To See, or Not to See…That is the Question – The Black Gate Approacheth…One Fan’s Movie Anxieties

by Dec 11, 2002Essays

The entire Fellowship riding Wargs across the Plains of Rohan in pursuit of something in the distance that I cannot quite see…..Faramir lying dead within the forests of Ithilien….Shelob slaying Frodo and Sam unable to go on…the Ring falls into the hands of the Cirith Ungol orcs and makes its way to Sauron’s possession….

Dark thoughts and fears that finally, last night, materialised into an actual nightmare that woke me at 4:13 AM wide eyed and bewildered.

I’m beginning to feel a bit like Gollum. I have one voice that greatly wishes to near the Black Gates; I have one voice that whispers I should take what is mine and be done with the nasty little Hobbitses.

I’m a “Book Fan” of Middle Earth, though I cannot (regretfully) claim the title of being a 100% Purist; I DID see Fellowship of the Ring and I actually enjoyed it. In fact, I really, really, really, REALLY liked the extended version DVD. I am thrilled that PJ’s movies have allowed so much of Middle Earth to come to “life”…and then I am chagrined that, at the heart of it all, it’s GULP commercialism.

Or, is it? When I wrote my recent holiday gift giving guide for Tolkien Online, I was quite thrilled to see all of the nifty Middle Earth gadgets and goodies that one can now own and display in one’s own home. I even wear a Ring of Barahir and a Lord of the Rings Official Fan Club watch. So, I can’t say that I’m a staunch PURIST. But what about those bobbleheads? Has Middle Earth been reduced to…bobbleheads? But then again, there’s a place for bobbleheads…or so it seems.

Yet, if the movies had never been made, my passion for Middle Earth would still be as strong as it is today. I am first and foremost a lover and student of Tolkien’s written word. For me, there is no comparison with any other fantasy author; the Professor is in a world of his own. He’s a demi god. He’s a Walker of the Lost Road; a Recorder of Middle Earth history. His words awakened something within me that has only grown stronger as time has advanced.

And for many, many years, Middle Earth was mine and mine alone. I was content with that. Oh, my brother and sister were fans as well, but they didn’t share the depth of my passion. I was content with that as well. I didn’t need anyone else to tell me how wonderful Tolkien is. How MUCH they want to go to Middle Earth. How MUCH they feel like an Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Rohirrim, Gondorian……you know what I mean. How deep does your blood run? What race do you descend from? You know…deep down…you know.

Then the movie excitement began and WOW!, it looked like someone was going to make a really good movie version of Lord of the Rings! As I followed the news, WOWWEEE!!!, it looked like someone was going to make a GREAT version of Lord of the Rings! My ancitipation grew…I flew to Toronto for the Fellowship exhibit last year and was amazed at the detail that I saw. If nothing else, the movie was going to be dazzling.

Still, that Wednesday last year, as I took the entire day off of work, I hesitated, literally, before entering the theater. WHAT was this movie going to do to my vision of Middle Earth? Would I be so dazzled by PJ’s version that I dismissed my own?

What an absolutely horrifying thought. It stopped me in my tracks, popcorn and Coke in hand, as I truly questioned whether or not I should see the movie.

Of course, I saw the movie. I cried like a baby when Gandalf fell and when Boromir was slain. I was touched. I truly was. I didn’t even mind that Arwen was enhanced, (though I still begrudge Glorfindel being tossed aside!). In fact I didn’t object to too many things….well, Galadriel turning into a Roman candle was a bit much and she spoke like they put Valium into their lembas….but other than that, I was content.

Even better, I ran home, grabbed my books, read a paragraph or two and was delighted that MY vision of Middle Earth was not only intact, but very much alive and well. Whew.

So, why am I having nightmares about PJ’s The Two Towers? The Helm’s Deep battle scene, I am sure, will be absolutely thrilling. I think that Mirando Otto and Karl Urban are going to be amazing…as will Bernard Hill…Andy Serkis….

Yet, I did wake at 4:13 AM this morning from a nightmare of watching a movie that varies GREATLY from the book. Fellowship was not so very different from the written word; but this one, I fear (and have been told), varies a great deal. Book fans, I am told, will not like it. It will be a great film, and that is what it’s supposed to be, of course; but, again, why do I have such trepidation about it? I have to believe that there are other “Book fans” out there who are feeling the same anxiety. WHAT IS IT? WHY?

Deep breaths. Breathe deeply.

I think, after carefully scrutinizing my own mind, (which was not an easy task!), that I’m afraid that I will hate it. And if I hate TTT movie, I am most likely going to hate ROTK movie. And if I hate TTT and ROTK, all of the expectations that I’ve had the last few years are going to fall into the burning lava of Mt Doom. I might even get depressed about it. If I don’t get depressed, I’ll definitely be peeved. I’m not sure which will be worse.

Yes, I still have my books and I will always have my books; but, I DO WANT just a good movie version. No, I want a GREAT movie version! I want to cry and laugh and cringe and hold my breath for TTT just like I did for Fellowship. I am really afraid that I will leave the theater feeling very hollow instead. I am afraid that I will be bitter. I am afraid that PJ will commit sacrilege and I won’t be able to forgive him.

The choice is mine, you say.

The dilemma, then, is do I spare myself the possible jump into the abyss? I have my beloved Middle Earth close to my heart, as always; and I have many wonderful new friends that I’ve discovered thanks to the movie fever on the web; but, have I harvested all that I need from this visual adaptation? Should I be content with the treasures that I have found? Or, should I draw nearer to the Gates of Mordor and dare the wasteland?

I don’t know, and I am tortured by it as if I were nearing the dungeons of Barad-dûr itself.

To see…or not to see. That is the question.


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