it would be a crime to single one out above the others. The range of settings is one of the series’ greatest assets, from the sea of tall grass the Dothraki tribe cross to the dense forests around Winterfell. Possibly the most impressive, though, is the Wall. While not “natural” scenery, per se, it is certainly the most arresting and haunting landmark in the North, towering above Castle Black and requiring a huge mechanical lift to get men to the top of it.
Studio Ghibli is the go-to example of modern 2Danimation, with special attention paid to landscapes. Detailed and painterly, almost all of the works produced by this studio stake claim to beautiful visuals - though some more than others.
Princess Mononoke, released in 1997 and directed by Hayao Miyazaki is one of the better ones - packed to the brim with huge forests shot at a distance for the scale, and up close so you can see all the fantastical flora and fauna that inhabit it. Alas, the story itself is dull with a ham-fisted anti-technology/environmentalism theme.