‘The Lord of the Rings’ made me who I am today

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My younger brother is now watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy on his own accord. I’m glad that he is discovering the beauty of those movies for himself without my influence, because they deserve to be watched for their own sake. Even a decade on, the special effects and epic scale of the movies hold up magnificently, and I’m proud of them for remaining a masterpiece.

And like a zillion squealing fangirls a decade ago, he also likes Legolas because he “looks cool”. Back then, I really begrudged Legolas the attention. Though he was part of the Fellowship, he didn’t have a major role in the books, and I was annoyed that he won over fans just because he was pretty. (Also, before I watched the movies, I envisioned Legolas as one of Santa’s elves, because the most prominent things about him I could remember was him saying “I go find the sun!” at Caradhras and wailing — yes, Tolkien wrote him “wailing” — “Ai, ai! A Balrog! A Balrog is come!” in the mines of Moria. So you have to pardon me for not taking him *too* seriously. Orlando Bloom certainly gave me a shock when I first saw him on screen.)

A huge shock, because *this* is the antithesis of Santa’s elves, if anything.

It was The Lord of the Rings that turned me into a movie-obsessed freak. I saw my friend reading the books when I was 14 and, intrigued by the synopsis, I borrowed it from her and then just *delved* into it. It was so gorgeously and poetically written and appealed to my romantic imagination; so when I heard that they had been made into movies, I naturally couldn’t wait to see how well they had been adapted to screen.

I dragged my friends to watch the very first showing of The Two Towers at 10am on opening day, back at an age when my parents wouldn’t have allowed me to do such things, so I wore my school uniform and pretended I was going to school. I watched The Fellowship of the Ring innumerable times on VCD (I used to be able to recite the Council of Elrond scene verbatim), The Two Towers in cinemas five times, The Return of the King in cinemas three times, and bought all three Collector’s Gift Editions on my paltry allowance by not eating at recess most days. (The Argonath and Minas Tirith statues that came with them are still displayed proudly on my dresser, but I hid the Gollum statue in the box because it’s too creepy for my room decor.)

I lusted after all the movie memorabilia that I couldn’t collect — a full-scale replica of Anduril and Glamdring among them (perhaps next time, when I get my own home and have a place to hang up swords), as well as an authentic version of the Fellowship’s cloaks and leaf brooches that were gifted to them by the Elves of Lorien.

As a purist, I was extremely upset about all the changes that Peter Jackson and co made (besmirching Faramir’s character, giving Denethor an ignoble death, turning Aragorn into a man unsure of himself and afraid to take up the mantle of king, Haldir’s completely uncanonical and unnecessary death at Helm’s Deep, etc. etc.). Back then I had no outlet to express my feelings, so I wrote my friend — the one who introduced me to LOTR, and the one I dragged to watch on opening day at 10am — long emails about my thoughts on the movies right after we watched them.

Despite that, I loved those movies, obsessing over them like teenagers of my time would idolise Backstreet Boys or ‘N SYNC or whatever boyband flavour of the day; reading and watching every single interview and behind-the-scenes making-ofs that I could get my hands on, and being bitterly upset that I couldn’t go for The Return of the King world premiere in Wellington.

David Wenham as Faramir in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
David Wenham as Faramir in The Two Towers. Who, in canon, did *not* bring Frodo and Sam to Osgiliath to try to take the Ring from Frodo to present it to his father! What happened to “I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway”???

And it was thus I also discovered that I really, *really* liked to watch movies. You have to understand: before The Lord of the Rings came out, I wasn’t the movie-going type at all. I only went when my mother brought me to the movies, which was once in a blue moon. (Seriously, the only movies I recall watching in cinemas before them are Jurassic Park, Twister, Titanic, The World is Not Enough, and a few Jackie Chan ones. There probably are one or two more, but I don’t remember what they are.)

But watching The Two Towers many times on my own made me realise that I could go out and watch movies alone, and not mind, and so I started doing it often. And just never stopped. Now I have people to watch them with me, but the basic tenet is the same — I love going to the movies. (Hence me working in a cinema a few years back, despite the shitty pay. I went out recently with friends from that job who commented that as long as they bring me to watch a movie, I’ll be pacified enough to go along with any other activities that they propose, even if I wasn’t too keen on them in the first place. I never thought of it this way before, but they are right!)

And it was watching all the fun that the cast and crew had in behind-the-scenes footage that made me want to make movies — specifically Hollywood blockbusters. You will never convince me that life on a movie set isn’t the best job ever — provided that you aren’t working with divas of course.

(Yet, ten years later, I’m still here, not on movie sets. ?)

Orlando Bloom and Sean Bean looking like they’re having a ball of a time behind-the-scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring.

So there you have it. My life has been defined by my relationship with the movies. If you want to make me happy, bring me to Hollywood bring me to the movies.