SPOILERS Cannes Day Two: Lord of the Rings Footage Recap... oh man. - An In-Depth Review

Joram from Ringbearer.org is over in France at the Cannes Film Festival... here's his day two report!


Day Two – Press Screening and Cast Interviews

I arrived at the Olympia 2 here in Cannes for the 10am screening of the Fellowship of the Ring footage. Outside of the theater were really cool black and white photo-portraits of some of the cast from LOTR, hopefully I’ll be able to post those pictures soon. Once I checked in with publicity I went into a very nice theater; complete with leather seating! For these LOTR screenings New Line had brought in nearly a half a million dollars worth of speakers for a total audio experience.

New Line’s Bob Shaye and Peter Jackson introduced the screening. Peter told us that the footage wasn’t complete yet and that there was temp music in the beginning and end of this 20-minute segment. The middle section, for the Mines of Moria sequence, actually had some of the score from Howard Shore. I was interested to see how it would sound, as the music for LOTR should be incredibly special. (you know how when you hear music from Braveheart or Last of the Mohicans and you can tell exactly where it was from in the movie… I want that kind of experience with LOTR’s music). Peter also said we would be treated to a montage of scenes from The Two Towers and Return of the King at the very end of this footage. I’m already getting that spidey-sense tingle that this is really gonna be cool….

Peter Jackson ends with “Thank you very much all for coming” and the lights dim. Hey it’s the New Line Cinema logo. Wow this is gonna kick ass I think. The temp music kicks in with some flutes and melodic elements as we have a tracking shot of someone in a horse-drawn carriage. It’s Gandalf! The camera pans around the carriage as it crosses a bridge into Hobbiton and we see The Green Dragon and a market full of Hobbits bustling about. Gandalf rides past Hobbits working in a field, you can already tell that they must be about 3 or 4 feet tall compared to the fields they are working in, you can pretty much only see their heads and shoulders above the crops!

The camera follows Gandalf along a path in a very hilly area.. it’s Bag End! Wow they got this scene exactly from my imagination! The grass is incredibly green and everything seems perfectly right. Very good audio here is you can hear the “clip clop, clip clop” of the horses hooves as Gandalf pulls up to Bag End. “Whoa, whoa” he tells his horse and we cut to…

Gandalf hitting a very large circular door with the bottom of his staff. From inside we hear Bilbo’s voice yell “I don’t want any more visitors, well-wishers, or distant relations!” Gandalf replies with “and what about very old friends?” Wow! His voice is spot-on. Very booming and powerful. The door opens and Bilbo looks out. “Gandalf?!” The old wizard replies “Bilbo Baggins, you haven’t aged a day” (good nod to the fact that the ring is keeping him ageless.) They both embrace each other and have a good ol friend’s laugh together. Amazing to see two great actors at their finest here!

We cut to an interior shot towards that great green door. Bilbo walks in saying “come in, Welcome Welcome!” Holy cow this is cool . Gandalf is bent over inside the Hobbit Hole looking at least 6 and a half feet tall. Bilbo is near waist height compared to him. Pure gold here. “Tea, or something stronger? I’ve got a few bottles of the good stuff, 1296, a very good year! Almost as old as I am!”

“Just Tea thank you “ replies the now hat-less wizard. Gandalf runs into the hanging candelabra and then turns and SMACKS his head into the curved doorframe leading into another room. OUCH. Perfect execution and you could almost feel a headache coming on yourself! You can see Bilbo running around in rooms in the background as Gandalf walks into a living-room type area with a bunch of old parchments on a table. You can see a map sitting on the table… hey it’s the old map from The Hobbit! You see The Lonely Mountain and a great big Red Dragon drawn in the corner next to it! Very cool reference to Tolkien history here. (wipes tear from eye). Bilbo walks into the living room and asks Gandalf what he wanted to drink again. Gandalf appears from the corner behind him and says “just tea please”. Cool to see the old wizard can still move pretty fast.

Cut to: Fireworks exploding in the night sky over a lake. We see a bunch of Hobbits dancing with Gandalf who towers over the entire bunch! Hey it’s Frodo! A shot of him smiling while his uncle Bilbo makes his farewell speech. Bilbo says: “I’m going now, I bid you all a very fond farewell….goodbye!!.” With that he vanishes from view. How does the vanishing effect happen you ask? He basically just blinks out. He’s not transparent; he’s just gone from view. We cut to the front door of Bag End opening on it’s own and then Bilbo appears taking off the Ring. We hear a voice-over conversation of Bilbo and Gandalf talking about the Ring. “Bilbo, I think you should leave the Ring behind. Is that so hard?” A shot of a hand shaking holding the Ring… and he lets it go. “Goodbye Bilbo” says Gandalf as we see Bilbo walking off into the night.

Voice-over by Gandalf: “This is the One Ring. Forged by the dark lord Sauron in the fires of Mount Doom.” We see orcs and someone pounding out a Ring. The Ring is shown against a fire and the familiar text appears. Now we see Frodo come into frame saying “we’ll keep it here and never speak of it again. No one knows it’s here do they? Do they Gandalf?”

Smash cut to: Dark Riders!! They’re chasing Hobbits all over the place. We see Strider smoking his pipe in Bree! Wow that’s a great shot. The montage speeds up here as the music from the first internet trailer pumps through the sound system. We see Ringwraiths closing in on the Hobbits on Weathertop. Aragorn is there to fight them off. Now we’re in Orthanc watching a discussion between Saruman and Gandalf. (Orthanc still reminds me of the movie Dungeons and Dragons… I hope they can do something to make it look different). Very fast scenes and cuts between various portions of Fellowship of the Ring.

Slow Down. Cut to a shot of Cate Blanchett’s face as Galadriel. Very, very pretty gal! Looks absolutely elvish in nature. She says: “I know what it is you saw, for it is also in my mind” (they’re talking about the Mirror of Galadriel I think). Now it’s Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith.. er I mean Elrond) speaking! “The Ring was made in the fires of Mount Doom… only there can it be unmade” Hey it’s Sean Bean looking perfectly Boromir. (gawd anything to get that abomination of Bakshi’s Boromir out of my head thankyouverymuch). Boromir thinks it’s suicide to try to take the Ring to Mount Doom. Back to Galadriel : “You are a Ringbearer Frodo. To bear a Ring of Power is to be alone” Back to the Council of Elrond we see the Hobbits running in and the Fellowship is formed. Elrond speaks “Nine walkers to combat the Nine Riders, you shall be the Fellowship of the Ring”

Cut to: that money shot from the 2nd trailer. (where the entire fellowship walks over that mountain top. I get chills every time I see that scene.) We go to a helicopter shot of the Fellowship walking.. holy cow New Zealand is so beautiful! I gotta tell you ladies, Viggo, Sean, and Orlando all look very good. You’ll definitely have guys to cheer for when watching this movie! Huge sweeping plains and majestic mountains in the background. The Fellowship is shown under duress with a huge snowstorm. Cut to a discussion about what they are going to do. “If we can’t go over the mountain, we go under it”. Next we see those brilliantly constructed doors of Moria opening up, the dwarvish text glowing quite nicely. (no shots of the Watcher in the Water sadly)

We see the Company walking into a huge ruined area. Lots of gigantic stonework fallen about in the area. Gandalf says “We need more light” and proceeds to use his staff to illuminate the area…. OH.MY. GOD. Now we’re getting into it. EPIC my friends. You can see pillars that must be 300 or 400 feet tall for as far as the eye can see. The camera is position near the ceiling to truly show the grand scale of Moria. The fellowship looks like ants near the bottom of the pillars. Cut to a shot of Gimli (John Rhys-Davies): “It’s a Marvel!” Wow he looks great in his dwarven makeup!

Next we happen upon the Tomb of Balin. Wow another shot pulled directly from my imagination. The area is scatted with corpses from long ago.. more skeletons than anything else now. Gimli runs in by himself wailing aloud.. “nooo! Nooo!” He begins grieving for Balin. It’s a very sad scene. Here is where I notice the music.. .wow it’s perfect for this scene. It’s right in sync with the actions on screen. Gandalf takes a great old book from skeletal clutches of a dwarf. He begins to read aloud almost exactly as it comes from the book. “They have taken the bridge and the second hall. We can not hold them for long” Legolas “we cannot stay… we must move on” Gandalf again speaking: “Drums.. drums in the deep. We can not get out.. we can not get out.” We see over his shoulder reading the dwarvish text.. the last line scrawls off the end of the page “we can not get out…”

The music stop as Pippin touches a skull of a warrior into the well. (first noticeable change from the book) We hear the skull echoing and echoing as it falls and falls…. And then the rest of the fallen warrior falls in with a chain and a bucket going as well. Oh man. You can tell that they’re in trouble now. Pan to Gandalf: “Fool of a Took!!! Throw yourself in next time and rid us of your stupidity!” Screaming is heard…Frodo draws Sting and we see it glowing Blue! Boromir checks the door as two arrows hit the door RIGHT next to his face.. “Orcs and a Cave Troll! Close the doors!”

Aragorn and Boromir close the doors as Legolas throws them large polearms and axes to wedge the door shut. Gimli says “Let them come.. there is still a Dwarf in Moria that draws blood!” You can see the look of vengeance in his face! The music is picking up as the Orcs begin chopping at the door. Legolas begins firing arrows thru the broken door and taking out Orcs.

Orcs knock down the door and come rushing in. Holy cow it’s a frenetic battle! Mithrandir pulls out Glamdring and the Hobbits charge into battle as well! Legolas continues putting arrows into heads and we see an orc get decapitated (not sure if Boromir or Aragorn who got him) and black blood spews forth. Then BLAM in roars the Cave Troll. Holy cow it’s huge and strange looking. Not exactly what I would have imagined. Very roundish in nature. The Cave Troll is very strong and is knocking things apart all over the place. It’s swinging a huge chain at Legolas as he fires arrows back at him. Aragorn is knocked clear across the room from a blow by the Troll. Frodo is being stalked by the Troll now. He is on the backside of pillar and the troll is on the other side… sniffing about for him. As the troll moves to Frodo’s side, the Ringbearer moves to the troll’s side. All seems clear as Frodo checks back to look for the troll just as the Cave Troll BURSTS back into frame ROARING.. SWEET JEEBUS I jumped in my seat!!! Frodo falls backward (much like I just about did) and tries backing away from him. The cave trolls gets ahold of a polearm and slams it into Frodo’s chest. Slow Motion now.. great looks on both Frodo’s face as he falls to the ground with that polearm in his chest with the Cave Troll watching him fall down. Pippin and Merry yell “Nooo!” and jump on the beast’s back and begin stabbing him. He throws them off with ease as Legolas comes up and shots in arrow into his mouth that appears out the back of his head. Finally the big creature is brought down… dead. What an amazing sequence!

Aragorn walks up to Frodo.. “oh no.” He is surely dead. He pulls over Frodo and he is breathing! “You should be dead, that spear would have skewered a wild boar!” Aragorn pulls aside his shirt and we see a well-constructed piece of silverish armor. “Mithril” says an awed Gimli. Another Orcish scream is heard. “To the bridge of Khazadum!” cries Gandalf! A shot of the Fellowship in full sprint through the pillars with Orcs coming from all sides. Tens of thousands of them. They’re coming from the ceiling and from the floors and every single direction. (I’m not sure if I like the fact that the crawl down the pillars headfirst like spiders though) Soon the Fellowship is entirely surrounded by this huge horde of Orcs. Wowzers the Orcs look amazing in their makeup! I can see some kids having nightmares from this stuff! (and that’s a good thing!) Looks like the end of the road for our friends. But then we hear this huge deeeeep rumble. The Orcs all stop dead. In the far off distance you can see this hellish light appear from floor to ceiling. The Orcs flee!

We hear Gimli laughing. He thinks they are fleeing from the Fellowship but he hasn’t seen the light yet. This scene is probably my favourite from the entire sequence. So amazingly well-done. You just can feel that something big and badass is coming now. Gandalf says : “A Balrog. A demon of old. This foe is beyond any of you.. RUN!” And the Fellowship begins sprinting like there is no tomorrow! Gandalf tells Aragorn “Watch over them. The bridge is near.” Aragorn: “But Gandalf…” Gandalf cuts him off.. “Do as I say!”

The Fellowship is running down old steps. There is a chasm between the steps. Gandalf leaps across. Than Legolas and Sam. Boromir takes Pippin and Merry with him. Gimli fights off being thrown across and leaps himself. Leglolas catches him by the beard as he begins to fall backward. Funny stuff between these two in such a stark situation. Legolas also has to fire his bow at the Orcs that are raining down spears and arrows from on high. This scene has totally been constructed for the movie but it totally works. I think this is the scene that finally convinced me that you can actually make good changes from the book. Aragorn and Frodo ride their piece of steps across before it crashes deep into the chasm. A great cliffhanger scene all-together.

The Company continues their run for The Bridge that can be seen off in the distance. All of sudden a wall comes crashing down and there is fire everywhere. And out of the fire comes THE BALROG (If you were there you could have heard me saying “holy S&,*” at least a couple times) If you want to know what the Balrog looks like, check out John Howe’s rendition of the Balrog.. pretty much exactly like that. But I won’t spoil it for the rest of you by describing him. Cut to: Gandalf yelling “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” as he brings down his staff on the bridge… and that ends the Moria sequence. Crowd erupts into applause at this point.

Last of the Mohicans music cuts in as we begin to see the ending montage of scenes from The Two Towers and Return of the King. (looking at my notes here I see that I’ve scribbled “EPIC!!!!!!!”) We see Eowyn standing by herself looking into the distance as the camera pulls away from her. Wow. A close-up of Denethor looking truly decrepit. We see Aragorn being fitted with armor and Elrond giving him a reforged Narsil. Sam yells “that’s for my old gipper!” We see the Elves going into battle. Stuff from Helm’s Deep. We see Theoden speaking. (No Treebeard or Lurtz). Sam speaking to a thoroughly tired Frodo “I can’t carry the Ring.. but I can carry you”. The footage ends with Frodo putting on the Ring saying “I will not destroy it! The Ring is MINE!”

Final Thoughts:

Everything about the footage that I saw said “Epic”. You can readily tell that all of that 270 million dollar budget was spent mostly onscreen. The scenery and sets were unbelievably well-detailed and you always felt like you were in Middle-earth while watching. After almost 3 years of doing coverage on these movies I wasn’t sure if I could be impressed by watching some of the finished product or not. I was totally impressed. Once again I’m left with the notion that another 6 months of waiting is a long, long time! The best part is knowing that New Line is going to continue refining and working on polishing these films until the last possible second.

Highlights:

Mines of Moria sequence. You take one of the best chapters in the books and make it even better onscreen with well thought-out changes.

Howard Shore’s Original Score: For what I could hear from the Moria sequence, it sounds like Howard may have done his best work to date. I hope he continues to put out music of this magnitude for all 3 films.

Costumes and Set Design: Every single person onscreen at any time looked totally natural in their costumes. It was like taking a glimpse into a past history. From Hobbiton to the Council of Elrond, they have done a great job at rendering a lot of imagination onscreen.

Lowlights:

Not enough footage: =) I could have gone for at least 10 or 20 more minutes of this stuff!

Orcs doing the spider-walk: I still don’t think Orcs should go head-first down pillars in Moria. Have them use ropes or climb normally.

Orthanc: Still looks like a setpiece stolen from the DnD production. I think if they played with the lighting and used some darker filters on the film they can make it look a lot better.

The Last Word: I’m more excited than ever for everyone to see these films. It’s going to be a great day come December 19th, 2001!

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