Saturday, May 26, 2001
It’s now less than a month until the first film in The Lord of the Rings trilogy opens here, and the amount of attention it’s getting is staggering.
Last weekend, pretty much the whole of the Sunday Times magazine was given over to an analysis of the film and the books, with interviews, plot synopses and a Middle-Earth A-Z to help those who have forgotten the differences between Faramir and Boromir, and couldn’t tell Weathertop from Helm’s Deep.
The Tolkien family are reported to have gone into hiding to protect themselves from the onslaught of fans looking to discuss Saruman’s motivation, while the Internet is groaning under the weight of all manner of speculation. People have already made up their minds about the casting without the inconvenience of seeing the film (myself included – no way is that weedy weasel Viggo Mortensen going to be a good Aragorn, and where’s Russell Crowe?).
I’m revelling in all this myself, and an old copy of The Fellowship of the Ring has been dusted off in preparation for the film’s opening. Everyone I talk to appears to be as sad as me, and I’m hearing choruses of the following hearfelt refrain: ‘Oh, I can’t wait. It’s going to be _so_ good!’
This is all good clean fun, but I’m a bit worried in case my enthusiasm has peaked too soon. There’s a real danger that the experience of the film itself just won’t be able to support the weight of hype that’s being piled up on it. I’m a little afraid that even re-reading the book will make me realize that it’s not as great as I remember.
But as we know, anticipation is the greater part of pleasure, so even if the film sucks (which I’m pretty sure it won’t), we should still thank it for the weeks of building excitement it’s produced. However, we’re seldom that generous, as shown by the vituperative ill-will on display after The Phantom Menace opened.
There are some stories that are taken so much to heart by their readers that people view it as a personal insult if representations of it fall below expectations. It might have been George Lucas’ idea, but Star Wars is such a part of our lives by this stage that we’ve wrested ownership of that environment for ourselves. How much more so have we claimed The Lord of the Rings?
So enjoy the hype and speculation, and use the arrival of the film to revisit the books and your memories of the books. If you’re new to the whole Tolkien thing, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do. However, if you have a thing against hobbits and dwarves, then it’s going to be a long Christmas, especially if you don’t like Harry Potter. Best start on the brandy butter and hot whiskey now.