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Dixon Hill

What have the last 15 years of big-screen Tolkien meant to you?

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I'm listening to Billy Boyd's song. And it's beginning to really hit me that this is the end of something significant. I can still remember when I was five or six when my father gave me his copies of Tolkien's work. It's always been such a deep part of our relationship, and of our whole family. Reading the books together, talking about them, being surprised and thrilled when the films were announced. Luckily they were winter releases so I was around to see them with everyone. We went so many times to each. Those films changed my life fundamentally. When we all congregate at my brother's house in a few weeks, I'm bringing the DVDs and we're all going to watch them together again, this time with some added wives and daughters and sons. We'll see this last installment together too. I'm getting a little bit weepy typing this. I'm just glad that I was around for all of this, that I got to share it with people in the ways that I did, that it moved my life in the right direction in so many ways. Whether or not I or any of us get to see more of Middle-Earth brought to life some day, we got this much, and it's been beautiful. Boyd's song is a farewell to all of that, from a man also undoubtedly hugely changed by it. What must Peter Jackson, Ian McKellen, Howard Shore, Ian Holm... all of them, what must they be feeling as this comes to an end? I think now I need to drink too much ale and smoke a few pipes, in the Professor's name.

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I know we mock, but a great deal. I remember seeing FOTR like it was yesterday...it just blew my away. Tolkien's works and the films (some more than others of course) - and of course Shore's wonderful music - are very special.

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My dad was in the midst of a Tolkien obsession around the time I was born, so I was subject to indoctrination from early infancy. There were books of Tolkien-related paintings, the Bakshi film and other such paraphernalia around the house for as long as I can remember; I still have an old copy of The Hobbit with certain passages underlined, apparently as being suitable for being read to a toddler. By the time Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring came out in cinemas I was just as (or more) interested in films as in The Lord of the Rings. I wasn't excited about the movie, and hadn't been following the publicity at all, because I expected a Hollywood adaptation to be, most likely, a travesty (even though I was encouraged by the involvement of Peter Jackson of Heavenly Creatures, and of Howard Shore who I'd found to be a pleasantly surprising choice to write the music). Despite my lack of enthusiasm, I went to the earliest possible screening on opening day, and found the experience to be far worse than I'd feared - not because it was a mediocre adaptation in the way I had expected, but because it had such intense merits as a film that the total perversion of the story (as I saw it) was all the more galling. Masochistically, I went straight back in for a second viewing. Over the next few weeks I gradually became more and more fascinated with the film (not least its use of music) and, since there's only so much energy one can spend on being what the youngsters nowadays call a "hater", I learned to put most of my gripes behind me and focus on the positive aspects of the film. I think I probably ended up seeing The Fellowship of the Ring in the cinema more times than any of the other Tolkienites here. From early 2002 I began following the news and rumours sites on a daily basis; I've been using this screen-name since then (though it is actually my real name too).

Each of the following The Lord of the Rings films had a similar effect on me: a complicated mixture of disgust and awe initially, with the negative feelings wearing off more quickly than the positive ones. (On message-boards, of course, having a mixed attitude means you're doomed to fall foul of everyone - the fans and the haters alike!) I haven't been as invested in the The Hobbit films as in The Lord of the Rings, but I've still found the enthusiasm to get back into the spirit of things around release time each year. I watched each of Jackson's Middle-earth films twice on its opening day (except for The Return of the King, which I watched thrice), and plan to do the same next week for "The Defining Chapter"!

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Interesting story, for some reason I thought you were younger and your screen name was chosen because of the new films. Cool.

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I think I probably ended up seeing The Fellowship of the Ring in the cinema more times than any of the other Tolkienites here.

Ok, you're on. Let's have a number!

Wait, why the hell didn't I initially say this? "Go on, give us a number!"

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What about the other films?

I watched The Two Towers either nineteen or twenty times in the cinema, and The Return of the King either ten or eleven. I dropped the linear trend with An Unexpected Journey (three times) and The Desolation of Smaug (five).

I didn't even have the privilige of seeing it once on the big screen...you lucky bastards...

That's why I went so many times. Not to wind you up, I mean, but it looked pretty brilliant on a big screen and I knew I wasn't likely to have the chance to see that ever again.

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I didn't even have the privilige of seeing it once on the big screen...you lucky bastards...

That's why I went so many times. Not to wind you up, I mean, but it looked pretty brilliant on a big screen and I knew I wasn't likely to have the chance to see that ever again.

It's funny, because as I sat there at the first showing of AUJ, waiting for the film to play, I was telling my brother (who I watched it the first time with) "This was finally OUR chance to relive the cinematic experience that LotR must have been on the big screen for so many a decade ago!".

And then the prologue played...

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I have! But by the time I developed an interest enough in the scores to even be made aware of the existence of such concert/screenings, they stopped playing in Toronto... :(

Closest they've gotten since was Calgary I think.

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0, 0.

Not even for a first-hand experience of the 48fps phenomenon?

Something I intended to do each of the last two years, but didn't get around to, was trying to see the new The Hobbit film at 48fps in 2D rather than 3D. I must make an extra-special effort this year...

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FOTR - countless times, since I worked at a movie theater at the time and could walk in and out and continually saw bits and pieces during it's whole run. I probably did a full sit down showing without getting up 3-4 times, including for sure a viewing in early 2002 when the TTT trailer got included before the end credits

TTT - 3 or 4 times

ROTK - twice, the first at the trilogy screening they did the day before the wide release (FOTR EE, TTT EE, then ROTK premiere, for $25). Actually maybe i saw it two more times after that not one more time, I dunno

AUJ - thrice (2D, HFR 3D, IMAX 3D)

DOS - once, but I wish I had seen it again in IMAX

Also I did another trilogy screening (LOTR EEs) just before AUJ came out. That was great.

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Also I did another trilogy screening (LOTR EEs) just before AUJ came out. That was great.

See, I was banking on this too for that big screen experience, but it wasn't offered anywhere here. I think it was a US-exclusive screening deal.

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When I went to the marathon of the LOTR EEs, I really really enjoyed it. I wasn't sure how I would feel about them, I hadn't seen them in a while, and I hadn't seem them all since I really got into the scores. But I found they not only held up, but that they also worked really well when all watched together. Of course, some of the bad things about the trilogy also stood out, most importantly the kind of scatterbrained-ness that ROTK has.

I think I wrote about them in this thread

http://www.jwfan.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=22341

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I wouldn't want to.

I saw each of the LOTR movies in the theater exactly once. ROTK was memorable because my ex and her mom were in the same room but we weren't speaking and sat very far apart. And I know I was crying nerd tears as Gandalf rode to the top of Minas Tirith.

I saw AUJ once and DOS zero. That's it. I rarely have seen a movie more than once in the theater, though I have seen a few exactly twice. I would rather go for a walk, read a book, or get laid than go see a movie over a dozen times in the cinema.

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Bad word of mouth.

Yeah, it's had pretty bad reports overall, and not entirely without good reason. I think this is partly because film-makers need to learn how to use the format to their advantage, and partly because the hardware in some theatres is wonky (I saw The Desolation of Smaug at 48fps in different cinemas with completely different results).

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I enjoyed FOTR and its score. And watching part 1 of The Hobbit in 48 fps helped convince me that high-framerate presentations can go very, very wrong. (Though I still haven't figured out exactly why some presentations look great and others don't...)

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I love the books since I was teen, but I'm largely indifferent to the movies

This.

That said, I'm not a cold fish. There are certain films and scores that have had a very profound impact on me - Ken Russell's THE DEVILS is one. I didn't see it on its initial release because in 1971 I was just a sperm and an egg, but I caught it at the BFI a few years back. An incredible experience that I'll never forget.

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One great movie trilogy, one not so great. I've still found some enjoyment out of The Hobbit films but it is largely because of my affection for Jackson's Rings trilogy that I have been disappointed. Those movies meant a lot to me and still do, albeit in a different way than they used to. Whereas before I preferred the gigantic spectacle of Return of the King I now prefer the smaller Fellowship, which I think is definitely the best out of all of them. Now I've gotten to the point where I'm kind of sick of Jackson's Middle-Earth and that sucks. But I'm definitely going to see The Hobbit Part 3 and at this point just have to latch on to what good is there.

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So I'm dealing with people who have seen the LotR films more than 20 times at the cinema. Interesting, I'll keep that in mind

I've seen them all 2 or 3 times .So I'm a fan, but not an obsessed one

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I was 11 when Fellowship came out. My uncle showed my older brother and I the Bakshi version on Christmas Eve and then took us to see the new film the next afternoon. At the time, I hated it. It was relentless, went on forever and freaked me the hell out. From the perspective of a kid who had previously been raised on Disney animation and sheltered from all PG-13 movies, I had never seen anything like it before. Forget the deep end, this was like being thrown in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. By the end of the movie, the good guys had either been killed, kidnapped, tortured, transformed into monsters, or generally just had the hell beaten from them. Bad guys had their heads and arms chopped off. Goblins looked like goblins, demons looked like real fire-spewing demons, that troll was miles away from Harry Potter. I knew Gandalf was going to die, I saw it on the cartoon, but this was different. I came out of the theater wanting nothing to do with Lord of the Rings ever again...but of course, later that night I grabbed the book off my parents' shelf and started skimming through to read all the stuff I couldn't shake, straight from the source: The Ringwraiths, Moria, Gandalf and Boromir's deaths, Lothlorien. I put it down and just kind of mulled over it. I didn't know books and movies could do stuff like that and I was sort of crushed, to tell the truth.

At some point that next fall, I was over at a neighbor's and they had Fellowship playing on DVD. It was the scene where Bilbo gives Frodo the Mithril and lashes out at him. I watched it and whether it was just that I had already seen it before, or I was in a comfy living room in the daytime instead of a dark theater, or I was simply a year older, I thought "Well...that's not so bad." I ended up watching the whole thing and by Christmas, I had read the whole trilogy plus The Hobbit and even did a book report on Two Towers. I fell pretty hard for Tolkien in those few months and needless to say, my reaction to the second installment was 180 degrees from my impression of the first.

So then my experience anticipating and finally seeing Return of the King was pretty straightforward. My four theatrical viewings are small potatoes compared to Gloin's, but it's a personal record. Looking back, those movies were definitely seminal for me. They were my Star Wars, a shattering and prolonged movie experience that felt like it arrived at just the right time. The sort of thing that made me wonder why all movies couldn't be like that. And unlike Sharky, my appreciation for them has only grown as my cinematic interests have expanded. They are among a handful of films that I watch on an annual basis...yes, they're a nostalgia rush, but they're also among the most purely entertaining movies I've ever seen and in some ways, epitomize the culmination of a variety of techniques and sensibilities that had previously been established throughout cinema's history. Every time I revisit them -- having newly educated myself on an aesthetic movement, a portion of film history, a different nation's cinema, development of a specific technique -- the more it feels like there's a little bit of everything in there, even by accident. Are they my all-time favorite films? I don't know about that. There are others that I hold still more personally, but that trilogy has certainly informed, inspired, and inflated my love of cinema in so many ways. It also marked the end of my childhood and the beginning of my adolescence and I'll never forgive it for that. ;)

So LOTR has meant a lot to me in a lot of ways, which makes The Hobbit seem all the more like an afterthought. Seeing An Unexpected Journey in HFR 3D, I was cautiously optimistic that I was going to ride the wave all over again, but I remember watching that prologue throughout my polarized glasses and I realized that wasn't happening...and I didn't really care. I already had my personal end of an era moment with Return of the King. I'll see Battle of the Five Armies. I may even see it twice, but it oddly feels like a big nothing.

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I can hipsterially say that I was a massive Lord of the Rings fan well before the film craze started but the movies were something I anticipated and dreaded very much at the same time. Fellowship of the Ring allayed my fears as it was not only mainly faithful but well done adaptation of the core of the story. Some minor quibbles aside it really looked like this Peter Jackson and his team had got Tolkien and his world. John Howe and Alan Lee, both the most visually striking Tolkien artists around for me, being part of the team just added to the connection with the films as much of their design felt both familiar and right for Tolkien. I like to think Lord of the Rings films were my Star Wars in a way as I had obviously missed the original release of those films, the 1997 special editions (in theaters) and was not too happy with the Episode I. But the Lord of the Rings films were something that completely blew me away. The sequels more or less followed the norm although PJs excesses were becoming more and more apparent. Still I can't deny that these were (visually) stunning films I watched and rewatched time and time again to perhaps a point of oversaturation.

Then there are the scores. Again I was already a film score fan and at the crossroads of my passions, literature, music and film Shore's music was something I was really interested in hearing and also dreading he would not do the world of Tolkien justice. I remember being impressed by the FotR soundtrack album but it alone did not win me over entirely, 4 star stuff. Strong but not quite a masterpiece. Only after seeing the first film in the theater for the first time (I saw it paltry 9 times in theater) and hearing the first strains of the History of the Ring theme in the opening credits, I truly began to think "This score just might have some claim to greatness" and after the film I was slowly becoming engrossed with the music which was now special. Shore's reaction to the film had been more complex and powerful than I had ever anticipated, so complex and varied and so full of meaning that it became a continuing hobby of parsing through its themes and ideas while still enjoyings the music's emotional resonance. The Two Towers and Return of the King followed and opened yet another set of musical layers and development. Before Doug Adams's book came out we had been happily speculating on the themes, discussing meanings, collecting choral lyrics and reveling the details large and small of this music in various internet communities. It was brilliant time and really gave me an added interest in the bond between the images and the music, how much information music could part but also how much of this intricate work might go unnoticed and the composer did it anyway out of integrity to the subject matter mirroring the work ethic of all involved in these projects who put so much detail and effort into everything and the camera never could capture it all.

So yes I spent quite a few years happily at the crossroads of my passions and the enthusiasm continues to this day.

With the Hobbit the expectations were a bit lower actually. I was a bit apprehensive about the way they would approach the filming of this tale with 14 protagonists and how would they treat the story. I had hopes they would honour it the way they had done Lord of the Rings. But it became apparent that this would be a different kind of adaptation. Not only did the design and look at many points clash seriously with my own aesthetic (despite Howe and Lee being heavily involveD), the changes made to the story warred against my Tolkien purist nature. I remember seeing the An Unexpected Journey alone in 2D in the theater just to soak in the first experience of the film alone and in private. Perhaps the wonder and magic of the Lord of the Rings and the "surprise" of it were gone but this time I was really more annoyed by the plot contrivances. I can handle an artful adaptation but this film seemed to be teetering between two different stylistic poles of silly comedy and very dark drama akin to Lord of the Rings without knowing what to choose as the central focus. So it was not a major triumph although it provided some gorgeous scenes and great acting.

DoS followed suit but the tone darkened considerably and whimsy was entirely absent. Everything was gloomy, dangerous and threatening. Major deviations from the novel created need for new deviations from the novel. Again some excellent individual sequences and the wonder of Smaug were the highlights but it became more and more apparent PJ was creating a very modern action blockbuster around Tolkien's novel, which began to fade into the background. And slowly also did my enthusiasm for these films. I do not have much left for the last one, The Battle of the Five Armies.

Shore's music however continues to intrigue as it has not for the most part abandoned its old aesthetics, architecture and approach. Again this has been a fun few years of parsing through this music as much as just enjoying it for its own sake as there is so much to discover and always some new corner it revealed one has not looked into before and some small nugget of information, subtext or detail comes to light. While not as powerful a work as Lord of the Rings, Shore has done himself proud with this work.

After 15 years Lord of the Rings could have said to have exceeded my expectations and inspired more enthusiasm over the years while the Hobbit films have effectively winded down my enthusiasm for Tolkien film adaptations but my love for Tolkien's writings continues unabated and has only deepened throughout the years. But 15 years has flown by really quickly. :)

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"My attitude is, don't start nothing, won't be nothing."

I like it but wouldn't you prefer not to start fights? You know the magic words that will blow up the powder keg around here.

Heh KM likes the Hobbit films more than Lord of the Rings. Would he be the "everyman" movie goer who just proves some of us as stuffy Tolkien purists not able to let go of our beloved novel? :P

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There's a lot of movie franchises I'd re-watch over LotR .It's like some of you guys with random LotR character avatars think it's the best movies ever made and you defend that to the death, like defending Howard Shores' score as the ultimate masterpieces of film music

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"My attitude is, don't start nothing, won't be nothing."

I like it but wouldn't you prefer not to start fights?

Not anymore, no. I tried universal politeness for about a year. Now, I will follow the wisdom of Will Smith.

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