The Hobbit - we've lost the magic

The Hobbit stoush has been a Hollywood production, sadly a million miles from the New Zealand that once seemed so perfectly suited as the real world home of hobbits. It doesn't feel like we can trust anyone in this picture

As a teenager, I used to debate with friends how the JRR Tolkein movies should be made and who should play the lead roles. I wrote extensively and happily about The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the New Zealand Herald when I worked there. Yet after days and days and days of debate, The Hobbit films now leave nothing but a bad taste – pun intended – in my mouth.

The debate has been disturbingly vicious and nothing in it has made me proud to be a New Zealander, something that Sir Peter Jackson’s Tolkein films have done so well in the past.

Business New Zealand Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly made the point well on Q+A this Sunday, when he said the movie industry “is now part of us”.

This isn’t just any old industrial dispute, this is about a trilogy of films that achieved something that New Zealanders crave – international relevance and attention. Sir Peter’s Tolkein movies have become this generation’s Everest summit or All Black ‘Originals’; a source of national pride and identity. We all feel like we helped make them.

Yet New Zealand’s famous good faith, self-deprecation and can-do attitude has been notably absent from this debate. Rather, it’s been befitting a Hollywood blockbuster, with real motives obscured by smoke, mirrors and special effects. Everything that looks real is a façade, the timing has been carefully stage-managed and everyone is trotting out well-rehearsed lines.


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