On the Return of the King front, David Hudson has again outdone himself with some great armchair analysis. Beyond collating some ideas on what this might mean for the Oscars, he offers some hypotheses based on critical ramifications: “One wonders if there was a sense of alarm at all, and if so, what color the alert was over at New Line when, early on, the National Board of Review not only passed Rings over for Best Film but didn’t even include it in its top ten. Had they given conventional wisdom a nudge that would snowball into serious momentum away from Rings?”
Personally, I’ve recused myself from getting involved with the hype, largely because anything I put down on paper (or the Web) is pointless before I’ve seen the film in whole. I feel uncomfortable calling any opus a Great Thing (or even a Piss-Poor Thing) before I’ve experienced it (to use the PR parlance of our time). Not unlike a chowderhead who sounds off on a topic he hasn’t read one single book on. Have we truly become a culture in which we’re prepared to love every high-profile film well in advance? Is there no longer any room for an evaluation that dares to suggest There is No Santa Claus?
When I watched the supplements on the Two Towers Extended Edition, one thing that struck me was the unbearably placating tone. There seemed to me a strange amount of attention trying to explain the filmmakers’ motivations behind the much-derided changes to Faramir and Tom Bombadil. All fine and dandy. Some people need to be educated. But the supplements seemed curiously targeted, directed towards the hard-core fanboys with an almost apologetic tone. With the conveniently timed November relase, it was almost as if the boys on the fourteenth floor took the time to scour the Internet, conduct a few focus group meetings, and address everyone’s privations, thus clearing heads, assuaging nerves and gearing the audience up for an experience entirely designed for them.
The same fanboys whose mouths foamed after the Christopher Lee fiasco are now prepared to love this film no matter what. And it’s due in no small part to Jackson’s low-profile courting of illiterate fanboys like Harry Knowles and even the presence of avidity in the Gray Lady (see “journalist” Jesse McKinley working himself into a frenzy over Bombadil). But, unlike Star Wars, the Lords fanboys are more common. It’s okay to announce your love for Lords around the water cooler, and to tell everybody that you’re going to see the first show at the stroke of midnight. This wasn’t the case with Star Wars or even the Matrices. With Lords, the fanboy has suddenly acquired a mainstream legitimacy.
The marketing has been so good, so eerily transcendental and cross-demographic, that I almost expect a war room somewhere on the New Line lot containing a wall-sized blackboard, a space to project Powerpoint presentations on demand, and envelopes marked TOP SECRET revealing every known opinion on the film.
The question I have: Why do we have to see the film the first week? Or opening day? There are plenty of films out there, plenty of media to consume, and plenty of stories far superior to Tolkien that you can find in a bookstore (see Fritz Lieber, Michael Moorcock or Mervyn Peake, to name three). And more importantly, plenty of things to experience in the real world.