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100% Pure BS

November 29, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

I am a bit of a Tolkien fan – not a complete freak or a nerd who knows every detail of the Tolkien world, but more knowledgable than most – and even I am sick of the Hobbit movie and it has only got as far as pre-release!

There didn’t seem to be anything else on TV yesterday and particularly in Wellington you would think this was the most important news of the year. You know, it’s just another movie – and a Hollywood style movie at that (in other words one which is primarily about money rather than art) – so I don’t think the extreme approbation is really appropriate.

I guess I should really wait to see the movie before commenting because I do have to agree that the last Tolkien production, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, was actually pretty good. But the main reason it was good was that it followed the books fairly closely, not that the movie introduced some grand new element to the story.

But the LotR movies were based on an extremely rich and complex world which Tolkien created. A world with its own consistent and unique geography, history, and sociology. The Hobbit isn’t quite in the same league – it was intended as a children’s story from the start and doesn’t have the same depth. Plus there is the fact that Peter Jackson is intending to make three movies from one small book, plus additional material. So I’m guessing the movie won’t follow the original book too closely.

And then there are the technical aspects of the movie. I would love to see this movie – or any movie in fact – at 48 frames per second because I think it will greatly enhance the experience. And I think 3D can enhance a movie if it is done properly. And finally there is the other technology used in character animation, etc. Again this can enhance the total experience.

But sometimes you get the impression these technological advances are an end in themselves rather than a way to make the movie itself better. I guess I’ll just have to wait to see if Jackson’s undoubted skills can bring the different elements together to create a worthwhile whole.

That’s the actual movie out of the way, so now what about the controversial elements ancillary to the movie? I’m talking about the corporate hand-outs, the labour laws changed simply to suit the whims of the movie makers, the claims of poor care of animals, and the marketing of the movie and New Zealand as the production location.

Well, no matter how good the movie might be (and I’m not even convinced it will be good) these are all another matter entirely…

The tens of millions of dollars given to the major corporates making the movie create an interesting situation. Why are these necessary when the movie is virtually guaranteed to be a huge commercial success? They aren’t necessary but the company will take them because the government here thinks it has to hand them out. If we didn’t then some other country would, is the usual reason. It’s hard to see how this problem can be avoided but even if it was seen to be necessary we should at least all admit what a thoroughly corrupt and cynical action it was.

Then there were the new laws, passed under urgency with no time for any realistic input from the public, which reduced the employment rights of many of the people working on the project. If the only way people can be employed on a movie likely to result in tens of millions of dollars in profit is to have the government create a one sided employment environment where wages and conditions can be driven down then again something is terribly wrong.

I’m not so sure about the allegations of animal cruelty. PETA do have a reputation for being somewhat extreme and rather loose with the facts and you would expect a few mishaps on a project of this size just like you would in any environment (such as a farm) where there are a lot of animals, so I will give the movie the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Finally there’s the marketing. New Zealand’s marketing slogan is “100% pure” which is meant to invoke a clean, green environment. In the past this might have been realistic but in recent years, with the increased emphasis on the “rights” of business and lack of fair consideration for the environment, it’s now just a lie.

Most of our rivers are significantly polluted by dairy effluent. Dairy farming in New Zealand is a hideously dirty activity because it is also a major source of methane which is a significant greenhouse gas. Dairy farmers have made huge profits in the last few years but little of that seems to have gone into prevention of this pollution. Plus agriculture has been removed from our climate change efforts which are practically zero anyway.

Yes, the 100% pure marketing caption is a particularly ironic one. What we really have is 100% pure bullshit and that is so appropriate considering the source of so much of the “impurity” in our rivers!

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