Classic Scene #3: “One Does Not Simply Walk into Mordor…”

One Does Not Simply Walk into Mordor

The Fellowship of the Ring (Jackson, 2001)

The Scene
After their ordeals on the road to Rivendell that saw them chased down by the Ringwraiths, the Hobbits rest in the Elven haven. Before returning to the Shire, Frodo (Wood) joins Gandalf the Grey (McKellen) at the council of Elrond. After the corrupting power of the ring threatens to turn the representatives of the different races against each other, Frodo volunteers to take the ring to Mordor.

The Deconstruction
Peter Jackson has made no secret of the difficultly of this scene. Dialogue heavy exposition never makes for the most engaging cinema at the best of times and here he was facing more than twelve minutes of screen dedicated to a bunch of old dudes sitting around talking like pompous grammar teachers.

To make matters worse, he also needed to introduce a number of key characters – Gimli, Legolas and Boromir – who would from that point be as important to the story as Gandalf and Aragon. During this early meeting we also need to establish the relationship between all these characters (and their deep history) while weighing the importance of Frodo’s quest – two factors that become the driving point of the trilogy – and all the while keeping it interesting to watch.

Anyone who’s seen the film can attest to his success. Whilst hardly the most memorable moment in cinema the focus of performances drives the scene. Much of the dialogue in the scene is delivered with such strength and conviction (a feat that must have been a challenge to do without sniggering) that much of it was used in the early trailers and become some of the most quotable moments from the film.

Next time you’re enjoying this epic piece of cinema, remember that making a battle seem exciting is less challenge than making a conference of fogies exciting, yet Jackson manages it.

Best Bit: A great line from a great actor. It graced the teaser trailer and, following the silence from Elrond’s declaration that the ring needs to be taken to Mordor, delivered perfectly. Such an awesome line, that it later took shape as a meme. Take it away, Sean Bean:

“One does not simply walk in Mordor. There is evil there, that does not sleep.”