TODD MAN OUT: A RANT
LORD OF THE RINGS: The Circle is Complete
It is no secret that the media, given its super huge vastness, is comparatively controlled by a small number of individuals. Now, to the conspiracy theorists out there, this rant is not about them. In fact, I’m not even going to presume that these people are evil, or uncaring, or anything that may cast them in a negative light. However, I think it is safe to assume that they have an extremist orientation for big business and an obligation to equally minded individuals that have ocean-like investments in their respective media companies. Seeing as there is no true method of right or wrong in making piles and piles and piles of money, being evil, uncaring or any other negatives that may derive from this goal probably never actually enters into it. Anything that gets in the way of making more or losing little is an obstacle that is either avoided or destroyed.
Such drive is easy to convert and quantify in most big business, but in the media, where profit is made on the back of subjective and artistic endeavours, not every revenue stream is so easy to predict. Consequently, the lords of power that make all the decisions in the media become very tentative when they are presented with an investment possibility that they simply don’t “get”. The creation of most media, at least for as long as we’ve known it, does start out with good intentions. Throughout its history, before and after the term “pop culture” was coined, there are numerous stories of driven artists with a vision that they believe in; one that they are sure as hell ready to share with others, and in the pursuit of making money, confident that the world might be better for it. One simple example is George Lucas and the making of the original Star Wars.
Now, George may not be as popular in the eyes of fans as he once was, but that doesn’t change the chance he took in battling movie investors while attempting to deliver Star Wars as close to what he thought it would take. No one, not even him, could have predicted, or even thought by the time he himself saw the final cut of the film, that it would have become what it has. Yes, he may have allowed himself to feel that the film would make back its enormous budget. Yes, he may have imagined what kind of ripple he was about to create once people saw the special effects. He may have even envisioned the film to very successful…but it is well documented that he never expected the response that it did get. What is well documented is his battle to have the film completed – there were a number of moments that it was in line to be junked. Even after it was proven that it made the world a better place, and everyone concerned made gobs of money, the fight continued on because everyone involved wanted to make even MORE money.
Like I said though, this is but one example, as George’s story had already happened hundreds of times before his movie, and hundreds of times after. In fact, it appeared that very little was learned from the lesson of Star Wars, and with good reason I’m sure, because with every Star Wars there are thousands of failures that should be rightly deemed as such. The reality is, is that the “formula” for success in the media is a crap shoot regardless of whether something is genuinely cool or not. A lot of things have to come together for something as special as Star Wars to happen; luck, timing, talent, money, belief, alliances and guts all have to be on the same page eventually. But at the center of it all it takes an artist who truly understands his subject matter and has the business savvy to make the eventual compromises less damaging.
For a long while it seemed that such a mixture had dried up. Not only had it dried up, but it looked as if the only way the good guys were going to win, such as Tarantino, was by stumbling, almost by accident, into their success. Then word came down that the rights to The Lord of the Rings were secured, and a movie was to be made, and the crazy bastard who was making the attempt was Peter Jackson out of New Zealand. Now, I do consider myself a movie guru, and I knew who Jackson was before the announcement, but I had only seen The Frighteners at that point. So, even though The Frighteners had moments of brilliance, it really didn’t know what it was supposed be, and in my eyes, not a great movie. Given this, I was worried.
I was not worried about the special effects it would require, but I was worried whether it was going to be an honest attempt, and more importantly, was it going to be 3 films. Then when I heard the budget was only going to be $120 million initially, I almost wrote him off there; but then I read an article where he explained that the whole thing was to be shot in New Zealand, and that in New Zealand the American funds would triple up on the local economy. This would make the cigar chomping movie executives happy with an investment they were destined not to “get” and all 3 films could be made. After reading this article I distinctly remember feeling all the anxiety I had over Peter Jackson suddenly lifting. This simple budget strategy spoke volumes and I found myself supporting this guy. When pre-production stills and previews started hitting the net, I was sold. It was a lock. And it proved to be so.
And although it may not have had the thunderous influence on the movie industry the way Star Wars did as a whole, it proved to Hollywood that it could take proven properties, present them as they should be, and make everyone happy – fans and money grubbers alike. And I’m sure that George took some personal satisfaction in seeing Peter win the Oscar for his trilogy; an honour that should have been bestowed upon him back in the day if it weren’t for snobbery and jealousy. But it took George’s slight to pave the way for Peter. And furthermore, Peter is getting a taste of what George went through with this recent money dispute. Peter will be making The Hobbit though. Thank God, because if he makes another stinker like Kong, that would suck. And while I’m on the subject, M. Knight better wake up too. There’s a lot to live up too, unfortunately, when you’re one of the good guys. This happens when you purposely raise the bar. Ask Spielberg.