Hobbit-mania: Cute or cringey?

TOO MUCH? Air New Zealand is calling itself the "official airline to Middle-earth".
TOO MUCH? Air New Zealand is calling itself the "official airline to Middle-earth".

The Hobbit movie premiere was a heap of fun, but the whole Middle-earth frenzy may have gone too far.

Some of the deluge of Tolkienesque touches that have accompanied the release of Peter Jackson's film may have become more embarrassing than cute.

Which is not to suggest that Wellington was anything but cool as it sparkled in its red carpet moment.

On the other hand, Air New Zealand calling itself the official airline of Middle-earth may be more likely to induce a bout of cringing.

Opinionated blog FilmDrunk certainly thinks it should.

Under the headline "Attn: The real New Zealand is now indistinguishable from parody" the site mocks many of the efforts being made to join in The Hobbit festivities.

Those efforts include the passport stamp which says "Welcome to Middle-earth", New Zealand Post issuing official legal tender commemorative Hobbit coins, and Air New Zealand's video in which it refers to itself as Air Middle-earth.

The video is introduced by an elf queen, includes all manner of Middle-earthish folk, shows hairy hobbit-type feet pushing luggage under a seat, and has a wizard for a pilot.

Air New Zealand is also calling itself the "official airline to Middle-earth", invites travellers to "discover our precious New Zealand", and welcomes them to the "real Middle-earth".

Wellington City Council described the city as the "Middle of Middle-earth" for the week of the premiere, and put out a press release which said the city's "elves have been busy preparing for an event worthy of a Shire shin-dig".

In another statement it said its Japanese sister city Sakai has signed a declaration of an imaginary sister city relationship with "The Shire".

"The Shire and Sakai declare sisterly relationship to bind them," the release said, which is slightly creepy as binding would appear to relate to the ring of power, and being bound by the ring is not a good thing.

Over at TVNZ, weather presenter Tamati Coffey made a fine-looking elf as he dressed up, complete with a long blonde wig, on Breakfast. Delivering part of the forecast in Elvish showed great dedication, but it was incomprehensible to almost all non-elven viewers.

They were even getting into the spirit of Middle-earth in Parliament where Steven Joyce, the minister for rather a lot, used it to have a dig at Labour's leadership woes.

Joyce spoke of a fellowship "led by a tall, thinning, grey wizard who surrounds himself with a loyal legion of halflings sworn to protect him against a slimy, bearded creature hiding and plotting in the darkness, consumed by jealousy, and relentlessly in pursuit of his precious.

"Their journey is made more difficult by the presence of a number of goblins still loyal to their former leader, an all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing eye, watching from a distance - roughly, between here and New York."

Joyce's comments even had them laughing in the Labour benches.

Few visitors to this country can be unaware of the New Zealand link to JRR Tolkien's imaginary realm. At Auckland Airport there is a 23-metre display "blending the fantasy of Middle-earth with the reality of New Zealand", as Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) explained it.
At Wellington Airport a 13-metre sculpture of Gollum suspended from the ceiling, reaches out to catch suspended fish.

TNZ is saturated with the whole Middle-earth fantasy, complete with the slogan "100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand".

The aim of the campaign was to show "how easily the fantasy of The Hobbit movies can become reality in the form of a New Zealand holiday", TNZ said.

Added up, it may be rather too much Middle-earth, considering the place was created in one man's imagination.