James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Survey: Hobbit stirs criticism, pride

Kiwi fans of The Hobbit are critical of the Government's and even director Sir Peter Jackson's role in the film trilogy's industrial relations dispute, a survey shows.

But others are excited before the first film's release next month and feel a sense of pride that the trilogy is being produced and made in NZ.

A Waikato University survey, aiming to test how pre-release discussion, debate, marketing and promotion of a film shape subsequent responses to it, has garnered responses from Tolkien fans here and in the United States, Mexico, the Philippines and parts of Europe.

Carolyn Michelle of the university's Audience Research Unit is seeking more respondents but said early findings showed the film has its detractors, with some local fans saying they were disillusioned by its production issues.

The Hobbit was a source of local debate about the power of Hollywood to dictate terms and conditions in the New Zealand film industry.

An industrial dispute threatened to derail the project until the National Government agreed to introduce new employment legislation and provide a 15 per cent rebate to get Warner Bros to make the film in New Zealand - both controversial decisions that drew widespread criticism.

"While some are very critical of the Government, Warner Bros, and even in a few cases Peter Jackson himself, others seem to feel quite torn about the issue - excited that the film is being made here - but concerned about the labour relations issues," said Dr Michelle.

"Some others are more interested in the potential economic benefits arising from the film in terms of employment and tourism opportunities, and don't seem to be fans of The Hobbit particularly."

She said other Kiwis were excited by New Zealand's link with the film. Some expressed a sense of pride while others hoped the movie could recreate the sense of wonder they felt as children reading the book.

But some overseas fans expressed concerns about New Zealand "giving up its national sovereignty" while some were concerned about the long-term consequences for the country.

"The Hobbit does clearly have its detractors - some just don't like fantasy films, others didn't enjoy the first trilogy, a few are turned off by what they've seen and heard so far if it is different to their expectations, still others are turned off by all the media hype," said Dr Michelle.

"So it is already a very diverse data set, but we do still need more participants to draw robust conclusions."

The survey's findings will be available in the week after the film's release on December 12.

- NZ Herald

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