Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Hobbit Premiere

I meant to get onto writing about the premiere of "The Hobbit" a while ago but shortly after typing up my Sydney posts my 6 and a half month long distance relationship sadly came to an end. Right after that Christmas also happened and my family decided to be awful to me. All in all it's been a pretty crushing couple of months and I haven't felt like writing anything aside from a couple of poems. I guess this post means that I'm slightly on the mend which is a nice thought.

The first thing I'm going to do is give you a brief overview of the pre-premiere hype that went on in the city, starting with the airport and moving on to the central stuff.

Wellington as the capital of New Zealand was "officially" renamed "The Middle of Middle Earth" much to the amusement of locals such as myself. In accordance with this theme, the airport had a few displays to aid the authenticity of this claim. 

A giant Gollum statue was crafted and suspended from the ceiling of the cafeteria in an effort to terrorise all diners in the vicinity. As if the sheer size and realistic detail on this sculpture weren't freaky enough, it was set up alongside dangling bubbles with a fish grasped tightly in its gruesome hand. I'm not sure I would have wanted to lunch beneath a hungry Gollum on the prowl for fresh meat but I was happy to appreciate the craftsmanship nonetheless.

Aside from Gollum fishing in the dining area upstairs, the good people at Wellington Airport also decided to deck out their baggage claim area on the ground floor. The conveyor belt that the bags come out on had various decorations around it to give the whole area the appearance of a hobbit-hole. Along the raised centre of the conveyor belt where ordinarily there would be a variety of advertisements were windows with backlit pictures of Ian McKellen's Gandalf, Martin Freeman's Bilbo Baggins and various dwarves designed to give the feel of looking into their dinner party at Bilbo's hobbit-hole home.

Moving away from the airport and closer to town, the Embassy cinema also had their own giant Hobbit-themed sculpture. The Embassy was one of two central cinema's to screen the premiere, is a historic cinema that has kept it's vintage feel throughout its years of operation and is generally regarded as the best cinema in Wellington. Atop the facade at the entrance to the cinema, an enormous Gandalf sculpture was painstakingly hoisted to eventually stand at the door to Bilbo's hobbit-hole. The hole was adorned with a multitude of grass skirts apparently imported from The Phillipines to give the appearance of overgrown grass coverage around the "entrance".

Next to the embassy, a wonderful canvas poster was put up on a large building which had a landscape shot of "Middle Earth" with a condensed representation of Wellington (including such landmarks as the beehive) as the centrepiece, sticking with the incredibly cheesy theme of the capital city as not only the middle of New Zealand but as the middle of Middle Earth itself.

The only other notable themed attraction I can recall was a valiant effort by the Starbucks on Courtenay Place who created a scene on the outside of their shop using the same easily removable window paint as is often seen on shop windows around Christmas time. The scene included a hobbit-hole and a number of cute furry creatures adorning the top and surrounding grassy mound.

Moving on to the day of the premiere itself, town was an absolute madhouse. I went in early with friends to attempt to cash in on the crowds by performing around the waterfront area. It was a hellishly hot November day with virtually no wind and after a couple of hours and not making all that much money with the guitar we decided to join the masses along Courtenay Place.

We got there a good two hours before the stars were due to walk the red carpet and there was barely a free spot to stand in.  The surrounding streets were jam packed with people either waiting in place for the celebrities to turn up or attempting to wade through the human sea. The only free spot we could find was on the corner of Courtenay Place (the street that the stars were walking down) and a side street. It was an okay vantage point and probably the best we could have found without getting there 5 hours early.

After a long wait in the heat (which I do not deal with well) we were just about ready to abandon our mission especially since the programme appeared to be running about half an hour behind schedule. Finally, the man I was there to see came down the red carpet and I managed to squeeze out a "MR FRODO!" in all my excitement. We also saw a well dressed Cate Blanchett before we decided that we had really only come to see Elijah Wood and returned to our playing along the waterfront. I should mention that we briefly saw Andy Serkis as well but I've seen him before and thus wasn't overly excited about him (sorry Andy).

Luckily for us, a lot of other people decided to make an early departure and we cashed in pretty nicely on the crowd of people that opted to take the waterfront route back to wherever they were parked, so carting my freakin' heavy guitar case around town in hideous heat was worth it in the end.

Basically, Wellington city went crazy with the premiere of "The Hobbit" and with all of the celebrations and cheesy "Middle of Middle Earth" hubbub proved that with our movie-making hub image (thanks largely to Sir Peter Jackson and Weta Studios) we are committed to becoming as much like Hollywood as possible. While that may come across like a dig, I quite like the feel of tinsel-town as a flashy place where magic is made, it gives tourists something to marvel at and locals something to laugh at, a win-win really.

The premiere gave us something to be proud of as New Zealanders and more specifically as Wellingtonians, resulted in some awesome art instalments and enabled me to see Elijah Wood, who I may one day marry or abduct (same thing, really). On top of that I came out of it slightly richer in the monetary sense, which always feels good.

I've no idea what my next post will be about, we'll see what happens.

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