Craig sent this in from ‘The Heckler’ in the Sydney Morning Herald. I’d file this under the ‘We’re so jealous we could choke’ heading. After all, Sydney’s a city whose recent contribution to cinema is the fact that it’s hosting that cracker Aussie production, ‘Attack of the Clones,’ and the last time the actual city was used as a set was in the nightamarish dystopia of ‘Dark City.’
“Lord of the Rungs: so that’s a fulm about modern times, eh? Middle-Earth is New Zealand, writes Martin Graham.
THE HECKLER: What is it with the Kiwis and The Lord of the Rings? The way they’re carrying on you’d thing they’d split the atom. [In joke, folks. Rutherford, the guy who split the atom, is a Kiwi. -Tehanu] Look, Mum, moving pictures on a big wall! It’s the talkies! I don’t want to bag New Zealand and the massive packet of Smith’s (chips)
on their collective shoulders. But it’s not like they just invented Vegemite (spread) or did anything useful. The Lord of the Rings is a film. Quite a long film. A couple of hours of it are very watchable. But, come on, there is no reason for New Zealanders to portray Rings as though it’s the biggest single contribution to Western society since the Enlightenment.
The most pathetic part is that they can’t even boast about having really made the movie as such. Peter Jackson may be the fush and chups front man, but the film’s as Yankee as baseball. The sheep-shaggers have trouble funding a proper football team; international blockbuster movies are way out of their league. What we are left with is the pathetic sight of our Kiwi cousins boasting about how great the scenery looks. The Government is even pumping what remains of its budget into an advertising campaign to tell the world about the national role as an extra. It’s sad really. And desperate. Imagine Bikini Atoll advertising itself as a nuclear superpower and you can see what I mean. Is it really something to boast about that Tolkien’s Middle-Earth could be so easily created in the Shaky Isles? A tale of simple people living a simple life without modern technology? We’re talking about New Zealand here – how hard can it be? Mocking up the Middle Ages must have been a piece of cake in a country yet to discover crop rotation. I would have thought that the biggest problem faced by the producers was making Wellington look modern enough to pass for anything after AD1300. You have to remember New Zealand is the only country in the world where you could film Xena without building any sets.
The more you think about it the more you realise that making The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand would have presented no great challenge. Filming conditions are ideal. No air force to accidentally get into shot. No smog from industry to get in the way. The biggest continuity issue would be the slightly more modern breed of merino in the background.
Let’s get this straight. The story in the Rings revolves around a race of short, slightly furry creatures who are none too bright but relatively loyal in a tight spot. If this doesn’t scream the middle bit of ANZAC, I can’t imagine what would. Kiwis would do anything for real currency, so finding the extras would have been easy. Apart from having to explain what “action” means. “Hey, guys, imagine Christchurch, but with, like, pubs and stuff.” Getting the extras to dress like serfs would hardly have been difficult. Just tell them there was a wedding on and ask them to dress it up a bit. And what’s all this nonsense about the incredible attention to detail? I don’t think it would have been that hard to faithfully replicate Tolkien’s Goblin language. For your average Kiwi, Goblin comes easy. It’s English they have trouble with. Need a crowd of Orcs? Stumpy blokes as thick as two short planks who are ready to rip your head off at any moment. The All Blacks wouldn’t even have to wear make-up.
As I understand it, the movie goes for three hours and the entire plot involves one gold ring. Which they want to destroy. Only in the New Zealand economy would this be considered a worthwhile allocation of labour. Middle-Earth your Kiwis can do. It’s more recent times they struggle with. Let’s see them try a film about a contemporary multicultural society with an economy capable of producing elaborately transformed manufactures. Now, there’s a challenge.”