Moviescore, a site dedicated to tracking film music, reports that New Zealand composer and award-winning music editor Stephen Gallagher has been tapped to score the music for Kenji Kamiyama’s The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.
Gallagher is probably best-known to Tolkien fans for his work on The Hobbit where, as well as working as music editor on all three films, he composed the songs ‘Blunt the Knives’ and ‘The Torture Song’ for An Unexpected Journey.
Perusing IMDB reveals that Gallagher has previously composed music for a range of documentaries and short films, but arguably this is his most prominent compositional role to date.
He also has a decades-long career as music editor spanning big productions like Avatar: The Way of Water, District 9 and Wolf Warrior 2 to niche films such as Amy Berg’s West Of Memphis and Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones. Last year, he won an Emmy Award for his sound work on Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back.
IMDB states that he’s currently based at Park Road Post Production in Wellington — a facility that’s owned by Peter Jackson’s WingNut Films.
The War of the Rohirrim is slated to release on April 12, 2024. Director Kenji Kamiyama is also currently co-directing on the final season of Ultraman with Shinji Aramaki which will debut on Netflix sometime in 2023.
A speculatory post-script.
I was idly chatting with TORn staffer Justin about the leak/confirm and he wondered if the selection of Gallagher could indicate a return to the style of music that was the hallmark of the Rankin Bass animated features. After all, Blunt the Knives in An Unexpected Journey is very much a homage to the sing-along style of the animated Hobbit of 1977.
Personally, I’m inclined to say no.
I feel that both Blunt the Knives and The Torture Song (as sung by Barry Humphries) owe more to a combination of the children’s tale-nature of Tolkien’s novel and the comedic sensibilities of Peter Jackson (Meet the Feebles, anyone?).
On the other hand, the tale of Helm Hammerhand is far grimmer. It’s also a little tempting to add that Kamiyama animes typically play the material straight, but then the quirky Tachikomas (AI spider tanks/mechs) of the Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex animated series are a spectacular outlier. Kamiyama leverages them in multiple ways: surreal comics, action heroes, philosophers, and ultimately as beings capable of self-sacrifice. The “cute” Tachikoma moments don’t devalue the serious ones. In fact, they make them more rounded characters (I dare say, more human — a crucial point to the story Ghost in the Shell explores).
So, if Kamiyama could see a way that a quirky, lyrically focused tune would serve the needs of the Helm story, he absolutely has the chops to pull it off.
Neverthless, I think it’s probably better to calibrate musical expectations more in line with the thoroughly grounded nature of Kamiyama’s acclaimed adapatation of the fantasy story Serei no Moribito. If nothing else, it’s still difficult to get folks to take anime as a serious artform that’s not “just for kids” without hobbling your production with a bunch of cutesy tunes. I’m surer Warner Bros. will be keenly aware of that.
All that being said, we know that Miranda Otto has a very fine singing voice. If, as Éowyn, she’s relating this tale to someone (like her grandchild Barahir) there’s certainly an opportunity for her to sing in the intro, or some lament as the outro at the end. I like that idea.