LOTR - In Depth Description Of The Footage
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So here I am. Peter Jackson just finished speaking and introducing the footage. Leo and Maurice of Lordoftherings.nl are to my left, and Harry and Joram are to my right. I'm ready to be wowed. I'm ready to have the realization of a dream come to life in front of my eyes. By the end of it all, I'm not disappointed.
The first few clips are of a very old and tired looking Gandalf, riding a cart through what is obviously Hobbiton. He rides by the beautiful and innocent landscape of the hobbits. At first I thought I saw Frodo was in the cart with him, but the clips were cut in a way to show him heading towards Bag End. And yes, Bag End is Bag End. It is EXACTLY the Bag End that we have seen from John Howe and Alan Lee. I think this is one of the greatest aspects of the footage and the entire project. Through my discussion with Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor, you really get a sense that both Lee and Howe were the visionaries behind the creation of Middle-earth. And since these two artists, I think, exemplify what Middle-earth should look like, we as fans should be beaming with excitement. After each paragraph, I will be providing links to images that display what I mean. Some are official images and some are Howe or Lee paintings.
So here we have Gandalf, a very tall and imposing figure approaching Bag End and knocking on the door with the bottom of his staff. It was easier for him to tap the door with the bottom of his staff then to lean over and knock with the top of his staff. The staff is gorgeous. We got to see it at the party on Sunday in more detail. The best way I can describe it is a gnarly stick with roots extending from its knobbish, circular top. There are a few pictures online already that show the staff.
Bilbo is perfect. That is the really scary thing about this footage. (I will probably emphasis this throughout this report, but honestly, its true!) Everything is exactly how I imagined it when I first read the books so many years ago. Ian Holm is honestly Bilbo. Even when we met him at the party on Sunday night, and he was out of costume, he still...was Bilbo. Oh and the feet, you honestly did not notice them anymore than you'd notice someone's shoes on TV. Of course people who don't know about Hobbits will probably notice them initially, but they are easily accepted as real.
To be honest, I was WAY too into viewing the clip, so I didn't get to transcribe the dialogue! I repeat, I am a fan like you! Not a reporter! :P But I do remember it being very close to the book and maybe in fact verbatim. Bilbo calls from within Bag End for his visitor to go away. When he does open the door, they hug like two old friends and Gandalf says, "You haven't aged a day."
After Gandalf leans down dramatically to enter Bag End, Bilbo runs off to get him some tea. Gandalf attempts to straighten out, just a bit, and hits his head on a chandelier hanging from the center of the main hall. Reacting to this, he turns his head quickly to enter another room and ends up hitting his head on a banister. For our first look at the size difference between Men and Hobbits, this was perfectly played out.
Gandalf moves into another room where he sees a disorganized pile of old papers on a table, and among them, the map from the Hobbit! We get a close up glimpse of the map. For fans like us, this is really very cool to acknowledge the Hobbit in this way. While Gandalf is walking around the hobbit hole, we see Bilbo running here and there in the background.
We then cut to Bilbo's Birthday party. We get a chance to see a bunch off hobbits partying and some really nice introductory shots of Frodo. He looks VERY young in these shots. Peter Jackson did a great job really building up the innocence of Hobbiton with this sequence. I'm sure by the end of the movie will we see a much more aged and disheveled Frodo in a sharp contrast to what we see now. There was one part of this clip that disturbed me. And I'm going to write it off to the CG not being completed. But I'm honestly surprised that no one else reported this. The fireworks look very computer generated. One shot showed a few hobbit children letting one off and it swoops over their heads towards the camera. The heads of the firework trailers formed some kind of shape, but I couldn't make out. Maybe stars. But I do remember thinking it was pretty fake looking. Don't get me wrong folks, I'm only trying to be honest here. I loved the footage, just saw a few flaws, which surely will be fixed up.
In the same scene we have the shot of Bilbo giving the end of his farewell speech. While its not exactly verbatim, it has the same effect. He puts on the ring and disappears. No special tricks or affects here. He just disappears. And it's completely believable. Perfectly executed in my opinion. The image I list next is an exact shot from what we saw.
We next hear Gandalf requesting that Bilbo leave the ring, a quick shot of Bilbo's disgruntled face, and then the ring falling to the floor. We then watch as Bilbo walks off into the night. The next series of shots show the ring being forged. Pretty cool stuff. Gandalf is saying the Ring poem and we cut to a clip of Frodo who has obviously just learned of the Ring's true power. He doesn't seem too upset, until he asks Gandalf if Sauron knows the ring is in the Shire. Gandalf doesn't have to answer; the look on his face and Frodo's reaction says it all. This was yet another beautifully shot sequence.
next shots were meant to build up the intensity, and
succeeded in doing so. We see the hobbits under a tree
(refer to image below), but this time, there is a Nazgul
crouching over the tree roots smelling out the hobbits. We
see the attack at weathertop with Aragorn defending the
Hobbits. There is a shot of Strider, in the corner of the
Prancing Pony. This shot was perfect. It was almost like
Peter had taken that image out of my head and transcribed it
to screen. Honestly folks, this is really scary how the man
was able to reproduce our imagination. Its also a testament
to Tolkien's genius in providing us all with a descriptive
text that we all could create a similar vision in our head.
Aragorn/Strider looks very suspicious with his cloak hanging
over his face, and we hear Sam telling that to Frodo. We've
seen an image of this online before, and it works
wonderfully on the screen.
The next shot is of Gandalf and Saruman talking. Saruman is sitting on a throne in Orthanc, and Gandalf is directly in the front of the frame. I've linked to an image from the same scene, but it must be after Gandalf upsets Saruman. We also have a quick clip of Arwen being chased down by the Nazgûl as she races towards the ford. As a side note, when we interviewed Liv, she did imply that the scene leading up to the flight might be slightly different from the books and involve some kind of 'fight.' What that is all about, we'll have to get back to you on.
The next series of shots are of Rivendell and Lothlorien. We skip between shots of the Galadriel mirror scene and the Council of Elrond.
The Council is very impressive. The tension and emotion of the scene really does come through. Boromir, specifically looks extremely concerned. Now, you might say, "Of course he does!" But honestly, this sequence really shows you how well the movie is cast and filmed. Sean Bean is a quality actor and plays Boromir's part beautifully, even if it's just his facial expressions. The rest of the cast holds their own too, with some wonderful close-ups on Frodo, Elrond and Gandalf. We actually get to see the forming of the Fellowship and watch as Merry and Pippin burst into the council insisting on accompanying Frodo. Elrond says (maybe not verbatim), "Nine walkers to combat the nine riders."
Galadriel speaks to Frodo of the loneliness in bearing the ring and the great responsibility involved. We get the sense that Frodo has seen the scouring of the shire in the mirror and Galadriel is reassuring him. Once again, the acting is wonderful. I hope I'm not being too repetitive, but the emotion of all these scenes really comes through in the unspoken drama and the quality of the acting. The best examples of this will come later in the shots from The Two Towers and The Return of the King.
We next see the walking over Caradhras
sequence from the teaser trailer. However, we don't watch
the entire Fellowship cross the screen. Instead, we cut to a
close-up of the Fellowship on the mountain and zoom out to
show the landscape and beauty of the scene. We next see them
standing before the infamous doors of Durin; the gates of
Moria. The doors are open, and the Fellowship walks into
complete darkness. This is the great transition into the
second part of the footage: The Mines of Moria. (Oh yeah,
and we don't see the watcher in the water, but its
definitely in the film)
This part of the footage was 14 minutes of pure film. While PJ later told us that while it was not the complete scene, the majority of it was there.
The Fellowship enters a great cavernous hall. Imagine a room with a ceiling about 10 stories up. Even after Gandalf uses his staff to light the way, you cannot see the end of this huge hall. Pillars are numerous and everywhere in evenly spaced columns across the room. Seeing the Fellowship walking together in this kind of setting was absolutely amazing. Once again, Peter and his team have tapped into the minds of Tolkien fans worldwide to create this vision. As evidence, this is exactly like the Alan Lee's rendering.
As they walk through this huge cavern and Gimli notices a chamber off to the side. He runs into the room and falls to his knees before a tomb. The room is littered with Dwarf skeletons.
The rest of the Fellowship walks into the room, lead by Gandalf. Gandalf wipes away some dust on top of the tomb and reads the name of Balin. While looking around the room, Gandalf finds the diary and begins to read from its pages. The entire Fellowship is listening intently as he reads of the last days of Balin and the terror that befell them. We see Pippin backing up slowly towards a well. He is listening to what Gandalf is saying and really not paying attention to where he is going. Just as Gandalf reaches the words he cannot read, Pippin bumps into the well on which a Dwarf skeleton is seated. The skeleton's head falls backwards down the well making a lot of noise. But the head is not all. Soon the body and some chains follow. The noise is immense. I found myself wanting to laugh, but then I had knowledge that the non-Tolkien fan did not - that this accident by Pippin was going to bring about dire consequences.
The Fellowship looks around in utter disbelief of what happened. Gandalf storms over to Pippin. "Fool of a Took," he reprimands. Just as he begins to turn around, a scream is heard. A quick cut to Frodo as he draws Sting and it glows blue. Boromir rushes through the open door and stares into the hall. A slew of arrows just misses his head and he runs back in. Boromir, Legolas and Aragorn rush to close the door, jamming it with axes and other items found on the floor. Gimli stands on top of Balin's tomb and faces the door. The rest of the Fellowship surrounds the tomb and gets ready to do battle as they stare at the door and listen to the sound of footsteps getting closer.
Legolas and Aragorn are at the front. Each has a bow and an arrow ready to fly.
Then it starts. Pieces of the door start to fly off as orcs attempt to bash down the entrance. One axe breaks through and creates a hole wide enough for Legolas to loose an arrow. The arrow hits its mark and we hear a squeal of pain. Another hole opens in the door, and Aragorn follows suit with an arrow. Then the door breaks from its hinges and orcs rush the room. Aragorn, Legolas, Boromir, Gandalf and Gimli charge into battle. The four hobbits hover behind the tomb. Aragorn beheads an orc, as Legolas looses a bunch of arrows, each hitting their mark. The hobbits, having initially hesitated at their first taste of real battle, charge head-first into the fray.
Then the Cave Troll blasts into the room.
I personally have never seen anything like this on the big screen. The Cave Troll is not made of rocks or stone or anything like that. It almost looks like you could squeeze and have your hands slide right off. It has a dull grey thick skin and a huge bulbous head with eyes very spread apart. (refer to the images below) The beast is so big and powerful you immediately realize that there is no way the Fellowship can beat this thing. It's just that unstoppable. It initially uses a huge hammer to attack. Huge chunks of floor are dislodged as he swings and misses. Legolas leaps up on to a higher ledge and fires arrows into the beast to draw its attention. The troll then grabs a chain and uses it as a whip. Legolas is too fast. Aragorn attempts to attack it and is tossed across the room. The others are still engaged with some orcs.
We then cut to a shot of Frodo hiding behind a pillar. He is sliding along the circumference as the Troll is searching for him. It's almost like the classic cat and mouse game. As Frodo slides to the right, the Troll peers to the left and sees nothing. As the Troll peers to the right, Frodo has slid to the left. Then Frodo begins to slide back to the right and without warning the troll catches onto his game. That big bulbous head suddenly appears in front of Frodo and we all jump out of our seats. Frodo stumbles back and begins a feeble attempt to escape the Troll's attacks. Aragorn at one point runs to Frodo's defense, only to be knocked out of contention as he is tossed away. The Troll picks up a huge pole and slams it into Frodo. The camera is set up so that it looks like Frodo takes a direct hit in the chest. Everything slows down as Frodo reels in pain and in astonished disbelief. The entire Fellowship looks at what has just happened and scream in agony. Even the Troll has a look of surprise at the affect of what he's done. Frodo slumps to the floor. Merry and Pippin scream madly and jump on the Troll's back, stabbing frantically with vengeance. Aragorn picks up the pole and sticks it under the Troll's upper right rib cage. As the Cave Troll screams in anger, at yet another small nuisance wound in his side, he opens his mouth just enough for Legolas to skillfully shoot an arrow directly into his upper palette. The assumption is that the arrow reaches his brain and kills him. The Troll falls to the crowd with a dramatic thud.
Aragorn rushes to Frodo's side. He says something about how the pole could have skewered a boar as Frodo begins to stir. Gandalf suggests they look under his shirt, and the mithril is revealed. Gimli stares in awe. Another scream is heard and Gandalf gives the order to flee to the bridge.
The entire Fellowship runs through the doors and into the hall. As they sprint through the cavern thousands of orcs start to amass on their heels. Orcs are coming from everywhere. Even from the ceiling as the climb down, spider man-like on the pillars. Eventually, the Fellowship has no where to go. They are trapped in the middle of the hall with tens of thousands of orcs surrounding them. We get a few great close-ups of the orcs in this scene. One had really cool yellowish cat eyes. It almost seemed like the orcs were taunting them before going in for the final kill.
Just as it looks like all is lost, the sound system (specially brought in by PJ) rumbles. Imagine that Jurassic Park T-Rex effect, but 20x better. The orcs begin to look at each other worriedly. The rumble gets louder. The orcs start to panic and begin to flee. Gimli laughs with temporary pride at what he believes is the orcs backing off in fear. He hasn't seen the large red glow coming from the far end of the hall. Gandalf has. It is the Balrog and Gandalf knows it. He tells the rest of the Fellowship that this foe is too powerful for them to handle and they should all flee.
As they get to the steps, the rumbling is getting louder and louder. So loud that the walls of Moria are shaking and pieces of the hall are beginning to crumble. You get the impression that the Balrog is so huge that it wouldn't even fit in the hall.
They run for their lives down a very narrow and rather unsafe stairway. It's rather hard to describe the staircase. The best example I can think of is the MC Escher drawing. (reference the image below, minus all of the people and railings and stuff. Just look at the stairs) These stairs are miraculously standing on the cavern floor that never seems to end. The Fellowship encounters a break in the stairs and must leap across. Some are thrown across (the hobbits) and others jump, until Frodo and Aragorn are the only remaining Fellowship members on the far side. Just then, orcs on a ledge much farther away begin to fire arrows at them. The rumbling continues and a huge stone falls from the ceiling, taking out the stairs behind Aragorn and Frodo. They are now alone on a very unstable piece of staircase, which gets farther and farther away from the others ever second. To make matters worse, this segment begins to sway to the right, then to the left, and then back. And just when it looks like the gap between the two staircase segments will never met again, it leans forward and slams into the other segment. Frodo and Aragorn jump across and run down the rest of the stairs. As they near the bottom, they run into a dead end. Boromir almost falls off the ledge. Gandalf points to the bridge in the distance and instructs all to run to it.
Later, after some discussions with other people, i found out that its at this point that the footage is cut a bit. We jump to the Fellowship passing over the bridge and Gandalf turns around to face the Balrog. What does the Balrog look like? Well, as we reported earlier, it has wings and well...its John Howe's Balrog. If you have the recent board game, it looks pretty much just like that! Gandalf says "You shall not pass!" slamming his staff down as the head of the great beast swoops through a wall of fire to reveal itself. Intense! Thats all I can say.
That ends the Mines of Moria sequence. Whew...(breath...breath...)
Now the montage of the Two Towers and Return of the King begins. Something about this footage made it my favorite. There is something so real and the drama is just so honest, I was taken back. Nothing is really ordered, but we did get our first look at a few of the cast and some critical moments.
The biggest clip that sticks in my mind is a shot of Theoden as an 'old' and degenerate man, obviously under the control of Wormtongue. His face is so weathered it almost looks like a virus has attacked him. At first I was questioning the make-up, but after further thought, I think its perfect.
There are two beautiful shots of Miranda Otto as Eowyn. One as she rides a horse and looks back, and one that pulls away to show the landscape.
These clips were going fast, and trust me, it's hard to remember it all with just one viewing!
Another one of my favorites was watching Wormtongue get tossed out of Edoras. We see him literally thrown down some stairs from a side perspective.
We catch a glimpse of Denethor looking quite mad and possibly looking on his pyre. I'm not real sure though.
There is a section where Sam is hovering over an exhausted and beaten Frodo in Mordor. Their faces are chapped and burned. This is the contrast I was talking about before. In Hobbiton they look so young and healthy. In Mordor they are hideously challenged and decrepit. Sam had some very painful looking sores on his mouth and face.
We have a lot of clips of battles and landscapes. It truly is amazing looking at the New Zealand landscape as Middle-earth. I guarantee we are all going to want to go there next year, if we don't already want to! Go NZ Tourism Board! Heh…
The last clip shows Frodo at the cracks of doom. It's that critical point where Frodo chooses not to destroy the ring. Elijah Wood plays the part perfectly as the power of the ring overcomes him and he puts it on. "I will not destroy it! The Ring is mine!"
Cut to the NEW Lord of the Rings logo.
And that's it folks. That was the footage, and boy was it amazing. The theater erupted in applause. People hung around the place for a long time hoping for more, but were hurriedly lead to the buses for the Chateau and the interviews.
I wiped away the beginnings of tears and just stood in awe. I think I made some sarcastic comment to a New Line rep, "Oh, nah...no one's going to like this."
As we walked out of the theater I couldn't help but be excited. Even though some bits of the story had changed, the changes were good. The way the story was presented on screen still preserved the original intent of Tolkien. And best of all, Peter Jackson had the same vision of Lord of the Rings that I had since I was 12. After talking with the other webmasters, I think Peter got their visions down too.
The only negatives? Well, I wasn't the biggest fan of the score. But then again, I really didn't pay much attention to it. The only part that stuck in my mind was the 'Hercules: The Legendary Journeys' sounding portion. Or was it Xena? It was definitely one of those two. I have read that others seemed to love it. Maybe I was just over sensitive.
The CG, while it did need more work, was still better then what I had seen a week before in the 'Mummy Returns'. And the fact that PJ and the WETA folks are continuously working on the footage makes me really happy.
You want to know what makes this film unique? As I mentioned before, its the realism. Its the grit and grim all over the faces of the Fellowship as they march through Moria. Its the scars and wounds on the faces of our heroes. Its the detail on the armor; The detail on the swords. The details will make the movie the best film of our generation. I know that sounds like a big stretch, but I really do believe it. And from what I've just seen, this films will define movie-making for years to come.