Tag Archives: Gandalf

The Return of the King “Lighting the Beacons” (2003)

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The Return of the King “Lighting the Beacons” Film Scene (2003)

While there have been many criticisms leveled at the final entry in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, you can’t deny that the film possesses some awesome musical moments. One of my particular favorites is “Lighting the Beacons,” when Gandalf dispatches Pippin to secretly light the city beacon so that Rohan can be notified that Gondor needs help. While it is a deviation from the book (in the original story Denethor ordered the beacons lit before Gandalf and Pippin even arrived at Minas Tirith), it’s one I don’t mind because the music that goes with this scene is just wonderful.

The Return of the King “Lighting the Beacons” Film Score (2003)

The cue starts with a tentative motif in the strings, matching Pippin’s secret climb up to the beacon while Gandalf observes from below. Despite the two guards sitting nearby, there’s never any real sense that Pippin is in danger of being caught or falling. As soon as the guards notice the beacon is lit, the music quickly jumps up into a “burning” melody that matches the leaping flames shining for all to see. As the next beacon in the sequence is lit, the music “ignites” again, flourishing higher and higher as the message is passed on with each new beacon.

The next segment in this scene is a montage showing beacons being lit all across the mountains. There’s actually far more than the seven beacons mentioned in the book, but it makes for a great filler scene so I don’t mind. The music heard during this scene is a fast reprise of Gondor’s theme. I’ve always loved the power in this theme, which is dominated by the brass. The theme slowly fades as the final beacon is lit and observed by Aragorn at Edoras. The music trails off on a note of suspense because, in the following moment, Aragorn dashes to inform the king that Gondor is calling for aid (the music for that can be found in another cue, that’s why it trails off to silence).

If you compare the film version to the soundtrack version, you’ll notice there are some musical differences. While they sound very similar to each other, I think the soundtrack version of this piece comes from an alternate take that didn’t make it into the final soundtrack.

What do you think of the music for “Lighting the Beacons”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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The Fellowship of the Ring “The Shire” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Shadow of the Past” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Wood Elves/Passing of the Elves” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Treason of Isengard” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “A Knife in the Dark” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Flight to the Ford” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Many Meetings” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Ring Goes South/Fellowship Main Theme” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “In Dreams” (2001)

The Two Towers “Lament for Theodred” (2002)

The Two Towers “Last March of the Ents” (2002)

 

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The Fellowship of the Ring “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” (2001)

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“The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” begins in the depths of Moria, where the Fellowship has discovered what happened to Balin and his company of dwarves that tried to retake the former Dwarf kingdom. After repelling an attack by orcs (and one large cave troll), Gandalf hears more approaching and orders the group to run for the famed Bridge of Khazad-Dum, a bridge spanning an endless chasm (and also the only way to get out of the mines).

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The Fellowship of the Ring “Gandalf vs Balrog” (2001)

As the group begins to run, the music is a double-timed reprise of the “Fellowship Theme” (that will be covered when I discuss “The Ring Goes South”). Despite hearing this theme that represents unity among the 9 members of the fellowship, things don’t look good right now: thousands of orcs are literally swarming out of every corner, until the group is surrounded on all sides.

I like to think of this moment as a colossal fake-out: the music has been building in tension all this time, and it seems to be building to another fight between the Fellowship and orcs. But then, just as the strings and brass build up to the highest possible point…the music drops out, replaced by a guttural roar at the far end of the corridor.

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” (Soundtrack only) (2001)

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Given how the orcs are now quivering in terror themselves (not to mention running away as fast as they can), it seems the actual enemy is something else, something much, MUCH worse than mere orcs. Just how much worse can be summed up by this exchange between Boromir and Gandalf:

“What is this new devilry?”

“A Balrog. A demon of the ancient world. This foe is beyond any of you, RUN!!”

Okay, when a powerful wizard tells you to run, that’s a bad sign (because Gandalf isn’t one to just run away for no reason). This begins the second stage of “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” as now the Fellowship must get out of the mines before the Balrog catches up to them. The Bridge itself is very close, but they still have to get over a ruined staircase, and THAT is quickly crumbling apart as the group is also being fired on by Orc archers. To help create even more tension, Howard Shore employs a Polynesian choir (introduced at the same time the Balrog is named by Gandalf). They add an almost primal feel to the moment, which is fitting because Balrogs are a very ancient type of monster, created by the first Dark Lord (Sauron was just his lieutenant).

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One tense moment that I love is when Frodo and Aragorn are caught on the remaining part of the stairwell just as a large boulder is pushed down (by the quickly approaching Balrog) and crashed through last remaining support, turning their part of the staircase into a free-standing pillar (that isn’t very stable). The chanting here is just amazing (sometimes I listen to this part over and over again). Thankfully, Aragorn employs a little momentum and they are reunited with the rest of the Fellowship.

Now comes stage three, the final dash for the bridge. But as Gandalf urges them on, time runs out. The massive Balrog comes soaring out of a fiery chasm, an infernal nightmare of flames and shadow (the animated Balrog from the first Lord of the Rings movie has NOTHING on this creature).

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The rest of the Fellowship makes it safely across the bridge as the Balrog approaches. But Gandalf turns around in the middle of the bridge and forbids the monster from coming any closer (this is the famous “You shall not pass!” moment). The Balrog challenges the wizard, who responds by cracking down on the bridge with his staff, causing a rupture that drops the Balrog to what will presumably be his doom at the base of the mountain. But just as everyone breathes a sigh of relief, the Balrog’s flame-whip darts back up and grabs Gandalf by the legs. He tries to pull himself up, but too much damage has been done. With a last “Fly, you fools!” Gandalf is gone!!

I remember the first time I read this moment in the books, I literally shouted in horror because, in my mind, this is GANDALF we’re talking about, Gandalf can’t die, he’s a powerful wizard! This is definitely one of the biggest “shock moments” of the film.

The aftermath of this moment and the subsequent flight to Lothlorien will be covered in “Lothlorien.” I can’t wait to share something I discovered about the nature of Lothlorien’s main theme….

I have to apologize for something: though I was able to find the complete soundtrack for this part, I’m having trouble finding the corresponding film scenes for the entire sequence. For now I’ll leave you with the final section (Gandalf vs the Balrog) and as I find the rest I will upload it. Enjoy the terror and suspense of “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum.”

See also: Film Soundtracks A-W

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

See also:

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Shire” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Wood Elves/Passing of the Elves” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Flight to the Ford” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Shadow of the Past” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “A Knife in the Dark” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Lothlorien” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Many Meetings” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Treason of Isengard” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Ring Goes South/Fellowship Main Theme” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “In Dreams” (2001)

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*all images are the property of New Line Cinema