Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Breaking down Lord Of The Rings’ triumphant battle of Helm’s Deep

Illustration for article titled Breaking down iLord Of The Rings/i’ triumphant battle of Helm’s Deep

The battle of Helm’s Deep holds down the middle portion of Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy, a rousing, almost 40-minute war scene that lingers in the brain even now, 15 years later. (Can you still picture Gandalf showing up to save the day?) And while a long, good war scene can carry anyone’s attention for awhile, at the scale and length of Helm’s Deep, a little more needs to be going on. The always-thoughtful Nerdwriter breaks it all down structurally in a new video essay, providing a framework for understanding Jackson’s accomplishment.

The video splits the battle scene into 24 beats, the first three-quarters of which occur during night. Tracing those beats along a path shows that the entire scene plays out like a narrative arc in miniature, complete with an inciting incident, growing obstacles, minor victories, and, finally, an unlikely climax. It’s literally a movie (Helm’s Deep) inside of a movie (The Two Towers) inside of a movie (The Lord Of The Rings trilogy). It’s a great example of the care Jackson took to conceive his films as individual parts of a greater whole.


It could probably have done without the shield surfing scene, though. That has not aged very well.

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