A Cinematic Odyssey Through Middle-earth


Added on  2019-09-16

17 Pages6454 Words298 ViewsType: 298
Professional DevelopmentFilm and TheatreVisual Arts
“New Zealand was (and continues to be) the real star ofThe Lord of the Rings”A view into New Zealand’s impact on Peter Jackson’s TheLord of the Rings film trilogySubmitted to the University of Hertfordshire in partial fulfilment of the requirementsfor the Degree of Bachelor of Art (Honours) Film and Television Production
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AbstractPeter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-3) is a set of films that focus heavily oncreating a realistic fantasy environment in order to assist the storytelling of JRR Tolkien’smuch revered books. This extended essay examines the impact that New Zealand had on thewide overall success of the films. To understand the different ways in which New Zealandplayed a part in Jackson’s creation of Middle Earth, this account considers the variousprocesses that take place throughout a film production, and then evaluates the success of thefilmmakers in the light of differing viewpoints on the topic. By recognising the use of NewZealand in the films as both a landscape and a culture, this essay views its impact through thelenses of the co-existence of Middle Earth and New Zealand; the use of CGI in the trilogy;considering the actuality of the tourist situation created by the films; the geography created inthe films by the camera; and Peter Jackson’s personal influence on the portrayal and use ofNew Zealand in the trilogy. With added insight into the processes of filmmaking, thisextended essay utilises available literature to evaluate the impact of New Zealand’scontribution to the award-winning trilogy and analyses the stardom that is imposed on thecountry via the films. 2
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Extended Essay “New Zealand was (and continues to be) the real star of The Lord of theRings”A view into New Zealand’s impact on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of theRings film trilogyThe Lord of the Rings (2001-3) film trilogy by Peter Jackson is among the most iconic, lovedand critically acclaimed films in history. The trilogy, consisting of The Fellowship of theRing (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003), was nominated for acombined total of thirty Academy Awards, with a staggering seventeen wins. Notably, TheReturn of the King (2003) completed a clean sweep of wins from its eleven nominations,therefore giving it the record for highest Oscar sweep, as well as being tied with Ben-Hur(1959) and Titanic (1997) for the largest number of Academy Awards won. Clearly the filmshave cemented their place in cinematic history, and their success came about through anextensive number of factors, and some truly astounding work from the cast and crew.However, one of the keys to its astonishing success that is often overlooked, perhaps becauseof the lack of an award, is the use of the landscape of New Zealand. In fact, “immediatelyfollowing four awards for The Fellowship of the Rings at the 2002 Oscars, print mediaadvertisements in the United States promoted New Zealand as ‘best supporting country in amotion picture’” (Jones & Smith, 2005, p.936). The films effectively put the islands on themap, and it has become common knowledge that they are the home of the films, but what isoften not known is just how crucial they were to bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s books to life. Inthis study I will be showing that New Zealand was the real star of The Lord of the Rings(2001-3), by outlining the co-existence of Middle-Earth and New Zealand within the films,3
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and accrediting Peter Jackson as the primary influence behind the rewarding decisions madeboth technically and logistically in using his home country as the backdrop to the trilogy. When using a real location in a film, rather than a specifically created environment, there isalways going to be an overlap in the history of the location in reality and the location in theworld of the film, and this is certainly no different in The Lord of the Rings (2001-3) trilogy.The Production team obviously create remarkable sets for the locations in the films, but thenatural geography and architecture of the country cannot be entirely scrubbed away, and it isto the credit of the filmmakers that a co-existence of both Middle-Earth and New Zealand iscreated. Stephen Turner and Misha Kavka appropriately note that the New Zealand presentedin the films exists as “both the magical land of Middle-earth and a tourist paradise” andbecomes a “composite graphic where one map slides easily over the other” (2008, p.230).Stan Jones concurs and adds that rather than the country being fixed historically as the site ofthe trilogy, it instead essentially combines the two and creates a living reality, a ‘virtuality’,of New Zealand and Middle Earth being one and the same (2006). This is an interestingconcept, and Jones is right to make the connection. It is particularly uncommon for a film tocarry such a tight connection to the location of the shoot, and it is possible that no film hashad such an impact on the country it was made in as The Lord of the Rings (2001-3) did onNew Zealand (Thompson, 2007, p.283). Jim Smith and J Clive Matthews provide theinformation that New Zealand could provide scenery that many filmgoers had never seen(2004, p.97), which meant that “New Zealand became Middle-earth to millions of fans whopreviously wouldn't have been able to locate it on a map” (Thompson, 2007, p.97). This still,however, begs the question of how did the filmmakers go about creating this unusual co-existence without wiping out one of the two parts? Turner and Kavka state that “a physicalplace always carries the residue of its own history” (2008, p.230), however one of the hugebenefits of using New Zealand was that it was one of the last places for mankind to inhabit,4
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