As New Line Cinema prepares to release a hundred-second trailer of footage from the set of the Lord of the Ringstrilogy in New Zealand, Movieline.com explores the phenomenon of the devoted virtual community that helps to keep the filmmakers true to J.R.R. Tolkien's elaborate vision.
At the top of the home page of Planet-Tolkien , a counter informs site visitors that there are only 420 days, 12 hours, 48 minutes and 23 seconds (and counting) until part one of the Lord of the Ringstrilogy hits theaters on Christmas Day, 2001. Planet-Tolkien is currently the highest-rated website at 25 Hobbits, a site dedicated to rating all of the other Tolkien and LOTR sites on the Internet. 25 Hobbits ' rankings update automatically every 30 minutes, so when you read this, Planet-Tolkien's sister site, Tol Galen , may have knocked it off of the top block.
Tol Galen has a certain insider buzz among the online Trilogy community because the site is based in New Zealand, where director Peter Jackson (Heavenly Creatures, The Frighteners)is well into his sixth month of quite possibly the most scrutinized gig in film history. J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Ringstrilogy is one of the most revered and popular series of books in the world. New Line is plunking down $200 million for an 18-month shoot during which Jackson will capture the footage for the entire Trilogy. Plans are set for another 18 months of post-production. The three movies are now scheduled to be released a year apart over the course of three years. And frenzied online fans, who won't see the first one for another 420 days, 12 hours, 18 minutes and 37 seconds, are doing their best to make sure Jackson stays on track.
Because of widespread Internet access, fan sites now play an integral part in generating information--though not always accurate--about movies in all the various stages of production. But no one group has marshaled together online with as much zeal as the Trilogy community. There are hundreds of websites dedicated to the Trilogy and many more that focus on Tolkien himself. Bucking what has until recently been the trend in studio marketing, New Line has embraced this wave of fan obsession with the ongoing production and sought fans' cooperation in spreading the word about the project. The studio almost had no choice in the matter; still, ask most online fans and they'll tell you that New Line has been almost always helpful in getting them information and giving them access.
And why wouldn't New Line? Though studios traditionally like to keep all details about a movie in production tightly wrapped, New Line marketing honchos quickly realized how powerful the fan sites can and will be in promoting what--at 18 months--can't stay a completely airtight production. Besides that, LOTR fans have waited a long time for this adaptation and made clear from the start that they would what was needed to be heard. LOTR fans have forwarded petitions to Jackson and New Line, arranged extensive chats and forums to discuss matters of accuracy, established communication with cast and crew, and set up e-commerce links that effectively turn them into small businesses. Jackson went on Ain't It Cool News to address concerns raised by the Movie Integrity Petition on Tolkien Online - The One Ring . And on Friday, in a move that is sending Bilbo buffs into fits of online merriment, New Line will release at the Lord of the Rings official site a hundred-second trailer of footage and interviews from the set.
To build momentum for Friday's trailer, New Line began last week to send out preview e-cards, which count down the number of days until the world gets its first official glimpse of the Lord of the Rings.The e-cards have been a huge hit, as almost every major Trilogy site has taken to feverishly deciphering the associated images that layer the cards. On Tolkien-Movies , a member of the Tolkien Network ("the first and only Lord of the Rings portal"), the second card was met with this reaction: "Now I think you'll all agree [New Line is] being nasty here, folks. An image of Legolas and it's only day 6?? HOW CAN WE SURVIVE?" The torture must be unbearable.
Over on Ringzone.net , the enthusiasm takes on a different form. The site's most recent poll asks Ring fans: "If you could move to Middle Earth, where would you move to?" At latest check, Golden Wood was just edging out Shire and Imladris as Middle Earth's most desirable burb, while gloomy Mordor firmly brought up the rear.
Back on Tol Galen and on Der Herr der Ringe (a major German Ringssite), fans of Middle Earth are busy discussing an article on Film Unlimited about the beefed up female leads in the movies. Will the expanded presence of Liv Tyler and Cate Blanchett have a Jar Jar-like effect on the more conventionally Tolkien storylines? On Ringbearer.org , someone who calls himself Vadryn has chimed in with a possible solution: suggest to director "PJ" that he "whittle down" the romance in the editing stage and include this extra footage in the DVD package. After all, Vadryn reasons, "lots of movies film lots of stuff that never gets out on the screen."...
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