Lots of movies fought to be number one at the box office over the holidays. But it’s the old wee folks and the dragon from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug who emerged in the top spot (for the third week in a row) as the New Year 2014 begins.
It’s a masterpiece from filmmaker Peter Jackson who found fame as the force behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy, also based on author J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of Middle-earth. Part of what makes this film so exquisite is that Jackson shot it in New Zealand, and the breathtaking locations depicted in the fantasy tale really exist.
“You are not seeing CGI creations when you see the mountains, the pristine valleys, the rivers and bays in the movie, but you really have to experience it to believe it,” Jackson said at a New Zealand sponsored celebration at the Beverly Hilton prior to the release of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures’ film.
To emphasize the reality of the landscapes he used in his latest adventure, Jackson participated in a Book of New Zealand promotional film that showed him opening up a small pop-up book in the areas of New Zealand featured in The Desolation of Smaug. Each time he turned the pages of the book, scenes from the movie would “pop up,” then they would turn into a sweeping shots of the actual locations.
A stage that looked like a giant book the size of two tennis courts was created for the event. Jackson and the Smaug stars Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Aidan Turner, and Dean O’Gorman, along with the media and VIPs were able to literally walk through “the book.” It had four sets recreating principal filming locations from the movie featuring Hidden Bay — Turoa, Ohakune; Forest River — Pelorus River, Marlborough; Laketown — Lake Pukaki and Mt. Cook; and Beorn’s House – which was a site in Paradise, Queenstown, New Zealand.
Jackson, a proud Kiwi and an Academy Award-winner director for the third in his Lord of the Rings trilogy, is already planning the third in his Hobbit film series, continuing to shoot in New Zealand where his productions are the cornerstone of the country’s film industry. “The great thing about working on these movies is that it gives you the chance to explore the country in a way that I would never be able to do, particularly helicopter rides which in normal life you just don’t do. It seemed we spent seven or eight hours a day in a helicopter flying over mountains, landing where we wanted to land, because the place looked like it might be interesting,” he said.
Even Jackson was impressed by the sweeping landscapes he found and used. He explained, “You got to be in places where you really were not quite sure whether human beings had ever been there before. It would be bananas not to think that that was amazing.”
Although only three Hobbit movies have been announced, Jackson noted that there are some spectacular “Middle-earth” corners of New Zealand that he hasn’t captured on film yet, and he might save them for a fourth Hobbit. “Maybe, you never know,” he teased.