Action Sequences in Peter Jackson’s Movies TheLord of the Rings is a movie trilogy which was directed by Peter Jackson and servesas a movie adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel of the same title. The trilogywas considered a major success by movie critics and the general audience, and itreceived praise and many Academy Awards for its storytelling and special andvisual effects.
It is also noted for its epic battles and set pieces. Thebattle which happens at the end of the second movie, The Two Towers, was alsohailed as one of the greatest movie action sequences. Inthis essay, I will try to analyse this action sequence from The Lord of theRings trilogy and contrast it with some sequences from Peter Jackson’s othermovie trilogy, The Hobbit. I will also try to show why the sequences from thefirst trilogy are praised and resonate with the audience, compared to how TheHobbit’s are ultimately meaningless. Iwill mainly be focusing on the battle in the second film, the battle of Helm’sDeep where Saruman’s 10,000 soldiers attack a fortress which is defended byabout 300 men. This particular action sequence lasts for almost 40 minutes andbecause it is this long it has to carry some emotional weight and beinteresting and engaging for the viewer, so in order to hold our attention, thedirector gave the battle its own story ark.
Thebattle’s ark can be divided into 24 different scenes which provide rough guidelinesfor its story and pacing. Those scenes carry the story of the battle, from thebeginning where there is silence and the anticipation of the upcoming war, theloss and vulnerability of our heroes in the middle, and hope, joy and theclimactic victory when Gandalf arrives at dawn. The structure of the story ofthe 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 Onering. The battle has its own ups and downs, obstacles for the heroes toovercome and also small victories along the way, including this battle itself, andwhen everything seems as if it is going wrong, a giant victory in the end.
Thebattle 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 inan intelligible way, so that the viewer always knows what’s going on. This wasdone by utilising the moon, giving the battle a strong blue light backgroundwhich draws out characters and their actions. In an action sequence that lastsfor almost 40 minutes, it is very important that the viewer sees clearly what’shappening and knows exactly how the battle is playing out at every givenmoment.Asit was previously mentioned, the opening shot of the battle uses silence toestablish the tension and more importantly the contrast between the silence ofthe night and the loudness of the battle, or perhaps the contrast between peaceand violence. There are a lot of themes that contrast in this sequence and thatmakes this battle diverse and interesting.
For example, it has lots of hand tohand fighting contrasted with shots from the air. There are moments of humourand jokes contrasted with moments of tragedy and death. The most prominenttheme that this sequence contrasts is the light versus the darkness. Thebattle itself is a self-contained movie within a movie, but moreover, it servesas a crucial plot point in something much bigger. As it happens in the second move,The Two Towers, the sequence can be seen as a small victory for our heroes butit is also a major turning point when taking into consideration the wholetrilogy.
A good action sequence cannot be removed fromthe movie and should be used in such a way that it advances the plot and the characters.This particular battle serves as a major plot point, but it is also used toreveal certain character traits and teach our heroes a lesson.Onthe other hand, many action sequences in The Hobbit trilogy are mostly seen asfiller content and random scenes of fighting serve just as a spectacle for theviewer. This is probably due to the Peter Jackson’s decision to split a children’s300 page novel into three prequel movies. But despite the fact that a shortnovel was extended into three movies with each having a run time of over threehours, action sequences suffer because of a different problem. Although thetrilogy is over nine hours long, it fails to advance or even make the audiencecare for the main characters.
Thethirteen dwarves that are the main focus point of the trilogy are mostlyinterchangeable and the viewer knows almost nothing about them. This hindersevery action scene and sequence that seems like it should carry some impact oremotional weight. Still, the battles