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Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Sunday Scene #5 The Fellowship of the Ring

A friendship with Saruman is not lightly thrown aside.

It's that time of year again; it's cold outside, dark for most of the day, it must be time to read Lord of the Rings again! Fabulous books, yes I'm a total LOTR nerd; I think that I've probably read the books about 8 times! At work I organise all of my experiments by naming them, and for this project they all have names of characters from the First Age of Middle Earth! Scared you all off now? Of course I also love the films; so I thought I could dedicate the next three Sunday Scenes to these fantastic films. First up, The Fellowship of the Ring.

I watched this again last night, I must admit it has been a while, but I had forgotten how gorgeous the film looks. There are so many beautiful exterior shots, many of which are only a couple of seconds long if that (Frodo & Sam walking through The Shire, a few random poses of Ringwraiths, panoramic shots as The Fellowship travels South), but they all add to the epic feeling of the film.

However, my favourite scene ties together a lot of the amazing special effects, production quality, and Peter Jackson's vision. After Gandalf is held hostage by Saruman and trapped at the very top of Orthanc, there is a brilliant cinematic moment showing exactly where Mithrandir is.

The camera begins outside the walls of Isengard showing the patrolling Orcs, before leaping over the walls revealing a ruined landscape comprising a model of the surface and CG gears of war & Orcs beneath. A CG moth then flies into shot and we follow as it flutters up to the top of an incredibly detailed "bigature" (not miniature given the size of the models) of Orthanc showing a CG Gandalf at its summit. Then quick as a flash, as the moth makes a pass over Gandalf, the CG wizard is replace by a live Sir Ian McKellen. Gandalf then speaks Moth to, well, the moth, before the camera plummets down the far side of model Orthanc right into the furnaces where live action Orcs are busy forging weaponry. The scene then culminates with the "birth" of an Uruk-Hai whose first action in life is to strangle a nearby Orc, as a terrified Orc who always reminds me of Alice Cooper looks on!



It would be an impressive shot if it was all CG, but the fact that it is CG combined with models combined with live action makes it even more amazing, because it is all so seamless. Having said that, I always feel a little disappointed that it is not one continuous shot; there is a tiny 4 second shot of the moth on G's hand which slightly spoils it. Moon on a stick eh!

So I think that's my favourite scene in Fellowship; though it was tough discounting the fight with all the Orcs and the Cave Troll in Moria, or the Balrog, or Aragorn fighting Lurtz or...


  1. Yes! Great choice, Russ. The films really are gorgeous, which we can definitely thank the wonderful NZ countryside for - and a good location scout, too!

    You've chosen a fantastic scene. That sweeping shot works very well and sums up in a few seconds the terror that Saruman is about to unleash. In the words of Treebeard, as a wizard Saruman should have known better than to mess with nature!

    I look forward to your next two Sunday Scenes.

  2. Alice Cooper orc! That is terrifying. I also rewatched FOTR not that long ago, for the first time in a long time, and it was just so...gah. Words. Cannot describe what that movie does to me.

    Great choice of scenes--cinematically, I think you've hit the nail on the head. It's seamless, it's a fucking beautiful shot, and everything about the schematics behind it all is amazing. LOTRS is really one of those trilogies I can't wait to show my nonexistent kids because I feel like those films will NEVER age. If anything, with the way CGI and 3D is going, they might get better with time. Can't wait for the other two!