Somehow I’ve frittered away the writing opportunities that summer has presented, and although I’m proud of my thoughts on the NBA Finals as well as my co-written preview of the NBA Draft, I haven’t done nearly as much as I could have, and would very much have liked to have. My foundering and floundering with writing has been made all the more frustrating by my steadily smouldering dislike of the blog and buzzfeed generation. I’ll avoid 1000 words of ranting and let you think I’m envious and hypocritical, because maybe I am a little of both of those things. I’m also a pretty good writer with a lot of room for improvement, so I figure the best way to make my blog one of your blogs is to write blogs. Simple enough logic, right?
So what would I like to write about as I throw my coat back into the ring and prepare for proverbial battles of composition? I’d like to write about why all those blogs make me so mad. I’d like to write about the silliness of NBA Free Agency, the upward trending future of the Milwaukee Bucks, the grievous misunderstanding of what it means to be a champion, the nonsensical approaches we take to building teams, the beauty of soccer, why I’d give $15 million to Lance Stephenson, and so much more.
Today’s post is not about what I’d LIKE to write about. It’s about what I HAVE to write about.
Last night I watched the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I had not watched a LOTR film in a while, and this viewing would be one of the few that I have enjoyed as a young adult. When you watch LOTR as an adult you start to notice things you didn’t as a young child (I was in fourth grade when the third film was released). For instance, you have a better understanding of cinema, so you realize how mesmerizing Ian Holme and Ian McKellan are in their portrayals of Bilbo and Gandalf. You also have a better grasp of the story, so you more fully understand choices that characters have to make, like Frodo’s departure at the end of the first film. And what you also do is you start to a get a little comical and a little snide. Watching with my friends we laughed out loud at basically anything involving Old Toby (the finest tobacco in the Shire). I also have thoughts like Why doesn’t their technology ever advance? Why do they have secret council meetings sitting in rather uncomfortable chairs? Is the Isengard military-industrial complex really a sustainable business model?
So some things have changed. I experience LOTR in a different way no then when I was 15, or when I was 10. But something has not changed.
The Lord of the Rings still stirs in me emotions that no other films can. Though last night’s viewing was one of many in my lifetime, the same emotions found their way to me just as powerfully as ever. Each time that Gandalf stands in the way of the Balrog the memes and jokes about “You shall not pass!” fade away as something inside me trembles in awe. I’ve seen Boromir lying there dozens of times, pierced by the enemy’s arrows, slain foes strewn about him, his honor redeemed after his attempted betrayal. I know the line is coming. But every time that he says to Aragorn, “I would have followed you my brother. My captain. My king,” a little part of me dies. I got chills and started to tear up just writing that. When the movie finished I said to my friends, “Alright better turn it off before the Enya song starts or I’ll lose it.” We stopped the film just after the song started and that beautiful Celtic voice sent a wave of emotion crashing over me. Had I been alone, I would have sat there and watched the credits alone, letting the full range of emotions take effect until I would undoubtedly reach tears.
This doesn’t happen often. I don’t get really emotional about many things, and only a few things can get me EVERY time. So why is that? What is it about Lord of the Rings? Because, as it turns out, I’m not alone. How do I know? Besides knowing other people like me, just take a look at the top comment on the YouTube video of the LOTR Symphony. “Averunks” writes: “It’s difficult to even describe what these movies mean to me. I love them with all of my heart, and my adoration only grows stronger with each passing year. My love of this soundtrack is probably certifiably psychotic, but it’s honestly such a masterpiece that it drives me crazy. For example, one does not simply NOT ugly-cry at 24:00. That part gets me every time, I swear.” Two things: First, I went to 24:00 and yeah I had to turn it off because I couldn’t handle that kind of emotion right then. Second, this isn’t crazy: this is LOTR fandom.
So what do the critics say about us? Maybe you’d say we’re just fanboys. We’re nerds. Geeks. You’d say it’s no different than Star Wars, Harry Potter, or anything written by Stan Lee. And, at first glance, perhaps there’s some of that there. Yeah, we know the names of swords and cities and battles. We log hundreds of hours on LOTR video games. We buy posters. We quote it. We do the fanboy things.
But this is different. This is a fandom rooted in something beautiful and artistic. Something soulful and spiritual. LOTR is the more mature, more refined, more intelligent, more complex, just freaking better work of these other sources of mass fandom. Can you really watch Gandalf and not help but think Dumbledore is just a tad insignificant? Is the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan worth a dime compared to Frodo and Sam? Are the narratives and plotlines of a superhero movie the drivelings of a money factory compared to the work of Tolkien? I’m not saying these other things are worthless: they just aren’t on the same level. When I was in third grade, a substitute teacher spent like a half hour having a conversation with the class about how amazing Harry Potter was. Me, not knowing anything about HP, raised my hand and said, “Have you read The Lord of the Rings?” (I had, by the way, get at me). Her response started with “See, those were written for adults, not children,” and after saying some other nonsense she returned to how amazing HP was. Looking back, I should have stood up and said, “You’re damn right they’re written for adults, and that’s why the books have stood the test of time and it’s why the movies will be as great an achievement as there is in film-making history.” Okay, I shouldn’t have said that, but you know.
So maybe then the skeptics say that other movies make us emotional too. It’s not at all uncommon to be moved by a film’s score. Well, sure. But are there really other films that affect the emotions with both the width and breadth of LOTR? The ending of Gran Torino will ALWAYS get me, but there’s not a host of Gran Torino fans out there. I’m sure anyone who watches a war film like Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down, or Lone Survivor will find themselves in tears or close to it, but is the basis for that found in anything other than the magnitude of sacrifice and the horror of war? Not that those things are not very great indeed, but there is just so much more going on with LOTR that adds to the emotional reaction experienced by fans, one that is not just a natural reaction to the actions of servicemen.
There isn’t a chink in the LOTR armor. Everything works towards it being unlike anything else. If you really try to find a problem with those movies, you’re just not going to come up with anything substantial outside of “It deviates from the books.” So much is so beautiful that it isn’t worth me trying to explain it all. You either know or you don’t know. And if you don’t know, that’s okay. Some people don’t get emotional about films (and, by no means, does every fan have to feel like me or Averunks. Many are more moderate). Others don’t like the genre. Many are too put off by the infidelities to Tolkien’s book. I’m not going to go on and on in an attempt to make you understand as I defend LOTR. I’m writing this to make you aware, or to just remind you, that I do not believe any other film or films in the history of the media has ever had the kind of effect that LOTR has had on people like me.
Back in fourth grade when I watched The Return of the King, the eventual Oscar-collector, in theaters shortly after it was released, I had the most powerful movie-going experience I have ever had. The credits of that film produced such a degree of emotion in me as all the beautiful elements of those films culminated in that moment as my overwhelmed younger self sat there and took it all in as Annie Lennox sang “Into the West.”
Fast forward ten years: I’ve played hours and hours of LOTR video games, spent days day-dreaming in Middle Earth, watched hundreds of other movies, dedicated thousands of hours to reading other books, had life experiences of varying nature, and become a young adult. I don’t like football or baseball like I used to. Hip-hop is now my favorite music. I like to drink coffee. I don’t care about politics. Star Wars means very little to me. I’m really quite a different person.
But now, in this different season of my life, having theoretically done enough to exhaust the reserves of joy stored in Lord of the Rings, I still have to, now and then, skip “Into the West” when my ipod shuffles because I get too emotional. And now, a seasoned blogger, I must end this post because I can’t quite find the right words to explain how much it all really means.
Also I haven’t eaten lunch yet.
What do you think? Does Lord of the Rings get to you? Something else? Like, comment, subscribe/follow, post to Facebook and Twitter (cause it’s not like there’s enough blog posting going on social media already….) email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading!
Soli Deo Gloria