I love movies. I really do. But over the past decade something has happened. Although I still watch movies regularly (a subscription to LoveFilm gives me my regular fix) I have found that I haven't really truly enjoyed a movie for a long time. About ten years, in fact. Which strangely enough takes me right back to 2001 and the release of the film which, for me, changed everything. I'm talking, of course, about Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Yes, Peter Jackson, it's all your fault.
Looking back it's hard to recall what expectations I had of the movie before seeing it. Although I had been an avid reader of fantasy growing up I'd never actually managed to tackle Tolkien's epic so I really didn't have the same expectations fans of the book would have had. And up until that point fantasy movies had a bad reputation for being slightly disappointing (see Legend, Krull, Hawk the Slayer, etc.) So there I was going into the cinema not knowing what I was about to experience. And, to put it mildly, I was blown away.
In the week which followed I can clearly remember going about my daily life with a strange but pleasant numbness. I don't want to make out that it was some kind of epiphany (after all it's only a movie right?) but I know the experience affected me deeply. The film-makers had realised the world of Middle Earth so completely and the drama had been played out so well that it was hard not to be swept up in it. Of course for those whose first experience of the movie was on DVD they really are doing themselves and the movies a disservice. As visually amazing as they are they do lose something on the small screen as most movies do, which could explain why I own all the DVD versions and yet I haven't watched them in years - because I know it won't be the same as that first time, up there on the big screen with the surround sound. Maybe, when I get my home multimedia projector sorted out...
And so, everything I have seen since has, unforunately, suffered by comparison. The movie trilogy was really a coming together of very special and unique forces: a great film-maker given virtual free reign; a one-time-only three-picture financing deal (unheard of in the history of cinema) which allowed a sense of continuity missing from most other trilogies; a perfect cast; and of course the awesome backdrop of the New Zealand landscape. Add to this the sumptuous three-hour running times (not to mention the even longer extended editions) and the consecutive Christmas releases and it really was a feast for fantasy movie fans everywhere, one we will never see again...or will we?
Next Christmas we should see the first part of The Hobbit. Peter Jackson is back in the director's chair and we are promised a second movie the year after. Expectations will be high. Impossibly high. I, for one, can't wait.