I just got back from a midnight preview of the 2005 version. I don't know if I'll remember this occasion sixty years from now, but it's a possibility. There was a moment right in the middle of the film when my jaw dropped - I was literally agape at the novelty of the scene I was watching. A rendered computer effect so surprising and so real, in a scene so perfectly timed, that even my own highly skeptical brain was swept away in the current of imagination and possibility.
This spectacle was followed up with a humorous action scene so perfectly choreographed that I found myself laughing in amazement. At the core it wasn't any more innovative than a good gag in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but it was so skillfully adapted to the restrictive canvas of "lifelike" creatures and movement that it transcended the source material and became a unique event.
During this and other scenes, even when my mind could catch the wavering borders and the over-fuzzed bluescreen margins, I forcibly dismissed their artificiality, trying to see them as part of the broader world before my eyes, as I did when I was younger and didn't even know where the edges were. Long before I knew that the aliens in Star Wars were created with puppetry, their frozen faces and stiff movements just seemed part of their personality. If all aliens are geriatric and bad at emoting, then so be it.
That kind of willing naïvete is what a lot of art relies on. When the puppets on a stage move about by bopping up and down, you quickly accept the movement as walking, because that's the activity the puppets emote. They act as though they're walking, so you get the message. Only later, with detached consideration, do you realize that normal people don't bop up and down when they walk, and furthermore, the puppets in question don't actually exist from the waist down, and hang on a minute, they're just a hand with felt sock over it. But by the time you put all this together, it doesn't matter. You "grok" puppets, and you can enjoy the stories they tell.
Just the same, there's something special about being an adult, and perfectly willing to suspend your elaborate understanding of the world for the sake of enjoying a fantastical story ... and then ... not having to suspend it. Having the fantasy brought all the way to the threshold of the complicated world you know, so that the firm edges of the objective become deliciously permeable for a little while. And you're a kid again. If the puppets bop up and down when they walk, you don't see it, and even if you do, you just don't care -- you're already convinced, and you're free to imagine.
During the time I was laughing to myself in amazement, I had the whole theatre row to myself. But I turned to the side, looking for my father, wanting to share the moment but forgetting that he wasn't there, because at the time I felt like I was in a moment that he had created around me and inhabited before me, passing it along like an echo, imbued with his personality. We sat in a theatre together once, and turned to each other at the same time, both swept away in the joy of a perfectly constructed scene like the one I was viewing. "Wheee!" he said, laughing, and gestured at the screen. For an instant I felt like I was turning to look at myself, and I was him, sharing the moment with my son, broadcasting that echo. For reasons I can't explain, I was reliving the scene from his point of view as much as mine.
It happens every now and then. I get the vague sense that he is around, and then I feel like I actually am him, or perhaps just the same entity that inhabits him acting through a different body. It's certainly not unpleasant, but it can be very disorienting.
Anyway, I want to visit him in Roseburg, or have him visit us in Santa Cruz, so that I can watch this movie again sitting next to him. I just know he'll love it, and I'd get a kick out of describing the technology behind it to him afterwards.
Also, I have to watch the pilots and gunners more closely. One of them is Peter Jackson, and another is Rick Baker.