So, there's this little phenomenon, that only happens (at least to me) when I see a movie six or more times in the theater, on the movies I really really love enough to see that many times. The more viewings, the stronger the feeling gets. It doesn't happen to movies I only see once or twice, even if I then watch them a jillion times on DVD. It only happens in theatrical viewings, where you cannot pause, you cannot stop, you cannot leave, you cannot slow time down, all you can do is immerse and experience.
That phenomenon is... the Beginning of the End.
The beginning of the end is that moment in the movie where the real world intrudes on your viewing and you suddenly have that awful thought, "aw man, the movie's wrapping up and isn't going to last forever." It's a mix of sadness, because it means the glorious viewing is going to come to an end soon, and also excitement, because usually there's good stuff you can't wait to see in the ending either. Every movie I've ever seen many many times in the theater has that really intense realization moment, from the first movie I saw over twenty times in the theater (Star Wars) to current day viewings. It only happens after about the sixth viewing, because before that, I am just watching the movie, taking it in, still learning it. After about six viewings, the movie viewing experience changes into something different, and then the beginning of the end becomes a Thing.
So, since we've been talking Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, I thought I'd share two of my beginning of the ends. Why only two? Because I've only seen two of the films more than six times in the theater: Fellowship (17 times) and Battle of the Five Armies (9 times). I didn't see the other four films combined enough times to even equal Battle's viewings. And watching them repeatedly on DVD just never develops that same acute feeling of the impending ending as the theatrical viewings do. At home, you can always back it up and watch it again. You can start over. You can pause without missing something. It's on a small screen with distractions like children and cats and dogs and the doorbell. It's just not the same thing as being in a movie theater at all.
In Fellowship, it's this moment:
The famous log that Saruman's orcs are about to step on as they chase after the Fellowship. And one orc steps precisely in the worn-down spot and always cracks me up. Hitting that moment in the movie would always be the "aw" moment, the "we're wrapping up," the "there's only one more awesome fight left," the "this movie won't last forever and we're heading for the ending" moment.
In The Battle of the Five Armies, it's this moment:
That's the first time in the movie I start realizing the ending's approaching. It's the beginning of the end.
My sister, who has been my primary multiple-viewing partner over the years, experiences the same "beginning of the end" intense emotional feeling (in fact, she's the one who coined that phrase), but her beginning of the end moments are quite different from mine 99% of the time. Same feeling, but evoked by a different section of the movie. The only two I know we share are Star Wars and Fellowship. The beginning of the end in Battle for her is much earlier, right after Fili's killed. That still feels like the middle of the movie to me. I'm way too caught up there to notice the end is nigh.