Action scenes can be difficult for filmmakers. They’re technically challenging to film, and directors have to balance action against story. Too much violence can distract from what the characters are trying to accomplish, or just desensitize viewers to the stakes of the film completely. In a new essay, video blogger Evan Puschak (aka Nerdwriter) explains the show-stopping final battle in The Two Towers succeeds because of how it was structured.
The Two Towers is a tricky film. Director Peter Jackson had to keep the momentum of the trilogy moving forward, while also preserving the grand finale for the final installment, The Return of the King. As a result, the Battle for Helm’s Deep is a pivotal moment for the film, but also for the trilogy as a whole.
The success of this scene, according to Puschak, comes down to how the battle is structured: like a movie within a movie. The entire, half-hour sequence is divided into 24 beats, and when he plots them out, he finds that they form an arc much like that of an entire movie. The action starts with one incident, the heroes face increasingly difficult odds, and there’s eventually a triumphant climax.
Ultimately, the battle parallels the beats of the larger Lord of the Rings trilogy, and demonstrates what keeps people watching: an engaging sequence of events with real reward at the end.