Worldwide audiences are dragging Hollywood kicking and screaming into a cultural realignment that will have profound implications for the film making industry for years to come.
Here’s the evidence.
Hollywood did not make The Lord of the Rings. Sure, it was funded by New Line Cinema, famous for slasher movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street, and comedies like Austin Powers. New Line was fearful of the tangential quality of other trilogies and sequels so they put up $300 million to shoot all three films at once. It was quite a gamble. If Rings tanked at the box office New Line would have to close its doors.
So yes, the film was financed by a gutsy Hollywood production company, but it was not made in Hollywood by Hollywood people. The overwhelming creative talent on the film is foreign. The film was shot in New Zealand, the home of Rings’ director Peter Jackson along with the special effects team and most of the off-scene talent. Only a minority of the actors are American.
Most importantly, the story is J.R.R. Tolkien’s. This devout Catholic and diminutive Oxford philologist (the study of ancient languages) saw the advancing threat of militarized Nazism spread across Europe and Africa. He feared for England and for all of civilization.
Tolkien was a member of The Inklings, a writing group whose most famous member was C.S. Lewis. Instrumental in Lewis’ conversion to Christianity, Tolkien urged his fellow Inklings to do all they could to stop the encroaching evil. They must write stories.
The cumulative impact of books by Tolkien and Lewis can not be over stated. Clay Harper from Houghton-Mifflin, Tolkien’s longtime publisher, describes current LOTR sales as ‘stratospheric’. “Whenever lots of people read Lord of the Rings, lots more people read Lord of the Rings. It snowballs. One of the great beauties of Lord of the Rings is that it has a perennial appeal.”
This fantasy film of heroic hobbits making their stand for the good against terrifying evil is not Hollywood’s idea of profound movie-making. Tales of self-sacrifice for family, friends, and homeland are usually way too trite for their enlightened sensibilities. Spiritual renewal to universal truth is nothing more than bizarre contrivance. Tolkien’s use of mythic language to show Sacred Time, Space, and Place and to confirm the importance of God’s goodness in our lives is considered simply silly.
Like Beowulf, Tolkien’s trilogy deals with a pagan society without mentioning God or even religion. Yet for Tolkien, the world of Middle Earth reflects his own faith. Good stories reveal the metaphysical world we live in and the moral choices we make. There is a necessary relationship between the Maker and things made.
“The religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.”
J.R.R. Tolkien in 1953
In the Rings, the individual is forced to put the good of others and of community above his own. This runs counter to American individualistic narcissism that wants what it wants now and cynically dismisses the common good.
Most importantly, we do not create ourselves. We are creatures of God who live in a fully developed moral universe that is dependent on God. What’s more, evil is clever but does not hold the winning hand.
In short, Rings is way too Old Testament for the enlightened Hollywood elite.
Yet Rings execution was so exceptional that it won the 2003 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Picture.
Rings box office success is even more astonishing. It is the most successful trilogy in film history. It is conceivable that the total box, rental, DVD, and merchandise revenue from Jackson’s three films will eventually exceed $10 billion dollars.
On Sunday night the sheer weight of the success of Rings forced Hollywood’s cultural elite to award it a clean sweep of the eleven categories for which it was nominated.
But what was so astonishing about Sunday night is that as the Academy was finally acknowledging Rings, The Passion of the Christ was shattering box office records.
If Hollywood lingered in recognizing Rings achievement it openly declared war on Gibson and Passion.
If Rings is too Old Testament for those in Hollywood with an exclusively secular agenda, Passion is way too New Testament.
According to a recent Gallop poll, Gibson is America’s favorite actor. The last film he directed, Braveheart, won him an Academy Award for Best Director and Best Picture, along with lots of cash for studios. Yet Hollywood wanted no part of Passion.
Even after he agreed to finance Passion with his own money Gibson was unable to find distribution for the film; a complete rejection by Hollywood of the film’s opinions and commercial value.
Yet American audiences propelled Passion to a jaw-dropping $125.2 million opening week-end, the second highest ever, just under Ring’s. For a foreign language, independent, religious movie, this is astonishing.
A month ago tothesource speculated that Passion would become the highest grossing foreign film of all time. It only took a week-end.
So what happened to Hollywood this past Sunday night? Audiences in America and around the world voted with their tickets that they want more than self-obsessed, nihilistic films that depict the utter meaninglessness of life. That’s what happened to Hollywood this past Sunday night.
The success of Rings and Passion shows we are not all that comfortable with discarding the valued traditions of family and faith, of God and fellow citizens. We seek strong discussion of the importance of these in our lives and will not discard them simply because some believe they are trite, unnecessary, or have served their purpose.
In fact, because of the temptations inherent in modernity, we need these substantive goods more than ever to sustain us.
Submitted by & used with permission from tothesource.org.
RELATED ARTICLES & LINKS
The Lord of the Rings Rules the Oscars!
Passion of the Christ – What Shall We Do with this Movie?
The Lord of the Rings Rules! The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
The Fellowship of the Ring Runs Rings Around Other Oscar Contenders
Finding God in The Lord of the Rings
The Passion of The Christ – Lisa Bevill on the Mel Gibson Movie
Rebecca St. James on “The Passion of The Christ”
Find The Lord of the Rings at Tolkien Town
Lord of the Rings Tennessee Fellowship
Lord of the Rings Trading Company/