One Does Not Simply Shoot A Scene On The Rings Of Power's Sundering Seas

The record-breaking budget of "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" allows the series to obtain unprecedented production value, but that does not mean creating the vast nature of Middle-earth gets any easier. Bringing the most fantastical parts of the source material to life proved no easy feat for Peter Jackson's original trilogy, and despite significant technological advancements, "The Rings of Power" still seeks to push the boundaries of the canon. From adapting NĂºmenor and its rich cities to the treacherous Sundering Seas, the streaming series goes above and beyond to live up to expectations. Especially when it comes to the latter, which plays a big part in the opening episodes of the first season.

The Sundering Seas, also known as Belegaer or the Great Sea, is located between Middle-earth and the western continent Aman, where the Blessed Realm sits. Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) finds herself stranded on these waters as a result of rejecting her place in Valinor. It's here where she encounters Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) and a group of humans trying to fend off a sea monster. The sequence is exhilarating and downright epic, but it was no simple task.

Making magic

The set piece in question features a fully-CG creature roaming beneath the sea, but Galadriel and the group were in fact swimming around in one giant pool of water. Speaking to Collider, director and executive producer J.A. Bayona discussed how practical the effects-heavy sequence actually was:

"We had a huge water tank, huge, and it was very, very, very hard to work. It's always very hard to work in the water, to communicate with the actors. They were so far away from the video village. It was a huge, huge set."

The impressive nature of the filmmaking on display in "The Rings of Power" is already a hot topic of discussion. The noticeably bright yet dramatic cinematography and lighting sets the series apart from other projects in the fantasy genre. This remains true for the Sundering Seas sequences, which retain the unique visual aesthetic that permeates throughout the series. Bayona praises the work of his cinematographer for meshing all those elements together:

"So he was trying to convince everybody that we needed to shoot with natural light, especially. If you finally extend ... We did a lot of that in "The Impossible," when we shot "The Impossible." If you extend the set, it's very difficult if you work indoors, because you cannot match the light from the outside with the inside, the artificial light, with the light that we had on the studio."

Shooting the Sundering Seas in natural lighting pays off in more ways than one. Not only does it create a realistic atmosphere, but it allows the actors to react appropriately to their surroundings. Moreover, it speaks to the thematic reasoning for the sequence.

A lost soul

Above all, the dangerous setting serves as a reflection of Galadriel's state of mind at that moment in time. A major theme that "The Rings of Power" explores is the undefined journey that Galadriel finds herself in from the start of the series. She is determined to seek out the impending evil that awaits Middle-earth, but is relatively directionless when she dives into the Sundering Seas. And according to Bayona, this was intentional:

"So you find this character that is Galadriel is so lost at the beginning of our story, and you will find them in the center of the Sundering Seas. And there are some surprises in there, I don't want to spoil any of them, but some things are moving in the underneath in there. And it's fun. It's a lot of fun, but it reflects the psychology of the moment. It reflects where the character is and what the situation is, not only in that, but in general."

For a series that is notorious for being the most expensive TV show ever made, "The Rings of Power" puts a lot of thought behind the costly creative process. The epic scale that it often latches unto is grounded by a personal character arc, Galadriel or otherwise. Simply put, the entertaining factor of Sundering Seas is well-balanced with emotional stakes and groundbreaking production quality.