From: Anthony

Lincoln Center Walter Reade Theatre
Sunday September 9th 930pm

An event of grand proportions, Middle Earth in the public eye for a small fee of $9. This was quite a show, upon waiting to enter the theatre my wife and I spot Elijah Wood entering the theatre, a shy fellow, all smiles and laughs as fans ask for his autograph on many types of LOTR related material, I have him sign a flyer from Heren Istarion, chat for a few and then to my surprise who walks but Sean Bean, who I expected to be taller than he is, but nonetheless he is has a very commanding presence about him, quiet, reserved but friendly, he signs my flyer as well.

We enter the theatre, where my wife and I sit in the very first row, about 5-6 feet from Barry Osbourne and Christian Rivers, the producer and story boarder. The show opens with Barry and Christian speaking of how LOTR became a film and the points of selling it to the industry, they also spoke of Peter Jackson’s vision for the films and how he wanted to approach them. Now don’t get me wrong I am interested in how LOTR came to be as a film, but I wanted to see footage or shots or something we as fans have yet to see.

My anxiety was quelled when first they showed the trailer, then went into the film of Peter Jackson “selling” LOTR to the studios by presenting the work he has done thus far for its creation. The film was the fuller version of what is shown in the first internet trailer, PJ speaking of the armour, arms, models and landscapes of Middle Earth. Now this was stuff I wanted to see, the amount of work put in to these films is enormous, and I now see the grander scale of the film making process, we saw construction on Hobbiton, models of orcs and elves, and digital work that they have done.

What was up next was how they created the armies present in the films, they created a computer program called Massive I believe, which created these computer personas or brains as they said which look any which way they wish and move according to the computer terrain it is on, if the digital person falls it fall as a real person, it can fight and react to certain situations as they are programmed to do. Now all of the orcs in the trailer we see, the massive armies of the Shadow marching, is mostly digital with the exception of a few hundred extras in the forefront. We were also told and shown the digital doubles each actor/actress has, which when needed replaces the live actor/actress in certain situations, which also gradually gets “dirtier” as they progress thru certain terrains. Dirt actually appears upon the regalia of the digital double and accumulates as the character moves as I said thru different terrain.

The creation for the Cave Troll was again a great treat, early drawings and sketches were shown, then the final version which we see in the film was a combination of aspects of the earlier versions of the Troll that PJ liked. A model was built then digitally scanned for use in the film. Now we get to the best part of the show, the cave troll scene:

It opens with the Fellowship entering Balin’s Tomb where Gandalf hands his cap and staff to Pippin, who wanders off to look in a well. Gandalf picks up the book and begins to read of the last events of Moria, all the while Gimli who listens on as he is on bended knee crying for his king in front of the tomb. The set of Moria was so alive and vibrant in the aspect of colors and architecture but in the film it is quiet, bodies lie strewn about, and dark, the only light is from the opening above Balin’s Tomb.

The inscription upon the tomb and in the book that Gandlaf reads from, all in runes, was pure Tolkien, to me they looked exactly as they are printed in the books, very similar if not exact to how Tolkien himself wrote them.

As Gandalf reads, Pippin knocks over a skeleton that is sitting on the edge of the well, the skeleton falls in backwards which drags a chain and bucket in after it. All the while Pippin with his back to the well hears each bang in the well he causes, the other Hobbits look at each other then at the rest of the Fellowship, a very comical scene that right now words are beyond me for, Gandalf after hearing the last of the chains and skeleton fall exclaims” Fool of a Took!””, I got the willies when I heard this a line I had read a million times and it still felt like the first time I had read/heard it.

The Tomb gets silent as drums are heard, other parts of Moria are shown with the sound of beating drums. The door is barred by Aragorn and Boromir, Legolas stands at the ready with bow drawn, orcs slam in to the barred door, Gimli exclaims that there is one dwarf left in Moria as he stands upon the resting place of Balin axe at the ready, then as Legolas and Aragorn shoot thru the holes in the door, the orcs smash open the door and rush the Fellowship, who all draw weapons, Gandalf draws Glamdring, Frodo draws Sting which glows a purplish blue, Merry and Pippin draw and Sam grabs a pan from his pack and starts swinging.

With the orcs keeping the Fellowship busy, they soon realize that the orcs are not the only enemy present as a large thumping is heard, the Cave troll, who enters the chamber, all who see him in action move out of the way, for he carries a large hammer and chain which he swings at Sam who ducks under his legs before the troll’s foot comes down in an attempt to step on Sam, then the action turns to Legolas who stands upon a part of the chamber where he effortlessly walks up the stuck chain of the Troll, up his back and onto his neck where he shoots an arrow into the base of its neck, this pisses it off, and breaking the chain. In the middle of all of this Frodo had been hiding behind a large stone block where he attempts to avoid being seen by the Troll who seems to be “sniffing” him out, perhaps due to the effectsof the Ring or the the presence of the Ring catches the senses of the Troll. The footage ends with this, Frodo turning and the Troll appearing suddenly with a fright to all.

Now after a question and answer period the vent ends, but during the Q&A Orlando Bloom had been present and answered Barry’s question of their experience traveling to remote parts of NZ.

Well after being blessed with footage and making of stuff, I approach Barry Osbourne and Christian Rivers who willingly sign my flyer, as well as Orlando Bloom who wrote” Best Wishes Hope you enjoy it, Legolas aka Orlando Bloom

I asked Barry of the Balrog if the same technology was used to create it as the cave troll, he said not really they used some different because of the look of the Balrog, who is a John Howe balrog, veins of fire darkness and fire all about it.

SO my friends this event brought happiness to my heart for the treatment that all involved with these films have given to Tolkien’s work, each and every person knows the ‘magic’ of Tolkien’s world, the essence and beauty of it, for on the screen it is all apparent, the care and work that went into bringing to life our beloved Middle Earth.

And this one from QuiGonJinn

Hello everyone. Last night near the end of the 9:30 presentation of “Welcome to Middle Earth” at Lincoln Center I heard the magic words: We have for you some completed footage. My heart skipped a beat and I prepared to view the footage, after the projectionist got his act together,the footage began, and five minutes later it ended. My heart dropped as the footage ended, because I thought that I might have to express some dissapointment with what I had just seen. But the fact is that today that footage is still playing in my head, the images, the actors are all fresh in my mind, and I can’t get it out!! I was IN Middle Earth for a few moments, and then I was pulled out way too soon.

Let me give an explanation of why I felt somewhat dissapointed and then I will go into a more in depth look at the scene we saw ( I haven’t seen that many in depth views of the cave troll sequence, its what you guys want right? Who cares about the BTS stuff, although it was fantastic). Anyway, here is why my immediate reaction was dissapointment:

I really was hoping that we were going to see the CANNES footage, but it just wasnt in the cards. So I set myself up. So for two hours I waited to see some real footage and probably didnt pay as much attention to the BTS stuff as I would have liked.

Then the footage began and there were some things that just seemed wrong to me, I think we all have the image that this movie is going to be perfect no matter what. And while it very well might be – we have to stop hyping it. We dont want another Episode I situation on our hands. When I saw the cave troll during the BTS stuff he looked amazing, when I saw him in the film – some shots looked very cartoony to me. And trust me I am not a stickler for this sort of stuff, Im not one of those comic book guys from the simpsons who will say something sucked because their is a blip in the CG work. Yet many of the Cave Troll shots to me did look cartoonish, especially when Legolas climbs along the chain around his back. It looked extremely cartoonish, and it took away from the scene for me. Osbourne hinted that this was the final product with minor touchups left, I hope they try to make it look more realistic.

Another thing that bothered me at first was the onslaught that ensued with the orcs. The actually fighting was VERY Ridley Scott. Which surprised me. It moved quickly and I could never really focus on anything. I saw Gandalf fighting in the background but I never got a good look at anyone fighting. The cuts were extremely quick.

I guess those two gripes with the addition of having hoped to see the CANNES reel made me think I was dissapointed with the footage. But I was wrong. Looking back today I realized how much it has engraved in my mind. The following account of what I saw is a tribute to the movie not my memory. Everything is still so clear in my mind hours later. Let me go into detail what I saw.

It started it with the camera following the fellowship into Balin’s Tomb. Then it cuts and follows Gimli as he slowly realizes the worst is true. He kneels before the tomb and begins to lose it. And he doesn’t cry, he is at a lost for words and can only sob. At first it seemed weird and a bit overacted to me, but I then found myself moved. John Rhys Davies expressions were so wonderful. Gandalf then walks over and finds the book in the hands of a dwarf skeleton. I must reiterate that GANDALF walked over and picked up the book. Because as Moriarty said this IS Gandalf. Ian McKellan is just being used as a stage name for the film debut of Gandalf the Grey himself. My god, when Gandalf begins to read from the book the tension begins to mount. Legolas stares at him and then the sobbing of Gimli and turns to Aragorn, “We dont have time for this, we have to move on.” I found it funny that Legolas the elf would be the one who wants to hurry Gimli the dwarf away from a very emotional!

Then Pippin who Gandalf has given his hat to begins to get a little frightened. He breaks away from the group of hobbits and looks around him, his fear growing. Pippin then reaches back and knocks a skeleton down the well just as Gandalf finished reading of the terror at Moria. The skeleton and armor crash down the well and make every loud bang possible. I believe in the book it was just a stone that fell down, but this is much more effective. The reaction shots are priceless, especially those of Pippin. Billy Boyd embodies the character. Each successive crash makes Pippin redder and redder. He just stares ahead, and at this point I awaited Gandalf’s “Fool of a Took” line. But it didnt come, I always imagined Gandalf immediately condeming the hobbit. Not here, in this scene Gandalf stares his peircing eyes at Pippin, and allows Pip to relish in every single crash of the skeleton. Giving him an “I will kill you!” look. When the noise subsides he delivers the line and follows!
it with “Next time do us a favo
r and throw yourself in!” Priceless. It is at this moment that Pippin realizes that this is no holiday. And he looks hurt by the wizards words and extremely embarrased. Yet relieved that nothing has come out of his mishap. Or so he thought.

Then in the distance we hear it. Boom! The drums begin to sound. Remember that shot in JP 3 right after Grant hears the dinosaur roar for the first time? When the camera zooms straight into his face? Well PJ uses the same shot much more effectively hear. After the first drumroll we zoom over to Gandalf’s face. Then PJ rolls the camera around each member of the fellowship showing us there fear and readiness. Boromir than looks out of the door and bam! Two arrows fly by his face (this is the shot in trailer 2 and the tv spot). Dolly shot up to Frodo and Sam. Frodo unsheaths Sting just a bit and it glows Blue! Sam and Frodo gasp, “Orcs!” Frodo yells. Aragorn and Legolas run and bar the doors with dwarf axes. And soon the orcs arrive and they hack away at the door. Gandalf moves over to his hobbits and moves them out of the way of danger. Very fatherly, very touching to me. Gimli valiantly jumps up onto Balin’s Tomb and cries out for the orcs to try and mess with him. “THERE IS ST!
BREATH!” Excellent. Poetic dialogue, NOT dumbed down. Then the first hole in the door breaks and Legolas immediately fires an arrow through! Then he fires more, and soon the orcs run through.

This is wear I was a bit dissapointed. The action was too fast paced. Too Ridley Scott, but still breathtaking. I love how the Orcs are so different, and not just like stormtroopers in different colors. You get a feeling that each orc is its own creation. Swords fly fast, and there was one decapitation that I saw. And then the cave troll breaks through the wall. Legolas shoots an arrow right into his arm, and the Troll winces and moves on. Not phased at all. Sam is right in his path, and the Cave troll spies him and slams down his hammer, and Sam screams and jumps through his legs. Hes not in the Shire anymore. Then the Troll brings out his chain and wips out around and gets it caught. Legolas jumps on the chain and fires an arrow down his back. Very CGIish but still a wonderful idea from PJ. Hopefully they can make it more believable.

Then the troll takes sight of Frodo and his glowing blue dagger. Frodo runs as the action continues. He is obviously shaken by the violence. Meanwhile Sam begins to show us his fightin side. As he rips out one of his pans and slams it down on an orc “I’m startin to get the hang of this!”. I was surprised that PJ decided to focus a lot on Sam. In the short running time, we followed Sam about as much as we did Frodo. I think PJ buys into the ‘this is Sam’s story’ theory. And he should! Back to Frodo, as he plays cat and mouse with the troll. He is behind one of the stone columns and Pippin behind the column right next to him. The Troll dips his hands back and forth trying to get the little appetizer, and then there is a pause. Frodo exhales, then wam! The trolls head screams as he eyes the brave hobbit. ( I must admit, great animation for that shot!) I also admit that I jumped one the troll’s head appears, perfect timing. Then the screen goes black. And I realize that I have t!
o wait 3 months to see the entir
e scene play out.

The gripes I had with it were minor. Some people like the fast paced action, but I like to see what is going in with longer wider shots. But I’m sure PJ was just mixing up the battle scenes. Cant film all of them in exactly the same way. And this wasn’t a battle that was set up, this was an ambush. It was frantic. So I understand the choice. The CG done in the trilogy is still an incredible achievement for WETA and New Zealand, but I never want to have to feel that say ILM could have done better. The Cave Troll was dissapointing only because all the BTS footage we saw was amazing. The CG armor was absoultely indecipherable from the real armor. Absolutely and completely. So it was dissapointing to see that the Cave Troll looked so cartoonish at points, because the talent and technology is there. I know that Barrie O said that they were still going to do some ‘color grafting’ or something, so maybe with the change of the color scheme in the slightest the Troll wont stand out as !

Still I must restate that the story IS there. This is exactly as Tolkien thought it up. Pippin’s scene was beautifully perfect. I didnt feel like I was watching a movie, I was watching my imagination, and it was a great experience. Thank you Barry, Christian, and the extremely gracious Elijah, Orlando and Sean. What a night! I can tell that these people are in love with what they have done, I know we will be too. Lets let the hype die down among us online film geeks (we dont want a repeat of TPM’s overhype), the long wait is over. Lets sit back and enjoy the ride! Thanks guys !

P.S. The music fit the images well. It was majestic, but I couldn’t concentrate on it. I didnt hear any major themes in the short time. So this may be a score like X-Men that fits the images but doesnt enhance the movie. But it still could be a Star Wars like score, I dont know! All I know is that the music FIT. It fit Middle Earth. Hopefully the Shore Score enhances Middle Earth, as music is very important to it.