THAT'S ALL FOLKS

A dark shadow is creeping over the land of  low wages and high unemployment. Yes, The Hobbit is approaching. 

I cannot say how  enormously excited I am  about  the forthcoming New Zealand premiere of The Hobbit in Wellington next week.

The Warner Bros Hype Machine has chugged into gear and by the time of the premiere  next week it'll be in overdrive and  threatening to blow  a gasket.

As with the Lord of the Rings, we can expect both the two main television  channels to provide extensive coverage  of the premiere  giving the movie a ton of free publicity  for Warner Bros under the pretence that  its very important  'news' that we all need to know about. 

Other movies , like the latest James Bond for instance , have to pay for advertising and  marketing  but The  Hobbit gets a big chunk of it for free. This is  obviously because it was directed by Peter Jackson and was made in New Zealand (although much of it will be barely  recognisable after Jackson 's  trademark  heavy duty CGI assault).

In fact Jackson and Warner Bros have done  really  well out of New Zealand.   While transporting visiting Warner executives  around in government  luxury cars, the National Government agreed to introduce new employment legislation and provide a 15 per cent rebate in order  to get Warner Bros to keep  the film in New Zealand.

This meant  another $34 million in tax breaks. This brought  the total cost to us , including tax rebates and the marketing credit, to just under $100 million. In return, we get some vague and undefined tourism 'benefits' which are supposed to 'trickle down' to us at the bottom.  And if you believe that, well...there is no hope for you.

The attack on workers rights was particularly odious. Warner Bros  launched the kind of attack  that they would  never even contemplate in Hollywood. Why? Because Hollywood workers are protected by strong and organised unions.  Even Tom Cruise is a card-carrying union member.

The media giant (who Jackson laughably claimed  acted 'very honourably')  launched a very nasty anti-union campaign to prevent workers acquiring the kind of conditions their colleagues enjoy in the United States and the Government did the bidding of the media multinational.

But its not been  all beers and skittles down  in Hobbiton.

A lot of  people are  still angry  about the rewriting of labour laws to meet the demands of Warner Bros and Peter Jackson. While he might still be the darling of the political establishment his support among the wider populace is now  more ambivalent.

And the Tolkien Estate is up in arms. It is  suing  Warner Bros for   $98 million for   allegedly  breaching contractual arrangements  for Lord of the Rings merchandising and property.  It says  Warner Bros have done 'irreparable harm' to Tolkien's  legacy by authorising inappropriate merchandise, including Lord of the Rings-themed online gambling games.

And PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) have alleged that animals were mistreated during the filming of The Hobbit.  Jackson has strenuously denied the charges. But PETA will be protesting at the premiere nevertheless.

But come the premiere all this inconvenient 'unpleasantness', with the help of a complaint media, will be swept into a cupboard under some stairs in Jackson's Waikato mansion. 

Journalists will put their brains in neutral and Jackson again will be hailed as god - not as an  unpleasant movie mogul who has been  attacking the rights of his workers.  There will be a whole heap of 'lurvy durviness', backslapping and empty waffle about 'golden opportunities for tourism'.  The Government will attempt to bask in the reflected glow of The Hobbit and John Key will get to talk about his good mate Pete.  And we will all be living in a very happy nation. Yes we will.

But behind the fantasy of  The Hobbit is one big  and one  very real money-making machine. And there's even more dosh to  be made  after Jackson and Warner Bros decided to make three movies out of a relatively short and straightforward novel written principally for children.  It'll be  three bites at the carrot for Peter Jackson and Bugs Bunny. That's all folks.

Graphic: Ed Muzik

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