Last night, Braunbeck and I joined the hordes of Tolkien fans who converged on the AMC Lennox Cinema here in Columbus, Ohio for just-past-midnight showings of The Two Towers. The crowd was fun, and some fans dressed up. The outfits ranged from a guy wearing a plastic Viking helmet to a pretty girl who looked so much like Cate Blanchett's Galadriel that people were doing double-takes.
The Lennox has 24 separate screens. All were sold out. If my calculations are correct, there were something over 7,000 people at that one theater complex seeing LoTR. A TV news crew was at the theater; there's some buzz that this may have been the largest single-theater audience for a single showing of any film, ever. We'll know for sure in the next couple of days.
The movie? It rocked. It was ... amazing. Jackson's direction and effects are phenomenal (Braunbeck pointed out that the movie's shot almost entirely in deep focus, something most directors don't have the balls to do). Like Walter, Braunbeck and I spent most of the movie with our mouths hanging open, marveling at it. It's beautiful. There are things missing from the book, yes, but Jackson's improved on more things. Gollum, for instance, is a much better and more sympathetic character than in the book, IMO. And in some scenes, his CGI looks absofuckinglutely real.
And the acting was excellent. The scenes with King Theoden (played wonderfully by Bernard Hill), look and sound like something Shakespeare wrote in an alternate dimension.
The movie is violent, more so than The Fellowship of the Ring, but it's about a war, folks. I'm not sure that showing sanitized versions of war is any more suitable for kids than showing them the gory, axe-to-the-head stuff. You certainly don't see any of the kind of gore that Jackson dished out in Dead Alive, of course. There are epic battle scenes here to rival anything in Zulu or Braveheart. Anyhow, the take-home message is that you should probably leave the little ones at home.
This movie is the real thing, folks. This is the kind of thing George Lucas and Steven Spielberg should be doing right now.
But those guys got caught up in their own hype. Lucas has totally dropped the ball with the Star Wars movies. The old ones were pulpy, yes, but at their heart was something wonderful. The new batch are pretty and exciting, but they're also cartoony and hollow.
Thank God for Peter Jackson. I think his heart's in the right place, and he's got the skills to bring us the goods. Let's just hope he doesn't get a swelled head and lose touch like Lucas and Spielberg.
Lucas has been annoying me for a while, and not just for his acts of hubris, such as failing to hire a decent (i.e., better than he is) writer to pen Attack of the Clones (which resulted in some truly cringeworthy dialog). He's tried to rewrite history in his interviews and such. To hear him tell it, he completely made Harrison Ford's career, "discovering" him for Star Wars when he was little more than a carpenter on a Hollywood back lot. That's a load of horse hockey; Ford had speaking roles in a dozen movies before he appeared in Star Wars. The success of Star Wars made him a star, for certain, but twelve movies ain't just carpentry.
But I realize I might be sounding overly harsh in the case of Spielberg. He's done some truly great and timeless work, far more and varied than Lucas. There's E.T. and Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, just to name a few. I shouldn't bash the guy just because AI and Minority Report had a touch of hollow coldness at their core, should I?
But then you have to consider what recently happened to Forrest J. Ackerman. Lucas and Spielberg have both claimed Ackerman as an influence and have paid lip service to the wonderful legacy he'd created. But when Ackerman was going bankrupt and was being forced to sell off his wonderful, priceless 300,000-piece science fiction and horror memorabilia collection and the Ackermansion, where were they when Ackerman's friends asked them to help the old man?
They could have bailed him out; buying off the Ackerman collection and setting it up as a public museum would have cost them maybe a quarter of a standard movie budget. They could have written it off, and saved a wonderful public treasure. It would have been a great addition to the Skywalker Ranch.
But they didn't come forward, didn't help. And Ackerman had to sell his treasures off at a fucking yard sale, and I've heard rumors that Lucas and Spielberg sent their people undercover to buy up choice pieces at low, low prices.
I have totally lost respect for Lucas and Spielberg as a result of what happened to Ackerman. Either one of them could have easily saved his collection so that fans could enjoy it for years to come. They could have given something priceless back to the fans. But they didn't.
It makes me want to cry that the Ackermansion is no more.
See http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/features/20020920-9999_1c20vine.html for further details on why Lucas and Spielberg, if they were the fans they've claimed to be, should have never let this happen.