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EE Commentary Transcripts
Aragorn's Return

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Peter (cont.): [Aragorn’s Return] This sequence is the same as the theatrical cut. We actually had –. A little bit more was shot originally, where Aragorn’s, kind of, unconscious on the back of the horse and they go past an Orc encampment, but we didn’t use that in either, in the theatrical or in the extended cut. I remember these amazing galloping shots [screen cap], which were shot by Geoff Murphy in Otago on the South Island, Central Otago. (beat) [screen cap] This helicopter shot was actually done just up the valley from where Edoras was, the location for Edoras: it was about two miles away, just round the corner, and… We were always trying to find somewhere that we could put Helm’s Deep, you know, a particular feature, so even though Helm’s Deep is, obviously, a model and a matte painting, the cleft in the hillside is real, and it was great to finally find a geographical location that we could put Helm’s Deep into; and it just happened to be right by the Edoras location, so we were lucky. (beat) [Gimli greets Aragorn] This was always tricky, because Aragorn’s arriving back at Helm’s Deep with important new, you know, like, critical news that there’s a huge army marching towards them, yet before he can hand that news on to anybody, he has to have a greeting with Gimli, a greeting with Legolas, and Éowyn has to see that he’s alive, and all of this, sort of, has to happen before he can actually relay his vital bit of information to the King, and we always found that, kind of, tricky. It’s just one of those situations in a movie where you can’t quite just have them bursting in and saying: “There’s Uruks on the way.” You have to acknowledge the fact that his friends thought he was dead and now they see that he’s alive and you have to let that moment play itself out before you can get on with the story.

Fran: Now this was shot a couple of years earlier, wasn’t it? It was [Peter: Yeah.] very near the beginning.

Peter: And it was shot with Aragorn wearing the Evenstar round his neck, remember? He…

Fran: Yes.

Peter: He had an Evenstar, but then later on we came up with the idea of him having lost the Evenstar and Legolas was going to give it to him here, so we had to go back and use our computers to paint out the Evenstar in all those shots where he’s hugging Gimli. (beat) [Aragorn tells Théoden about the Uruk-hai] I think a lot of the power of battle scenes are to do with the build-up of the battle: I mean, you know, the battle’s the battle, in a sense, but whether or not you’re, kind of, at the edge of your seat by the time the battle begins is all to do with the long, slow build-up towards battles, and when you think of all the great battle movies, they are really great because of the build-up, you know: that you, kind of, get this sense of tension and this knot in your stomach as you’re waiting for the inevitable to begin, and I really wanted to try to give Helm’s Deep that feeling, which is why we just keep emphasising, in different ways, how hopeless the situation really is, and the characters losing heart and despairing; and, you know, even though Théoden’s full of bluster here, you don’t, kind of, quite believe it: you think it’s a bit of bravado, really. Well he says it himself, anyway: he says as much to Aragorn. (beat) We wanted to give people a feeling of the geography of Helm’s Deep, because, you know, we wanted to just make sure that everyone understood that there was, like, a castle, and then there was a big wall, and so some of these shots were done deliberately just to, sort of, re-establish in people’s minds what the layout of the place was. Also to build up tension: I mean, this is the classic, sort of, a ‘Zulu’-type battle, really, isn’t it, which is a, sort of, a… small numbers of goodies defending somewhere against overwhelming odds.

Philippa: Yeah.

Peter: [screen cap] Now this was a very, very intricate CG shot, because about half of the castle you’re seeing is real and the other half is done on a computer, and it’s all just craning in as one shot: half the people are CG – you’re seeing a lot of CG people there [screen cap] – but we’re also real people, because these guys here are obviously real; and it’s a very intricate shot: it took a long, long time to do, but it really does make you feel like the place is real, it’s authentic. We never built Helm’s Deep quite to that size: we built some large, significant pieces of it, but we had a piece that was the upper courtyard area and a separate piece which was the gate, and they were in two different places of this big quarry that we built the set in, so some of these shots we had to resort to CG work to combine the two halves together.

Fran: It’s interesting, because in the different edits that we tried on this build-up sequence, it showed us that some… you know, we’d include some scenes and omit others, and they… It would effect enormously the sense of dramatic tension before the battle started [Peter: Yeah.], and some of them were very unsuccessful, weren’t they? And by the time the battle started, you were so, like, over it. It was a real lesson in shaping dramatic ingredients to get there.

Peter: Yeah, well it is all to do with the characters and the drama, because the battle itself has to have a story, and then the build-up to the battle does, and it’s a real… It was a lesson, really, in just how to shape these things: it was, kind of, interesting. I always use the movie ‘Zulu’ as my prototype, really, because that, to me, has just about the perfect build-up to a battle that any film I’ve ever seen has, and the battle itself, you know, even though it was shot in the Sixties and it’s obviously a little dated now, is still pretty cool; and ‘Zulu’ was always in the back of my mind when I was thinking about Helm’s Deep. (beat)

Entmoot >>

The Lord of the Rings and its content does not belong to me, it is property of the Tolkien Estate;  the commentaries transcribed here, as well as the images used, are the property of New Line Cinema.