Voted Book of the Century in 1997, J.R.R Tolkien’s immense saga is at last on its way to the screen, to be distributed by Miramax. It’s another trilogy, the largest movie project ever undertaken in the Southern Hemisphere, let alone New Zealand.
Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films will shoot for 18 months, post-produce for another 18. There’ll be 33 principles, 1500 extras, 1200 computer-generated creatures.
Magical realms require magical effects, provided here by the wizards of Wellington’s WETA who were behind the meta-morphoses in Hercules and Zena. Adjusting the size-ratios of its army of extras alone – 6’ men, 4’ dwarves, 3’5” hobbits - will need endless skill and patience in the editing booth.
Intense secrecy – paranoia, even – surrounds Jackson’s preparations. Miramax in Miramar has become a Black Hole from which no news can escape, only anti-news: Sean Connery will probably not be playing Gandalf; Keanu Reeves will probably not be playing Aragorn; the Wizard of Christchurch [www.wizard.gen.nz] would like to play Saruman, but probably won’t.
Even the website graphics [www.lordoftherings.net/main.html] are evocative but almost indecipherable. In the case of Gollum [part-slave, part-nemesis of Frodo, the principal character]: “we were so paranoid…we under-lit him to the point of not knowing what we’re looking at.” Locations are similarly shrouded. By a happy accident of plate tectonics, New Zealand possesses the geological extremes ideal for LOR, a cinematic alternation of starkness and plenty. From the rugged magic of the Remarkables to the pastoral cosiness of the Waikato, this country might have been Middle Earth itself.
Best guesses: rumours fly of a shooting schedule in the Matamata area – any bets on the Shire? As for the starved screes and scarps of the Central Plateau, embossed with threatening volcanoes… well, I know Mordor when I see it.
But will LOR translate to the screen? One thinks of movie disasters which failed to capture the essence of their subject – Watership Down springs to mind. I spoke to former International Mastermind, Judge David Harvey of the District Court, author of Song of Middle Earth for Unwin, Tolkien’s publisher.
As the man who knows more about LOR than anyone else on earth, Wingnut naturally consult him from time to time. Though bound by confidentiality agreements, he seems convinced the LOR movie will realise the sweeping vision of its creator.
Visit him at http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~djhdcj/DJHHome.htm and follow some of his comprehensive LOR links; or the Tolkien Webring http://members.tripod.com/~eruantalon/tolkien/webrings.html] will splice you into a fabulous loop of Tolkien-space on the Net.
There’s another great movie-site which co-ordinates all the rumours and features a huge library of graphics, at www.tolkien-movies.com
Comparisons between the two great trilogies will be inevitable. But for brooding menace, my money is on Tolkien:
One Ring to rule them all
One Ring to find them
One Ring to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them… …