Tag Archives: The Lord of the Rings

The Two Towers “Forth Eorlingas!” (2002)

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As the battle of Helm’s Deep draws to a close, all seems lost for our heroes. The Uruk-Hai have overrun the outer defenses and what forces remain are holed up inside the great hall. Theoden seems almost suicidal in his despondency (“So much death. What can man do against such reckless hate?”) but even as the enemy begins breaking through, Aragorn remembers that this is the day Gandalf promised to return with help. With this in mind, he encourages Theoden to ride out and take the Uruk-Hai head on. Eager to go down fighting (that’s certainly how it appears to me), Theoden agrees, proclaiming that “the horn of Helm Hammerhand shall sound in the Deep. One last time.”

The Two Towers “Forth Eorlingas!” (2002)

Interestingly, the music that starts this moment (beginning when Aragorn remembers Gandalf’s promise) is a soft rendition of the music heard in “The Last March of the Ents.” It might just be a coincidence, but it could also be a musical clue that the trees of Fangorn Forest have also arrived to take revenge on the Uruk-Hai for attacking them in the past.

As Theoden and the others get ready to charge out, Gimli runs up to a tower where a massive horn can be seen. If you haven’t read the books, this is the legendary horn of King Helm Hammerhand, a great king of Rohan who saved his people from destruction. He used to sound that horn every time he went into battle, and even after he died people would swear they could hear the horn sounding on certain nights. The sound of this horn was said to terrify all who heard it, so maybe Theoden is hoping to psych out the Uruk-Hai (even a little) when the moment comes.

I love the moment the charge begins. The music has remained relatively soft and steady all this time, even as Theoden utters these last lines and the doors threaten to give way:

Fell deeds awake. Now for wrath, now for ruin, and the red dawn!

At that moment, Gimli sounds the Horn of Helm and it’s this spine-tingling roar that instantly gives you goosebumps. In the next second, the door crashes down and Theoden leads a wild charge as the horn spurs them on. The music restarts as the king rides out into the morning light (a fanfare version of Rohan’s theme), but that glorious moment when all you hear is the horn is what sticks with me the most.

What do you think of this moment in “Forth Eorlingas”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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

The Return of the King “Ride of the Rohirrim” (2003)

The Return of The King “The Haradrim Arrive” (2003)

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 Return of The King “The Haradrim Arrive” (2003)

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The Return of the King “The Haradrim Arrive” (2003)

Yesterday I talked about “Ride of the Rohirrim” and how the riders crashed into the armies of Mordor. For a few glorious minutes it looks like the battle is definitively won, with Eomer eager to drive the orcs all the way to the river, while Theoden wants to make sure the city is secured. But suddenly, everything comes to a halt and we hear a strange booming in the distance along with shouting. The Haradrim (glimpsed in The Two Towers by Frodo, Sam, and Gollum) have arrived, mounted on enormous oliphaunts. The riders of Rohan are frozen by this sight (and if you listen closely, before the camera closes in on the oliphaunts, you can hear some of them say they’ve never seen anything like this). I’m not sure if this is actually a separate cue or not, but it is one of my favorite musical moments in The Return of the King.

What’s great about the Haradrim’s introduction to the scene is that all of the orchestral music has stopped (just moments before we had a rousing fanfare as the Rohirrim routed orcs left and right). Aside from the booming steps of the oliphaunts, all you hear for a few moments is the leering horn sounded by one of the Harad riders along with the war shouts of their fighters. I’m fascinated by the sound of this horn, as it helps to establish just how different the men of Harad are from anyone we’ve met before. Everything about it just sounds foreign. When the camera finally pans downward to capture an oliphaunt in all of its glory, the score finally returns with an ominous chord, to emphasize that the Haradrim are just as much a threat as the orcs. This impression is helped by the reveal that the oliphaunt’s tusks and feet are bound with metal spikes and razor sharp wire, ready to obliterate anything in their path (like horses, for example).

Theoden is not daunted, however, and quickly orders the riders to reform into a line, ready to charge. However, unlike the first charge, this one feels different. It’s understandably rushed given the Haradrim are swiftly approaching, but it also feels like more of a desperate gamble compared to the first charge (especially when you hear Theoden’s command to take them head-on). Given the ominous sounds in the score, it’s no surprise that this second charge is swiftly crushed by the oliphaunts, who literally sweep horses and riders from their path with their tusks (while archers and spear men have free reign to take out as many as they can).

What do you think about the arrival of the Haradrim? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

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

The Return of the King “Ride of the Rohirrim” (2003)

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)

The Return of the King “Ride of the Rohirrim” (2003)

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The Return of the King “Ride of the Rohirrim” (2003)

It’s one of the oldest tropes in storytelling, but also one of the best: when the heroes seem doomed to fail against overwhelming odds, more heroes suddenly arrive to lend their assistance. This is the setup that leads to “Ride of the Rohirrim,” one of the best cues in the entire film. At this point, Minas Tirith is close to being completely overrun by the armies of Mordor. Gandalf is doing his best to lead the defense but there’s simply too many of them (not to mention he also has the Witch King to deal with). But then…a distant horn call grabs everyone’s attention: Rohan has arrived!

The Return of the King “Ride of the Rohirrim” Soundtrack (2003)

The music starts off slow as Theoden gives his commanders their orders. But as the king launches into a rousing speech to his men, the music is filled with more and more trumpets, culminating in a blast as Theoden shouts “A sword day, a red day, ‘ere the Sun rises!” The music then briefly pulls back but not by much, it’s clear the climax for this scene is imminent. One of my favorite moments comes right before the charge when all the horns of Rohan are sounded at once (it actually gives me goosebumps every time I hear it).

The charge itself is followed by Rohan’s theme played over and over again as the Rohirrim charge the lines of Mordor. What’s clever here is that Howard Shore grows the theme in power with each iteration. No matter how many arrows the orcs send at them, the riders simply keep coming. I love how the charge builds with equal intensity, you can see the lust for battle building in all of the riders as they race forward. I also love the moment when it finally dawns on the orc commander that nothing is stopping this charge from hitting them head on. Finally, with trumpets blazing in the background, the cavalry strikes the orcs and decimates their forces. It’s a supremely uplifting moment that instantly restores hope that the good guys will win the day. But while Rohan’s arrival has somewhat evened the odds, our heroes are forgetting that Mordor has been holding forces in reserve all this time. For next time I’ll discuss the arrival of the Haradrim.

What do you think of “Ride of the Rohirrim”? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

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

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)

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!

See also:

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

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)

 

Film 101: False endings

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

*warning, I’m discussing the endings of multiple films so I suppose I should include a spoiler warning

You’ve seen it before: after a long and arduous battle, the bad guy (or group of bad guys) is defeated/killed and the surviving heroes all breathe a sigh of relief as they prepare to return to their mostly normal lives. But wait…what’s that noise? Oh no one of the bad guys isn’t dead and here he comes again!! That, in a nutshell, is the essence of a false ending in film. For a few minutes it seems like the story is wrapping up but it’s actually the prelude to another fight (or in some cases another full act of the story).

False endings are extremely common in horror films and are usually employed to lure the audience into a false sense of security (believing the danger is passed) before using a final jump scare that often takes the last surviving character. In non-horror examples, false endings are usually employed as an excuse to stretch out the ending of a film, either for dramatic or comedic reasons. There are far too many examples for an exhaustive list, but I will do my best to list some of the most notable examples from film history:

The Ten Commandments (1956): There’s a scene towards the end of the film when Rameses returns after his army is destroyed in the Red Sea. He vowed to kill his wife when he returned but when she points out that he failed to kill Moses, he flings the sword down and slumps onto his throne, his only explanation being “His god…IS God.” The way this scene ends, it could almost be viewed as the end of the film, as Moses and his people have safely crossed the Red Sea and Rameses has been thoroughly chastised for his hubris. But then the scene shifts back to the desert and the final act of the film truly begins.

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Alien (1979): This is probably one of the more famous examples. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has destroyed the Nostromo, escaping with her cat into a small shuttle. The danger seemingly passed, she prepares to put herself back into stasis to await rescue when OMG the Alien’s hand shoots out from a wall revealing it had stowed away on the escape ship. This leads to a final battle where a terrified Ripley must blow the Alien into space.

Aliens (1986): An equally notable example: the colony on LV-426 was blasted into oblivion with only Bishop, Hicks, Newt and Ripley escaping alive. They make it back to the Sulacco and prepare to get medical help for Hicks before setting a course for home when suddenly…Bishop is impaled from behind, revealing the fearsome Alien Queen stowed away and she’s madder than ever!

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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003): As anyone who has seen this film knows, the end of this film has multiple false endings, with it seemingly taking forever to reach the true ending of Frodo sailing away into the West while Sam returns home to his family.

 

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The Descent (2005): This is possibly one of the cruelest false endings ever made. Sarah barely manages to escape the cave with her life and speeds away in her car. Suddenly she sees Juno, one of her dead companions sitting in the passenger seat which causes Sarah to snap awake and realize…it was all a dream, she’s still in the cave and the monsters are closing in.

John Wick (2014): A notable recent example comes in the first John Wick film. After fulfilling his mission and killing Iosef in revenge for killing his dog, the weary assassin prepares to return home. He’s even given a new car as ‘compensation’ for everything. All seems to be well…until Viggo learns that Marcus could’ve killed Wick several times before this and chose not too. When he informs Wick that he’s going after Marcus, the film shifts back into action and we get almost a full act of action and violence before finally reaching the true ending (Wick saves a dog from being put down and limps for home).

Atomic Blonde (2017): It could be argued that the ending sequence of this movie contains several false endings. For a few minutes it seems like the film is going to end with the revelation that Lorraine was Satchel all the time only to shift into an attempted assassination by her Russian handlers (which she escapes), leading to the shock revelation that Lorraine is actually American CIA (and there’s no way of knowing if that’s the actual truth but it’s where the film ends).

Other films with notable false endings include: Spectre (2015); A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984); 47 Meters Down (2017) and Final Destination 2 (2003).

What do you think of these false endings? Are there any examples you can think of that I didn’t list? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film 101

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Film 101: Deus ex machina

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

Literally translating to “god from the machine,” deus ex machina refers to a plot device in which a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the inspired and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object. The phrase originates in ancient Greek drama, where the mortal heroes would be rescued from their dilemma by the direct intervention of the gods (usually wheeled onto stage with some kind of machine, hence “god from the machine”).

With the invention of film, naturally examples of deus ex machina abound, though usually they’re the source of great scorn from the audience, as resorting to deus ex machina is usually perceived as “taking the easy way out” when it comes to telling a story.

Some notable examples include (but are by no means limited to):

  • The Eagles in The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings: The Great Eagles of Middle-Earth actually serve this purpose on multiple occasions: Eagles rescue Bilbo, Gandalf and the Dwarves in The Hobbit; Eagles show up out of nowhere to save the day in The Battle of the Five Armies; Eagles show up out of nowhere to save the day in The Return of the King (I sense a pattern here); an Eagle rescues Gandalf from Isengard; an Eagle rescues Gandalf from Moria (though to be fair, that’s more explicitly stated in the book than in the film); and of course, Eagles rescue Frodo and Sam from the exploding Mount Doom after the Ring was destroyed. So much of this story would not have happened without the Eagles (often unexpected) intervention.

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  • Immunity to Iocane powder in The Princess Bride: So in order to save Buttercup, Wesley challenges Vizzini to a “battle of wits” where the latter has to determine which cup of wine has been poisoned with deadly iocane powder. Only after Vizzini is dead does it come out that both cups were poisoned because (conveniently), Wesley spent several years building up an immunity to the substance.
  • Fawkes and Gryffindor’s sword in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Things get pretty dark for Harry by the end of this film: he’s been poisoned by a basilisk, he’s isolated in the Chamber of Secrets deep below Hogwarts, there’s no way he can possibly survive, right? Well…out of nowhere, here comes Fawkes, a magical phoenix whose tears can cure any poison! Fawkes also has the Sorting Hat, which, oh how convenient, produces the legendary sword of Godric Gryffindor, giving Harry the means to kill the basilisk once and for all.

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  • Rey’s mind-reading abilities in The Force Awakens: If this is not a deus ex machina moment then it treads dangerously close to being one. Doesn’t it seem particularly odd that, when Kylo is attempting to read her mind to find the information about the map piece, that Rey is suddenly able to turn it around and read Kylo’s mind, just like that? And on a related note, how did she know to use the Jedi mind trick on that stormtrooper?
  • The Martians in The War of the Worlds: This has to be one of the biggest examples of deus ex machina ever made, and no matter how it’s spun for a film, it always sounds really stupid. Consider: Earth has been overwhelmed by a fleet of Martian ships that slaughter and destroy all in their path. Nothing the Earth has can stop them, it’s only a matter of time before everything is wiped out. And then suddenly, all the Martians begin dropping dead. It turns out these unstoppable aliens were brought down by…germs? That’s right, all the military might in the world couldn’t get the job done, but microscopic germs could (it just took time for the Martians to be affected by them). Independence Day somewhat parodies this when David uploads a computer “virus” to the mother ship, bringing down the shields of the invading ships.

I would also like to point out that The Matrix Revolutions somewhat parodies this concept when Neo meets the central interface of Machine City, known as The Deus Ex Machina.

 

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So there are five examples of deus ex machina in film. Let me know what you think of these examples in the comments below and also feel free to share any examples you can think of that I didn’t mention. Have a good day!

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See also:

Film 101: Archetypes

Film 101: The MacGuffin

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Film 101: The MacGuffin

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

If you’ve ever read in-depth about films, you’ve probably come across some variation of the following statements:

“The hero chased a series of MacGuffins for the entire story.”

“The plot twist revealed yet another MacGuffin…”

But what is a MacGuffin? Well, MacGuffin’s are plot devices that originated in literary fiction and have long since moved over to film as well. They appear as some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist (and sometimes the antagonist) pursues, very often with little to know narrative explanation as to why they desire this thing. It should also be noted that a MacGuffin’s importance comes not because of the object itself, but rather how it affects the characters and their motivations.

In most films where a MacGuffin appears, they’re usually the main focus of the film in the first act, but thereafter decline in importance, often being forgotten by the end of the story (though sometimes it will magically reappear to aid in the climax of the plot).

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There are many examples of MacGuffins in film but one of the most popular would be the search for the Death Star Plans (held by R2-D2 and C-3PO) in the original Star Wars film. From the beginning of the film (when Darth Vader chases down Princess Leia’s ship), almost to the end (when the Falcon escapes the Death Star to head to the Rebel base on Yavin 4), the plot is driven around obtaining those plans for either the Empire or the Rebellion. This is an almost identical scenario to the one in The Force Awakens where both the First Order and the Resistance are seeking the last map piece to locate Luke Skywalker.

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The Infinity Stones could be described as the ultimate MacGuffin of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, as possession of these objects (the Tesseract, the Aether, the Mind Stone, the Power Stone, the Eye of Agamotto) has driven a large number of the films, with the threat of Thanos coming to collect them himself growing ever larger. Just for a refresher:

-The Tesseract: Captain America: The First Avenger; Thor; The Avengers; Avengers: Infinity War

– The Aether: Thor: The Dark World; Avengers: Infinity War

-The Mind Stone: The Avengers; Avengers: Age of Ultron; Avengers: Infinity War

-The Power Stone: Guardians of the Galaxy; Avengers: Infinity War

-The Eye of Agamotto: Dr. Strange; Avengers: Infinity War

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Another MacGuffin example that appears both in literature and film is the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings. If you think about it, for the most of the story the Ring doesn’t really do anything except lie on a chain around Frodo’s neck. The entire plot revolves around destroying this Ring of pure evil before the Dark Lord Sauron can get his hands on it or before anyone else can claim it for their own, but we never really get to see it used to its full potential (though admittedly hints are given as to what it can do).

Possibly the most famous MacGuffin of all cinematic history comes in the classic Citizen Kane, when the reporter attempts to track down the meaning of Kane’s last whispered word “Rosebud.” To this end, he interviews countless former friends, lovers and associates, all in an attempt to find where this one word came from (I’m not going to tell you because the reveal is something everyone should experience for themselves).

And that’s my explanation for what a MacGuffin is. Having read through the examples, do any MacGuffins come to mind that I didn’t list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂

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Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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See also:

Film 101: Archetypes

Film 101: Deus ex machina