Rob and I went to see The Hobbit the Saturday morning after release. We’d planned on waiting; we don’t care for opening weekend crowds. But we found an extremely early (9:30 a.m.) showing (high frame rate 3D) at a theater that’s not at the mall. There were maybe five people in the theater.
Rob thought it a little exposition-y, a little too drawn out and long, but he liked it. I expected that opinion. He doesn’t like long movies.
Me? I loved it.
But I’m biased, and not someone who’s opinion is all that trustworthy. I mean, I enjoy watching The Phantom Menace.
There’s more reason for this, though.
I remember watching the animated Hobbit when I was little. I have vague memories of watching it at my aunt’s condo in Corpus Christi, and then insisting that we had to try and find this other movie my mom had mentioned, or rented, some point previously, even though all I knew about it was that it had unicorns. (It was Legend, and we found it after going to two or three rental places.) And I remember reading and loving both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Most of LotR, I have never cared for. The entire section between leaving the Shire and getting to Bree. None of that. Was glad it was cut from the movie.
I was in college when I’d heard that LotR was being adapted into movies. And that Elijah Wood was cast as Frodo. At the time, the rumor I heard was that he was going to be shrunk by computer. My reaction was along the lines of ‘uhm…okay…’ I wasn’t sure if I liked or disliked that.
Partly because of the adaptation, I decided to get a copy of the book. It was a thick, omnibus edition with Minis Tirith on the cover, and a starburst with ‘soon to be a major motion picture’ on it. I read it and forgot about it for a couple years.
Until the trailers started coming out.
That excited me. It looked good. But it came out just as the semester was ending, so I had to wait. I spent Christmas break with a friend. Or boyfriend. We were off-and-on for about five years, and it was difficult to tell when we were off and when we were on; it all blended together. But I stayed with him and his mom and her boyfriend in Eastport, Maine.
Eastport is a tiny, tiny town, the easternmost city in the U.S. Nothing to do; going anywhere took about an hour.
I don’t remember exactly when we went to see Fellowship of the Ring, except that it was sometime in January. I remember more the circumstances around it, and why it was an important moment for me.
See, I’d come extremely close to quitting writing.
That semester, the one that had just ended, I’d taken a novel writing class. Oh, wait, Writing the Literary Novel. Though, really, it was more a novel critiquing class. I don’t remember doing much other than short writing exercises and the critiques. Nothing on structure, outlining, plot, character, etc.
The story I worked on was one I’d started in high school, a traditional fantasy. It started in first person point of view, and one of the first, and most helpful, suggestions I got from the professor was suggesting it might work better in third.
So I started rewriting it. It worked quite well.
Her next question wasn’t so useful. She asked if I could write it without the magic. My response was simple. “No.”
Originally, the class was supposed to be graded by how far the writing went, or something like that. I forget the specifics. It ended up that we were graded on the first twenty-five pages, because a large majority of the class wrote and revised and rewrote the first twenty-five pages. The class was three months; I worked on revising a very rough 1st POV draft into a slightly less rough 3rd POV draft. And I added secondary characters as POV characters, scenes were added, and I was working toward a beginning, middle, and an end.
I wrote 69 pages. Still graded on 25.
When the semester ended, we had the option of having the pages, with the professor’s critique, mailed to us. I don’t remember how long it took to get to me, if it was before or after Christmas, but it eventually showed up.
Our grade was combined from attendance, class participation, the twenty-five pages, and journals. That last, I think, was probably the writing exercises and such that we did. I’m really not sure.
My grade broke down to attendance-A. That would’ve been surprising if it’d been anything else. Same with the C- I got for participation. But the story? C. And the critique covers the front and back of the title page. (Yes, I still have it.) There were more notes throughout. Some marking interesting phrases and good uses of words. More were questioning details.
The essence of the note was along the lines of “This might work for fantasy, but not for the Lit. novel as I taught.”
Eleven years later, I can’t tell you a damn thing I learned in that class. Except that one classmate couldn’t understand brazier from context and asked if it meant brassiere. Yeah.
The important part of all this is that it depressed me, and I began debating if I really wanted to continue writing. And I was slowly leaning towards quitting.
Then my friend’s mom took us to see Fellowship of the Ring.
The theater was tiny. An aisle down the middle, with maybe three or four seats in the rows to either side. The screen was maybe four feet off the floor, and I don’t think it was all that much taller than about four feet. It was about half as wide as you’d expect.
Well, it did seem to be a large theater that had been divided down the middle.
There was an intermission with graphics that I’m sure had to be from the ’70s. I forget where they split the movie. I kinda want to say the same as the extended DVDs, after the council in Rivendell, but I think it was more likely between leaving Moria and arriving in Lothlorien.
The movie reminded me why I loved writing and telling stories. I think the reason I remember the intermission being before Lorien because I remember being excited for it to start again. And I had a moment which is crystalline in my emotions.
The scene where the fellowship is taken to see Celeborn and Galadriel, with the camera moving around the tree as they walk up, I had one of those moments of “It looks like that!” in relation to my own story. And it sent my imagination spinning with thoughts for my story, making that dimming star of imagination flare up into a sun.
I’m not sure I can adequately explain the effect it had on me. But in some ways, The Lord of the Rings touches me, the writer in me, on a deeper level than Star Wars ever has.
Another funny moment, when the movie was over, the man sitting behind me said, “How can they end it like that?” He obviously hadn’t read the books, or didn’t know there were two more movies coming.
So, when The Hobbit came out? I couldn’t stop mentally bouncing. It struck that same chord in me as FotR did.
We’ll probably see it against after we get to Texas. And a third time with friends, when we get back.