It’s difficult to have a fantasy-themed blog and ignore the Hobbit movies.
I rewatched the first two within the last month. As of this post, I saw the third and final one a few days ago.
As any self-described fantasist, it is more than a movie-going experience.
And with the release of the final Prequel movies, it is only natural to be reinvigorated to experience the Lord of the Rings trilogy, again, shortly afterward. With the full set of six movies viewable to the public, the only other serieseseseses to rival it might be Harry Potter, or Star Wars.
Star Trek doesn’t count here because 1) It was a television series and as such in a different category of storytelling, and 2) I never got into it, so I don’t know enough background information to compare.
I’m not here to tell you which of these are better, as they each have their merits. Sometimes I’m in a Star Wars mood, and while I’m in the camp of people trying to ignore the existence of the prequels, there is something nostalgic about it that fills me with wonder and excitement. Most distinctly I recall losing a few hours to the Angry Birds: Star Wars edition.
Really, Jesse? Angry Birds Star Wars?
This is inherently stupid, I know. It is a simple game, made all the more interesting with its various themes, but what struck me most was the sound, and music clips, among the silly squawks and simplified storyline.
The bloody sound effects and music clips made the Star Wars universe feel more real, in a strange way. They evoked a sense of Star Wars that I never got from watching the movies – the vastness of it, which no doubt is explored in the novelizations and spin-offs as well. I’ll look into those, as Star Wars is really considered more of a Fantasy than Science Fiction anyway.
Harry Potter, on the other hand, is a significantly more personal story than either mainlines to be found in Middle-Earth or the Galactic Republic. There are clear reasons for this; Harry Potter centers around the life of one person, and is not an Epic Fantasy so much as it is the story of personal growth. The target audience is itself hard to pin down, as well. The earlier books/movies appear geared towards children, with the usual tropes of friendship and “making the right choices” obvious themes, but the Harry Potter stories get noticeably darker as time passes. They mature with the audience.
I remember being in 7th Grade, around age thirteen or fourteen, when Harry Potter first came out and exploded in popularity. At three years older than Daniel Radcliff, it was interesting to seemingly grow and mature alongside the release of those movies. There is a very, very large following of people who are affected significantly more than I was by these stories, but the simple parallel of growing up, seeing the world differently, around the same time Harry Potter gradually lost any rosy views of the world, sticks with me.
But in the end, of the three, I think I am Middle-Earth kind of guy, despite why I stopped reading Tolkien. Star Wars is fun, and while the mainline movies are accessible to all ages and are quite family-friendly, I’m aware that the spin-offs — games, books, and the like — touch on dark subjects, yet I find myself not drawn in the same way.
The Harry Potter universe has a distinct British flavor to it, for obvious and unremarkable reasons, which can also be seen in Lord of the Rings (just not quite as prominently) … and this is not so much of a detriment, as it is just something of a barrier. As an American, there’s a certain Britishness to Harry Potter that is distinctly foreign to me, making it just a little bit harder harder to relate to.
For example, a lot of American movies will portray the situation as dire, threatening the city of New York or Los Angeles, and I get that as someone who’s spent considerable time in New York. But having never been to London, having the name more or less just mean “a big city across the ocean,” I find the Harry Potter series to be very Anglo-Centric. At most, it is Euro-Centric.
Is that bad? Not necessarily. No more than if I were to weave you a story about the imminent conquest of Sai Gon by a trio of wizardly sisters.
So why Middle-Earth? Or Azeroth? Or any incarnation of those worlds seen in Final Fantasy or the Legend of Zelda? What makes those worlds – who have been inspired by all kinds of cultures, and in some cases invented by Japanese or American writers – so much more relatable to me?
Let’s try wording it this way.
When I want an inspiring story about personal growth and the value of loyalty and friendship, I turn to Harry Potter.
If I’m looking for something a bit more whimsical in terms of suspending my disbelief (lazer swords and sonar bombs in outer space are a bit more difficult for me to grasp than magic wands and sorting hats), then I’ll turn towards Star Wars.
But when it comes to quintessential fantasy — the kind of places I dream about dying and being reborn in — we can start talking about the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. And I don’t even count myself as an expert on Tolkienien Lore — or even a hardcore fan. I did see each and every movie in the theaters though, eager to gain a sore butt in exchange for an epic adventure such as never before portrayed on film.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s worlds, however different and remastered as they might actually be from today’s popular recreations, are far from the only ones available to us, and I’ll be among the first to tell you that as much praise as I’m offering here, they’re not my favorite settings. There’s Azeroth ([World of] Warcraft), or Ravnica (Magic: The Gathering), or Toril (D&D), or even The World of Balance/Ruin (Final Fantasy 6).
But the movies are delightful. I could rant on and on about how the one book was stretched into three movies, but frankly I’m tired of that. The fact of the matter is that three spectacular movies exist now, and while I might have my disagreements, I’m glad they exist. They’re fun to share, discuss, and experience.
And besides, Peter Jackson’s supposed obsession with threes could learn a thing or two to Gabe Newell, if you ask me.