For the longest time, I had very little appreciation for film as an art form. Hollywood cinema seemed, to me, an extraordinarily vapid form of entertainment devoid of any true meaning, with very few exceptions. As a lifelong bibliophile, I have long preferred reading. For one thing, no movie could ever possibly capture the detail and vividness of your own imagination. Nor is it possible to fit all of the details, background, and analysis a full-length novel provides into a two hour-long film. Instead, I always walked away from the movie versions of my favorite books feeling cheated. Recently, however, that all changed.
It started with a comment from Alexis. He mentioned offhand that the Lord of the Rings trilogy took nearly ten years to produce, and in the wake of my utter disbelief, he encouraged me to watch a few short clips of interviews with Peter Jackson, the legendary producer of the films. I was enthralled, and we ended up watching a documentary shortly after that detailed both the making of the books and the making of the films. First of all, the work that went into the books themselves was incredible. They are truly the culmination of J. R. R. Tolkien’s life. His fascination with linguistics drove him to pursue the study of languages and eventually led him to creating many of his own. He set out with the intention to give Britain its own great classical epic, much the same as Homer’s Odyssey was and still is to ancient Greece, and there is no doubt that he succeeded. The Lord of the Rings is an extremely dense set of works, brimming with details and backstory that make the tale seem more a work of historical fiction than pure fantasy—well, if you can overlook the magic, that is.
The production of the films was no less legendary, and quite the undertaking, given the above circumstances. To this day, it is considered one of the biggest and most ambitious film projects ever. The thing that really struck me though—aside from the years that went into it, the immense budget, or the size of the cast and crew—was simply the passion that these people had for the original stories. They were all a bunch of superfans and nerds who truly cared about preserving as much of Tolkien’s intent and meaning as possible. And the message I walked away with was this: That books, as they are written, are simply unfilmable. Concessions must be made. Now, that’s not to say that there are not terrible adaptations of book-to-film out there; Ready Player One is a great example. But it gave me much more appreciation for films of books I love like the Harry Potter series. (Though make no mistake, I have always loved those movies. I watch them AND reread the books at least once a year. Try me on my HP knowledge sometime.)
Now I am starting to recognize films for the cinematic works of art that they are, but I have long harbored feelings that superhero movies à la The Avengers and so on are banal, predictable, and utterly lacking in substance. Little did I know, however, that these movies have a far greater depth and meaning that one only discovers upon delving into the comic book lore. I don’t know that I will ever get into reading graphic novels (I honestly doubt it), but now that Alexis has opened my eyes to the backstory and connections between universes and characters, my mind has completely changed with regard to these, as well. I have a newfound appreciation for them with regard to the stories and Easter eggs that appear in the films. In fact, the latest Avengers: Infinity War is one of my favorite superhero movies ever (with the obvious exception of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight). I’m glad Alexis made me watch every Marvel movie in order prior to seeing it. If you lack the time or dedication to do so, I highly recommend you check out this YouTube video The Marvel Cinematic Universe in Chronological Order before embarking to the theater if you plan to see Infinity War this weekend.