Action Sequences in The Lord of the Rings

 

            The
Lord of the Rings is a movie trilogy which was directed by Peter Jackson and serves
as a movie adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel of the same title. The trilogy
was considered a major success by movie critics and the general audience, and it
received praise and many Academy Awards for its storytelling and special and
visual effects. It is also noted for its epic battles and set pieces. The
battle which happens at the end of the second movie, The Two Towers, was also
hailed as one of the greatest movie action sequences.

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            In
this essay, I will try to analyse this action sequence from The Lord of the
Rings trilogy and contrast it with some sequences from Peter Jackson’s other
movie trilogy, The Hobbit. I will also try to show why the sequences from the
first trilogy are praised and resonate with the audience, compared to how The
Hobbit’s are ultimately meaningless. 

            I
will mainly be focusing on the battle in the second film, the battle of Helm’s
Deep where Saruman’s 10,000 soldiers attack a fortress which is defended by
about 300 men. This particular action sequence lasts for almost 40 minutes and
because it is this long it has to carry some emotional weight and be
interesting and engaging for the viewer, so in order to hold our attention, the
director gave the battle its own story ark.

The
battle’s ark can be divided into 24 different scenes which provide rough guidelines
for its story and pacing. Those scenes carry the story of the battle, from the
beginning where there is silence and the anticipation of the upcoming war, the
loss and vulnerability of our heroes in the middle, and hope, joy and the
climactic victory when Gandalf arrives at dawn. The structure of the story of
the battle resembles the structure of the story of the whole trilogy itself.
The first shot that an old man fires is the incident that starts the war,
similarly how the incident that starts the trilogy is Frodo getting the One
ring. The battle has its own ups and downs, obstacles for the heroes to
overcome and also small victories along the way, including this battle itself, and
when everything seems as if it is going wrong, a giant victory in the end.

The
battle is mostly monochromatic, right up until the end, when they win at dawn.
It maintains the feel of a night battle in the storm, but it is also filmed in
an intelligible way, so that the viewer always knows what’s going on. This was
done by utilising the moon, giving the battle a strong blue light background
which draws out characters and their actions. In an action sequence that lasts
for almost 40 minutes, it is very important that the viewer sees clearly what’s
happening and knows exactly how the battle is playing out at every given
moment.

As
it was previously mentioned, the opening shot of the battle uses silence to
establish the tension and more importantly the contrast between the silence of
the night and the loudness of the battle, or the contrast between peace and
violence. There are a lot of themes that contrast in this sequence and that
makes this battle diverse and interesting. For example, it has lots of hand to
hand fighting contrasted with shots from the air. There are moments of humour
and jokes contrasted with moments of tragedy and death. The most prominent
theme that this sequence contrasts is the light versus the darkness.

 

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