Or, “Why I give a damn.”
I often see responses to media criticism akin to, “Who cares? It’s doesn’t matter in the real world.” A fair point, I suppose, but not relevant to the criticism itself. If someone is criticizing any kind of medium, one could safely assume it matters to them. Pointing out that a movie or story or song doesn’t, for example, help starving children, is true but not helpful in context. I’ve posted lots of entries illustrating I do give a damn about lots of things other people probably don’t, and I’ve tried to share my love of things and hope others might try it out and like it too. But if my interests don’t align with someone else, too often I see my pain and suffering dismissed because, “Who cares?” Well, I do, and this is my attempt to explain why with one particular example.
I read a lot of books as a child (less now unfortunately with my job and other demands on my time). I read a wide range of books mostly of what would be called stodgy old classics but I did read a few fantasy books here and there. But one day I happened to see this animated movie by Rankin & Bass called The Hobbit. I loved it. Then one later day, I realized that movie was based on a book. I got my hands on a borrowed copy of the book and I read it and I loved it too.
I received a copy of The Hobbit as a present one year. I still have this book. The book came in its own sleeve made of green faux-leather. The cover is green faux-leather and the edges of the pages are gold. All the illustrations are included and in full color. It is a gorgeous copy and I have read it many times, even though I have also received some paperback copies as well. Eventually I saw another Rankin & Bass animated movie called The Return of the King. I hadn’t read the “Lord of the Rings” so I was very, very confused. But that’s how I found out The Hobbit had sequels. Eventually I sought those out and read them, and was much less confused by the movie. I still re-read them on a regular basis. These books were one of my first introductions to the fantasy genre, so they hold a special place in my nostalgic heart.
When I heard that there was going to be a movie adaptation of “Lord of the Rings,” I was excited and worried. How could a movie really capture my imagination? The special effects would have to be amazing. The very scope would have to be nothing short of epic. When I heard there would be three movies, I was delighted because I felt that at a bare minimum each book would need its own movie. I did not go see the first one on opening or even opening weekend. I was too nervous. I wanted to hear others’ reactions before I spent my money and found myself disappointed. All the reviews were positive, so I went to the theater and I watched. I didn’t even realize three hours had gone by. And I knew I wanted to see the other two opening weekend.
The next year, that’s what I did. Again, I wasn’t disappointed. I couldn’t wait for the third. I enjoyed the movies so much I bought the extended editions because three hours just wasn’t enough movie for me. This story I loved as a child and an adult had been brought to as close to life as I would ever see. The movies were everything I ever hoped for. For the final installment, a group of my friends worked out a deal to rent a screen for the midnight showing. They needed approximately 100 people to buy tickets, and they had no problem finding enough. This was the first and thus far only time in my life I have ever attended a midnight showing. Not even comic book movies have moved me to such lengths.
I still watch those movies when the whim takes me and I have time to do it (usually holidays). I still reread The Hobbit and the “Lord of the Rings.” Yes, they are just stories. But they are stories I love and enjoy. Stories aren’t just stories; they’re memories, and those matter. Memories make us who we are. Granted, sometimes memory tricks us into thinking something is better than perhaps a more objective viewer may judge it to be. But that’s still our own perception, and even while being open to criticism we’ll still disagree. To see something so dear to me mishandled and mangled causes a visceral reaction. Sure, I know on an intellectual level that if the “Hobbit” trilogy is no great shakes the world isn’t going to stop spinning. But on an emotional level I feel anger toward this slow, bloated, rambling mess that could have been so much better. Intellectually, if a movie sucks it doesn’t matter. So if someone else doesn’t care, that’s great for them. They won’t feel the anger I feel. But that doesn’t mean my anger isn’t real. Whether caring for something that’s not real seems silly to someone else, I still do care.
Damn it Peter Jackson, what the hell happened?